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Bloody Jerusalem

Last night I had the strangest dream.

I was a knight of the Kingdom of Albion, otherwise known as England. I was riding through the country side, as if on some urgent mission or another for the King (or Queen. I was unsure in what era this dream was taking place). I was riding in the company of another knight, or perhaps my squire, though I sense the other was my equal.

As we were riding, we would pass various people. The first group was a rowdy group of the kind you would see sitting outside of a pub on a Friday afternoon. As we passed the first group, cries of “wanker”, “arsehole” and “cockhead” could be heard. This robbed me of the sense of being an actual medieval knight.

The second group seemed to be made up of gentlemanly types, so I approached them with some sense of hope. As I passed, I heard comments such as “Jolly good show chaps”, “Tally ho” and “Gin and tonic please”. Again I left them with a sense of disappointment. They had been better than the first group, obviously, but equally obviously they were from the wrong era.

The final group I passed consisted of people dressed in filthy rags, looking downtrodden and accepting of their lowly status in life. In other words, they were peasants. As I approached one of them reached down to the ground, picked up some cow dung and flung it straight at me, so that the reeking substance penetrated my armour. “Ah” I thought. “That’s much better.”

Satisfied that the dream would now have some semblance of realism, I rode on. Eventually, my companion and I came upon a town. Which town it was I am unsure. I am not familiar enough with England as it stands today to recognise a town from its landmarks, let alone its landmarks from 600 or 700 years ago.

We rode slowly through the main street. This town had the usual stores that prevailed in this era. A glove maker. A tannery. An inn. A Video-Ezy. Another inn. However, the object of my interest was nowhere in sight. I left my companion and I rode on to a great abbey on the hill (this dream appears to be set in an era before the Reformation, then). Upon arriving I dismounted from my horse and entered the chapel. I looked around and saw a priest kneeling at the altar. “Father!” my voice boomed through the cavernous house of prayer, not because it had any great timbre to it, but because of the nature of the room provided an echo chamber effect.

The priest appeared startled and turned with a look of fear. I could not understand why until I realised that I must be in the era of Kings such as Henry Plantagenet,  Cour de Lion and John (otherwise known as Henry II, Richard I and John). The wounds delivered to Thomas Beckett were more than physical and still ran deep. The priest had a valid reason to fear a knight.

I lowered my voice to ease the priest’s concerns, for I was not on any misguided mission from my King to do away with some troublesome prelate.

“Father”, I said again, “I wonder if you could help me?”

The priest approached me, still apprehensive. “If you want me to change phone companies” he said “I’m not interested.”

“It’s nothing like that father” I replied. “I’m looking for a man who can assist me. I want to undertake some travel and I need to find someone who can make all the necessary arrangements. Do you know of such a man?”

The priest appeared thoughtful for a moment. Then his countenance changed as he realised that he did know such a man. “I do know such a man” he said, merely confirming what I had noted in the previous sentence. “His name is Thomas Cook, and he can usually be found hanging around the White Hart.”

I bid farewell to the priest and mounted my steed, heading for the White Hart. True to the priest’s words, I did find Thomas Cook hanging around it. In front of it actually. By his neck. A young boy was walking past. “What happened to Master Cook?” I asked. The young boy turned into a budgerigar and flew away. Such is the unpredictable nature of dreams. I espied an old crone who was devoid of all teeth save one.

“What has happened to Master Cook, you filthy old woman?” I asked pleasantly.

“Arrgghh. He was charged with, and found guilty of treason, he was.” replied the festering sore of a human.

“Who now takes care of his business for him?”

“His assistant was a man named Captain Stubing. He may be able to assist you, he may. He will be at Master Cook’s premises, not more than three furlongs down the main street.”

I left the disgusting wreck of humanity and headed towards my destination. The old woman, notwithstanding the advanced nature of her putrification, turned out to be an exceptional judge of distance, because almost precisely three furlongs down the main street I saw a building with a sign that read, “Thomas Cook Travel”.

I reverse parked my horse in the designated area and alighted. I entered the premises. “Captain Stubing!” I demanded.

“Is that you Gopher?” I heard from the rear of the store.

“I beg your pardon!” I indignantly answered.

A balding man dressed all in white appeared. “My apologies My Lord” he said. “Just a private joke. What can I do for you?”

“You can keep your tongue in check for a start you impudent fool!” (I was clearly revelling in the role of being in the upper echelons of society). “I was after your Master, Cook, now deceased, for some information. Can you assist me with my enquiries or can I expect more cheek from you, in which case I shall have you placed in stocks for a whole week?”

“When you put it like that, My Lord” Stubing replied, “I would be more than willing to assist you with whatever it is you need assistance with.”

I sat at the only chair available, leaving Stubing standing. “Your Master, Cook” I began “was known to arrange travel for people of means. I am a person of means. I wish to travel to exotic locations. What can you do for me?”

“My Lord”, replied Stubing “has come to the right place. We at Thomas Cook Travel offer travel to a number of exotic locations. For example, if My Lord wishes to offer service to the King, cleanse his soul, and see many exotic sites as well as undertake numerous adventures, My Lord could make the journey to Jerusalem.”

“Bloody Jerusalem!” I roared. I clutched Stubing by the shirt collar and pulled his face close to mine, so that our noses were all but touching. “I have been on crusade for nigh on 10 years you cretinous fool. I have stood in the city of Acre and seen its inhabitants slaughtered. I have fought at the battlements of Asruf and watched the rivers run red with blood. I have faced the heathens at Jaffa and made many a woman a widow. And I have seen the walls of Jerusalem and I know that Christendom will never, ever again claim that city.” I pushed Stubing back so that he rocked on his heels and almost fell. “I have seen so much death in the last 10 years, Stubing. I cannot face anymore.” I stared hard at Stubing and I could tell by his weasel face that he was struggling to think of a reply.

