Idiocy and buffoonery

It’s often pointed out by journalists who have nothing better to do that far fewer people visit the cinema than was once the case. I’m reliably informed that Exmouth once boasted two picture houses, and irksomely the one which has closed and been demolished was nearer my home than the one we still have. Obviously the advent of the twenty-four-hour film channel, surround sound and wide-aspect plasma screens has raised up competition that the small theatre can ill afford, so clearly my entirely unqualified and uninformed thoughts on possible improvements are required to remedy the situation.

The most obvious problem with cinemas is the absence of comfortable seating. Films are best watched stretched full-length on a chaise longue or Ottoman, and the predilection of picture-house proprietors for hard collapsible seating is clearly not to be borne. I know that at least one person agrees with me, because it was a conversation over cigarettes with my neighbour that inspired this train of thought. The latest Harry Potter film, which is approximately the same length as the Ring Cycle, had, I discovered, revealed the deficiencies of the cinema’s seating arrangements with numbing starkness. Ticket sales might improve with the addition of arm chairs and possibly some footstools.

Another thing that always makes a welcome addition to the cinematic experience is alcohol. A large gin and tonic, glass of Chablis or cask ale, particularly when followed by another, softens hard edges, smooths over deficiencies in the directing or script and encourages a general sense of well-being and benevolence. It also helps to erase the memory of the entrance fee, which is more than the cost of a second-hand frigate in some markets. There was a cinema in Whitstable that boasted a licensed bar, and I remember it being very popular with the undergraduate community. Ideally, said alcohol would be brought to one’s chair by a white-aproned steward, but at a pinch I’d settle for well-stocked bar. Always provided, of course, that it was suitably rich in very old single malts.

Then there’s the issue of film length. Back in 1959 they had the right idea when Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer made Ben Hur three and a half hours long. This supplies value for money even at today’s inflated prices, so more films should be ridiculously long. Of course this might mean cutting down on those endearing advertisements for the local Indian restaurant that seem always to have been made in 1973; but that is a sacrifice I’m willing to make. Armed with a comfortable chair and a glass of something fortifying, the civilised cinema-goer can face even the most ludicrously protracted celluloid dream with equanimity, if not pleasant anticipation.

Of course the simplest change that can be made concerns air conditioning. I’ve noticed on successive visits to the multiplex in Exeter that it’s necessary to take an overcoat even in the middle of July. This is extremely silly, and I feel compelled to point out that sitting on a block of ice was good enough for our colonial forebears when facing the daunting rail journey from Calcutta to Benares. Naturally I hesitate to recommend that particular measure, but I know from experience that air conditioning units are fitted with temperature controls. Perhaps something a little nearer comfortable room temperature would be a good idea. Nice though it was to watch The Fellowship of the Ring outdoors at Glastonbury festival, I prefer to experience alfresco temperatures when actually outside.

This has gone on far longer than it deserves, so I shall end there. In fine, if my proposals are adopted I predict a 700% increase in box-office takings within the first year, with the possible total demise of the Shopping Channel within five. Some might take issue with the optimistic nature of this prediction, but it’s no less realistic than those of a government contractor.


Tagged by Natalia (indirectly); tagging whoever really wants to fill this thing in.

I started trying to correct the grammar of these questions, but then I got bored and decided to ridicule them instead. This may explain any inconsistencies in my tone or style.

1. At what time did you get up this morning?
7.00. Barely alive, but I still made it.

2. How do you like your steak?
So rare it’s almost alive.

3. Which was the last film you saw at the cinema?

That would be Brüno. Crazy, crazy nonsense.

4. Which is your favourite TV show?
I no longer receive television, but I have a lot of Dad’s Army and Star Trek, all of Spaced and Black Books on DVD. I like those.

5. Where would you live if you could live anywhere?
Right here in Exmouth. It’s quiet, surrounded by nice scenery and my family are here. We have a railway station, and the motorway and an airport are nearby, so anywhere else I can visit.

6. What did you have for breakfast?
A bacon sandwich and a coffee

7. Which is your favourite cuisine?
Indian. I like food that tastes of something.

8. Which foods do you dislike?
Mayonnaise, salad that has any dressing on it at all, potato salad and trifle.

9. Which is your favourite place to eat?

10. Which is your favourite dressing?
What did I just say?

11.Which type of vehicle do you drive?
Two-seat sports cabriolet. Black.

