Author Archive: admin

The Lad (in 10 miniature scenes)

THIS PIECE IS A COMPLEMENT TO BECKETT’S PLAY ‘KRAPPS LAST TAPE’ IN SO FAR AS IT FEATURES A BANANA. 

IT CAN BE PERFORMED LIVE ANYWHERE IN WHICH CASE ALL THE PROP CHANGES AND BUSINESS BETWEEN THE TEN MINIATURES COULD, PROBABLY WOULD, BE SEEN BY THE AUDIENCE AND TREATED LIKE PART OF THE PERFORMANCE. 

THE SCENE IS ANYWHERE. THE TIME IS TODAY 

…BUT ANYWHERE HAS BEEN ADAPTED FOR AN OLD MAN WHO IS SAT IN AN ARMCHAIR LISTENING TO AN OLD RADIO WEARING A BIB. NEXT TO HIS CHAIR, ON ONE SIDE IS AN OCCASIONAL TABLE WITH A FRUIT BOWL CONTAINING LOTS OF BANANAS AND THE RADIO. NEXT TO THAT IS A WASTE BIN. ALSO IN THE SCENE IS A YOUNG MAN PLAYING A CLASSICAL GUITAR SOMETIMES FOLLOWING THE OLD MANS ACTIONS PRECISELY, SOMETIMES NOT. (MAYBE HE IS THE OLD MAN’S YOUNGER SELF OR MAYBE JUST AN ENTERTAINER.) ON THE MAN’S KNEE IS ‘THE LAD’ A VENTRILOQUIST DUMMY IN A PURPLE SHINY SHOW SUIT. THEY APPEAR TO BE LISTENING TO THE RADIO TOGETHER BUT IT BECOMES APPARENT FROM THE UNATURAL WAY THEY INTERACT DURING THE PERFORMANCE THAT THE OLD MAN IS NOT A SKILLED VENTRILOQUIST. FROM TIME TO TIME THE LAD WILL SING ALONG TO THE RADIO (SEE LYRICS ON PAGE 3). ALL THE ACTION IS VERY VERY SLOW AS BEFITS THE OLD MAN AND MUCH IS FOCUSED ON HIS FREE HAND NOT THE LAD. THE MAN IS AS SKILLED WITH HIS FREE HAND AS HE IS UNSKILLED WITH THE LAD, SUCH THAT IT SEEMS TO SPEAK AND AT TIMES PARALLELS THE MUSIC AS IF IT WERE SINGING ALONG TOO. THE NAILS ON HIS FREE HAND ARE LONG LIKE THOSE OF A GUIARIST.  
 
(INEVITABLY MISTAKES OCCUR DUE TO THE INTRICACY OF THE ACTIVITIES THE MAN IS REQUIRED TO PERFORM. THESE ARE AS IMPORTANT AS THE SUCCESSFUL ACTS OF MANUAL DEXTERITY AND SHOULD NEITHER BE EDITED OUT NOT ‘STAGED.’)  
 
THE CORE RADIO SOUND IS POOR QUALITY AND CONSIST OF SAMPLES DERIVED FROM 1970‘S POP AND POP/CLASSICAL MUSIC HOWEVER THESE CAN BE TRANSFORMED APPROPRIATELY AND DISTRIBUTED THROUGH A HIGH QUALITY SOUND SYSTEM OR OPTIMISED IN POST PRODUCTION. THE RADIO MUSIC MAY FLOW ACROSS SCENES OR BE INTERUPTED. THERE SHOULD NOT BE A SENSE THAT EACH MINATURE HAS A RADIO THEME. THE GUITAR MUSIC IS SYNCHRONISED WITH THE RADIO SOUND AND MAY BLEND WITH IT AT TIMES. IT HAS A TRANQUILITY THAT ESTABLISHES THE SLOW REPETITIVE GENTLE RHYTHM OF THE PIECE.THE MEANING OF THE WORDS DOESN’T MATTER THEY COULD BE ANY OLD MANS SEMI LUCID ’KRAPP’ BUT THE WORDS SELECTED FOR THE SCRIPT MUST BE ADHERED TO PRECISELY AS IF DELIVERED BY A MACHINE WITH NO OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVISATION. THE ‘DRAMA’ IF ANY IS IN THE MUSIC, SILENCES AND THE NON-SPEECH VOCALISATIONS. ALL PAUSES APPLY TO ALL THE SOUND SOURCES SO THAT THE FLOW IS CONTINUALLY INTERUPTED. THE LAD HAS A CHILD’S VOICE (FALSETTO) MOST OF THE TIME, AS IS TRADITIONAL. 

Page Break 

SUGGESTED RADIO MUSIC – IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER 

Only fragments may be used or more extended samples – the extracts may be significantly modified and processed to be barely recognisable. 

RADIO MUSIC: ROGER WHITTAKER https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzKQfrNseoI  
 

RADIO MUSIC: I’D LIKE TO TEACH THE WORLD TO SING  
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWKznrEjJK4  
 

RADIO MUSIC: SATIE 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WfaotSK3mI  

RADIO MUSIC: RODRIGO 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knZyzhMNeP0 
  

RADIO MUSIC: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXQUu5Dti4g  
 

RADIO MUSIC: ANNIES SONG 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNOTF-znQyw  

RADIO MUSIC: WHERE DID YOU GO TO MY LOVELY 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8XQZYIiNgo  

RADIO MUSIC: STARRY STARRY NIGHT 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wrNFDxCRzU  

RADIO MUSIC: CAT STEVENS 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGNxKnLmOH4&list=PL262337A5F58BD941  
 
RADIO MUSIC: CAVATINA 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7SvBtJuh3Y  

Page Break 

The following lyrics can be sung by the Lad whenever appropriate. They may or may not marry to the original songs from which they are derived 

Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know 
The piper’s calling you to join him 
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know 
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind? 

Come let me love you, let me give my life to you 
Let me drown in your laughter, let me die in your arms 
Let me lay down beside you, let me always be with you 
Come let me love you, come love me again 

Like the strangers that you’ve met 
The ragged men in ragged clothes 
The silver thorn of bloody rose 
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow 

I know where you go to, my lovely 
When you’re alone in your bed 
I know the thoughts that surround you 
‘Cause I can look inside your head 

That’s a song I hear 
Sing it along 
Let the world sing today 
Over and over 

Page Break 

MINIATURE 1 

The man is eating a banana sandwich. (He rests between each bite) 

(Pause) 

THE MAN 

Want some? 

THE LAD 

Only if you take off the crusts. 

(Pause) 

The man takes off the crusts with one hand and his fingernails showing significant virtuosity that is reflected in the music. He feeds the lad clumsily. Bits fall out of the dummies mouth. 

THE LAD 

(Choking a little) 

Watch it, you’re wasting it! 

MINIATURE 2 

The Man is holding a banana. He peals it methodically and very very slowly using only one hand. It’s another virtuoso performance.  
 
The Lad watches him apprehensively at first and then tries whistling to calm his nerves. The music accompanied by the guitar sounds a bit like Roger Whittaker 

THE MAN 

Want some? 

THE LAD 

You first. 

(gulp) 

MINIATURE 3 

The Man is pretending to be asleep. The Lad is ‘awake.’ The guitarist plays. The Lad ‘dances’ and sings along with the music. 
 

(Counting to the music) 

(Breaths) 

MINIATURE 4 

The Man holds the banana as he did at the end of Miniature 2. It’s as though the recording has slipped backwards 

THE MAN 

Want some? 

(Very long pause) 

THE LAD 

No you are all right! 

The man eats the banana in small bites as he does so the lad tries to speak and some words are audible between mouthfuls but the rest of the time the words are completely garbled. The words that are heard are – 

THE LAD 

…conscious of something 

…but the Dartford Crossing was jam packed 

…true friendship can 

…a bungalow 

…your carriage it’s waiting 

…fried not baked 

…pull up, knock up, rock up, wake up 
 

…feeling like shit 

…nobody makes a better flapjack. 

MINIATURE 5 

The man holds the banana skin. It hangs limply. 

THE LAD 

Want some? 

THE MAN 

Maybe later. You? 

THE LAD 

(Pause) 
 

It’s empty. 

THE MAN 

Good though. 

MINIATURE 6 

The man holds up a bunch of five bananas 

THE LAD 

Now that’s more like it. 

THE MAN 

It’s a feast! 

(Slurp) 

THE LAD 

Enough for everyone. 

THE MAN 

A bunch… 

THE LAD 

…a bunch of five 

The man pulls his hand out of the dummy and shows his fist to the radio. The Lad now unsupported collapses with laughter. 

(Laughter) 

MINIATURE 7 

The man is controlling the Lad again. He holds up his other fist. 

THE MAN 

Nobody does it better 

THE LAD 

You can say that again. 

THE MAN 

(Like a nursery rhyme) 

Five bananas will make Wilma fat. We don’t want that.  

(repeat ad infinitum) 

THE LAD 

Who is Wilma? 

THE MAN 

(Pretending to mishear) 

Who is Sylvia?  

Mad cows! 

THE LAD 

(In the mans voice – for real like an aside) 

Sylvia is here now. We all are, the whole street. No 9 us, No 11 Wilma, No 12 Sylvia. Nobody does it better. She does it, everyday, like clockwork. Up the stairs the window, her tower, waiting all day, nothing doing, nobody, poor cow. Why should they. 
 

(In the Lads voice) 
 
Nobody does it better. The flapjacks. Now that’s something to write home about. 

MINIATURE 8 

The lad lies spread over the Mans lap enabling to him to prop a bowl of bananas and custard on his back. (It may look sexual who cares but it’s not the intention.) 

THE MAN 

Bananas, custard… 

He reaches behind his bib and pulls out a paper bag with the remainder of a piece of flapjack in it. 

THE MAN 

And flapjack. 

He breaks the flapjack into the bowl and eats the contents. 

MINIATURE 9 

The man holds the empty bowl and presents it to the front so we can see the contents. Its inside is painted like the moon. 