“Well, my Lord” he started “there is another option, but …” He paused and looked down at his feet.

“But what?” I asked.

“Well, the thing is, my Lord, we have many tour options here at Thomas Cook Travel. While they are all quite different and exciting, they essentially involved the same thing and should, hopefully, God willing, end up in the same place. That is, they involve killing heathens and they involve liberating some city or another which is currently in the hands of heathens but should rightfully be in the hands of God fearing Christians. Almost our entire list of tours involved those things. Except for one.”

Stubing paused and looked about the room. I couldn’t tell if he was looking to see if anyone would overhear, or if he was searching for a weapon to protect himself should my reaction to his suggestion be other than what he hoped.

“My Lord, you could go to …. Ibiza.”

“Where?”

“It is an island off the coast of Spain. It has just been reclaimed as part of Christendom by James of Aragon and we are offering summer sojourns there right now. It’s quiet. No one goes there. You could just stay there and relax and get the horrors of the crusades out of your mind.”

I mulled over the offer, before I spoke to Stubing again. “I want to get away from Englishmen Stubing. Undoubtedly all the blood and death and violence of the crusades has taken its toll. But that wasn’t the worst of it. Have you seen how English tourists behave? Disgraceful! ‘Ooh, I want fish and chips. Why don’t you serve effin fish and chips? How about a curry? A proper effin English curry! Spew here. Spew there’. It makes me ashamed to be from this country. What I want, Stubing, is to get away from the boorish, overbearing, narrow-minded thoughts and behaviour of the English. I want to go to a place where English is never spoken. I want to live in a town that is devoid of my countrymen who are willing to take of their shirts and show the flabby white bodies at the drop of a suit of chain mail. I want freedom from the kind that think they are better than everyone else because of who their Mummy and Daddy is, and I want freedom from the kind that think farting is a form of family entertainment. Can you guarantee me that Ibiza will forever be foreign to the English Stubing?”

“Ah … sure.” replied Stubing doubtfully. “I can’t imagine the English will ever want to go to Ibiza. Ever.”

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The reformation of Spandau Ballet (a short story about nothing)

Gary Kemp stood across the room from his brother, Martin Kemp. They stared at each other through half closed eyes, the simmering tension barely contained by the presence of the charismatic Tony Hadley. Hadley, for his own part, stood off to the side, not looking at anyone in particular. Steve Norman, the self-confessed eye-candy of the group, polished his saxophone, whilst whistling the tune to Musclebound. The drummer, John Keeble, was currently on the toilet, and had been for at least 15 minutes. This is what happened when he was allowed to take a book with him. The book in question this time was “My Life So Far”, an autobiography by Jane Fonda. Keeble also had the full collection of Jane Fonda’s exercise videos, though lately he hadn’t been able to find the time to use them for their intended, or consequential, use.

Martin Kemp, the bass player come actor, spoke first. “‘The man with the suit and the case, knew that he was there on the case.’ What the fuck does that even mean? Couldn’t you find a word that rhymed with case, other than case?” The words had been thrown at Gary Kemp, the guitarist and song writer come actor. For a moment, Gary Kemp continued to stare at his brother, but said nothing. Tony Hadley, the lead singer, come pathetic celebrity reality television attention seeker, looked from one to the other. It was just like the old days, thought Hadley. Martin Kemp, jealous of his brother’s position in the band as song writer and guitarist while he was just the bass player. Gary Kemp, jealous of all the attention that his brother got from the groupies and Smash Hits Magazine, while he just had an oddly shaped face. ‘The more things change, something, something, something’, thought Hadley, unable to finish a sentence without Gary Kemp writing it for him.

Suddenly, saxophonist and hip swinger, come older saxophonist and hip swinger, Steve Norman, spoke, which was unexpected since he had taken a vow of silence in 1997, and had generally stuck to it. “Enough” he screamed, and with that he exited the room, hips swinging violently, saxophone hanging from his shoulder like a large and bent rifle, the kind used during the Napoleonic Wars. Martin Kemp, Gary Kemp and Tony Hadley looked at each other for a few seconds before they all burst out laughing simultaneously. Steve Norman was the joke of the group, known to all of the group but Steve Norman. He couldn’t actually play any musical instruments, even though he thought he was the world’s foremost saxophonist. The studio bosses used to bring in a session saxophonist during recording, after the group were done, to complete the necessary parts. During concerts, the group would surreptitiously stuff tissues into Norman’s saxophone before they went on, and there would be a real saxophonist standing offstage whilst they were playing. It worked in the 80s because no one really looked beyond the haircuts, and Steve Norman had one of the best ones going around. It became more difficult during the 90s, when people started to become more concerned with the musical abilities of performers, and this was one of the main reasons why the band’s fortunes had declined, unbeknownst to Steve Norman, of course.

The other reason for the band’s decline was the current elephant in the room. Soon the laughter that followed Steve Norman’s exit subsided, and all that was left was the icy silence that had preceded it. Once again, it was Martin Kemp who broke it. “‘I’ve got a ticket to the world, but now I’ve come back again. Why do I find it hard to write the next line, oh I want the truth to be said …‘ You’re off travelling the world and you can’t work out why you find it hard to write the next line? Heellloooo! Did you ever think of just sitting down and writing knucklehead? Perhaps if you hadn’t been jet setting all the time you’d have been able to write more!”