12. Which are your favourite clothes?
I have different favourites depending on whether the occasion is casual, formal or professional. I like my dinner jacket a lot, but I wouldn’t wear it to the pub. The common factor is black. I like black.

13. Where would you visit if you had the chance?

14. Cup 1/2 empty or 1/2 full?
That entirely depends on whose round it is next.

15. Whence would you like to retire?
I’ll worry about that if I make it to fifty.

16. Which is your favourite time of day?
Probably early evening, when work’s over but I’m not too knackered to enjoy it.

17. Where were you born?
Exeter, the county town of Devon, about seven miles up the river from here.

18. Which is your favourite sport to watch?

19. Who do you think will not tag you back?
No idea who’s tagged.

20. Whom do you expect to tag you back first?
See above.

21. Whose responses to this are you most curious to see?
I’m not.

22. Are you a bird watcher?
If I’ve nothing better to look at, yes.

23. Are you a morning person or a night person?
I’m a person all the time, but I’ll answer the question I think you meant to ask. Night. Mornings belong to work, but the night belongs to me.

24. Do you have any pets?
Not to my knowledge. I had a pet spider that I didn’t know about, but it walked over the wrong shoulder.

25. Any new and exciting news you’d like to share?
I nearly had a nasty car accident yesterday afternoon because some idiot thought that approaching a blind corner on the wrong side of the road in a sixty zone was better than sitting behind cyclists. My quick reactions saved all of us.

26. What did you want to be when you were little?
A Spitfire pilot.

27. What is your best childhood memory?
My brother and I had found a blank cartridge case on the common and put it into a fire to see what would happen. That was a very loud noise.

28. Are you a cat or dog person?
Cats. Install a flap in the door, put food down twice a day and they’ll take care of the rest. Dogs require work.

29. Are you married?

30. Always wear your seat belt?
Always wear your seat belt.

31. Have you ever been in a car accident?
Yes. Nothing serious recently, but I slept through a nasty one when I was a baby.

32. Any pet peeves?

33. Which pizza toppings are your favourites?
Anything made of meat, especially when it’s spicy.

34. Favourite flower?
I used to eat daffodils when I was a toddler, but these days I have no preference.

35. Favourite ice cream?
Mint choc chip.

36. Favourite fast food restaurant?
Ali’s kebab house, Exeter Road, Exmouth.

37. How many times did you fail your driving test?
Three or four times. I forget how many. Full marks first time for the theory test, though.

38. From whom did you receive your last email?
A friend in Canada.

39. In which shop would you choose to max out your credit card?
I neither want nor need a credit card. Give me an unlimited line of credit and a couple of dusty old bookshops, though, and I’ll show you how to spend money.

40. Have you done anything spontaneous lately?
Booked flights to Kiev, basically on a whim.

41. Do you like your job?
Most of the time.

42. Broccoli?
If you mean ‘is there broccoli?’, of course there is: if it didn’t exist you wouldn’t be talking about it. If you’re just naming vegetables and putting question marks after them, then I say unto you: ‘cabbage?’. If you’re asking whether I like it or not, then yes; provided that it’s fresh and properly cooked.

43. Which holiday has been your favourite?
Florence, about six years ago. Three of us went there and it was great.

44. Who was the last person with whom you went out to dinner?
The last people were my parents, my brother, his girlfriend, a couple of friends who are in the same line of business as us and a trainee who was coming into the lab the following day for some training.

45. What are you listening to right now?
High-speed grinders from downstairs and the rustle of the post being packaged to my right.

46. Which is your favourite colour?
It’s more of an absence than a colour, but black.

47. How many tattoos do you have?

48. How many people are you tagging for this quiz?
I don’t tag.

49. At what time did you finish this quiz?
About eleven in the morning: tea-break time.

50. Coffee Drinker?
I’ll take three coffee drinkers and someone who likes scones, please. Try using verbs, articles and pronouns in your sentences: you’ll be amazed how much more sense you make that way.

I drink coffee when I’m tired and need not to be. The rest of the time I don’t.