THE LAD 

A bungalow would be ideal then she couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t climb the stairs.  

(Crying in a cod way) 

THE MAN 

Her head is in the shed. 

(Laugh.) 

THE LAD 

Her head is in the shed. 

(Laugh.) 

THE MAN 

Shall we dance fa la la. 

(Breaths and breathless) 

(Giggling) 

MINIATURE 10 

THE MAN 

Easy go. 

(Sighs) 

THE LAD 

Easy come. 

The man produces another banana. The Lad stares at it. 

THE LAD 

(Sighs) 

The Man freezes for as long as he can holding the banana aloft while the guitar music plays. Once he can no longer keep the banana still, the performance/film is over. 

THE END 

All the Tuffins up to starting school

Tuffin 1

The two Corgi dogs are named April and May. Dad doesn’t enquire why, nor does he note the coincidence, but he dutifully takes them to the woods and attempts to persuade them to do their number twos. Despite the encouragement, the dogs indicate by acts of canine prostration, that they would prefer to stay in the warmth of the back seat of the Austin A40 parked outside Number 9 The Rise. The Austin and the Corgis belong to the midwife concurrently encouraging June (my Mother) to push me out of her womb into the front bedroom of number nine The Rise, the 6th detached house looking up the road from the station, on the left-hand side of the road.

I note the coincidence, the processional nature of the dogs names leading to my mother’s name as the first of many pleasing patterns, puzzles and serendipitous occurrences that give rise to my arrival in England on January 16th 1957 at 4:37 pm covered in my own and my mothers number twos and provide my first dataset (see below) for a lifetime obsession with recording such happy accidents.

As I arrive, and to  the midwifes and my mother’s surprise, the excessive faecal lubrication causes me to slip through a space time worm hole (that has formed in the front bedroom of Number 9 The Rise, while dad is out dog walking and thus unable to prevent it –  thus i find myself circumventing mother’s breast, Terry nappies, Farley’s rusks, the horror of polio vaccinations, rides into the village on the back of my mothers bicycle in a rusty baby seat that rasps my thigh red and all the ensuing and inconsequent crying, fully prepped as a four year old in short plaid trousers with matching shirt [a two piece),  knee length tan socks, lace up brown shoes, a hand knit cardigan courtesy of Auntie Barbara and sporting a silk tie that will in various manifestations will remain around my neck until a trip to Italy one August many years years later persuades me, as a result of the inordinate heat, to take it off. It is July 1961 and I emerge from the worm hole with my own Corgi dog called March and I am called Tuffin.

DogsMother – mine
March – mineJune
April – midwifes
May – midwifes
January 16th 1957 -> July 16th 1961Days lost in worm hole 1643
Hours lost in worm hole 39,432 
Minutes lost in worm hole 2,365,920

Table 1

Tuffin 2

Like a bath that never empties the worm hole stays open and drains its contents into the back garden of number nine. Dad is angry as it leaves a wet stain down the wall  and a permanent puddle that threatens to undermine the foundations of the house. So he says!  I believe this to be a moan, not a proper problem. Moans are common in comfortable families they substitute for proper problems when there aren’t enough of those to go round.

At age four dogs are my favourite thing and I love them and think about them all the time. When I grow up I want to work in a zoo for dogs.

Also

Dogs are great – Corgis are the greatest – Corgi cars make me think of driving one day and that makes me feel big.

March our Corgi dog presents a problem not a moan. Unlike April and May (we still see them from time to time around the village – I think March may be a cousin but I am not sure) he is predisposed to activity and is in a permanent state of emergency as if he had a siren and blue lights. In an emergency he killed a Pekingese dog that belonged to Number Fifteen – broke its back. Nobody in the Rise liked the Peke except Number Fifteen of course (they must have, as they had two the same (everyone in The Rise seems to like to keep pairs of dogs – perhaps it’s about symmetry or an offer or good luck)) they made a sound like a pig not a dog so people hated them. Dogs should sound like dogs in the same way as people should talk not bark. Anyway even though March only killed one of them, Number Fifteen complained to the police and so March went on holiday to a kennel. He never came back so I guess he must have liked it. That was the last dog we ever had. I expected another one to come through the worm hole but the worm hole never does things if you expect them. I find you need a real thing to sustain an interest, just imagining doesn’t work, so without a real dog, on my fifth birthday I decided I liked stones better. After all I had lots of those – oh and cats but more about that much later.

When I grow up I want to drive a car and look after pumas.

Tuffin 3

My stones are kept in my room under the bed. It’s the room I was born in – the one with the worm hole. Nobody knows they are there except me and Jill. Jill lives next door and has a guinea pig and her dad has a gun that he uses to shoot rats that bother the guinea pig even though the guinea pig is really a fat rat. Perhaps that why the rats bother the guinea pig, to get back at her for being fat. They also have a pond so that’s where we get the stones. Someone has pretended the pond is a beach by putting stones like the ones at the seaside all around it. We take them when nobody is looking specially her dad, we don’t want to get shot like the rats. We take them up to my bedroom crawl under the bed and pretend we are in the bank, counting the stones, saving them for later, writing a list of them in order of specialness. The best ones are smooth and flat just like coins. Jill says her brother knows how to skim coins like that so that they skip across the water. I wonder if I will ever be able to do that when I grow up.

When I grow up I want to go to the seaside and skim coins and be rich. I want to marry Jill and sleep with her so we can share our dreams and talk about them the next day.

Here is my list of the top 10 stones – they are all boy stones – no copper values

NameValue
David£1
James15/-
Peter12/- 6d
Robin10/-
Clive7/- 6d
Keith5/-
Steven2/- 6d
Simon2/-
John1/-
Randy6d

Tuffin 4

Dad gives me his old pipe. Jill and I move to a hole we dig next to the compost.

We cover the top of the hole with an old table top and some sacks. Inside it’s dark and cosy. We make a carpet of grass cuttings on the floor and dig a second small sideways hole as a cupboard where we keep Dads pipe. “Our hole is our home now” I say.  I take the pipe and place it between my teeth and blow. “See” I say. Jill laughs and presses another layer of grass clippings onto the floor. “It’s really soft” she says. “Feel.”  I push my fingers into the grass and blow on the pipe. “The hole smells of Dad.” We laugh and push each other and make rude dad noises and smells. Then Jill makes cups of tea and keeps things tidy while I smoke my pipe and keep guard. We try lying down. The hole is just wide enough that we can lie head to toe our faces pressed into the wall of mud on either side –  as we do so the rain falls. We pretend to sleep until the hole begins to fill with rain. We don’t dream. Then Jill has to go home to have tea and mum gives me a bath. When I get out of the bath I leave a lot of wet grass and mud behind. “Look the hole has come inside” I say to mum as it drains and drains.

When I grow up I want to dig a hole to Australia.

Tuffin 5

Now I have three holes and lots and lots of stones. My three holes are –

The worm hole in my room that means I don’t ever have to be a child

The hole next to the compost where I can smoke my pipe like dad and sleep with Jill

The bath that is really another compost hole but indoors and drains and drains.

You know about my stones.

This was enough things for me to start my research at the library.

The library was a lorry. At first this confused me as the normal lorries carried bread and coal not books. This one has a door in the side and steps and a rubber stamp and a librarian called Linda that my mum knows from Bexley where my Nan is in hospital for trying to cook her head in the oven. Linda doesn’t mention this but she does say that the book my mum wants is in, so my mum is pleased and doesn’t have to pay. I ask for books on worm holes and stones but Linda suggests ‘Bom the Little Drummer’ so I take that instead. It’s a good book because Boms’ drum rolls down the hill and that gives me an idea for an invention so instead of holes and stones I ask if l can have a book on inventions. Linda says she will bring one in a fortnight when I return Bom. That’s the trouble with libraries you have to give the books back. The best thing about a book is keeping it. That’s more important than reading it. I keep my books on my shelves in order of how may times they have been opened. The unopened ones are the best but I only have one – ‘The Observers book of Freshwater Fish’ – Auntie Margaret got it for me so I could look up ‘minnow’ but after she gave it me she also tried to cook her head in the oven so Dad said best to leave it shut.

When I grow up I want to be an inventor and invent something round like a stone or a hole or a wheel – something that goes somewhere.

Tuffin 6

Now that I only make inventions I only have time for one hole so I shut the worm hole, fill in the compost hole and that just leaves the bath. I think Dad would be cross if I did something with that as the bathroom would be empty and we would all be dirty. Jill is still nice so I didn’t need to take her off my list of people but Andrew is new so he has moved to the top.

My bike has two cross bars but they are thin. This isn’t a mistake it’s modern. It troubles me a bit because I expected one cross bar but as the bike cost dad £16 and Andrew’s cost his dad £14.00 its higher on the list. His has white tyres mine are black with white round the edge. We scramble with them so they get messy and end up the same colour . Jill can’t play because her bike doesn’t have a cross bar at all. She wee’d in the middle of the road when I told her. I looked but Andrew didn’t. She laughed at him but only as a joke. I think I like Jill best but there is a problem with her bike.

I have invented a cross bar for Jill. I found a stick in the wood near the station and cut it to the right length with my hacksaw. This is not the right saw but it’s the only one I am allowed. I want to use the electric one grandad made from an old washing machine but someone had left a bag of old taps on it and I can’t lift it off. I sellotaped the stick onto Jill’s bike and she is really pleased and promised not to wee in the road anymore. Andrew is pleased about that. Jill scrambles with us now all the time. She is quite fast because of the cross bar. When she wins Andrew sings a song about the crossbar. “Crossbar star I love you.” It goes.  I can’t remember the rest but it’s good. I think Andrew might prefer Jill’s bike to his. He needs a hacksaw.

When I grow up I want to use the electric saw and give Andrew my Hacksaw.

Here is a list of our scramble races.