Tony Hadley sighed and shook his head, for the umpteenth time that year. He didn’t have the heart to explain to Martin Kemp that the song was not actually based on Gary Kemp’s life. Martin Kemp had always been a bit thick, but more so since he had become a full-time actor. Still, his inability to separate fact from fiction did not denigrate from the correctness of his position visa vi Gary Kemp’s lyrics. They were truly awful and nonsensical. That didn’t matter in the 80s, where you had songs about chameleons, wild boys and heads on doors. No one really listened to the lyrics then because everyone was young and beautiful. Now it was a different story. None of them were young and none could be described as beautiful anymore, though Martin Kemp retained a certain, rugged charm. If Spandau Ballet was to reform and start producing music again, the critics would be waiting with bated pens to attack Gary Kemp’s lyrics. This time they had to make sense.

“I mean, what the hell was ‘Through the Barricades’ supposed to be about?” Martin Kemp continued. “‘And now I know what they’re saying, In the music of the parade, We made our love on wasteland, And through the barricades.‘ Not. One. Single. Word. Makes. Sense.” Gary Kemp continued to stare at his brother for a few minutes, before eventually the truth of the accusations hit home. His lyrics really were rubbish. And it wasn’t as if he could blame drugs and alcohol. His biggest vice was the occasional Cherry Advokat, and the once monthly lite beer. Plus his asthma inhaler. “Okay. I get it. My songs were shit. I mean, the tunes, they were great. And in the 80s, the tune was everything. No one listened to the lyrics. Look at Utravox, with Vienna. But it’s not the 80s. And were not young men anymore. Were in our mid 30’s …” “Early 50s” interjected Tony Hadley. “Okay, early 50s. The point is that we can’t rely on our looks anymore. If we want to make a comeback, we need to rely on our music. And since neither of you guys can write music. Since Martin, you’re so dumb you can barely write. And Tony, since your so busy stuffing your face and appearing on reality TV, it’s up to me to write the songs. So this time the lyrics will make sense.”

Martin Kemp and Tony Hadley looked at each other, then turned back to Gary Kemp. “Are you sure you can do this”, they said in unison, followed by “Jinx, personal magic jinx”. Martin Kemp continued alone. “It’s gonna be tough changing the way you write. You’re used to finding rhyming words and then throwing them holus bolus into sentences. Now you think you can write lyrics that make sense?”

Gary Kemp looked at his brother and then at Tony Hadley. He remained silent for a moment, and then began to sing: “When you’re alone, and the world is your bone, just pick up the phone, and talk to me on the phone.” “Oh FUCK!” screamed Martin Kemp and Tony Hadley in unison, followed by “Jinx, personal magic jinx”. A grin broke out across Gary Kemp’s face. “Just kidding guys. I’ve got something you’re gonna love. Are you ready?” Tony Hadley and Martin Kemp looked at each other and then both looked back at Gary Kemp. They both nodded, Kemp first, followed by Hadley, not willing to do anything in unison lest they curse this reunion.

But before Gary Kemp could begin his song, the door to the studio flung open. “Not so fast” said a voice full of doom and middle-aged angst. Hadley, Kemp and the other Kemp turned towards the door, but none could make out the owner of the voice because John Keeble hadn’t changed the lightbulb above the door. Each of the peered into the murkiness. “Who is that?” spoke Gary Kemp, trepidation in his voice. “It is I, Morrisey, your arch-enemy Gary Kemp!” Gary Kemp felt his bowels loosen and his sphincter tighten, a convenient combination. Morrisey continued. “For years, I have waited for this moment when you would try to relaunch your career and your puerile, so-called, song writing skills. I have waited for the moment when you would try to reinfect the world with your particular brand of pop music. I have waited and waited and waited, while I kept myself busy writing songs about angst and loss and acne, things that are important for teenagers but that, really, aren’t important for a middle-aged man. And do you know why? Because of this moment. Because I knew that one day you would try to make a come back, and I would have to be there to stop you.” At that moment, Morrisey pulled out a Pfeifer Zeliska 28mm Revolver, his ‘massive mother fucker of a gun’ as he liked to call it. He lifted the huge weapon and pointed the barrel to a spot between Gary Kemp’s close-set eyes. “Any last words?” Morrisey asked of his rival.

For a moment, Gary Kemp couldn’t speak, panic setting in. Then a feeling of calm descended on him. He knew what he had to do. He had to sing, and not just any song. He needed to sing a song that would soothe the world’s grumpiest man, Morrisey. If he could do that, he could take on the world again.

Gary Kemp opened his mouth and began to sing. “Why did you …” BOOM! Gary Kemp’s head disintegrated as the hollow point bullet entered his right eye and exited via a massive hole in the back of his head. Morrisey moved the gun towards Martin Kemp. “Run now Kemp” he ordered. “Go back to acting. Never pick up a musical instrument again.” Kemp began to move slowly before quickening his pace, breaking into a run as he made it to the door. He wouldn’t stop running until he reached Coronation Street.

Morrisey lowered the revolver. “You can go too Hadley. I have no beef with you. Just make sure you stay away from Martin Kemp. I don’t want to see any mention of a Spandau Ballet reformation.” Hadley began to speak, but then thought better of it. He walked to the door, looked back once at the headless body of Gary Kemp, once at Morrisey, and without further delay, departed from the room.

Morrisey looked down at the fallen body of Gary Kemp. It brought him no joy to do this. In fact nothing brought him joy. Nothing ever had, and nothing ever would. He was a grumpy bastard, and he was only getting grumpier with age. He pushed the revolver barrel first into the waistband of his pants, and walked through the door, without a single backward glance.

A few minutes after Morrisey had left, the sound of a toilet flushing could be heard towards the back of the building. John Keeble emerged, a copy of Jane Fonda’s “My Life So Far” tucked under his arm. At the sight of the headless Gary Kemp, John Keeble almost vomited, but somehow managed to avoid doing so. For a moment the scene made no sense to him. ‘What had happened here?’ he thought to himself. Then he realised that the how and why of Kemp being killed was not important. There was only one thing that mattered. His right hand formed a fist, and he pumped it in the air. At the same time, he exclaimed, “Yes! Finally, I’ll be the fourth most popular member of Spandau Ballet!”

