Hooting Yard Archive, January 2006

The new year begins with a series of unfortunate cows, stunned starlings, Rex Harrison and his son Noel, a Lembit Opik lookalike, and Sago the Pang Hill orphan. Oh, and a pontificating fruitarian.


Monday 30th January 2006
“An ingenious Frenchman has invented and patented…”
Vox Pop : A Pang Hill Orphan Speaks
G Is for Gabbitas
Some Notes on Compartments
Sunday 29th January 2006
“A man of strong tastes with a…”
F Is for Food
Tiny Little Hands, Decisive Mustachios
Friday 27th January 2006
“One John Ryland of Northampton, published a…”
Pirated Hooting Yard Merchandise
Another Vlasto
E Is for Euwige
Thursday 26th January 2006
“As he stood there musing, the door…”
D Is for Doctor Cack
Cow Homework
Google News
Wednesday 25th January 2006
“Archer's hopes sank. It was easy to…”
A Series of Unfortunate Cows
C Is for Corpse
Tuesday 24th January 2006
“His commands to the labourers were substantially…”
The Gnawed and the Chewed
B Is for Blodgett
Monday 23rd January 2006
“Stealing a little to one side, and…”
Who Is Tristan Shuddery?
Preamble to A Is for Aminadab
A Is for Aminadab
Surgeon's Biscuit
Sunday 22nd January 2006
“Apes are not just our kin, they…”
Stunned Starlings
Sunday 8th January 2006
Blodgett Island : The Adventure Continues
Friday 6th January 2006
A Third Episode of Blodgett Island

Monday 30th January 2006

“An ingenious Frenchman has invented and patented in England lately a machine called the Thanatophore, which I confidently recommend. It can be obtained from Messrs B S Williams, of Upper Holloway. The Thanatophore destroys every insect within reach of its vapour, excepting, curiously enough, scaly-bug. The machine may be obtained in different sizes through any good ironmonger.” — Frederick Boyle, About Orchids

Vox Pop : A Pang Hill Orphan Speaks

My name is Sago and I am a glum inmate of Pang Hill Orphanage. I was born in a faraway land. My papa was a crusty man who fell into a pond and never surfaced. Later they found a vent at the bottom of the pond which led to a chute which in turn led to a hideous abode of Doom. My mama collected flies and fleas and similar wee beasts, often but not always wingéd ones. One day, soon after papa plunged down the chute at the bottom of the pond, she took a little paper bag with some of her flies in it to the parliament building of that faraway land, and when she showed reluctance to open the bag to the security guards at the magnetic barrier in the lobby, they shot her dead. That is the kind of land I come from.

I spent a few months living off berries and rainwater and living in a cave on the coastline. Then the captain of an illegal fishing smack scooped me out of the tide pool where I was happily paddling and brought me thousands of miles across the storm-tossed ocean and delivered me to the gates of Pang Hill Orphanage. That is my story in its broad outlines. I would tell you more, but it is time for my morning brain scan. No one at the Orphanage has ever explained to me why each orphan's brain is scanned three times a day, but I have made a plasticine copy of the key to the room behind the canteen in which lurk the filing cabinets where the brain scan results are stored, and soon I am going to skulk in there at dead of night and examine all the results very, very closely and then I am going to shred them, for I fear nobody and nothing. I am glum but stupendously brave and clever, and my name is Sago.

G Is for Gabbitas

Episode seven in our daily serialisation of The Immense Duckpond Pamphlet

The Blodgett figure on the second and third floors of the House was known as Gabbitas, although this was not the name he had been born with. Like Blodgett, he had been in place for as long as anyone could remember. His nose ran. He was clumsy. His disposition was as bleak and unforgiving as Blodgett's. Gabbitas was astonishingly tall - almost seven and a half feet - and his eyes were permanently bloodshot. We shall meet with him again, you can count on it.

Some Notes on Compartments

Dear Mr Key, writes the ever-curious Tim Thurn, In last Thursday's piece entitled Google News (26 January, see below) you make passing mention of the Blötzmann Compartments controversy of 1934. I confess that I have no idea what a Blötzmann Compartment is, or was, and would be extremely grateful if you could enlighten me.

Well, Tim, I will do my best, but I warn you that getting to grips with Blötzmann Compartments is no easy matter. Have you ever looked into the fathomless black pools of an owl's eyes? If you have, you will know that eerie sense of confronting an unutterably alien, cold, unyielding energy. It was this sense of otherness that motivated Blötzmann when he built the first of the notorious Compartments.

We still have some of his working notes, but they help us little, couched as they are in a dense academic (or pseudoacademic) language which may have made no sense even to Blötzmann. Phrases such as “by extension, most advanced peristomal border plating is noted for an unusual hydropore/gonopore in the axismal interray and the position of juvenile, summit-mounted proximal tegmens and theca” flummox the best of brains. We do know that whenever Blötzmann constructed a Compartment, he made sure a fully functioning Thanatophore was primed and ready in the corner of his workshop.

As he learned to manipulate the Compartments, Blötzmann became more open about his intentions. He introduced a swivelling panel on the top of each Compartment, allowing viewers the opportunity for a fleeting glimpse of activity within. The panels were attached to a small motor fixed to the side of the Compartment, powered from a source which Blötzmann always refused to divulge, though it is likely to have been a simple dry cell battery. It may even have been a wet cell battery, if such a thing exists. Knowing nothing of batteries and their workings, I am reluctant to say any more about this for the time being.

Arriving at the optimal size of the Compartments was a hit and miss affair, which usually found Blötzmann gritting his teeth. A study by Howl and Flapper determined that the smallest Compartment could fit inside a standard pastry carton, while the largest one known to exist blotted out the moon and the stars. This reminds us of Blötzmann's insistence that his Compartments were never exposed to daylight, leading to absurd accusations in the gutter press that there was vampiric intent behind the entire project.

Fire and flood destroyed all the Blötzmann Compartments one by one, over a period of seventeen years. Blötzmann was sanguine. He himself had the black eyes of an owl, and hair that resembled feathers. Make of that what you will. You would not be the first to posit a madcap theory.

Sunday 29th January 2006

“A man of strong tastes with a passion for jokes, [Sir Edwin Lutyens'] pet hates included long-stemmed glasses, fish-knives, cut flowers, silk lampshades, pile carpets, the seaside, statistics, painted nails, the diagonal placing of furniture - and, of course, religious enthusiasm.” — Peter Washington, Madame Blavatsky's Baboon

F Is for Food

Episode six in our daily serialisation of The Immense Duckpond Pamphlet

In dietary matters, Blodgett deferred to the cook, Mrs Purgative. She was a woman of regular habits and iron will. Every day, she prepared four cauldrons of boiling soup, for consumption at dawn, mid-morning, mid-afternoon and dusk. Each soup was prepared from a different recipe, though Mrs Purgative preferred the antique spelling receipt.

The first soup was a thin clear broth flavoured with kidneys, minnows and saffron.