While I was slaving away in the sweltering plaster room today, a helpful fellow was washing my car for me. This is the best service that anyone can provide, because frankly I’m too tired at the weekend (not to mention too lazy all the time) to clamber in and around Sceadufell getting the paintwork from grey to black again. Once it’s done, though, how satisfying the result. The leather smells of upholstry conditioner; the footwell mats are black, not a sort of dirty, speckled charcoal, and all of the plastic looks about ten years younger.  Gone are the calling cards of a thousand seagulls (apparently I’m not allowed to shoot them), and once more I can don my sunglasses, ditch the roof and not look like some sort of high-class vagrant.

Of course, on a day when I’m happy with my general road image the roads themselves would decide to be absolutely packed for no obvious reason. Well, I can think of at least one: it’s July and this is a Devon seaside town. We’re about to earn about half of the county’s annual income in two months. As you’ll already know if you’re a regular on the Exmouth web cam site (and why on earth wouldn’t you be?) the swings are back on the sea front, the swan-ships of the Teleri are back in Alqualondë and the ice-cream parlours have stocked up on Exmouth rock. It’s a bit crowded, but the town gets more interesting at this time of year.

Alqualondë. Behold its other-worldly majesty.

Alqualondë. Behold its other-worldly majesty.

Believe it or not, that’s all I have to say. It’s Thursday and not much happens between Monday and Friday around here apart from work. The most significant event of this week has been the arrival of a new tenant for the long-vacant flat 3, and that’s hardly worth more than this sentence. Just to bulk out this post and make it look as though I’m communicating more than bland nonsense, here are a few more titles from my regular source of non-information, Bizarre Books.

Nolan, Dennis. The Joy of Chickens (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1981)

Baum, Harold. The Biochemist’s Songbook (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1982)

First Report of the Standing Advisory Committee on Artificial Limbs (Ministry of Pensions, 1947)

Creed, J.R. The Art of Making Faces (Pearson’s Magazine, 1897)

Carter, W. Rhythmical Essays on the Beard Question (n.p. 1868)

Blanchard, Charles Elton. The Romance of Proctology (Youngstown, Ohio: Medical Success Press, 1938)

To conclude, a classic example of an Edwardian title that I think I may have to read one day:

Hutchinson, Sir Jonathan. On Leprosy and Fish-eating: A Statement of Facts and Explanations (Constable & Co., 1906)

Your quotation for today addresses concerns that I feel regularly on perusing the steam-driven interweb.

Well! Some people talk of morality, and some of religion, but give me a little snug property.

Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849), The Absentee


It’s been a busy weekend, so I have a lot of ground to cover in this post. Please excuse me if the pace seems a little break-neck.

The first piece of news is that another of my poems has been published by the ever-generous GlobalComment. It doesn’t do one any harm to be friends with the editor, but it’s still very kind of them to print this stuff. Rotten tomatoes can as usual be thrown at me here or there, whichever floats your boat.

The main business of the weekend was, however, saying a raucous farewell to a friend’s ex-wife. This meant girding my loins for another interminable train journey up to London, where I was once more to be the guest of the Crimson Welshman. Like General Urquhart at Arnhem, we were beset by communications failure; but this was eventually overcome, allowing me to arrive a mere half an hour late. We were held up at Westbury for twenty minutes because some moron was trying to ride without a ticket, and got rowdy and abusive with the staff. I think I would have forgiven them for simply kicking the problem off the train while it was moving so that I could be on time; but instead they decided to be boring and wait for the police. Where’s that Agincourt spirit when you need it?

Such irritations aside, Friday night went off without a hitch. We ate pasta, drank a very nice white Bordeaux and watched The Black Dahlia. The line “haute cuisine breeds degenerates” could have been the quote of the week, but it isn’t. More about that later. I retired far later than was good for me, replete with wine and humour.

The fridge of wit at Hotel Crimson

On Saturday morning I defied the usual weekend tube closures and made it to Liverpool Street station by 11.30. Our rendezvous point for the day’s activities was the Hamilton Hall, a grandiose gin palace that was almost empty.

The Hamilton Hall, Liverpool Street

The Hamilton Hall, Liverpool Street. Sorry about the poor quality: the lighting was all wrong for my camera phone.