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Flippy

Flippy….. Flippy….. Flippy, the mutant kangaphin ….

It was a dark and stormy night. Except it was day time, there wasn’t a sniff of a breeze, and the sun was out. But you get the picture. Not everything was as it seemed.

The young man walked along the wooded path, generally minding his own business and paying no heed to the world around him. His head was of a peculiar kind of emptiness, at once at ease with itself and at the same time totally unaware of the vastness of space and time. Perhaps it was its ignorance of the boundaries, or lack thereof, of the universe, that allowed it to exist in a perpetual state of hollowness.

He was tall, yet not so tall as to render his height head bumpingly uncomfortable. He was also strikingly handsome, yet not so handsome so that you would hate him on first meeting. You would hate him on first meeting, but not because of his appearance. Rather, it was because of his uncanny habit of getting up your nose. Not figuratively, but literally. He was a contortionist, you see, and also a nasophilliac. So not only did he want to get up your nose, so to speak, but he could. And he did on every occasion that afforded an opportunity.

It was probably this hollowness and nasal fascination that was occupying his mind at that very time, and it was the fact that his mind was occupied on something other than the path he was walking on that lead to such tragic consequences that day.

As he walked the path, his mind wandering like a minstrel without his lute, he failed to acknowledge that not too far in the distance the path actually stopped being a path and became a sheer cliff for at least 10 metres, turning into a ledge for a short interlude, before continuing on to be a cliff for a further 78 metres. Anyone actually failing to make the stunning realisation that the path would no longer provide a suitable means of perambulatory forward movement in the not to distant future, would undoubtedly fall over the cliff, land on the ledge, and break at least three bones in their body, likely to all involve the leg. Which, coincidentally, is exactly what the young man did. Fortunately, he stayed with the ledge for the time being, rather than completing the rest of the journey, which assuredly would have killed him, or at least his hopes of living until supper time. However, how long he could remain on the ledge was a mystery. At any moment he could, in a semi conscious daze, roll over to his demise.

Which is precisely why at this point it was important that someone should come along and notice that the annoying young man had fallen down the cliff and was in a sticky situation, both for the well being of the young man and the point of this story. So someone did. That someone was Pep.

****

Pep was a young boy who, let’s be honest, no one really liked. Red headed and freckle faced, he was a high academic achiever but was also incapable of performing the simplest of athletic tasks. “Unco” was a common enough epithet used to describe him. Pep had no friends, neither real nor imaginary, and led a lonely and solitary existence. His father, Barry, whilst not Pep’s biggest fan, was moved by his forlorn appearance at the breakfast bar one morning and resolved to do something about it.

Barry was a mad scientist, though not the kind of mad scientist one usually imagines when the phrase “mad scientist” is bandied about. He was a scientist, this much was true. He was also mad. Not mad in the sense that he was insane in his drive for power and world domination, but rather he was mad in the sense that he sold rugs at bargain basement prices and liked to have his sanity brought into question in a series of television advertisements.

With his particular skills in mind, Barry set out to end the friendlessness of his only, and least favourite, son, Pep. He thought to himself that if Pep can’t find a friend amongst his peers, why not create a friend for him? A friend who could be both a constant companion and a protector. A friend that could provide succour to Pep’s heart, and provide aid to Pep on the many occasions he was pushed down the old well.

So Barry set himself to his task with much vigour and vim. At first, his attempts met with little success. His cardboard companion, named Carb, was okay whilst on dry land, but as soon as he was forced to swim with Pep in the ocean, or fish him from the old well, he would literally fall to pieces. Then Barry tried using spam to create a pal for Pep, calling it Steve. Steve had all the qualities of a normal friend. He was made of a meat like substance, plus bone and gristle. He also had the personality you would expect of someone with the name Steve – gregarious; joyous; rotund. But Steve had a failing as a friend that would prove his undoing. Dogs enjoyed eating him. It is not often in life that a friendship can overcome one friend being eaten by a member of the canine family, and so it was the case with Steve and Pep. Truth be known, Pep also had a little nibble of Steve, much to his new friends profound sorrow, and to Pep’s guilty delight.

Barry’s penultimate attempt at creating a life long companion for Pep came much closer to success than any previous. He had the idea of fashioning a young boy out of wood, and then imbuing the “doll” with a lost soul of some description. Barry got the idea from watching a movie called “Chucky”. Unfortunately, Barry didn’t watch all of “Chucky”, being rather devoid of concentration at times and also as a result of having a seriously weak bladder. So when the wooden doll came to life possessed as it was by an ancient demon, Barry, who was not normally a man prone to panic, panicked. Fortunately for Barry he panicked to such an extent that he accidentally said the right words in the exactly right order to send the demon from the body of the Chucky doll and into the fiery depths of hell. Barry was lucky in that way.

It was a disconsolate Barry who one night sat before the television, all hope of creating a friend for Pep, so that the little shit would leave him alone, gone. He flicked through the channels aimlessly, not even the Playboy channel providing sufficient interest for him to feel aroused. He rested on old episodes of Skippy, not because of any fondness for the adventures of a slightly unrealistic marsupial, but because of feelings of nostalgia. However, it wasn’t long before those feelings gave way to boredom, and Barry changed channel again. Instantly he happened upon “Flipper”. Barry lifted the remote control to quickly change the channel again. But before he could press the button, a small idea began germinating in his head, which before long had bloomed into a full blown case of a great idea. He watched the dolphin skim across the water. He flicked back to Skippy and watched the kangaroo bound through the bush. Back to Flipper. Now back to Skippy. A friend that could accompany Pep on land and at sea. A friend that could get Pep out of a tricky situation, no matter what the weather conditions? A friend that could just be a friend? Could he? Should he? Defy the laws of God and nature and create a … what should he call it? A Dolaroo? No! A Wallpoise? No! A Kangaphin? YES!