The second soup was thick and lumpy, more like a stew or what the Bible calls a pottage. Its main ingredients were curds, feverfew, whelks, gin, blood oranges and a sort of puddingy sponge of unknown provenance.

The third soup consisted mostly of duckpond water, into which Mrs Purgative hurled delphiniums, muffins, pike and herring, lights, parsley, cocoa and masa harina, eggs, toffee apples and cake crumbs.

Her greatest achievement, though, was the fourth soup. The receipt had taken her years to bring to perfection. The base was a thick paste of mugwort, the pulp of runner beans, finely ground crocuses, and mustard. This was diluted with boiling duckpond water and left to stand for a week, uncovered, out in a field. Brought back to the kitchen, the topmost layer of scurf and froth would be drawn off and used as a filling for small pancakes with an oaty flavour. The pancakes would be tossed into the soup together with mayonnaise, cream crackers, bloaters, pemmican, tulip-roots, agar, an ox head, krill, the crushed bones of a swan, whey, turmeric, marmalade, groist, badgers' brains, and spinach. Boiled until it had the consistency of mush, the soup would be thinned out with the addition of yet more duckpond water and egg custard sherry, and then garnished with brazil nuts and semi-chewed celery sticks. Mrs Purgative usually asked Blodgett to do the prepatory chewing.

At quarterly intervals through the year, she cooked an ample supply of each of the four soups. She then supervised the canning process, which was carried out in a small factory in the grounds of the House. Once tinned, the soups were stored in larders, from where Blodgett or other Blodgett-like figures would collect daily supplies. As far as can be ascertained, the soup was the only sustenance officially available in the House. Oh, apart from cups of tea, of course.

Tiny Little Hands, Decisive Mustachios

Much of the work of the Russian composer Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915) was written for piano. This is surprising when one considers how tiny his hands were. Indeed, there were two occasions during his short, fraught life when he injured them while relentlessly practising piano pieces which called for hands larger than his own.

Tiny his hands may have been, but this puny neurasthenic Russian cultivated a pair of decisive mustachios.

Among his orchestral works, the Poem of Ecstasy, opus 54, is a supremely bonkers piece which, long before Spinal Tap, goes up to eleven. One critic imagined he was hearing a graphic portrayal of the players all having sex with each other. Another refers to the “malignant sneers from muted trombones… was music ever more evil-sounding”?

Not everyone appreciated Scriabin at the time, of course. The man who was chosen to conduct the premiere of his Second Symphony complained “After Scriabin, Wagner lisps sweetly like a suckling babe. I think that I will go mad any moment now. Where can one hide from such music? Help me!”

My favourite Scriabin piece is the Mysterium. This was designed as a total art work, involving an orchestra, dance, light, and exotic perfumes, to be performed in the Himalayas, its playing ushering in Armageddon. Mysterium would be “a grandiose religious synthesis of all arts which would herald the birth of a new world” and the emergence of a Nietzschean Superman. Whether this Superman would have tiny little hands and decisive mustachios we do not know, for Scriabin succumbed to septicemia when the composition was barely begun. It thus has a place in the museum of lost or non-existent works of art, about which I shall write more soon.

Friday 27th January 2006

“One John Ryland of Northampton, published a Preceptor, or General Repository of useful information, very necessary for the various ages and departments of life in which ‘pride and lust, a corrupt pride of heart, and a furious filthy lust of body,’ are announced as the Atheist's ‘springs of action,’ 'desire to act the beast without control, and live like a devil without a check of conscience,' his only ‘reasons for opposing the existence of God,’ in which he is told ‘a world of creatures are up in arms against him to kill him as they would a venomous mad dog,’ in which, among other hard names, he is called ‘absurd fool,’ 'beast,' ‘dirty monster,’ 'brute,' ‘gloomy dark animal,’ 'enemy of mankind,' ‘wolf to civil society,’ 'butcher and murderer of the human race,' in which, moreover, he is cursed in the following hearty terms;—‘Let the glorious mass of fire burn him, let the moon light him to the gallows, let the stars in their courses fight against the Atheist, let the force of the comets dash him to pieces, let the roar of thunders strike him deaf, let red lightnings blast his guilty soul, let the sea lift up her mighty waves to bury him, let the lion tear him to pieces, let dogs devour him, let the air poison him, let the next crumb of bread choke him, nay, let the dull ass spurn him to death.’ This is a notable specimen of zeal turned sour.” — Charles Southwell, Superstition Unveiled

Pirated Hooting Yard Merchandise

The tentacles of Hooting Yard continue to writhe in a hideously Lovecraftian manner around the world. The latest instance of this is the appearance of pirated merchandise. I am extraordinarily pleased to note that readers can now obtain a very special mug from which to gulp down their Cuppagruel™.

The mug is emblazoned with the “Implausible” logo and is outrageously expensive. Having tracked down the ingrate behind this pathetic get-rich-quick scheme, I am assured that if it sells in sufficient quantities, I might receive a one-off payment of about thirty five pence. So I implore every single reader to go and buy one immediately! Visit Wombat Keeper Publications and follow the link to the online shop.

Another Vlasto

Last Tuesday, in The Gnawed And The Chewed (see below), we met Vlasto Pismire, the Lembit Opik lookalike whose incessant prattling transfixed Dobson for months and months. Vlasto Pismire is not to be confused with another Vlasto, to whom we now turn.

Vlasto Cuddy was a tall, stooping sort of person who spent most of his time standing on top of a crate, by numberless kerbs and roadsides, elegantly attired, flailing his spookily long arms, pontificating at passers-by.

He sounds familiar… but I can't quite place him.

Possibly you do not recognise the name. Very, very few people knew him as Vlasto Cuddy, for he became familiar to thousands, perhaps even millions, under his sobriquet, the Pontificating Fruitarian.

Ah yes! That rings a bell.

Many bells, I expect. Vlasto Cuddy the Pontificating Fruitarian spent more than fifty years declaiming his blinkered dietary opinions to the passing throng. Sometimes the throng passed more quickly than was seemly. Sometimes it could hardly be called a throng at all. Sometimes there were torrential downpours, and at other times the light of the big bright sun battered mercilessly upon the face of the earth, and in these and all other weather conditions there would be a roadside somewhere in the world where at dawn of day a tall, stooping sort of person would deposit his crate and clamber atop it and begin his fruit-related pontificating, and scarcely cease until night fell down.

Remind me of the nature of his pontificating.

By all means. Vlasto Cuddy would shout, for example, that pride and lust, a corrupt pride of heart, and a furious filthy lust of body, are the non-fruitarian's springs of action, a desire to act the beast without control, and live like a devil without a check of conscience, his only reasons for opposing the existence of fruit. He would thunder that a world of creatures are up in arms against the non-fruit eater, to kill him as they would a venomous mad dog. He called those who eschew plums and tangerines absurd fools, beasts, dirty monsters, brutes, gloomy dark animals, enemies of humankind, wolves to civil society, butchers and murderers of the human race. Moreover, he who eats anything other than lemons and other citrus fruits is cursed in the following hearty terms - “Let the glorious mass of fire burn him, let the moon light him to the gallows, let the stars in their courses fight against the wretch who eats other than fruit, let the force of the comets dash him to pieces, let the roar of thunders strike him deaf, let red lightnings blast his guilty soul, let the sea lift up her mighty waves to bury him, let the lion tear him to pieces, let dogs devour him, let the air poison him, let the next crumb of bread choke him, nay, let the dull ass spurn him to death.”