Round 1 Winners
Me
Me
Andrew
Jill
Me

Round 2 winners
Me
Jill
Jill
the rest of the races weren’t recorded as they were just for fun

Overall winner Tuffin (Me)

Tuffin 7

When I am not inventing I like to watch the pigeons on our roof. We get loads because Jill’s dad has built a pigeon house in the back garden next to the pond. So before they go to bed the pigeons  walk around the roof of our house. I suppose they are not tired yet.  I give them names and voices. If I am with Andrew or Jill I talk outloud but if I am on my own I talk inside my head as if I am inside a wireless. I wonder what would happen to the pigeons if I turned the worm hole back on and they accidentally flew inside. Where would they go. Would they fly off and meet that dead Pekingese. That would be bad because they make nice cooing noises and nobody would know they were there because of all the snorting from that dead dog.

I love wireless’s  even if they don’t work. As well as making saws from washing machines Grandad knew how to fix them. He gave me a bread tin full of radio parts. Some are glass, some are China and some are rubber a few are made of wax. I lit one like it was a candle using dads blow torch. It melted but didn’t burn much. The smell was bad so I mixed in some rose petals to cover it up. I thought I had invented a fire perfume maker. Andrew thought it smelt ok but would probably work better as an explosive so we hit it with a hammer but that did nothing so we threw it all away and went back to the pigeons but they had gone to bed.

When I grow up I want to be a perfumer.

Tuffin 8

Mum had dropped a milk bottle in the new fridge and it had split the plastic shelf. Now she is crying on the bed.

I want to invent something with the bag of taps. I have decided that they have been put there to stop me using the electric saw. I respect that because all tools are dangerous in the wrong hands. There are probably a hundred taps in the bag. Why would a house need a hundred taps? That’s fifty baths or sinks or twenty five of each type. That’s very clean people or clothes or washing up.

I note the connection with my remaining hole and write it down as a clue in my list.  It seems that someone has planned to makes lots of new baths to go with mine. I think about keeping this a secret as it might be important but the cat had my tongue so I let it out to Jill. She says her dad will know because he has some medals from the war. I tell her not to tell him yet because of his gun.

Brainwave!

That’s what I will make. A tap makes a perfect gun. That way if Jill’s dad were to want to kill us instead of the rats I could defend us. It’s a pity the rose perfumed wax didn’t explode as my book on guns (opened so many times the glue holding the pages has dropped out so it no longer a book just pages) tells me I need a propellant. There is no mention of rose petals or wax but there is mention of charcoal, saltpetre and sulphur in five/seven/five proportions to make gunpowder. The best charcoal is made from willow, it says, so I roast my cricket bat in the old bread bin using dads blow torch. It takes a long time and a lot of paraffin at at the end of it my head hurts and my eyes hurt a lot. Jill says that’s a good sign.

Tomorrow I will ask Dad to get me some some saltpetre and sulphur.

When I grow up I want to be a pyroman and to fix mum’s new fridge.

Tuffin 9

The shed was once grandads. He is dead with coughing all his life. I was a bit sad as he was an inventor like me but I was glad because we got all his tins as well as his shed. I don’t think grandad liked anything other than things and wrestling. I know that because he left one hundred and forty one tins called old Virginia with different things in them. Some of them have just one thing in like a door bolt or a chain but others have hundred of little things like staples or washers. Some things are sticky and some are dry and chalky. Although he has painted what they are on the side of the tin I had to ask dad what a grommet was and he said be careful. Grommets don’t look dangerous but I suppose you never know. Swallowing would be fine as they have a hole in them, you could still breath. I suppose you could put one on your willy because that how they make dogs stop being bad so it might work on boys. It didn’t work at all on March so you might end up going on holiday and never coming back.

I know about the wrestling because we watched it together on Saturday afternoons and it was the only time he didn’t cough because he was too busy shouting. Once he shouted so hard he kicked his bottle of beer across the carpet. After that the room always smelt nice but grandma said it made her sick and that grandad made her sick and that she would sit in the kitchen, but she stayed in the sitting room and watched the wrestling with us which was nice because she let me lean across her lap like a dog.

I miss my dog. I wish he wasn’t dead.

When I grow up I will bring my March back to life and my Grandad but not my Grandma. I may have to turn on the worm hole again.

Tuffin 10

Dad took me to Boots to get the saltpetre and the sulphur. Saltpetre is potassium nitrate and white. Sulphur is called flowers of sulphur and is yellow. I also bought some sulphur sweets in all sorts of colours. I ate them in our car on the way home.

Gunpowder is easy to make as long as you are patient and sensible. The recipe is to grind the three ingredients up using a pestle and mortar. I had one as part of a chemistry set I had never opened as it was obviously a toy rather than real chemistry. It had a picture of a boy on the box. He wasn’t wearing a tie so it was likely he was just playing not working. That’s no good at all! “Things worth doing are doing work.” Play is for babies and children. The boy looks a lot like Andrew so I took a note to talk about it later with Jill before we opened it up to Andrew. I think Jill might like the picture but she can’t have the chemistry set as it has one or two ingredients labeled poison – another present from Auntie Margaret.

Another surprise is that Gunpowder does not explode easily. Hitting it with a hammer is as ineffective as hitting waxy radio bits and rose petals. All those shows where people throw barrels of gunpowder down mountains and they blow up and cause an avalanche must use special gunpowder because I only managed to throw up a coating of grey dust across the bench that got muddled up with the dust left by dead grandad or the sawdust left by my dad when he made a seed frame.

Now I need a number two very very badly. Mum says it was the sulphur sweets, but I can’t see the connection. No time for a list.

Tuffin 11

Swimming is good for my body says my mother.

I am more interested in the black pool.

We ride our bikes to see the pool. The water is black because the pool has been left inside the house for years and no one can get in. To see it we have to look through the windows and they are covered in moss from inside so there are only a few places left you can see in. One day you won’t be able to see in at all, so we make hay while it’s still possible. We all agree it’s brilliant, better even than the stagnant pond further back down the lane where if you throw in a stone in it throws up a slimy green tail, opens a black hole then closes it down again and disappears. The black pool still has chairs around it like people will come and put their watches and clothes on and that makes it feel more like they may be in the water it’s just we can’t see them because the moss is in the way. If people are in the water they must surely be in another worm hole because we can’t hear them and the water is very still. I wonder if this is the source of my worm hole.

Jill and Andrew want to go but I could stay all day. They prefer swimming. I might have to move them down my list and find someone who just likes looking to move to the top.

When I grow up I want to just look as well as invent.

Tuffin 12

I have found someone who just likes looking.

It was easy. I told Andrew that I didn’t like swimming but I did like looking at the pool, he said he would do the same. So he’s on the top of my list still. I am not sure about Jill, because of her dad she may have to stick with swimming but we all agree that looking is best anyway.

We stand facing each other without laughing. Jill is very white. Something to do with her blood her mum says. Andrew is very red like my Mothers hair. Jill says I am quite brown but that’s only because she is so white. We start to describe each other the way you are meant to in a story but that is boring so we give it up. The best kind of looking is secret looking so we go down to the woods to climb a tree and spy on people.

For ages no one comes so we just tear leaves of the tree and drop them down to see which one is first. Eventually Brian comes. We all know him well because he likes to stand in the woods a lot and show his willy to the girls. Jill has been told to run home if she sees him but with both of us to protect her so she doesn’t bother. As Brian doesn’t see Jill because she’s up  a tree we don’t see his willy which is a shame because it would be a good looking thing. We decide it’s best not to let Jill’s mum know we saw Brian because of her dad.

As we walk home for tea we see a giant pink crab in someone’s dustbin.

I have made a list of the best lookings I have had so far.

The back swimming pool

The crab

I can’t decide which of these two should be number one.

The pigeon with the broken leg

Jill’s white arm

My bike when I have washed it

Andrews birth mark

Marchs’ old lead that dad uses to keep the gate shut

An unopened book

A gun

Jill wee’ing in the middle of the road

My sisters confirmation veil

Instant whip.

When I grow up I want to be confirmed and wear a veil.

Tuffin 13

Jill’s Dad is called Sid. I like this name because it’s the shortest one I know – so easy to write on a list.

Sid’s job is to cut the grass and to clean the car. He is the first person in our road to have a green car. Mother says that is because he is some kind of artist and that artists like bright colours and she shows me some impression paintings done by Frenchmen. The pictures in the book are in black and white so I don’t really see the point but I don’t tell her because this is her most important hobby after cooking and cleaning. Sid is very quiet even when he is mowing or washing he never talks to anyone loudly. When I play at Jill’s he is usually inside in the dining room with his gun poking out the window waiting for the rats. I suppose this is why he is always so quiet. Jill says it’s something to do with the war but the war was over a longtime ago and I don’t think it had artists in it.

When I grow up I want a medal and a green car.

Tuffin 14

Andrew’s house is different from ours on the outside but in the inside it’s the same but without the worm hole.

It smells different to our house and the stairs have carpet all the way across and you can’t slide in your socks on the wooden floor in the hall because it’s covered in the same carpet. The carpet means that it’s more fun to jump down the stairs because it looks like soft sand and we can pretend it’s the desert when we jump. I can jump from six steps up because my legs are really strong from climbing the washing pole in the garden. Andrew manages only five steps because he is a lot fatter than me and his legs get very red and his face gets wet. I want to hit him a bit when he looks like that. Once a teacher said that my legs were too thin and I needed to eat more eggs. I hated her after that and wanted to hit her too.

Now I know what the smell is in Andrews house. It’s eggs. He must eat a lot of eggs that’s why he has fat legs.