Barry threw himself into the task of creating the Kangaphin with reckless abandon. He quit his job. He stopped showering. He created a device affixed to his waist which would take car of the fundamentals. He was consumed by the Kangaphin. Every waking moment was spent splicing DNA, separating chromosomes, and sewing fins onto marsupials. Finally, after 17 minutes, Barry was done. He looked down at his life’s work and smiled. This would do it, he thought. This would be the perfect friend for Pip … sorry, Pep.

****

The young man moaned, the sound coming from somewhere deep in his subconscious, where he imagined he was lodged safely in a huge proboscis. He was precariously close to the ledge. The slightest movement could see him fall to his death, rather expeditiously. He only had a limited amount of time left to fulfill his dreams, which is admittedly hard to do from a ledge, unless someone happened to find him and cobble together the resources to save him.

Less than 100 metres away, the whiny little bitch known as Pep was annoyingly skipping along the path that the young man himself had only just  wandered along in an absent minded fashion. However, unlike the young man, Pep was keenly aware of the sudden end to the path, eagle eyed as he was, and proposed to himself to reduce his velocity to a more manageable level. which he did. As he approached the edge, Pep heard a moaning sound. This was not unusual for Pep, as he often heard moaning sounds as he approached people. What was unusual in this instance was that Pep, for all he looked, could not see a single human body from which the said moan was emanating. That is, until he lay on his stomach, looked over the ledge and saw the young man.

Seeing him, coiled up on the ledge, in obvious pain, something deep inside of Pep stirred. It may have been the last vestiges of Steve still digesting in Pep’s stomach, or perhaps it was the recognition that laying before Pep, on that ledge, was an opportunity. An opportunity for Pep, and Flippy, to prove themselves the equal of any other boy/wild animal combination.

“Hey Mister!” yelled Pep to the prone figure on the ledge. “Don’t go anywhere. I’ll get help.” The prone figure moaned in reply.Pep pushed himself up by his ludicrously thin arms, and sped from the cliff towards salvation for the young man. Towards recognition for himself. Towards his new best friend, Flippy.

He ran past an ambulance. He ran past a fire engine. He ran past Gary Sweet in a Police Rescue van. He knew the right thing to do would be to tell one of these professionals about the dire situation the young man was in, but he just couldn’t bring himself to waste the opportunity that had been handed to him on the geological equivalent of a silver platter. He ran past the old well, narrowly avoiding being pushed in by several bullies. He ran past the Tronton rabbit farm, not even noticing that several of the rabbits had taken over the farm and were holding Tronton at gun point.

Finally, he reached his home. “Flippy! Flippy! FLIPPY!” he shouted, as he raced to old shed out the back, where Flippy wallowed in an indoor pool. Pep pushed open the door with all his might. “Flippy! Come quick! There’s a young man trapped on a ledge over by the old cliff. He needs your help! I need your help!” Pep raced over to the pool and looked down at Flippy. “Come on Flippy. Let’s go!”

Flippy looked up through his one, partially blind eye. He flipped his shrunken flippers and kicked his deformed legs. His mouth opened slowly, and he whispered “Kill me” as he spewed forth a foul smelling substance. Flippy, you see, was a genetic mutation gone horribly wrong, suffering in constant pain, incapable of moving. Barry had tried to play God, but in the end all he created was a blubbering, stinking, good for nothing, mess. On this day, or on any other day, Flippy was in no fit state to save anyone.

“Fuck!” exclaimed Pep, saying it all really.

Meanwhile, on the ledge, the young man awoke. Dazed, he stood up and looked around. Confident of his surroundings, he promptly stepped off the ledge. It is likely that the fall that killed him would have been quite painful.

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As dawn broke over the quite, suburban neighbourhood, George “Little Georgie” Calombaris slept soundly in his racing car bed, his stubbly upper lip quivering as he drew his breath in, and his lower, less hairy lip, doing likewise as he exhaled. His tiny little toes and feet danced quietly as he dreamed a dream of jumping up and down on the spot in throes of excitement as he tasted delectables and quizzed cheffettes. The odd murmured “allaments”, “allagant” and “yeah?” could be heard every now and again.

He had slept fitfully through the night, the excitement of the coming mornings festivities almost too much for the hairy little man to handle. His two best friends, Smooth Gary and Big Matt were coming over in the morning and they planned to cook a banquet of classic dishes and humongous pastries, and enjoy it sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of Little Georgies’ big screen television, recently purchased from Retravision, while watching the entire second series of Friends. Because that’s what they were.

Yesterday Little Georgie had headed out to Coles to round-up the ingredients and equipment necessary for the banquet. Unfortunately, as a result of Coles not having any of the ingredients or equipment required to cook decent, restaraunt quality food, Little Georgie had instead been forced to locate and attend sundry quality butchers, bakers, and grocers. Still, it had been an enjoyable and rewarding excursion, and he had successfully managed to avoid being knead in the face by passers-by, most of the time.

Of course, whenever Little Georgie went out there would be at least one unsavoury incident, but these days that was par for the course. As a result of his difficulties with the English language, Little Georgie would invariably find himself misunderstood or misinterpreted. Just yesterday, when asking the owner of the first fruit and vegetable shop he had patronised that day for some celery, the owner had taken offence and refused to reveal what he was paid on a weekly basis, subsequently throwing Little Georgie out of the shop before he had been able to buy a single item. Only the week before, all sorts of hilarity had ensued when he had asked a prostitute for sex, and she had promptly produced a saxophone and began playing a stirring rendition of “Making Your Mind Up” by Bucks Fizz.