I remember now. I was always puzzled by that last bit, for I do not think it possible to die simply from being spurned by an ass. Had the Pontificating Fruitarian done his research?

He had indeed. Vlasto Cuddy's sister, the Divine Miss Patience Cuddy, rose to prominence in the world of donkey rearing, and she often conducted experiments in which volunteers from a nearby orphanage subjected themselves to spurning by asses and donkeys. Some died as a result.

Surely that cannot be so!

I grant there was talk in the taverns that the Divine Miss Patience may have falsified some of her data, but nothing was ever proven.

Tell me, was the Divine Miss Patience a fruitarian like her tall, stooping brother?

No she was not. His pontifications were lost on her, for he was forever roaming the world with his crate, while she rarely ventured far from her donkey compound on the banks of the river that runs through Ack.

Did Vlasto Cuddy the Pontificating Fruitarian never commit any of his pontifications to paper? Did he not take a leaf out of Dobson's book, that is to say, and publish his pontifications as pamphlets?

He did not, for the surprising fact is that Vlasto Cuddy was functionally illiterate. It is said that he never had time to learn to read or write because he was far too busy concentrating all the powers of his formidable mind upon the subject of fruit.

Will you be introducing readers to further Vlastos in addition to Vlasto Pismire and Vlasto Cuddy?

Not if I can help it.

E Is for Euwige

Episode five in our daily serialisation of The Immense Duckpond Pamphlet

In the scullery, Aminadab sat slumped at the table. His elbows rested on a grimy place-mat, one of a set depicting scenes of Thuringian history. Blodgett had stacked most of the set on the dresser, leaving two on the table. Aminadab's mat showed the execution of Konrad Schmid, flagellant King of Thuringia who predicted - inaccurately, as it turned out - that the Last Judgement would occur in 1369. In colours that were no longer vivid, Schmid's gruesome face leered out of the flames which were about to engulf him. The six other heretics who were burned alongside him at Nordhausen in 1368 were curiously absent.

Aminadab, who had poured his cold tea down the sink, was about to fall asleep when Euwige entered the room. She was wrapped in a blotchy shawl, so huge that it trailed along the floor behind her. Her corduroy boots had been strengthened with scraps of inexpertly-sewn hide from an unidentified quadruped. As she removed her hat, she shuddered, her sightless eyes directed at the ceiling.

“You must come with me,” she said. Aminadab looked up.

“Shall I bring my luggage?” he asked.

“It might well be for the best,” replied Euwige, in a mysterious tone.

Aminadab loaded himself with his three suitcases, haversack, two satchels, purses, vanity bag, cloth hammock, bandbox, badger tin, caddies and punnets, gunny sack, reticule, vasculum and duffel bag. Tottering under the weight, he made to follow Euwige, but was immediately halted in his tracks when the scullery door banged shut behind her. She did not respond to his cries for help, so he was forced to drop the vanity bag, bandbox, reticule and one of the punnets, wedge the door open with a handy utensil, pick up the items he had let fall - noting that the bandbox was irreparably dented - and hurry after her. So bulky was the haversack, however, that Aminadab was unable to negotiate the doorway without a struggle, and by the time he was free Euwige had vanished around the corner of a sulphurous corridor. By the time he reached the spot, she was nowhere to be seen.

Thinking he could hear her shawl trailing across the floorboards somewhere in the distance, he followed on through dingy, unlit corridors, up and down rotten staircases, through rooms empty of furniture or life, past gigantic indoor fountains, conservatories filled with stinking poisonous spiky foliage, lumber rooms, bookcases stacked with editions of the novels of Ayn Rand, cavernous halls, storerooms full of half-dismantled tricycles, larders crammed with tins of soup, chambers, parlours and cubicles, ventilation shafts, dust holes and laundry rooms.

Hours passed before he admitted to himself that he was lost.

Thursday 26th January 2006

“As he stood there musing, the door burst open mid a great clamor and shouting, and a mob of drunken soldiers poured through the gap. They were staggering under silken robes, golden goblets helmeted their heads, precious ornaments of jade dangled from their persons. The foremost of the rioters beheld the ancient Ming priest. With joyous cries, they pounced upon him, seized him with ungentle hands. ‘O outlived reptile of accursed lineage, give us your hidden treasures, or we slit your wizened throat.’ The priest struggled feebly in his captors' grasp, crying feebly.” — Nat Schachner & Arthur L Zagat, The Song Of The Cakes

D Is for Doctor Cack

Episode four in our daily serialisation of The Immense Duckpond Pamphlet

Doctor Cack was the foremost potato scientist of his day. He rented a disused Leaking Building in the grounds of the House, together with a number of surrounding huts, in which he and his team of top flight tuberologists lived and worked. Most of their unbearably exciting scientific equipment was located in the Leaking Building, through the door of which Blodgett now crashed, breathing heavily through his purple nose.

“Cack!” he shouted, pronouncing the good Doctor's name as if he were a chocolate swiss roll, or a Battenburg. Towards the back of the Leaking Building stood an enormous table on which were stacked flasks, test tubes, scientific hammers, awls, retorts, dye buckets, cruet sets, trunnions, shards of propylite, alembics, jars, lenses, and a burnt quintain. From behind this agglomeration of rubbish, Ruhugu's head appeared, then the rest of his body. He peered at Blodgett with distaste.

“Where's Cack?” yelled Blodgett, repeating his mispronunciation.

Ruhugu was one of Doctor Cack's assistants, perhaps the most fanatical. “It's Cack,” he said, “To rhyme with Snack.”

Blodgett trembled with rage. “I'll give you Snack,” he rasped, although what he meant by this was not entirely clear, even to him. “Cack, Snack, it's all the same to me,” he continued, “I don't care if he's called Pack, Rack or Glack. He's still a git.” He paused long enough for Ruhugu to interrupt.

“The Doctor is not here at the moment. Why are you flailing your arms around in such an alarming fashion?”

Momentarily disconcerted, Blodgett manoeuvred his hands into his filthy pockets.

“Thank you,” said Ruhugu, “Now, as I explained, Doctor Cack is away. I have important potato matters to attend to, so I'd be very grateful if you would turn on your heel and begone.”

Blodgett's temper was getting hotter. Oh, how he would like to immerse Ruhugu in a vat of custard, bind him with manacles, belabour him about the temples, and abandon him in a ditch! Not necessarily in that order. But of course, Blodgett was a terrible coward, and would only attack defenceless tinies, small frail animals, and inanimate objects, and only then if he was sure no vengeance would be exacted by some gigantic protector. He spat on the floor, whirled around, and clomped out of the Leaking Building, cracking his head on the lintel as he did so.