When I grow up I will hit Andrew and fat people and teachers

Tuffin 15

Jill has a new dog. It’s called Fred which is the same name that she gave to the Guinea pig. It’s a German sausage dog which means it’s very very low down. It doesn’t seem to mind if Jill puts clothes on it or even paints its paws blue as if it was wearing slippers. Jill likes to dress me up sometimes. I won’t let her paint me as that would make a mess and would probably make my bath a funny colour and mum would think I was ill or had a secret. I keep it secret that Jill dresses me up even from Andrew even though I think he would like to join in or look. We do it in the scruffy bit at the side of the house where Dad keep bricks and bags of mud. She brings a bag of dressing up clothes, not all boys stuff either, and makes me stand on the bricks like a statue while she arranges everything. I get quite bored but I do it for her because in the end she is nice and doing things for her makes me feel grown up, besides in Sunday School we were told that Jesus did things for other people like feed them fish and make them better so wearing a girls dress is not hard work and might mean I go to heaven. In heaven the angels wear dresses not trousers so I might fit in well.

When I grow up I want to go to heaven and fit in well.

Tuffin 16

At the bottom of the road is a railway station. I am allowed to go there to do train spotting. I have an Observers Book of trains with all the trains in England and lots and lots of lists that tell you things like how many wheels they’ve got. I go there on my own because neither Jill or Andrew are interested in trains and going on my own is more grown up. There aren’t that many trains going to our station and most of them are the same type but I did once see a steam train but it wasn’t in the book so it must not be English. When I am waiting for the trains, I watch the people on the platforms. Once I saw a lady be sick into her hand, some of it splashed on the floor next to her. I was almost sick watching and everyone near her moved away but she seemed alright and went back inside the station I suppose because she was afraid people would laugh or to wash the sick off her hand or maybe she just went home and went to bed. I would have done that if I had been sick. Another time a blind man was at the station. He had a white stick but no dog. I thought he might walk off the platform and get killed but he stood very still well back from the edge and waited for his train and a man talked to him just like he was normal. I wondered if his dog was dead like March or had run away. I can’t be fun for a dog to look after a blind man all day long because the dog has to always be on a lead and the blind man can’t throw sticks or run fast without falling over.

When I grow up I don’t want to be blind

Tuffin 17

After watching real trains I like to get out my train set. I only have one train and two carriages and the track is a circle. It needs two batteries to work and they are expensive and Dad says I need to reserve power and I have to be careful to remember to disconnect everything when I finish playing. I don’t understand why Andrew likes the train set but doesn’t like real trains but he always wants to play with it even on days when I haven’t been at the station first, which is stupid. I am beginning to think that his behaviour means he isn’t the right person to go at the top of my list after all. Jill can’t go there as she is a girl so that is a problem. Sometimes I let Andrew drive the train. He likes to make it go as fast as it can which means it comes off the track. I tell him that he needs to be more careful and make it like the speed of the train real even though it’s tiny compared to the real thing. Because he doesn’t go to the station like me he doesn’t understand this and he keeps making the train crash. In the end I tell him the battery is going to run out and that we have to stop. He doesn’t seem to mind but I feel quite annoyed and hope he moves to Essex soon and someone new and better moves into his house that I can put at the top of my list. Afterwards we go outside and plays trains by walking along the garden wall making train noises. As we are doing it the ten to six from Holborn Viaduct arrives and all the people walk up the road past us on their way home. One of them is the lady who was sick, so I do a really fast train along the wall to get away from her.

When I grow up I want another carriage.

Tuffin 18

I tell mum about the sick lady and she says that most likely she is going to have a baby because that makes you sick. I don’ t understand because I thought having a baby made you happy. If it makes you sick why bother.

Next morning I watch out the window until I see the lady walking down to the station again to catch the two minutes past eight stopping service to Blackfriars. I do this watching most mornings while Mother tidies up after Dad has gone to work. He catches the ten to eight which is the fast train. The number 83. I notice she has a fat tummy that sticks out of her coat and mum says her name is Rosalind and something about her skirt being too short. If there is a baby inside it must be being jiggled about because she is rushing. I think mum is wrong because there is no way a baby could get out of there without making a terrible mess so more likely her big belly is what makes her sick. I get that after too much strawberry pink ice cream especially if it’s a hot day. I wonder if all babies come through worm holes like me and if they do what has that got to do with bellies and being sick. If Rosalind has a worm hole in her belly that would make her sick for sure because of all the gravity swirling round. Also people would be swirling around her getting sucked into her belly and appearing in the future or the past rather than catching the train and going to work.

When I grow up I don’t ever want to be sick again so I will never eat strawberry pink ice cream on hot days.

Tuffin 19

Andrew and I have a new game called hanging teddies. We both have teddies but because we are old now we don’t need them. Mine was given to me by my mean Nan, who my mum hates. She is not mean to me but she is mean to the family.  It has short fur and when you turn it upside it growls but it sounds like a cow. Andrew’s has long fur and is quite small and worn out. It doesn’t growl or anything. We attach string round their necks and dangle them out of my window. Because of the porch we can’t swing them very far without them bashing into the walls but we can balance them on the porch roof so it looks like they are going to do suicide  like the lady up the road did only she set herself on fire. The people walking up the road from the station saw us and smiled which is strange because I don’t think its funny. Andrew’s bear was weak and it head and body tore apart like it had had its throat cut. Andrew said the bear belonged to his mother and her mother so she would be cross. I knew about sewing from Mrs Friends class so I showed Andrew how to stitch the head back onto the body just like the boy at school had stitches on his thigh after he fell on some railings. I wanted to do the hanging teddies game again but Andrew said he was going home. Andrew is very weak like his Teddy.

When I grow up I want stitches.

Tuffin 20

Next to the station and to get to the wood is a narrow road. We are allowed to go down the road all the way to the donkey but no further as then you get to the shooting range where the army try out machine guns and bombs. I really want to go there but Dad says that even though it was in the war there still might be bombs lying about. I once heard a few bangs coming from there but no one was blown up or shot so I think it’s safe as long as you are careful and sensible. On the way to the donkey the road is so narrow that if a car comes you have to climb onto the bank to let it pass. The bank is full of snails and Jill is afraid of snails. They are really big ones the size of the crowns I have in my coin collection that the lady next door gave me before she died in bed. I sent her a thankyou letter but she must have been dead already because when dad went to make sure the house was ok it was still on the mat. On the way to the donkey we once found a mole in the middle of the road. I picked it up but it bit me so I dropped it. I pretended it didn’t hurt but it did and it bled a bit so I kept my hand in my pocket. After that we kicked it with our feet over to the bank to stop it getting run over but it didn’t move again so we left it alone. I think I killed it when I kicked it. The donkey is very muddy but we take carrots for it so it comes to the gate and puts its head over when it sees us coming. Everyone is afraid of it biting them except me. I like animals and they know that. Except moles perhaps but I think they are blind like the man at the station. The donkey has a really fat belly like Rosalind and thin legs like me. It’s not having a baby though as it has a big willy like Brian has when he is in the woods.

(There are lots of pattens in that bit – I must make a list later)

PS -The donkey’s best bit is it’s ears that are big, not sticky out like mine but sticky up. I wonder what donkeys hear like. If wonder if they can hear other donkeys making noises a long way off like submarines can. After all this one is all on its own and is probably lonely even with us there so it might like to hear another donkey even if it can’t see it.

When I grow up I want to explore the shooting range and find a bomb or bullets and I want my ears to be less sticky out.

Tuffin 21

Across the road from our house is a white house. Someone has covered the bricks up in stuff and then painted it white. I don’t like this as I prefer to see the bricks all the way up to the roof. Our house has bricks at the bottom and then tiles. This is also bad but paint is worse. The main thing with paint is you have to keep painting it again when it’s dirty or flaky so the house is always fading away and I prefer strong things that stay the same. The people that lived in the White House  didn’t have any children so some new people have moved in with children and the old ones  have gone away to live in a bungalow by the seaside and then die or that’s what mum says. She seemed to think this was quite sad and I agree because surely it would be a lot less trouble to die in the White House and not have to move your things and have all that curfuffle. The lady and the man next door died and they didn’t move and now there are two new old people next door who look like they will do the same thing soon. The new people across the roads children are both girls which means all the children in the houses near me are girls. This is a blow because although he was weak Andrew was stronger than Jill and could almost jump from six stairs up. The two girls are twins but you wouldn’t know because they are not at all alike. I am suspicious that they are adopted. I have heard that adopted children are very deceitful because being adopted has to kept secret. Mum says that I must not ask them and I must not think that but then she was still sad about the people dying in a bungalow so she was feeling a bit sensitive and short.

When I grow up I won’t die or move to a bungalow by the seaside

Tuffin 22

They are not adopted I asked. They didn’t mind in fact they thought it was fun to pretend they were. They said that their real parents were German and had been captured and put in prison so  their new parents rescued them and brought them here but their old parents were planning to escape  from prison and take them back to Germany to live in a castle which had caves and a lake that you were allowed to play in. I told them about the black swimming pool and they said they would like to see it and that one day I could visit them in Germany to see the lake and swim in it.  They are called Jean and Judith. I said it was a good idea to have the same first letter for their first name because then their initial would be the same so when they want to be more like twins that would help. They told me that there middle names did not have the same initial but they would not tell me what they were because they were German names so they were secret and hard to spell.  I think J and J might go higher up my list than Jill as Jill doesn’t speak German and they can. All my girl friends have a name beginning with J. That makes me think that J is a girlish letter but then John is a very popular boys name and I have a friend at school called Jonathan. Oh yes I go to school now.

When I grow up I want to change my name to Josh and learn German

Tuffin 23

Our village has a famous river. It is famous because it is shallow so you can walk in it with wellingtons without getting wet socks at all and it has a track through it that lorries can drive through if they are too big for the bridge. So it isn’t really a river it is more of a road with a river running on top. Common people’s cars from Dartford or East Hill don’t use the bridge instead they break the rules and show off by going through the river very fast and making a big wave that fills your wellingtons and probably kills lots of fish. My dad always hopes they get stuck and water gets in the engine and ruins it. At weekends lots of common people’s children come to shout and splash in the river with just their pants on and throw stones and water at each other and at us. I hate them because they don’t know the rules. Luckily they have me to teach them. The bridge is only wide enough for one car small at a time. It is so narrow that it has places to hide at the top so that people don’t get squashed by the cars. I like to stand on guard stopping the small children from getting in hoping they will get killed. That way they will learn the rules like we have to at school. Rules for waiting or eating and playing and drinking from the water fountain and running and going to the toilet without wetting the walls or getting gravel in your knees or spilling ink and getting hit for not folding your arms, and writing in the lines and colouring in the lines and standing in lines with nowhere to hide to avoid being killed.