****

Meanwhile, just a few blocks away, an other worldly figure swaggered as he followed the path to Little Georgies’ house. This colourful character was larger than life in every sense of the word.The dark brooding eyes sat midway up a huge round face. The devilish grin belied the big man’s gentle nature. The luxurious dark hair bounced in time with his step. The purple and orange cravat flapped in the wind. The pink trousers blinded a passing motorist which caused him to crash headlong into an oak tree resulting in him being jettisoned through the windscreen and onto a nearby dung heap. This big man was hard to ignore. He was, of course, Matt Preston, Big Matt, food critic extraordinaire, and he was coming to spend the day with two good friends.

Only the night before, Big Matt had been the toast of Tinseltown. Well, not really Tinseltown, more like tackytown, as Big Matt had attended Australia’s night of nights, the Logies. Ostensibly there as a representative of Masterchef, he had in fact stolen the show when he was surprisingly named best new talent. This was an award that was usually reserved for vacuous starlets such as Holly Valance, Danni Minogue and Kerry O’Brien. However, last night had stunned the nation, nay the world, when he had won the award with a record 107% of the vote. He had also stunned the nation with his stunning strapless tuxedo, held together only by double-sided tape. Now he strutted the back streets of greater Melbourne on a fine and temperate Melbourne day, with a funny little man under his arm, and for once it wasn’t George.

****

“Smooth” Gary Mehigan lay in his bed, swathed in silky smooth purple sheets. He had been awake for some hours, lying there staring at the ceiling. He knew today was a special day for little Georgie, but he couldn’t shake the sense of foreboding that engulfed him like his pyjamas engulfed his backfat. He had a feeling of dread so powerful, so overwhelming that he barely had the strength to get out of bed.

Yesterday had seemed another normal day. He had shopped, he had cooked, he had judged amateur chefs and ended their dreams mercilessly. He had joked and joshed with Little Georgie and he had lavished every dish he made with copious amounts of animal fat. Yet the whole time he felt like someone was watching him. Someone who was judging him, sizing him up, tidying and styling him as if he was being made ready for a magazine shoot. Someone who wore heels that were too high and occasionally overdid the fake tan.

But that couldn’t be possible, he thought to himself. She was dead, wasn’t she?

****

In another part of town, down below street level in a dark, dank cellar, a woman cackled as she maneuvered the overhead lights. She picked up the camera and adjusted the lens, then pointed it towards the object of her affection. Through the lens, she could see the rotting flesh of the decapitated badger as the maggots feasted on its delectable entrails.

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Julius Caesar was a complicated man known for his straightforwardness and simplicity. A complicated man indeed.

“I keep thinking it’s not Tuesday” Caesar thought. In fact, he was right. Tuesday had yet to be invented. Thursday was quite popular and Saturday usually went down a treat, but Tuesday was some years off, and was only invented when it became necessary to marry Shrove with a day that was not already spoken for. However, the fact that there was no Tuesday to not be was of little comfort to Caesar, who, not only uncertain of what day it wasn’t, couldn’t quite figure out what day it was. He kicked a small stone along the path in the hope it would jog his memory. Nothing. He kicked a larger stone, but with the same foot. Still nothing. A small boy walked past and gave Caesar a confused look. Caesar smiled at the small boy and promptly had him skinned alive. It was going to be one of those days. Whichever day it was. Which certainly wasn’t Tuesday. Whatever that was.

“Hail Caesar” cried a voice in the distant. Caesar ducked down and used his hand to shield his head, fearful of the golf ball sized hailstones that would surely smash his cranium. Of course, as golf balls were yet to be invented, Caesar would not have thought to protect his head from golf ball sized hail stones. However, the description of the hail stones as resembling golf balls was a thought that had occurred to Caesar to assist anyone from the future who may, in some distant family room, have the chance to recount his exploits, such was his generous nature. And yet, he did have small boys skinned alive for looking confused. Which only reinforces the suggestion that he was a complicated man. Which he was.

Soon Caesar realised that it was not hailing. In fact there was no precipitation at all and a quick glance of the skies indicated that none should be expected for some time. He deduced, then, that someone had lied to him about the nature and effect of the non-existent hail stones. The mere thought that someone would play such a practical joke on him just for the opportunity to make him look ridiculous made his blood boil and his ears whistle, which in a lesser man would have led to certain death. However, as a child he had often frolicked in live and active volcanoes and had developed a resistance to blood boiling heat and as such the mere warmth created by anger was in no way bothersome at all. Still, he was mightily pissed off.

All of that anger soon evaporated like a puddle of goat’s milk on a hot summer’s day as Caesar realised that the maker of the false declaration was his good friend Brutus, and that the false declaration was in fact a commonly used statement of good will towards the Roman Emperor, which of course he was most of the time. Ah Marcus Junius Brutus. What a good and dear friend he had turned out to be. They had first met on the set of “”Gladiators” and at that time it was far from certain that any sort of relationship would develop between them, let alone a friendship. Brutus was initially stand offish, cold even. In fact, he could best be described as a stand-off cold fish. Dark and brooding in much the same way as a dark brood mare would be, Brutus had rebuffed Caesar’s initial entreaties of friendship until one day when Caesar pointed out to Brutus that he, Caesar, was the Roman Emperor and he, Caesar, could pretty much have anyone killed for pretty much any reason he wanted to. From that day Brutus and Caesar became the closest of friends and were for the most part inseparable, the only parts not being inseparable being their private parts.