Cow Homework

Yesterday's item A Series Of Unfortunate Cows had a homework assignment attached. This is just one initiative in the development of a new Interactive Hooting Yard Project. Reader Mark Williams had the good grace to send his homework in, and I reprint it below to give the rest of you some idea of the standards we are looking for.

Note to Mark : Your handwriting is lopsided. In future, please ensure that the express turbomotorcycle courier arrives at Haemoglobin Towers before midnight.

As a reminder, here is that unfortunate cow again

Here is Mark's homework:

1. A cow is not wise, thus on that premise cows will inadvertently engender unfortunate situations as proved by the four classic unfortunate situations that you have written about. So, ultimately I would require the best possible quality of life, that is, the least amount of suffering. Therefore I would not want to get myself into unfortunate situations. The inevitable swift painless death of a cow standing on some railway tracks is my choice. This is dependent on the scruples of the helm man….hmmmm….crikey, there is a possibility of an unfortunate painful death resulting from a partial maiming caused by the driver braking and thus not fully killing the cow due to the reduced speed. I am confused now.

2. I would not laugh, instead, I would bury my head in the ground. However, due to the unfortunate nature of a cow I would, no doubt, stick my head in a field full of Caper Spurge otherwise known as stinking hellebore. The Dumville family used this foul smelling plant to rid moles from the English countryside. Fascists.

3. I would tip the cow like this: “Don't laugh in the face of misfortune, little cow*, otherwise you could end up with more than you bargained for.”

4. On the assumption that an eldritch soul-transfer had taken place then it is likely that this soul would have the same intention as me in the answer to question one. Thus, I would mow the cow down with my train at the highest speed possible.

I hope this is not too late.

* NOTE : Mark appears to think that cows are tiny. They are not. One wonders if he has got a grip of the subject at all.

Google News

Much fuss has been made - and rightly so - about Google's launch of google.cn, designed to do the Chinese government's censorship work for them. Overlooked in all the kerfuffle is the launch of a far more admirable system from the search engine behemoth.

Google.dbsn is a genuinely useful tool. It automatically filters out all search results which are unrelated to Dobson, Dobson's out-of-print pamphlets, and other relevant Dobsonia. Thus, type “swarm of killer bees” into google.com, and you end up with a completely unmanageable 102,000 results. The vast majority of these will have no Dobson connection whatsoever, so what is the likelihood that any sane person would ever wish to consult them? By contrast, typing “swarm of killer bees” into google.dbsn comes up with just 183 results, every single one of them highly relevant. Some will take you directly to transcripts of original Dobson pamphlets, such as Killer Bees, Ferenc Puskas, And Tomatoes On the Vine or How I Coped With A Collapsed Lung During A Thunderstorm. Others will lead you to one of the many sites devoted to piecing together a complete biography of Dobson. You will even be able to track down references to the more recondite aspects of Dobson's killer bee preoccupations, such as the Blötzmann Compartments controversy of 1934.

As if all that weren't recommendation enough, google.dbsn comes with a delightful logo, reproduced (with permission) below.

Wednesday 25th January 2006

“Archer's hopes sank. It was easy to guess what had happened. Those thugs had found him, probably after the cyclotron had been turned off and before the physicists had come. They had assumed he was dead, and had taken the briefcase. Suddenly Archer remembered that he had had a broken arm. He lifted his right arm and clenched his hand. It certainly wasn't broken now. Then he stared at his hand. It glowed with a dull violet light.” — E A Grosser, The Radiant Avenger

A Series of Unfortunate Cows

Misfortune can strike a cow out of the blue. To give but one example, the field in which it is standing may become flooded after heavy rainfall or, if not flooded exactly, then pitted with many, many puddles. No cow likes to stand in water, so such a circumstance must be counted a misfortune.

The cow in the puddle, however, is une jolie vache compared to the cow which inattentively wanders onto some railway tracks and then comes to a halt. Continuing across the tracks would be the wiser option, for as long as the cow remains where it is, it is an imperilled cow. But unlike owls, cows are not noted for wisdom. The imperilled cow on the railway tracks may suffer the misfortune of being killed by a runaway locomotive without a cow-conscious driver at the helm. I am not sure helm is the correct word for the little cabin in which a train driver, cow-conscious or otherwise, sits or stands, but let that pass. What we can say with certainty is that a motionless cow in the path of a runaway train will suffer the greatest of misfortunes, that is, a violent death. By comparison, the previous cow, the one standing in the puddle, is almost as happy a cow as the laughing one that mysteriously appears on the wrappers of a brand of processed cheese triangles in this country, and perhaps in other countries too.

If my memory serves, that laughing cow is red and white. If a real cow was red and white, it too would probably suffer misfortune, for its colouration would make it an easy target for predators. Larger, more savage beasts, ones with vision alert to bright primary colours, in this case red, would be far more likely to attack the laughing cow than a neighbouring cow that was, say, beige or dun or even dappled. Such being the case, one wonders why the red and white cow is laughing.

The fourth in our series of unfortunate cows is the one that is stricken by disease. In the popular mind, the most notable cow disease is bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or mad cow disease. I, for one, can never read the technical phrase without visualising a cow with a brain that has turned to sponge. That may be because I am mispronouncing the word spongiform. Either way, I think we can agree that this is the least fortunate cow we have encountered so far.

Next week we will be taking a stroll down a pathway that leads to four more cows assailed by misfortune. Until then, your homework is as follows. Answer the following questions to the best of your ability, and with a certain dash.

1. If, through some eldritch soul-transfer conjured by a warlock, you swapped places with one of the four unfortunate cows above, which one would it be, and why?

2. Would you follow the example of the red and white cow, and laugh in the face of misfortune, or would you take steps to avert it? If so, how?

3. What tips would you give to a cow standing in a puddle?

4. Imagine you are a train driver. Would you be cow-conscious? If so, list six examples of your cow-consciousness.

An unfortunate cow

C Is for Corpse

Episode three in our daily serialisation of The Immense Duckpond Pamphlet

Oh dear! Hidden behind an iron chest in the pointless hut, bundled up in sacking, there is a dead body. The cause of death is not immediately apparent. In a few weeks time, an inquest will be told that the oesophagus contains three or four small items of ironmongery. The sacking is mostly burlap.

Tuesday 24th January 2006

“His commands to the labourers were substantially these: ‘Take your mattocks, and pick up that stone flooring; then take your basket, and fill it with the bones of hyaenas and other creatures which you will find there.’ We may fancy the ridicule wherewith ignorance might have greeted science: but lo, the triumph of philosophy, when its mandate soon assumed a bodily shape in bushels of bones gnawed as by wild beasts, and here and there a grinning skull that looked like a hyaena's!” — Martin Farquhar Tupper, Probabilities

The Gnawed and the Chewed

Dobson was hopeless at identifying bones which had been gnawed by wild animals, but that did not stop him trying. Sometimes, if he tired of leaning on a fence watching pigs in a sty, he would go and get his big spade and dig up bones. He had a few favourite locations, such as the perimeter fence of the zoo, and the aerodrome, and he always came home with a sackful.