When I grow up, I won’t have to go to school, and I won’t have to hide.

The Lad (in 10 miniature scenes)

THIS PIECE IS A COMPLEMENT TO BECKETT’S PLAY ‘KRAPPS LAST TAPE’ IN SO FAR AS IT FEATURES A BANANA.

IT CAN BE PERFORMED LIVE ANYWHERE IN WHICH CASE ALL THE PROP CHANGES AND BUSINESS BETWEEN THE TEN MINIATURES COULD, PROBABLY WOULD, BE SEEN BY THE AUDIENCE AND TREATED LIKE PART OF THE PERFORMANCE.

THE SCENE IS ANYWHERE. THE TIME IS TODAY

…BUT ANYWHERE HAS BEEN ADAPTED FOR AN OLD MAN WHO IS SAT IN AN ARMCHAIR LISTENING TO AN OLD RADIO WEARING A BIB. NEXT TO HIS CHAIR, ON ONE SIDE IS AN OCCASIONAL TABLE WITH A FRUIT BOWL CONTAINING LOTS OF BANANAS AND THE RADIO. NEXT TO THAT IS A WASTE BIN. ALSO IN THE SCENE IS A YOUNG MAN PLAYING A CLASSICAL GUITAR SOMETIMES FOLLOWING THE OLD MANS ACTIONS PRECISELY, SOMETIMES NOT. (MAYBE HE IS THE OLD MAN’S YOUNGER SELF OR MAYBE JUST AN ENTERTAINER.) ON THE MAN’S KNEE IS ‘THE LAD’ A VENTRILOQUIST DUMMY IN A PURPLE SHINY SHOW SUIT. THEY APPEAR TO BE LISTENING TO THE RADIO TOGETHER BUT IT BECOMES APPARENT FROM THE UNATURAL WAY THEY INTERACT DURING THE PERFORMANCE THAT THE OLD MAN IS NOT A SKILLED VENTRILOQUIST. FROM TIME TO TIME THE LAD WILL SING ALONG TO THE RADIO (SEE LYRICS ON PAGE 3). ALL THE ACTION IS VERY VERY SLOW AS BEFITS THE OLD MAN AND MUCH IS FOCUSED ON HIS FREE HAND NOT THE LAD. THE MAN IS AS SKILLED WITH HIS FREE HAND AS HE IS UNSKILLED WITH THE LAD, SUCH THAT IT SEEMS TO SPEAK AND AT TIMES PARALLELS THE MUSIC AS IF IT WERE SINGING ALONG TOO. THE NAILS ON HIS FREE HAND ARE LONG LIKE THOSE OF A GUIARIST.

(INEVITABLY MISTAKES OCCUR DUE TO THE INTRICACY OF THE ACTIVITIES THE MAN IS REQUIRED TO PERFORM. THESE ARE AS IMPORTANT AS THE SUCCESSFUL ACTS OF MANUAL DEXTERITY AND SHOULD NEITHER BE EDITED OUT NOT ‘STAGED.’)

THE CORE RADIO SOUND IS POOR QUALITY AND CONSIST OF SAMPLES DERIVED FROM 1970‘S POP AND POP/CLASSICAL MUSIC HOWEVER THESE CAN BE TRANSFORMED APPROPRIATELY AND DISTRIBUTED THROUGH A HIGH QUALITY SOUND SYSTEM OR OPTIMISED IN POST PRODUCTION. THE RADIO MUSIC MAY FLOW ACROSS SCENES OR BE INTERUPTED. THERE SHOULD NOT BE A SENSE THAT EACH MINATURE HAS A RADIO THEME. THE GUITAR MUSIC IS SYNCHRONISED WITH THE RADIO SOUND AND MAY BLEND WITH IT AT TIMES. IT HAS A TRANQUILITY THAT ESTABLISHES THE SLOW REPETITIVE GENTLE RHYTHM OF THE PIECE.THE MEANING OF THE WORDS DOESN’T MATTER THEY COULD BE ANY OLD MANS SEMI LUCID ’KRAPP’ BUT THE WORDS SELECTED FOR THE SCRIPT MUST BE ADHERED TO PRECISELY AS IF DELIVERED BY A MACHINE WITH NO OPPORTUNITIES FOR IMPROVISATION. THE ‘DRAMA’ IF ANY IS IN THE MUSIC, SILENCES AND THE NON-SPEECH VOCALISATIONS. ALL PAUSES APPLY TO ALL THE SOUND SOURCES SO THAT THE FLOW IS CONTINUALLY INTERUPTED. THE LAD HAS A CHILD’S VOICE (FALSETTO) MOST OF THE TIME, AS IS TRADITIONAL.

SUGGESTED RADIO MUSIC – IN NO PARTICULAR ORDER

Only fragments may be used or more extended samples – the extracts may be significantly modified and processed to be barely recognisable.

RADIO MUSIC: ROGER WHITTAKER https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HzKQfrNseoI

RADIO MUSIC: I’D LIKE TO TEACH THE WORLD TO SING
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZWKznrEjJK4

RADIO MUSIC: SATIE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2WfaotSK3mI

RADIO MUSIC: RODRIGO
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=knZyzhMNeP0
 

RADIO MUSIC: STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXQUu5Dti4g

RADIO MUSIC: ANNIES SONG
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RNOTF-znQyw

RADIO MUSIC: WHERE DID YOU GO TO MY LOVELY
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L8XQZYIiNgo

RADIO MUSIC: STARRY STARRY NIGHT
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4wrNFDxCRzU

RADIO MUSIC: CAT STEVENS
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kGNxKnLmOH4&list=PL262337A5F58BD941

RADIO MUSIC: CAVATINA
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X7SvBtJuh3Y

The following lyrics can be sung by the Lad whenever appropriate. They may or may not marry to the original songs from which they are derived

Your head is humming and it won’t go, in case you don’t know
The piper’s calling you to join him
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow, and did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind?

Come let me love you, let me give my life to you
Let me drown in your laughter, let me die in your arms
Let me lay down beside you, let me always be with you
Come let me love you, come love me again

Like the strangers that you’ve met
The ragged men in ragged clothes
The silver thorn of bloody rose
Lie crushed and broken on the virgin snow

I know where you go to, my lovely
When you’re alone in your bed
I know the thoughts that surround you
‘Cause I can look inside your head

That’s a song I hear
Sing it along
Let the world sing today
Over and over

        minIature 1

The man is eating a banana sandwich. (He rests between each bite)

(Pause)

THE MAN

Want some?

THE LAD

Only if you take off the crusts.

(Pause)

The man takes off the crusts with one hand and his fingernails showing significant virtuosity that is reflected in the music. He feeds the lad clumsily. Bits fall out of the dummies mouth.

THE LAD

(Choking a little)

Watch it, you’re wasting it!

        MINIATURE 2

The Man is holding a banana. He peals it methodically and very very slowly using only one hand. It’s another virtuoso performance.

The Lad watches him apprehensively at first and then tries whistling to calm his nerves. The music accompanied by the guitar sounds a bit like Roger Whittaker

THE MAN

Want some?

THE LAD

You first.

(gulp)

        MINIATURE 3

The Man is pretending to be asleep. The Lad is ‘awake.’ The guitarist plays. The Lad ‘dances’ and sings along with the music.

(Counting to the music)

(Breaths)

        MINIATURE 4

The Man holds the banana as he did at the end of Miniature 2. It’s as though the recording has slipped backwards

THE MAN

Want some?

(Very long pause)

THE LAD

No you are all right!

The man eats the banana in small bites as he does so the lad tries to speak and some words are audible between mouthfuls but the rest of the time the words are completely garbled. The words that are heard are –

THE LAD

…conscious of something

…but the Dartford Crossing was jam packed

…true friendship can

…a bungalow

…your carriage it’s waiting

…fried not baked

…pull up, knock up, rock up, wake up

…feeling like shit

…nobody makes a better flapjack.

        MINIATURE 5

The man holds the banana skin. It hangs limply.

THE LAD

Want some?

THE MAN

Maybe later. You?

THE LAD

(Pause)

It’s empty.

THE MAN

Good though.

        MINIATURE 6

The man holds up a bunch of five bananas

THE LAD

Now that’s more like it.

THE MAN

It’s a feast!

(Slurp)

THE LAD

Enough for everyone.

THE MAN

A bunch…

THE LAD

…a bunch of five

The man pulls his hand out of the dummy and shows his fist to the radio. The Lad now unsupported collapses with laughter.

(Laughter)

        MINIATURE 7

The man is controlling the Lad again. He holds up his other fist.

THE MAN

Nobody does it better

THE LAD

You can say that again.

THE MAN

(Like a nursery rhyme)

Five bananas will make Wilma fat. We don’t want that.

(repeat ad infinitum)

THE LAD

Who is Wilma?

THE MAN

(Pretending to mishear)

Who is Sylvia?

Mad cows!

THE LAD

(In the mans voice – for real like an aside)

Sylvia is here now. We all are, the whole street. No 9 us, No 11 Wilma, No 12 Sylvia. Nobody does it better. She does it, everyday, like clockwork. Up the stairs the window, her tower, waiting all day, nothing doing, nobody, poor cow. Why should they.

(In the Lads voice)

Nobody does it better. The flapjacks. Now that’s something to write home about.

        MINIATURE 8

The lad lies spread over the Mans lap enabling to him to prop a bowl of bananas and custard on his back. (It may look sexual who cares but it’s not the intention.)

THE MAN

Bananas, custard…

He reaches behind his bib and pulls out a paper bag with the remainder of a piece of flapjack in it.