“Dear Brutus” said Caesar. “What brings you out on this fine day”? “Fine it may appear now your Emporium, but I fear that we could experience some rather heavy hail later today. Best that you park your chariot undercover”. Caesar was instantly suspicious. He had only just been thinking of hail, and here was Brutus, foretelling a severe hailstorm when all indications were of the opposite. Well, not exactly the opposite. If the opposite of wet was dry then the opposite of hail was probably steam. And it was unlikely that later in the day it was going to steam. Such nonsense would probably see you laughed out of the sauna. But Caesar shrugged the unease off like an ill-fitting cloak. “Bah” he said, producing a poor imitation of a sheep. “The weather will remain fine. And any way, why should we worry about such trifles, when matters of state beckon. Come Brutus, pray tell what news you bring of our armies to the north”? But Brutus had stopped listening and was fiddling with his i-pod. “Would you please put that blasted thing away!” screamed Caesar, affecting a very British accent that was unlikely to be repeated for another 1,700 hundred years. “Wha.. Oh right”. “Now my armies, what news?” a calmer Caesar asked again. “Oh their fine” replied Brutus so absent-mindedly that he forgot to breath for about 30 seconds. “Oh good” said Caesar. Neither men said anything for some time and the silence grew increasingly uncomfortable for both men. Brutus kept his gaze cast down to the cobblestone walkway as he used his open toed sandal to peel a prawn. ‘What on earth is wrong with B’? thought Caesar. “Well” said Brutus. “”I best be off. I’ll see you at the senate later?” “Um, sure, I guess”. With that, Brutus hurried off without a single backward glance, thus successfully avoiding tripping over the many marbles that littered the walkway.

The odd meeting with Brutus troubled Caesar and would cast a pall over the rest of the day. It was so unlike Brutus not to be effusive and fulsome, two words whose meaning escaped Caesar. Yet it had to be said that Brutus was capable of wild mood swings, one minute all charming and friendly, the next lying on the ground in the foetal position whimpering like a well-disciplined dachshund. Still, Caesar felt that something was up and resolved to discover what that very day, the 15th of March.

If you would like to read the conclusion to “Caesar, Caesar, wouldn’t want to be ya!” you can. When I write it. If you would like me to write it, leave a comment.

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Sports of all kinds are littered with stories of sledging. But what is sledging? How has it developed over the centuries to take the form that it does today. And where did it come from (as opposed to “Where Did I Come From”)? The purpose of this paper is to look into the past, delve into the mists of time and re-acquaint the reader with the ORIGINS OF SLEDGING!

It is arguable (although you would lose the argument) that sledging can be traced back to Eqypt around 1000 BC during the reign of the Pharaoh Huptulluptiptothroughthetulips. At the time, the Pharaoh was building (or having built – lets be honest, this prick didn’t lift a finger) a Pyramid as a monument to his massive ego and as storage for his collection of Hardy Boys novellas. Using tens of thousands of slaves (or aliens – just saying), the Pharaoh used extreme tactics to force his slaves (aliens) to work longer hours, for less food and in quicker time. Of course, the Pharaoh used time honoured methods such as whips, chains, hungry echidnas and Workchoices, but he also used what he liked to call “Mental Dissintergration”, except he said it in hieroglyphics. Directed at the slaves (aliens), he would say things like “You are not worthy to lick the spittle of Ra’s golden face” and “camel fucker”. This may have caused the slaves (aliens) to work harder, or it may have just pissed them off (or it may have induced them to fuck camels). I guess we will never know. But what we do know is that it pissed them off and they eventually overthrew the Pharaoh and had him thrown in the Nile weighed down by nine feathers. Needless to say, the Pharaoh survived and the slaves (aliens) did not.

However, what we would consider modern sledging began in the sleepy English town of Stratford upon Avon Calling in the 13th Century, and was named after William Sledge, a known poet, playwright and IT Consultant. At the time the townspeople played a kind of sport called Peedling which involved a ball and a stick. The player with the stick would urinate on the ball and then hit the ball with the stick. The aim was to get some of your urine on to the opposing player (for the game was played betwixt two). The wettest and most oderous player after two hours was judged the loser. It is worth noting that the level of oderousness of a given play was difficult to judge, because players, officials, spectators and sponsors alike all gave off rather robust aromas of their own.

Young Will Sledge was fond of shouting profanities from the sideline to distract the players, such as “This is a most disgusting game. Why don’t you fashion a flat faced bat and a round leather ball and throw the ball at the holder of the bat in a round armed fashion and shout ‘Howzat’?” and also “Have you tried turning the computer off at the wall?”. This would sometimes cause the player with the stick and ball to momentarily look up and lose his aim, which would invariably result in him urinating on his shoes (or in some cases on a passing hungry echidna).

Sledge was beaten to death, ironically with a flat faced bat, but not before the participants of Peedling realised the value of a good “sledge”. Not only would their opponent suffer wet shoes, but they themselves were unlikely to get covered in piss because there was hardly any on the ball. Soon enough, clever pissing was not enough to ensure a win, as player after player used sledgeing to distract their opponent. It is apparent from studying written records of the time that sledges were not committed to writing. This may have been because the sledgers were fearful of defamation proceedings being brought against them.

The art of sledging began to grow in popularity. It was imported into Scotland on the back of Edward II’s Tour of Scotland (popularly know as the “Black Ice Tour”) and was picked up by the Scottish leader Robert the Bruce McAvaney. The Bruce McAvaney used to taunt the English Longbow Archers, with abusive statements such as “Ye Olde Bottle Shoppe sells no bottles” and “Thou hast bewitched thine hand  with immoral self abuse” (later shortened to “wanker”). Edward II, who was known to favour a certain gentleman of his Court more than others (ie Piers Gaveston), was ill equipped to deal with the taunts that were thrown his way. The Bruce McAvaney had ordered his men to tie small bits of paper to their arrows, with words on the paper reading “Edward II: Gayer than Ricky Martin”. Edward II, rather than face the continued abuse, offered the members of his Court the choice of either shoving a red hot iron or an hungry echidna up his bottom (the red hot iron bit is actually true, although it wasn’t by choice).