“Look!” he would shout, brandishing one of his finds at Marigold Chew, “If I am not mistaken this is the leg bone of a weasel which has been gnawed by a pony!”, or “Look!” he might say, “I'll wager this is the tibia of an arctic hare that has been gnawed by a squirrel!” He was invariably wrong.

Dobson mounted his bones on rectangular pieces of hardboard which he then hung on the walls of what passed as his study. He added a carefully-written label to each one, on which he inscribed the date and location on which he exhumed it, the animal he supposed it came from, and the animal whose teeth-marks he purported to see as evidence of gnawing. Often these striations were not teeth-marks at all, but Dobson was adamant.

One wet February Friday, Dobson and Marigold Chew received a visit from Vlasto Pismire, a man who bore an uncanny resemblance to the meteorite-obsessed Liberal Democrat MP Lembit Opik. Pismire supplied cocoa to circuses. Having heard, erroneously, that Marigold was a past queen bee of the flying trapeze, he was hoping to sell cocoa to her for old time's sake. Quickly apprised of his mistake, Pismire was about to leave when Dobson, in an uncharacteristic fit of generosity, invited him to stay for dinner. He stayed not only for dinner but for the next four months, during which time he barely stopped talking. It is said of the poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge that he could talk for hours, fluently, entrancingly, with barely a pause, but without his interlocutors having the faintest idea what on earth he was going on about. Pismire was a man of the same kidney, and Dobson found him fascinating.

On that first evening, as they sat around the table eating pap and slops, Pismire - having been shown Dobson's collection of labelled bones - said: “I find it interesting that your surname, Marigold, is Chew, while in that other room there are all those bones which have been gnawed. Are you sure that your name is not Marigold Gnaw, and that the bones have been chewed? But of course not. I jest. If my memory serves, the OED defines chew as ”to crush, bruise, and grind to pulp, by the continued action of the molar teeth, with help of the tongue, cheeks, and saliva“, and gnaw as ”to bite (something) persistently so as to injure it or remove portions of it; to wear away by a continued biting or nibbling“, so whereas one may idly think of chewing and gnawing as similar activities, they are in fact radically different. Equally worthy of note is the fact that in this house of Chew and the gnawed, the dinner you have both so kindly provided requires neither chewing nor gnawing, being a bland thin sludge one can gulp down, bowl after bowl, without involving one's teeth one whit. It is the kind of dinner I approve of, for I like to rest my teeth as others rest their weary limbs, the better to preserve them. Speaking of which, if I were you, Dobson, I would start collecting animals' teeth as well as bones, so you could match up the gnawer with the gnawed.”

Left : Lembit Opik. Right : Vlasto Pismire

Dobson never followed this advice, but it did inspire the coda to one of his finest out-of-print pamphlets, which he began writing on the wet June day later that year when the cocoa man finally left the house. The circumstances of his departure were curious. Marigold Chew had embarked upon a mural painting of eels, using one of the walls of the dining room. Because he seemed to need no sleep, Pismire had barely moved from the dinner table throughout his stay, comfortable in his chair and prattling away irrespective of an audience. It had occurred to both Dobson and Marigold Chew that perhaps he existed in a separate time continuum and that he thought they were still having the same meal as when he had arrived in February. The fact that he never removed the napkin tucked into his shirt front supported this view.

“What I find puzzling,” said Marigold Chew to Dobson on the morning of that June day, as they trudged along the old canal towpath, “Is that when he sat down, the walls were bare. Now they are teeming with eels, yet he appears not to notice.”

“Perhaps he is a blind cocoa man,” suggested Dobson.

“Don't be ridiculous, Dobson,” snorted Marigold Chew.

As they approached the house on their return, they were astonished to find the Lembit Opik lookalike hurrying out of the front door.

“I can no longer remain in a house full of painted eels!” he shouted, looking stricken, “For I have long feared eel depictions of all kinds. If ever you invite me to dinner again, I will tell you why.”

He carried on talking, but as he scurried away his words were lost on the wild winds. Within the hour, Dobson had written the first six pages of his pamphlet Chew, Gnaw, Eel, Teeth, Pap And Slops For Dinner : A Memoir Of Vlasto Pismire, the only known copy of which is rumoured to be in the possession of the Liberal Democrat MP for Montgomeryshire. He keeps it under lock and key and will deny its existence if questioned.

B Is for Blodgett

Episode two in our daily serialisation of The Immense Duckpond Pamphlet

Blodgett had been at the House since infancy. He was dyspeptic and cruel. Like Madame Rousseau, he had never learned to tell the time and rarely knew what day of the week it was. This was surprising for a man in his position, charged as he was with running the lower floors of the House. His bailiwick included the frightening rooms on the first floor, the whole of the ground floor, the cellars and underground passages (except for the secret ones), and various ill-defined sections of the grounds, possibly including the boneyards, the engine room, and the pointless hut.

The arrival of Aminadab dismayed him. He had not been told what on earth to do with this lopsided person, which meant he would have to seek instructions from Doctor Cack or one of his cronies. He could barely bring himself to speak to them, with their supercilious manners, spotless frock-coats, and knot-tying expertise. Blodgett's blood boiled. Without bothering to tell Aminadab where he was going, he shoved the trap for flying insect beings back in the kitchen drawer, slammed the door shut behind him, and headed off for Doctor Cack's headquarters.

Monday 23rd January 2006

“Stealing a little to one side, and crouching against the dark hangings of the wall, I could see him in the faint light which dimly illuminated the hall, and then I discovered that my surmise was correct - Neranya was quietly at work. Curious to learn more, and knowing that only mischief could have been inspiring him, I sank into a thick robe on the floor and watched him. To my great astonishment Neranya was tearing off with his teeth the bag which served as his outer garment.” — W C Morrow, The Ape, The Idiot, And Other People

Who Is Tristan Shuddery?

Scrutiny of the dates of recent entries will show that Hooting Yard has been unusually, perhaps eerily, quiet of late. This is due partly to idleness, and partly to my strenuous attempts to pitch Celebrity Big Moorhen - a sort of avian reality show - to the brainless fatheads who run the television industry. To hell with them.

Anyway, in my absence, a Hooting Yard fan fiction website has sprung into being. It is entitled Dobsonia and I must say it's a very impressive piece of work, to the extent that I can hardly believe I didn't actually write this stuff myself. But, hand on palpitating heart, I can assure readers that the site has absolutely nothing to do with me. Go and have a read, but hurry back, hurry back!

Preamble to A Is for Aminadab

The Immense Duckpond Pamphlet was a pamphlet about an immense duckpond, as opposed to an immense pamphlet about a duckpond. The text consists of twenty six chapters, lettered from A to Z. It was published in pamphlet form late in the last century, and as I am still fond of it I have decided to add it here, in serial form. So for the next twenty six days this spine-tingling work of duckpondiana will appear, chapter by chapter. I have made a few amendments to the original text, where it was less than felicitous, or where I could see room for improvement.