THE MAN

And flapjack.

He breaks the flapjack into the bowl and eats the contents.

        MINIATURE 9

The man holds the empty bowl and presents it to the front so we can see the contents. Its inside is painted like the moon.

THE LAD

A bungalow would be ideal then she couldn’t, wouldn’t, shouldn’t climb the stairs.

(Crying in a cod way)

THE MAN

Her head is in the shed.

(Laugh.)

THE LAD

Her head is in the shed.

(Laugh.)

THE MAN

Shall we dance fa la la.

(Breaths and breathless)

(Giggling)

        MINIATURE 10

THE MAN

Easy go.

(Sighs)

THE LAD

Easy come.

The man produces another banana. The Lad stares at it.

THE LAD

(Sighs)

The Man freezes for as long as he can holding the banana aloft while the guitar music plays. Once he can no longer keep the banana still, the performance/film is over.

THE END

Hek Ek

Heck Ek it’s been ages.
So let’s make time fly
Like the Tardis
Or the  fastest
Masarati

We need a party!

Heck Ek let’s rush 

Not like a trike 
Or a slow cook
A long book
Or a pilati

Class

We need a party
A  bonfire party
A dinner party
Or just a good hearty
Laugh

WITH YOU

Hek Ek
In York
Ok
X 

The Stone Steps

I still have the guide book I took with me in 1980. “Umbria the green heart of Italy – The City of Perugia – In the evening young people, many of them foreign language students from the famous Italian language school for foreigners, sprawl on the cathedral steps, still warm from the sun, chatting together, eating ice cream or watching the nightly “passeggiata” of fashionable Perugini.”  The stone steps outside the cathedral are still warm but I don’t chat or sprawl or eat ice cream nor am I young, I just sit with my ant.

Like me, my ant enjoys the warmth of the steps. I believe It helps her charge her battery for the important tasks she does during the day. We all have important tasks don’t we. I have to learn Italian, my ant has to do whatever ants do, like get food, build a nest or have baby ants. –  Lay eggs I should say.-  Ants lay eggs don’t they? – I think she builds her nest underground, and lays eggs, maybe under the actual stones I am sitting on. That would explain why I don’t need to look for her or call her. She’s been waiting all day, waiting for the feel of my body on top of her. Or that’s what I like to think.  I just place my hand flat on the stone and in a minute or so she appears and climbs on. It’s like we are holding hands.

I have never studied ants – not in the way you study Italian. I just feel things about her without having to read books. It’s the same with people. You know when somebody likes you without studying them.  It’s an instinct. Sometimes I look at her though my reading glasses while she fusses about on my hand. She’s small and dark and very beautiful with an amazing body. It seems to shine even in the late evening.  We don’t stay holding hands for long in case I squash her, instead I gently guide her off onto the steps and draw a circle around her with a black marker and she stays in it. She must think it’s a wall.

Perugia has the highest, oldest walls of any Italian city and the steepest hills. That’s what I think anyway.  The sun has trouble getting in so it always dark even in the day. Dark enough that when I walk back down the hill after lunch for my nap through the cramped streets it’s like I am tunnelling. It makes me think of my ant. I imagine her laying her eggs in the cosy corners of her stone step or in my bed, tunnelling under the duvet or in the pillow-case to the safe places, so nobody can find them but us.

Of course, I miss my Maria. I want to be sprawling on these same warm steps, eating ice cream watching the nightly “passeggiata” of fashionable Perugini” with my Maria.

She’s long gone of course – I’m not stupid – I’m just saying in those days she was my best friend. Nothing improper mind you.  She just sat next to me every evening. She was young and dark, and beautiful, very Italian. She listened to me attentively. “Mi chiami Christopher. Io abito  in Inghilterra. Io ho vent anni.” She was gregarious with lots of friends. They all listened to me.  They loved my accent. I think they found me very charming as they were always there waiting, loads of them!  Sometimes Maria was very cheeky and lay against my arm licking the sticky ice cream stream that trickled down my wrists, her head thrown back  soaking up the sugary liquids flavoured with peach or melon or hazelnut. She was brazenly unconcerned about flavours or hygiene.

She was my first love.

 My first and most precious ant.

 My Maria.

Kenneth

After the incident with the steam roller Kenneth the ginger and white cat was reincarnated as a red post box. It appeared overnight at the bottom of the Rise, his favoured haunt from his previous life.

No humans commented on its sudden appearance assuming that the post office had at last delivered on their promise to provide one for the convenience of the many commuters who used the railway station. The cats on the other-hand were incensed that a symbol of respectable utility should be derived from the soul of such a vagabond. They formed a protest group to campaign for its replacement with one sprung from the soul of a solid sort of cat but it didn’t fly.

Kenneth’s  mouth that had hitherto been used for biting and eating was now a gaping invitation for anyone to insert their pennings. Had they been aware of the post boxes provenance that may have thought twice before so committing. You see Kenneth’s physical form may have changed but his personality hadn’t.

Kenneth had led the life of an adventurer. His adventures were largely of the amorous variety but he took in some skirmishing, vandalism, and petty larceny as well. Accordingly he received the offerings thrust between his red open lips as opportunities to exercise his previous passions and extract some payback. A letter to a lover he would lick until the ink ran purple, the stamps fell off and it smelt of stale lamb gravy. A letter to the bank, perhaps enclosing a cheque or even cash he would shred with his claws in an effort to extract the good capital and find away to spend it on fish. A letter complaining to the parish council about stray cats digging up the freshly raked soil in somebody’s allotment would be drowned in the most noxious acidic spray he could muster until it was reduced back to the pulp that formed it and thus made a perfect a spring mulch for the aforesaid allotment should the complainer be so inclined as to be granted it back thorough solicitous negotiation with the postman whose job it was to disembowel Kenneth at 4:15 on weekdays and 10:15 on Saturdays.

So the post box soon acquired a reputation as a malevolent force intent on ruining the orderly rhythm of the neighbourhood and providing little value in terms of its intent as somewhere to send letters from. The commuters avoided it for anything but the most thoughtless birthday card or ill intended thank you letter . The residents of the rise crossed the road rather than pass too close to avoid the noise and smell. Even those intent in debasing themselves by utilising its inviting orifice did so with exceptional care.   Life had come full circle but Kenneth had evolved from cat to container, thus he was content.

The Waterwheel

I slipped off my socks, rolled up my trousers and picked up my sixpenny fishing net. The gate had corroded to such a point that parts of it were now missing and local children had long since found ways to squeeze through the bars. Now much of it had disappeared allowing access to any child not put off by the cavernous darkness and strange echoes beyond. I climbed through with little difficulty.  Behind me were children paddling, framed within the gaping mouth of  bridge, trousers rolled up  or dresses tucked into pants wielding fishing nets  and loudly declaring their prowess at netting fish or tadpoles. I knew that on the other side, inaccessible accept by this means, lay an abandoned water mill it’s wheel still sloshing relentlessly, grinding no more grain, and providing no living for the parents of these children.  The children watched me enter but didn’t try to follow.

Despite the pressing current and the darkness that initially made me panic a little, I told myself that the secret would be  to consider each new footstep carefully while bracing myself against the current with the stick of my fishing net. That way I wouldn’t stumble and make a fool of myself. I knew that ahead there were troughs in the river bed as well as sharp stones. I knew the water became noticeably  colder especially near the middle where for some reason the current seemed to pause and miniature whirlpools would sometimes  appear. I was sufficiently far in that I could already feel the water chilling.  My feet were accustomed to the route but appeared whiter and thinner with blue veins that in the cold water glowed like an ancient script.  As I lifted my head  I was aware of a distant descant of children dwarfed occasionally by rumble of a car passing over the bridge  overhead  and the slosh the waterwheel. It brought it all back.

I looked back. A small audience of children had assembled beyond the gate  framed by the bridge arch now in silhouette against a bright afternoon sun.  The bridge was made from flint and consequently the raw edges of sharp stones glistened and reflected the light back into the rivers flow and back onto there faces like the moving grain of an old film. The children were smiling, kind smiles like they recognised me. The faces were familiar. I knew them everyone. My eyes filled with tears and  I leant against the wall blotting out the reflected light. The screen went dead.  My feet were freezing. My fishing net slipped from my grasp. I felt myself falling. The flints scraped against my back as a sat into the water. The water filled my trousers and I wet myself.

“Chris I can see you ? Are you alright. We have been really worried .You have missed your tea but we kept some for you. It’s trifle your favourite. Come on now everyone’s waiting it’s bingo night.

Shrewdini

Shrewdini

Most common shrews are shaped like a thumb, but today Shrewdini polished off a snail, a slug and a worm in one go, and consequently became spherical. Satisfied that he could absorb no more goodies, and passing a somewhat liquid trail in his wake, he threaded his way beneath the kitchen table, skirting Tuffin’s feet (who was absorbed in eating his cornflakes), toward the convenient gap under the back door leading to the garden.

When Rita the ginger and white cat spotted something rolling across the lawn, at first she thought that a ball of wool (like those designed to, but typically failing to, tempt her into performances of playfulness) was on the loose, but then moments later the smell of a meat-sweating shrew entered her nostrils and she contemplated the convenience of addressing the obligations of ‘playtime’ and the pleasures of ‘lunchtime’ in one go.

Despite having sprung him to safety on numerous occasions – only yesterday from a steam roller engaged in rolling new tarmac on one side of the road between the station and the semidetached house, number 11, that was home to Rita, and its dense front garden, that was home to Shrewdini – today, the shrew’s reflexes (undermined by the excessive consumption of grub) let him down.

Rita had no need to pounce as reaching was sufficient. She trapped Shrewdini under the weight of her paw, her claws snagging his tail like the coil of a snake in a miniature croquet hoop.