The usefulness of sledgeing was becoming apparent, and it was during the reign of Henry V and the second part of the Hundred Years War that sledging truly developed into an art form. Henry V was part warrior and part Christian Fundamentalist, and as such lacked any semblance of a sense of humour (George W Bush anyone). During his childhood, he is said to have ordered the beheading of his wet nurse on account of her constantly exposing her breasts to him. As a teenager, he had a Court Jester hung upside down in a vat of pigs entrails (normally used to forecast the weather) until the Jester admitted that he did not find Nick Giannopolous funny. However, humourless though he was, Henry V was aware of the power of sledging and had seen its efficacy in action. One day, whilst walking his favourite ducks Kevin, Bloody and Wilson, he stumbled upon a game of Pisfertingaroond. In this game, two teams of five would face each other and run at each other at extreme speed, each team member clashing with his opposite number. The team with the most members who remained conscious were declared the winners. Almost always the team with the larger players would win. However, on this particular day, Henry V noticed something unusual. The smaller team, prior to taking off towards their opponents, began shouting things across the field. He heard chants such as, “Robert Hughes was your TV father” and “You are the package in ‘Tony Abbott’s health package'”. Henry V thought the larger players looked distracted and noticed that when the two teams clashed, the small players all remained conscious, while the large players all had daggers protruding from their groins. Clearly the hurtful words had distracted the larger players sufficiently to allow the smaller players to shiv them.

Henry V had the smaller players tortured and burned alive at the stake house, but being the opportunist that he was recognised a powerful tool he could use against the French in their upcoming battle. Two months later, as Henry V’s small army of 5,000 trudged through the mud and slop , to face a French force of more than 25,000, on the eve of battle, across the fields of Agincourt, carried by the wind, phrases such as “Hey. Cheese eating surrender monkeys” and “Shave your armpits”, as well as the time honoured classic “Greensleaves” (all these hits and many more) were tossed out. Unfortunately for the English they were next to useless because the French, being French, couldn’t understand what they were saying. But, on account of the French also being useless at fighting, the English won hands down with very few casualties (other than good taste).

During the Wars of the Roses, the popularity of sledging began to slide. This was due as much to the fact that people were becoming more upwardly mobile (on account of all the death and shit), as it was to the reigns of Edward IV and Richard III. Edward IV (the IV stood for intravaneous), was known for his gregariousness, lechery and large pants. Like his predecessors Edward III and Henry V, Edward IV was intent on attacking France and like his predecessors he set out to do just that. However, on arriving on French soil, Edward IV found his mental resources were thin on the ground. No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t not articulate his barbs to the point where they struck at the heart of the enemy. The best he could come up with was, “Well, you’re fat”, which was ironic because Edward IV was the fattest one on the ground that day, apart from Douglas “Fatty McFatarse” McDonald, Edward IV’s Lord of the Royal Stool Sample. Once the French stopped rolling on the ground consumed by laughter (in which much urine was spilled), out of sympathy they offered him a yearly stipend to, excuse my French, “Piss the fuck off!”.

Edward IV did, indeed, “Piss the fuck off”, not only from France, but, in 1483, from existence. After his death, his son, Edward V (the V stood for Veeeeeeeee!), a mere boy of 12, was to be king, for a few days to weeks. However, his bad Uncle Richard, later to be Richard III (the III stood for eye, eye, eye), a kindly and gentle soul, out of concern for the boy and and his younger brother Richard, had them both smothered in their sleep. Before he had them smothered though, he had tried to teach them the art of sledging. Unfortunately for Richard, he was possibly the worst sledger in history. Richard’s idea of sledging generally began with him removing his trousers, exposing his tiny prick for all to see, and exclaiming “I am a door and here is my knob”. Needles to say, this made his targets feel uncomfortable, but in no way did it demean them or put them off their game. In fact, Richard used this very tactic at the Battle of Bosworth Field, which led to his prick (and his head) being sliced off by the wicked Henry Tudor, later to be Henry VII (the VII stood for 7).

Sledging remained dormant for the intervening whatever hundred years until it regained popularity in the early 1700s. Cricket was a new game which was creating a buzz of interest amongst bees as well as the well to do and the well heeled (because the best cricketers have good heels). It was named Cricket because it was traditionally played with a flat faced handled bat, a stone wrapped in leather and a grass hopper. The object of the game was to hit as many grass hoppers with the bat as possible, while at the same time being pelted with the stone. The “batsman” was out if the stone hit his penis (known as a wicket in those days) and the batsman scored one point for every grass hopper murdered. However, the game was in danger of disappearing during the “Great Grass Hopperless Summer” of 1725, until a young man named Ohmygoditsritchie Benaud realised that the game could be much improved by removing the requirement for grasshoppers and allowing the man holding the bat (the batsman) to hit the leather wrapped stone (the ball). It took another ten years before the batsman’s penis was replaced with three sticks hammered into the ground.

As cricket became a popular gentlemans’ game in the 18th century, so to sledgeing became part of the sport. It was often heard at the Marelybone Cricket Club on a Sunday afternoon, as the gentry and their ladies enjoyed cucumber sandwiches and young boys. The sounds of summer, the song of the robyn, the thwack of leather on wood and of gnarled hand on soft buttock, the fizz of the champagne, all drowned out the words, but they were there. Comments regarding the women in the batsman’s family, particularly in relation to their proclivity to sleep with all the members of the opposing team (and twice with the captain). Comments regarding the ability of the batsmen at the crease, and how they resembled a person with an unfortunate disability rendering them incapable of controlling the spasms of their bodies. And comments regarding the size of the batsmen’s beards, moustaches and pricks. Yes, the words were there and the words were hurtful.

And this is how sledging became a part of modern sport. Maybe.

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