Here is a picture of the original title page, which should be studied with due care.

A Is for Aminadab

Like Hitler, he took seven sugars in his tea. This had caused some embarrassment on his first day at the House. They had to send an urchin scurrying down to the cellars to fetch up a fresh tub of sugar. The urchin returned empty-handed, explaining that the sugar larder was heavily padlocked. Blodgett was furious. His face growing purple, he apologised to Aminadab, rummaged in the cupboard for a stout pick-axe and - commanding the urchin to dog his every footstep - he thundered down the stairs to the cellar. Shortly afterwards, Aminadab heard the noise of a wooden door being smashed to pieces with a metal pick-axe. By the time he was able to drop seven lumps of sugar into his cup, the tea was stewed and cold. Blodgett affected not to notice, and busied himself with a new trap for flying insect beings.

Surgeon's Biscuit

Some people think Surgeon's Biscuit is the name of a town near Kakadamm. Others believe it is an old parlour game popular in the boarding houses of seaside resorts during the 1930s. There are those who suspect it to be the name of a racehorse, or perhaps a racing pigeon, or some other bird or beast of swiftness. Surgeon's Biscuit is, of course, none of these things. It is simply a biscuit that belonged to a surgeon.

But what a biscuit! And what a surgeon! As biscuits go, it was the finest specimen the surgeon had ever seen. Two thirds of the way down a perfectly ordinary-looking packet of digestive crumblies, there it nestled, a numinous, almost golden thing, some quirk in its baking making it unutterably different from its fellows in the batch. He remembered when he first handled it. He was not a man to transfer his newly-purchased biscuits into a so-called “biscuit tin” or similar container. He ate them straight from the packet, as he had been brought up to do by his rough, tough parents in their rough, tough hovel, who can never have expected little Vladimir to grow up to become an important surgeon. So on that day, during the last pathetic gasps of the Nixon administration, he took the next biscuit from the pack without even looking at it. Sitting at his large important desk in his spacious important consulting rooms, his attention was fixed on page forty six, column two, line fifteen of The Haemoglobin Monitor, where his name appeared, misspelled yet again! Why was it, he wondered, slowly moving the fabulous biscuit from the opened packet towards his mouth, that despite being the country's most famous surgeon, despite being referred to in virtually every haemoglobin-related article of note for the past three decades, not a single medical journal ever managed to spell his name correctly? He was about to bite his biscuit when something stopped him. A black beetle crawled across the magazine page, and came to a dead halt on his name. Vladimir shuddered, as if this were some presentiment of doom (which it was) and ditched his biscuit-eating plan. And it was then that he looked at the biscuit for the first time. He had been holding it for perhaps eight or nine seconds without paying it the least attention. Now, as the black beetle sat still on his misspelled name, dying of a rare black beetle disease, he not only saw the biscuit but felt it. Indeed, all his senses apprehended this majestic biscuit. And a spark lit up in his brain, just as the last spark in the black beetle's brain was extinguished, and he said to himself, “I am a great surgeon, and this is a great biscuit! Rather than bite into it and chew it and digest this digestive crumbly, I am going to put it in a box and preserve it, and it will forever after be known as the Surgeon's Biscuit!”

Some say the soul of the black beetle escaped its dead shell and imbued the biscuit at that very instant. But black beetles do not have souls, and the biscuit was just a biscuit, and Vladimir himself was only an average surgeon, albeit a surgeon of enormous learning in the field of haemoglobin, but a surgeon with a deluded and preposterous sense of self-importance.

And that is the real story of Surgeon's Biscuit.

Sunday 22nd January 2006

“Apes are not just our kin, they are also capable of human kindness. A bonobo or pygmy chimpanzee at Twycross zoo is famous for gently rescuing a stunned starling, protecting it and helping it fly away.” — Frans de Waal, Our Inner Ape

Stunned Starlings

Pockmarked, moustachioed, and bonkers, evil tyrant “Uncle Joe” Starling stepped out on to the balcony of his dacha. He sat down in his dacha deckchair and peered in his bonkers and evil way at a flock of stalins soaring through the blue sky above him. Uncle Joe liked curlews more than he liked stalins, and he had once ordered the firing squad for a bird-hating apparatchik who served him curlew soup at a ceremonial picnic lunch one summer's afternoon. But he liked stalins well enough, and his lips curled into a smile as the birds vanished behind some trees over by the black lake. There were bones at the bottom of the black lake. Not only the bones of small animals which had inadvertently fallen into the lake and been eaten by the carnivorous fish that swam there, but the bones of the soup maker, whose bullet-riddled corpse Uncle Joe had had tossed into the churning black water by his minions.

The chief dacha minion was Halob, father of Old Halob who became famous as the irascible trainer of fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol. Halob the minion was a wheezy, crumpled man, whose tunic was often stained with egg and beetroot, for these were his favourite foods, though he had few teeth left in his head. Halob was a perfect minion, for within his soul burned an indestructible love for Uncle Joe Starling, a love so pure that it had been celebrated in verse by national poet Igor Zoogoo, a verse that was proclaimed now at the marriage ceremonies of even the most feckless young peasant couples.

There was a wedding taking place in a village near the dacha later today, and Uncle Joe had decided to attend. As he watched the flock of stalins crossing the sky again, flying back from whence they came, he twisted the little red pneumatic knob on the arm of his dacha deckchair to summon his minion. Halob arrived on the balcony within seconds, creaking a little.

“Your bones creak, Halob,” observed Starling, and then he cackled, “Unlike the bones of the soup maker which lie rotting at the bottom of the black lake!”

Halob cackled too. He always cackled when Starling cackled. They cackled together often, at least four or five times a day, whenever they recalled the numberless victims of Uncle Joe's firing squads. For they were cruel men, both of them, despite the purity of Halob's love.

“I have decided to perform a song at the wedding this afternoon,” said Uncle Joe, “So get me the sheet music, Halob.”

Nodding in acknowledgement, Halob headed back inside the dacha to do as he was bid. He did not need to ask which sheet music to fetch for his beloved, for Starling only had one song in his repertoire. The song he liked to sing was “The Windmills Of Your Mind”, made famous by Noel Harrison, son of the actor Rex Harrison. Rex had many wives, both real and fictional*, and though it would not be difficult to ascertain which of the wives was Noel's mother, I cannot be bothered to find out. I can, however, tell you that Rex and Noel were watching a storm one evening when a bolt of lightning utterly obliterated a tree directly in front of them. What sort of tree it was, and whether this Act of God was related in any way to the Lord's displeasure at Rex's performance as the Pope in The Agony And The Ecstasy, are both important matters which require further investigation. The Hooting Yard Rex Harrison Research Institute is, however, understaffed at present, so unless a volunteer sidles up to the entrance flap of the Institute's somewhat bedraggled tent in the near future, we are going to have to put this on hold.