Tuffin, the owner of number 11 and Rita, had grown aware of Shrewdini from the tell-tale rodent ‘calling cards’ that had started to appear each morning in his cornflakes (delivered bi-weekly via Mr Munn’s grocery van). However, he was not aware that at night, from time to time, after the shrew had finished dining and shitting, Shrewdini and he would have a doze in front of the Parkway stove, or listen to the Archers together, or share flakes of pastry from a vanilla slice that fell onto Shrewdini’s velvet fur like edible snowflakes. Despite having no great fondness for people in general, Shrewdini had only good thoughts for Tuffin and his vanilla slices.

Had Tuffin been aware of Shrewdini’s good thoughts, he might have intervened in the perilous situation now faced by the shrew awaiting his fate under Rita’s paw, who, in common with all cats, was prolonging the agony for her intended victim by pausing to reflect.

Rita’s life with Tuffin was one of neglect punctuated by savagery. She belonged to Tuffin only in the way a stray primrose belonged to Tuffin’s garden: it got there somehow and then stayed. This trait was shared, to varying degrees, by all the cats distributed the length of the street (known as the Rise), from number one (nearest the station), a black cat with a slightly disfiguring white stain on her face known as the ‘Station Cat’, although she wasn’t; to number fifty-eight, another one of the ubiquitous ginger and white variety, described by the owner of the last and most prestigious house at the highest point of the Rise (where the road ends abruptly, crowned with a dense wood peopled by nothing but squirrels) as ‘strawberry blond.’ All the Rise cats endured fortnightly calls from a strikingly scarred but angelically white bastard called Kenneth who would deliver a shag or a punch topped off with a snack on whatever tidbits his victim had to hand. This meant that Rita relied on rodents like Shrewdini to supplement the meagre fare provided sporadically by Tuffin (and stolen by Kenneth) that most recently consisted of little but shit-stained cornflakes (a fact she took a little pleasure in contemplating as she observed Kenneth’s enthusiastic post coital feasting on said). The larder robberies that elicited Rita’s modest pleasures and partial starvation provoked in Tuffin an urgent interest in shrews and how best to trap them.

He researched what things shrews like to eat using his almost complete edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica (purchased from Mr Kirby who toured the streets in his Ford Anglia signing up those citizens obliged to seek knowledge in instalments). Mr Kirby’s terms were sufficient to encourage Tuffin to fill his bookshelf with a lifetime’s worth of scholarly reading – including the details of the dietary habits of the common shrew, to be found in volume 10.

Thus, over the ensuing weeks Tuffin deployed the shrew tidbits recommended, in volume 10, one by one, as bait for a mouse trap.  First snail, then slug and finally worm were prepared, one for each sitting, taking care to attach the live bait to the trap using an assortment of electrical tape, pins, glues and staples. For three weeks Tuffin checked the efficacy of the slug, snail, or worm, and each week he noted that the trap had been triggered without leaving a decapitated or paralysed shrew to slowly desiccate, and that the bait had been removed, the staples pulled out, electrical tape peeled off and pins unpinned. Shrewdini had clearly struck, and thus, driven by financial imperatives and revulsion, Tuffin felt obliged to strike back and to load the trap with snail, slug, and worm in a seductive sandwich formation, making sure to attach the bait with his complete arsenal of adhesives, staples, and pins, hoping to overwhelm the shrew’s rational thought and allow his unbridled greed to cause him to ‘lose his head’ when faced with such a supersized feast.

However, the entry on the evolutionary advantage of intelligence, sufficient that the more gifted in the shrew community could recognise a mouse trap for what it was (namely, a blunt force guillotine) and acquire the engineering skills and dexterity of paw, claw, and tooth to disable said device safely while not rendering the bait irrecoverable, was in the supplementary volume of the Encyclopaedia Brittanica yet to be supplied by Mr Kirby, so, upon encountering Tuffin’s triple-decker, Shrewdini used his skills in engineering to counter Tuffin’s knowledge of shrews to yet again disable the trap, this time repurposing the mechanism to lever off the heavy load (so securely stapled and glued) and eat all three baits in one glorious blow out. Thus inflated by an excess of gastropoda and invertebrates, and with the commensurate impairment to his reflexes previously referred to, Shrewdini ended up held captive under Rita’s paw.

And so he found himself looking into the jaws of death as Rita prepared to swallow him head first, this being the custom for the consumption of shrews by cats.  The shrew’s volume, Rita estimated from previous experience of the species, was that of a canapé. True, he looked somewhat rotund in comparison to the examples she had savoured in the past, but a velvet glaze, a soft bone shell, and a liquid centre was her expectation, and, confident in her appraisal, she forked him into her mouth with her teeth, taking care not to puncture the delicate skin and let any of the juice go to waste.

Rita attempted to swallow, but the spherical Shrewdini stuck fast. Rita tried to swallow again, but her airway was blocked as effectively as an acorn can block a squirrel’s arse, a rare phenomenon she had encountered during her safaris into the dense wood at the top of the hill that as you may recall was peopled only by squirrels. Rita tried to breathe, but, if a ginger and white cat could turn blue, she was in the process of doing so. The only recourse was to cough, and, being a cat, she had a cough specifically designed to dislodge furry objects. Accordingly she lay flat, extended her neck like a sword swallower, pulled her projectile vomit face, and after several painful attempts Shrewdini was ejected at considerable force, sweeping past the aforementioned stray primrose in Tuffin’s garden, into the road, right between the legs of Kenneth, who was approaching with the intent of biting Rita’s neck and then shagging her.

So surprised by t­­he unexpected projectile that passed under him and them skittered forth, Kenneth redirected his violent passions aroused by Rita toward food and fun, and accordingly turned and gave chase to the ball of wool that smelt like shrew and cat sick. With monstrous aplomb, he sucked Shrewdini down in one go, unaware of the rumble of iron on stone and the shadow of a steam roller (employed to roll the new tar on the other side of the road) that bore down on him so swiftly that, in just a second, it had embossed a perfect white cat-shaped puddle into the perfect black tarmac and triggered a noise of such specificity (that of squashed white cat in consort with squashed, partially-digested, and suffocated shrew) that Tuffin, who coincidentally was busy reading the history of human cannonballs in volume 4 of his encyclopaedia, was drawn into the street just in time to witness the grisly scene.

Rita purred and caressed Tuffin’s shins with her tail as the steam roller passed by and the traffic was allowed to flow one more, bearing Mr Kirby’s Ford Anglia. In his front seat was the final supplementary volume of the Complete Encyclopaedia Britannica bound for Tuffin’s creaking bookshelf. Moments later came Mr Munn’s grocery van to number 11 carrying cornflakes and a vanilla slice for Tuffin, who, after meticulously restocking his larder, sat in front of the Parkray stove, dropping flakes of pastry onto the floor and perusing the entry on the recently discovered evolutionary enhancements that enabled the most gifted common shrews to escape from even the most advanced traps, earning them the nomenclature of the Houdini Variant Common Shrew, or ‘Shrewdini’.

Can you see me?

(IN THIS SCRIPT THE GAPS BETWEEN THE UTTERANCES MATTER AS MUCH AS THE UTTERANCES THEMSELVES. THE ACTOR AND DIRECTOR HAVE COMPLETE FREEDOM IN TERMS OF PAUSE LOCATION AND DURATION. THOSE THAT ARE IDENTIFIED IN THE SCRIPT MAY ALSO BE FREELY INTERPRETED OR OMITTED. THEY ARE JUST SUGGESTIONS).

(CHRIS IS A STUDENT AROUND 20. HE IS AT HOME AT HIS PARENTS HOUSE. HE IS COMMUNICATING WITH SOMEONE BY A VIDEO LINK FROM HIS LAPTOP. HIS OWN CAMERA IS OFF AND HE WEARS HEADPHONES SO WE CAN ONLY HEAR HIS SIDE OF THE CONVERSATION CLEARLY. ON HIS LAPTOP SCREEN WE SEE A YOUNG WOMAN, OF ABOUT THE SAME AGE ATTEMPTING TO CONNECT. SHE IS IN A DRESSING GOWN. SHE INADVERTENTLY MOVES THE CAMERA AROUND SO THAT THE INSIDE OF A SMALL BEDSIT FLAT CAN BE SEEN. IT LOOKS NEWLY PAINTED. PROBABLY STUDENT ACCOMMODATION. OUTSIDE HER WINDOW WE OCCASIONALLY GLIMPSE A NONDESCRIPT URBAN ENVIRONMENT. WE HEAR HER INDISTINCT VOICE LEAKING THROUGH CHRIS’S HEADPHONES BUT NO WORDS CAN BE HEARD. WHEN CHRIS IS ADDRESSING THE YOUNG WOMAN HIS TONE IS PARTICULARLY FRIENDLY AND CALMING. SHE IS ANXIOUS. WE ONLY EVER SEE THE BACK OF CHRIS’S HEAD NOT HIS FACE. THERE IS JUST ONE CONTINUOUS SHOT THROUGHOUT)

AMBIENT SOUND: VERY DRY. A FAINT ELECTRONIC BUZZ. A COMPUTER FAN. A TEENAGE BEDROOM. OCCASIONAL CREEK OF AN OFFICE CHAIR

SOUND: FAINT FEMALE VOICE

CHRIS

I can hear you but I still can’t see you. (PAUSE) I know it’s crap isn’t it. Is the camera definitely turned on? (PAUSE) Can you see me? (EXCITED AND SUPRISED). How are you by the way? Sorry, so…no.

(MORE)

(cont’d)

What? (PAUSE) No that’s no better. Try the settings. Top R on the screen.

SOUND: FAINT FEMALE VOICE

(CHRIS TURNS HIS MIC OFF) TO HIMSELF

I am lying. I can see you perfectly. Every little detail. In fact I can see right through you. In and out, straight to the… You’ve still got it. That look. Right through me alright. (Pause and audible breath) I can see through the window. Even though it’s steamed up. (Pause) That window. Right above the bed. “This bed has a history” you used to say. It wasn’t funny. Why did you say that? Just to make me feel sick. Feel sick that you had a history. You were never funny. Do you know that?