Now, listen carefully. On the afternoon of that country wedding when Uncle Joe Starling startled the feckless young peasants by striding into their reception, and then delighted them by singing “The Windmills Of Your Mind”, his minion made a tape recording. Years later, on his deathbed, Halob entrusted the precious piece of magnetic tape to his son Old Halob, who in turn passed it on to fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol as a gift for coming second in a particularly close-fought five hundred metre sprint final. When fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol's non-fictional belongings were put up for auction in an old barn in a field somewhere near where many sinister cows were grazing, the tape fell into the hands of the Korean dance band leader Park No Lip. He gave it to his daughter, who was at the time emerging as a key figure in the boop-boop-boohoocha scene. Her beat combo, the Stunned Starlings, sampled Uncle Joe's vocals on their cover version of Rex Harrison's son's worldwide smash hit. Sadly, however, their record failed to interest anyone except their close-knit pals, and you will search iTunes and other online music download resources in vain. Let that be a lesson to you.

* NOTE : For further information about the fictional wives of Rex Harrison, see The Lactose-Intolerant Jezebel Of Botnia, Her Impending Flu Jab, And The Howling Of Wolves At Dusk (12 September 2004)

Sunday 8th January 2006

Blodgett Island : The Adventure Continues

Flashback. Dennis Beerpint is looking out of a hotel window. He has a row with Old Halob about watching television at 5.32 in the morning. Dennis Beerpint runs off down the hotel corridor yelling that Old Halob is not his father.

On the beach, approaching dawn. Dennis Beerpint and Old Halob are happily together now. Dennis Beerpint walks over to a tree to do a wee and sees the mad Tantarabim woman, armed with a rifle, stalking around the camp. She sees him. He wakes Old Halob. Everyone else wakes up, excitedly. Lothar Preen tells everyone to calm down. The mad Tantarabim woman announces “The Others are coming!”

She explains that sixteen years ago her ship ran aground on the island. There were six of them in all. She was seven months pregnant and delivered the baby all by herself. On the same day they saw a pillar of black smoke in the forest. That night the Others came and took her baby away. “Now they are coming again, for all of you. You have three choices. You can run, you can hide, or you can die.”

Dobson wants to stick with what is tangible, which means the raft. They have to build rails on the beach to launch it. Everyone helps begin pushing it into the water, to the accompaniment of stirring music. But there is a mishap which Old Halob seems to blame on fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol. Then they see a huge plume of black smoke rising in the forest, just like the mad Tantarabim woman said.

Lothar Preen asks the mad Tantarabim woman how many of ‘them’ there were. She says: “I told you all I know. I can vanish into the jungle. But there are forty of you.”

Dobson, Blodgett and Joost Van Dongelbraacke take the mad Tantarabim woman to the hatch. Lothar Preen points out, not unreasonably, that the hatch might belong to the Others. They still don't know how to open it. The mad Tantarabim woman points out that she has a stash of dynamite at Blister Lane Bypass, but they will have to collect it before nightfall.

Flashback. Dobson is sitting in the airport bar. A woman we have never seen before joins him and starts chatting him up. Then she takes a call on her phone and walks off, promising to continue their chat on the plane. They exchange seat numbers.

Dobson tells everyone that they have a plan but they have to head off into the forest to get supplies. He tells them to get the raft into the water and then to go and hide in the caves. Blasphemous Ted Cargpan says that the dynamite will be volatile so he had better join the group to make sure they don't get blown up.

Flashback. Fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol is under arrest after having a fight with an important municipal official. The detective says he knows fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol's real identity and that he is a conman who preys on the sick and the needy. “You're being deported,” he says.

Fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol is chopping bamboo for the raft. Dobson gives him a revolver. “You're the only one going on the raft who knows how to use one.” Fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol tells Dobson that about a week before the flight he met Dobson's father in a bar, and how Dobson's father said he wanted to say sorry to Dobson. Hearing this news, Dobson begins sobbing.

Flashback. At the airport, the marshal who has Marigold Chew under arrest is checking in a case with five guns in it. The airline person wants to know why he needs so many firearms. The marshal tells the story of how he has been chasing after Marigold Chew for three years, and how she has been taunting him, but he knew how desperate she was to get her hands on Doctor Fang's toy aeroplane. Marigold Chew attacks the marshal, and as she is restrained, he says “That's why I need five guns”.

Marigold Chew says she wants to join the dynamite-gathering gang. The plume of smoke is ominously visible in the background.

Pabstus Tack is wandering around getting people to put messages in a bottle. The dynamite gang say farewell to the raft crew. Then they head off into the forest, following the mad Tantarabim woman. Blodgett asks her where she got those scratches. “A bush”. Blodgett thinks it must have been a ferocious bush. “We must keep going!” she says.

Blasphemous Ted Cargpan is cantankerous. They enter the Dark Territory. The Blister Lane Bypass is not far now. Sixteen years ago someone lost an arm here. “We must move quickly!” Blasphemous Ted Cargpan decides he doesn't want to lose his arm and is going back to the beach.

Back at the raft, fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol brings the perfectly-hewn bamboo mast he's been working on.

The dynamite gang are trudging through the rain. There are strange noises, barking or howling. Blasphemous Ted Cargpan reappears, panicking, shouting “Run! Run!” Crashing and deep booming noises. They hide in some foliage and there is sudden silence. The mad Tantarabim woman explains. “It's a security system to protect the island.”

Dennis Beerpint asks Mrs Gubbins why she's folding clothes. “Because I'm anal,” she replies. Dennis Beerpint gives his dog to Mrs Gubbins, explaining that the dog is a good listener and she can talk to it about Ah-Fang Van Der Houygendorp.

Flashback. Mrs Gubbins is at the airport. Lothar Preen asks if she can watch his bag for a minute. Ah-Fang Van Der Houygendorp arrives and he and Mrs Gubbins start arguing. Mrs Gubbins reports Lothar Preen to the security people.

Lothar Preen gives the raft crew some electrical and other equipment he has salvaged, including a single flare. He's that kind of guy.

The dynamite gang arrives at Blister Lane Bypass. They look at a huge ruined old sailing ship looming there mysteriously.

Flashback. Tiny Enid and The Grunty Man at the airport. Tiny Enid spills coffee all over The Grunty Man. A bitchy couple nearby talk about them, not realising that Tiny Enid understands every word.

Tiny Enid and The Grunty Man are on the beach. She gives him a list of useful nautical words she has written down for him. He sobs and says he's sorry. She sobs too. They hug and sob and apologise to each other and kiss.

Pabstus Tack is still filling a bottle with messages. There is a silent scene of meaningful looks and hand-holding and farewells and general bonding. The raft is launched. The dog swims out to follow it, but Dennis Beerpint tells it to go back, and it does. On the raft are Old Halob, Dennis Beerpint, The Grunty Man and fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol. There is stirring music as those on the beach look meaningfully at the raft sailing away into the blue vastness. And behind them, the plume of black smoke rises still…

Friday 6th January 2006

A Third Episode of Blodgett Island

Normal Hooting Yard service will be resumed in the very near future. Meanwhile, here is another episode of the exciting series Blodgett And His Pals Hanging Around On A Mysterious Island After Surviving A Plane Crash.

Flashback. A car drives up to a motel in the middle of nowhere. It is not as spooky-looking as the Bates Motel, but will something spooky occur? A woman seen from behind opens the boot of the car. It is full of lots of different number plates. She goes into her motel room and gets undressed for a shower. We still cannot see her face. In the shower, we see blonde dye running out of her hair. Aha! It's Marigold Chew.Next we see her going into a post office to collect a letter that's waiting for her. She reads it and begins to weep.

Now, Marigold Chew is sitting on the beach holding a toy aeroplane. Pabstus Tack joins her, strumming his guitar. He thinks that his band's record sales will increase because the world thinks he's dead. “When the helicopters come to rescue us, we'll be ridiculously and eternally famous!”

Blasphemous Ted Cargpan is a science teacher who understands meteorology. He explains that the raft cannot be launched because the monsoon season is about to descend upon them and the raft will be forced in the wrong direction. The last possible day to leave was yesterday. Old Halob says they will take a chance and leave tomorrow. Marigold Chew says she wants to go on the raft.

(During the advert break there is a warning about a new film that contains “emotional intensity”. Would that it were so.)

Old Halob says there are no spare places on the raft. Marigold Chew says she can sail and that fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol knows nothing about maritime matters.

Flashback. Marigold Chew is walking through a hospital corridor carrying a bouquet of flowers. She is heading for room 208. There is a police officer sitting outside one of the rooms and she passes him nervously. One of the hospital doctors is getting into his car in the garage. His name is Doctor Fang. Marigold Chew is sitting in his car. She tells Doctor Fang she has come to see her mother who is dying of cancer, and she needs Doctor Fang's help.

The Grunty Man is fishing. Tiny Enid says “Please talk to me”. “I am going on the raft,” grunts The Grunty Man.

Lothar Preen and Dobson are trudging through the forest. They meet up with Blodgett and go to the hatch.

Dobson : “What is this thing?”

Blodgett : “Exactly. It's time we talked about this.”

The Grunty Man is packing salted fish on to the raft. Old Halob asks fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol if he has any knowledge of maritime matters. “Are you voting me off?” shouts fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol. He heads off angrily to see Marigold Chew. He tells her he knows she is a fugitive from justice. “Your secret's safe with me but you're not getting my spot on the raft!”

Marigold Chew : “If I want your spot I'll get it”

Dennis Beerpint asks Old Halob if they will come back for everyone else once they are rescued. Old Halob says it might be hard to find the island again. Then he seizes up with stomach cramps. Dennis Beerpint runs off to find Dobson.

Blodgett says he has known about the hatch for three weeks. Dobson wonders how they can open it. Lothar Preen thinks it might be dangerous to open it. “Maybe it was never meant to be opened…. from outside!” he says, dramatically. Marigold Chew runs up to say there is something wrong with Old Halob. He is writhing on the ground. Dobson tends to him. Dennis Beerpint looks stricken.

Flashback. Marigold Chew with Doctor Fang. It's the middle of the night and they have three hours to kill. “Do you think it's still there?” says Marigold Chew. In the middle of nowhere, under a big tree, they take spades out of the boot of a car and start digging. There may be goats in the distance.

Blodgett and Dobson are talking about Old Halob. Dobson thinks there is something in his water. Old Halob says he feels better if he neither moves nor breathes. It seems someone has deliberately poisoned him. Blodgett says he had no idea Marigold Chew was a fugitive from justice. Much talk of who knows what and the use of discretion in the sharing of knowledge.

Pabstus Tack is playing his guitar to Minnie Crunlop's baby. He is happy to be writing songs again. He suggests Minnie Crunlop should come and hang out wth him after they're rescued. I think his new song is called “Monster Eats The Pilot”. Possibly.

Dobson asks Marigold Chew if she poisoned Old Halob.

Marigold Chew : “Do you think I'm capable of that?”

Dobson : “I don't know what you're capable of.”

Flashback. Still digging. Marigold Chew's spade goes clunk. She disinters a small box full of her and Doctor Fang's memorabilia. They sit in the car looking through it and listening to an old cassette recording, on which Doctor Fang says: “In twenty years we'll be married” to which Marigold Chew's reply is “As soon as I can drive I'll just run away”. They look at each other. Marigold Chew sobs. They kiss.

Blodgett and Dennis Beerpint. Blodgett is improvising a poultice for his leg, as he tends to do. Dennis Beerpint says he didn't poison Old Halob. Blodgett says he knows Dennis Beerpint is innocent, even if he did burn the raft first time round. Dennis Beerpint gets a weird look in his eyes and suddenly says “Don't open that thing! Don't open that thing!” He is not referring to the poultice, we surmise.

Old Halob tells fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol he can't come on the raft because he's a liar and a criminal and he tried to poison him. So fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol goes to Marigold Chew and manhandles her and tips her bag open, shaking the contents on to the beach in front of the assembled throng.. He picks up a passport Marigold Chew has stolen from a woman who drowned. Fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol says Marigold Chew cares about no one and nothing except herself.

Flashback. At the hospital, Marigold Chew is with her dying mother, holding her hand and sobbing. Trembling lower lip. There ought to have been a warning about “emotional intensity”. Marigold Chew's mother looks at her and then starts croaking “Help! Help!” to the hospital staff. Marigold Chew runs away. A policeman tries to stop her but she knocks him out. She runs to Doctor Fang's car and they screech away, but there are sirens and their path is blocked by a police car. She yells at Doctor Fang to get out of the car, but he won't, so she puts her foot down ready to ram her way to freedom. Oops. There are gunshots and she doesn't get very far before crashing. Doctor Fang dies in the crash, with the toy aeroplane from the memorabilia box on his lap. Uninjured, Marigold Chew runs away.

On the beach, fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol asks Marigold Chew why she wants to run away by usurping his place on the raft. Marigold Chew admits that she is a fugitive from justice but insists that she didn't poison Old Halob. Mrs Gubbins wanders past looking sulky. Everyone looks at Marigold Chew judgmentally and walks away from her, leaving her holding the toy aeroplane.

Tiny Enid and Dobson watch the finishing touches being put to the raft. Dobson says he knows that Tiny Enid was trying to poison The Grunty Man to stop him going, but the water bottles got mixed up. Tiny Enid says she only wanted to make him ill enough so he wouldn't be able to leave. Dobson says he won't tell anybody.

Marigold Chew and fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol exchange meaningful looks over the bonfire. Fictional athlete Bobnit Tivol tells her he's back on the crew of the raft despite knowing nothing of maritime matters.

Dennis Beerpint tells Old Halob he set fire to the first raft because he didn't want to leave.

Tiny Enid tells Marigold Chew that Dobson knows about the poison plot, but not that the whole thing was actually Marigold Chew's idea. Ah, such narrative complexity!