SOUND: FAINT FEMALE VOICE

(CHRIS TURNS HIS MIC ON)

CHRIS

No nothing yet. Let me see if it’s a setting at this end.

SOUND: FAINT FEMALE VOICE (CHRIS TURNS HIS MIC OFF)

TO HIMSELF

I can see that garage across the road. It kept me awake all night. All the coming and going. Where we bought milk in the morning. The Turkish Takeaway.

The noise. The shop with the guys sitting outside on the street. I was scared of them. You were never scared of me. Why would you be. You knew me. You could see right through me. (He realises what he has just said) Huh!

SOUND: FAINT FEMALE VOICE

(CHRIS TURNS HIS MIC ON)

CHRIS

Nope not at this end, nothing so far. (pause) That might work. Don’t worry, don’t rush, I am not going anywhere (laughs).

(CHRIS TURNS HIS MIC OFF)

TO HIMSELF

What have you been doing. Showering I would guess. Every morning a shower. You made me do it. Before I met you I had baths? You stopped all that. Lying in my own dirty water. I stopped all my dirty habits for you. At least you thought I did. (Pause and slight laugh) The windows always steamed up after your shower. You could draw on them. A heart. “I love you“ I wrote. Then the look. I didn’t deserve it. (Pause) That look. There it is. Go on look at me. I am here looking right back this time.

SOUND: CREAKING CHAIR AS HE SITS BACK

Such a tiny flat. It stank. You hated the smell. Mould everywhere, every time it rained, every time we boiled a kettle, every …

SOUND: FAINT FEMALE VOICE

(CHRIS TURNS HIS MIC ON)

CHRIS

Yea! Something popped up for a second. Give it another go. Maybe it’s the camera itself. Plug it again and then unplug it.

(CHRIS TURNS HIS MIC OFF)

TO HIMSELF

The place looks much better now. Perhaps you want to show it off. Show me the the paint job, the new things, the ’accessories.’ You’ve got what you wanted.

SOUND: FAINT FEMALE VOICE

(CHRIS TURNS HIS MIC ON)

CHRIS

Yes it’s working. Hooray! Wow looking really great. I barely recognise it. (Pause) You can’t see me though. Oh no! No you’ve gone again! Let me try something.

(CHRIS TURNS HIS MIC OFF)

TO HIMSELF

I am lying. You’re still there. (Pause) Why me, why after three months. How about all that history.

Where are they? (Like an advert) ‘Lonely?

Call Chris.’ You, now, here, your look, your room, our room. (Pause) Huh! The window ledge that hasn’t changed. still the same stuff. (Pause) I remember that! That’s the bear. You called it..? What did you call it? Something obvious but trying soo hard, but you said it, said it like nobody had… Basil that was it. Basil Bear. “After the brush.” I said. You didn’t get that. You said it looked like me. Said it in your cute voice. The one that… YOU REALLY HURT ME! You are looking now. Looking into the camera.

That look that only I can see. So close I can read your skin. It looks drab. Too long indoors, not enough air, not enough sun. Open the window get some air. Go outside. Oh of course you can’t, the new rules. No open doors, no open windows, don’t go out its airborne. Government says it spreads like pollen. Wear your mask. WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!

(He laughs loudly) I am lying.

SOUND: FAINT FEMALE VOICE

(CHRIS TURNS HIS MIC ON)

CHRIS

No sorry, still nothing. it must be the line. can you see me?

(CHRIS TURNS HIS MIC OFF)

TO HIMSELF

I wish. (long pause) So now you are on your own. Like me. You deserve it.

(CHRIS TURNS HIS CAMERA AND MIC ON)

CHRIS

I can see you. Can you see me? Great! How are you long time no see. Its been an age…

Suck-a-thumb14

Prelude

In the beginning, in the darkness, it floated into my mouth and then stuck. I had discovered my thumb or rather it had discovered me. I was addicted.

Blog Post: by Sampson

By the time I was four it became apparent that I would never be able to stop sucking my thumb. Despite the protestations of my mother and most particularly my father – ’You stupid little baby’ – I could not face the world without a wet thumb pushed through my lips caressing the roof of my mouth. The sensation of sweet, boney fleshiness was how I imagined a pig might feel about its trotter were it to mistakenly suck upon it while gobbling rotting brussels or snuffling in the mud. By fourteen my thumb was sufficiently central to my continued existence that, when other boys were trying to look cool by hanging about sucking on cigarettes, I was still hanging about sucking my thumb. As you can imagine this created a distance between me and others of my age such that the only bond with other creatures I felt were those either engaged in the same act as me, or its derivatives. Toddlers in push-chairs, babies at the breast and any number of suckling baby animals, in particular pigs.

As my parents ran a pig farm my familiarity with pigs outweighed any other beings. Their capacity to eat and digest everything thrown into the pen including discarded version of their own species or even their own children fascinated me. Consequently my internet bookmarks catalogued all species of pigs from wild and obscure Asian ones, to mainstream types similar to ours. I also relished images and videos of suck-a-thumbs that I arranged in a convenient hierarchy from the relatively rare, actual thumb sucking (adult, child, baby) to tangential links to dummies, bottles, teats and alike.  I was aware that this interest could be perceived as unhealthy for a teenager so I ensured that neither my mother or father could gain access to my computer by securing it with a password ‘suck-a-thumb14.’ My parents were farmers so there was little danger of them gaining access to my computer both of them being uneducated in matters technical and only really clever with pigs.

Now in my twenties I have a computer and I have started this video blog to realise two ambitions. One to provide some tips for thumb sucking, and two…

Video:

“…well that will be a surprise for later.

My three tips for thumb sucking are displayed on the screen now:

  1. The perfect thumb should be cold and wet and smell of Brussels sprouts.
  2. A dry thumb is just a step a step toward a wet one.
  3. A warm thumb is the price you pay for sucking

Thumb sucking cannot be rushed.  A snatched thumb suck is a wasted one. Better to wait until you have the time to invest in the activity. They say the place to ‘suck-a-thumb’ is in bed, on your own at sleeping time, so to be polite and not annoy people I don’t suck-a-thumb where people can see me. Well only you, and my parents. Besides what’s the point if there’s someone to talk to. You sound dumb talking with your thumb in your mouth and don’t you look stupid!

My dad likes to call me stupid whenever I suck my thumb. This doesn’t stop me and it doesn’t hurt nearly as much as he thinks it does. Given that he is a stupid farmer that knows nothing and I have I have read all of Shakespeare all of a Dickens and all of the Bible as well as the AA book of British Mammals and all the maps we have in the house and I have a computer, it’ s funny that he calls me stupid. If I am that stupid I wouldn’t have found out all the important stuff I have found out on the internet. For example, Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, got his lines wrong. My father does not know that, as it has nothing to do with pigs. If the first person on the moon was a pig then he would know it. He thinks he knows everything. My father knows that sucking your thumb means you are a baby. He says he never ever sucked his thumb, not even as a baby, not even in the womb. Although, how he knows that, is anyone’s guess

Anyway, back to the tips. The first one is the most important. A new thumb is dry and tepid but an old thumb soaked in saliva, out of the mouth for several seconds will be cold, damp and smelling of Brussels sprouts.

Here in Yorkshire we eat Brussel sprouts at Christmas. Here on the farm the pigs love them too. They get all the messed up ones we eat the good ones. Dad says Brussel sprouts are good for you unlike thumb sucking. Brussel sprouts make you strong unlike thumb sucking. Thumb sucking is more than stupid it’s evil he says.

This Christmas, while we were eating dinner and I was thumb sucking between mouthfuls of turkey and roast potatoes, dad was shouting “Sampson, you are a stupid baby” so ferociously  I got frightened and confused and thinking I was biting into a nice buttery Brussel I bit into my thumb. Well it didn’t hurt much but blood poured down my wrist onto Mum’s Christmas cloth, into my plate, all over the place. Dad began screaming stuff I can’t say on this video. Mum was sponging the Christmas cloth with her napkin, picking out the blood-soaked parsnips from my plate and telling me to go and wash my hands.  She was crying. At the kitchen sink I realised I had actually bitten off a  piece of my thumb so I spat it into a tissue to keep it. We finished without saying another word. Once I had finished the Christmas pudding, while dad slept in front of the TV and mum washed up, I savoured the bit of thumb preserved in the tissue.

I had bitten through a bit just under the pad.  This proved to be a lucky accident. Closer to the nail all I would have produced would have been a blood blackened nail and we wouldn’t be here now. I had no hesitation in popping the fragment into my mouth. It seemed so familiar like a single grain of rice pudding and jam left over from tea.  At first I sucked. This was exquisite. The familiar thumb taste was now laced with one less familiar, somewhere between soil and sweat, between beetroot and plums and as I chewed, a texture neither too firm nor too soft. I swallowed and a peculiar calm descended on me. I knew from the bible that this was a religious experience, something that would change my life.

Needless to say the pleasure was beyond words, even Shakespeare’s words. I was addicted.

Since Christmas I have developed my taste. I have stopped sucking my thumb but continue biting it. My parents are delighted. I explain my gloved right hand as a means of dissuading me from relapsing and a crucial step toward conquering my addiction. Dad has stopped calling me stupid and mum has stopped crying. They are both happy.

But that can’t be right.

I promised a surprise and here it comes!

I hold up my gloved hand to the camera.  I offer it to you all, all the suck-a-thumbs of the world, all the cool boys with their cigarettes, all the mums and dads swearing and cursing their silly baby boys, all the kittens, the babies at breast, to myself and my thumb in the dark in the womb .

This little piggy went to market – little finger

This little piggy stayed at home – ring finger

This little piggy had sliced bread – middle finger

This little piggy had none – first finger

And this little piggy went wee wee wee all the way home

(Sampson bites his thumb off.)

End of video

End of blog post

Postlude

Sampson. No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I do bite my thumb, sir.

William Shakespeare. Romeo and Juliet. Act 1, scene 1.