We rapidly established a general tone when I mentioned something I received in my e-mail last week.

A disgruntled biker makes a reluctant sale.

A disgruntled biker makes a reluctant sale.

I commented: “There are more women who like motorbikes than there are good bikes; he got rid of the wrong one.” Nicci replied with a simply immortal line: “There are some women who know the difference between a wedding ring and a choke-chain.” That’s the quote of the week right there. Nicci’s a one-woman liberation movement: she will happily take a car to pieces in a bikini top, takes no nonsense from anyone and likes cider, but still knows how to make a set of curtains. It’s good to know that my friend is in safe hands.

The beer at the Hamilton Hall was generally agreed to be rubbish, so we quickly moved on to another palatial temple to Bacchus: the Crosse Keys in Gracechurch Street. We spent a lot of time there, and I established my strategy for the day ahead by not drinking the same beer twice. This may have been slightly unwise, but they had so many pumps and so many pretty logos. I’m not made of stone.

We moved on to the Founders Arms near Tate Modern. There, in front of a view of St. Paul’s across the river, I temporarily left off the bitter and switched to Staropramen. I contacted the Crimson Welshman, who had been watching the British Lions lose to South Africa. He would meet us in the Ship and Shovell, London’s only two-part pub.

Stopping only to cast the engagement ring to Father Thames, we strolled beerily over to the Ship and Shovell. There I found my long-lost twin.

Sir Cloudesley Shovell and your humble correspondent. My expression is tailored to match his, and is not indicative of my mood.

Sir Cloudesley Shovell and your humble correspondent. My expression is tailored to match his, and is not indicative of my mood

We adjourned to the upstairs lounge, where we annexed half of the room and proceeded to continue drinking more than was good for us. I switched from the continental lager back to Badger, mainly because I like badgers. I gave myself a taste of home by trying some Exmoor Gold as well. The company were on top form, with topics ranging from all things rugby to a rendition of Monty Python’s Philosophers Song. I temporarily forgot the lyrics due to chemical synaptic decay, but recovered my composure in time to still the chorus of jeers.

After this, things get a little hazy. I know there were more pubs. I distinctly remember drinking an Austrian beer called Edelweiss, which prompted more singing. A brief discussion of the genius of Mel Brooks led inevitably to Springtime for Hitler, and I broke into the drinking song from The Student Prince, which follows Ovid in declaring wine and love to be allies.

Perhaps something a little more up to the moment will suggest the atmosphere of determined inebriation. So many beers in London, only one mouth.

We finished up in a pub somewhere, by which time I wasn’t paying much attention to what was going on. We ordered some pies and built the condiments into a big tower. People always seem to do this when they’re drunk, which might explain the Tower of Pisa. Another classic theory from the mind that brought you “Graduate study programmes are extended metaphors for The Lord of the Rings“. After that we went our separate ways, tired but happy as the euphemism goes. Naturally back at Hotel Crimson we decided that the best way to start on the road to recovery was to pour some German wine down on top of that beer and watch Lethal Weapon. Brilliant plan. I passed out at midnight, and spent today feeling like death. It was worth it, though.

The last item on the agenda is the recent departure of Sceadufell to the garage to have a new stereo fitted, which leads me neatly to the subject of music. I can’t remember most of what we heard on Saturday, so I’m going to list things that were playing on my computer while I was writing this. Shuffle play is the way of salvation.

The Velvet Underground: Cool it Down (early version)
Rammstein: Engel
Simon and Garfunkel: Peggy-O
Metallica: Some Kind of Monster
White Zombie: More Human than Human
Guns N’ Roses: Don’t Damn Me
Extreme: Cupid’s Dead
Robert Johnson: Kind-Hearted Woman Blues

I’m particularly pleased about Don’t Damn Me coming up, because I’ve adopted it as a kind of personal anthem and it’s so appropriate to the idea of blogging. Share and enjoy.

Back in April, Devon’s analogue television transmitters were switched off, marking the beginning of the nationwide transfer to a digital signal. Now, this has been a bit difficult for me because my aerial is pretty ropey and won’t receive the new transmissions. I can’t really afford a new one; and because I live in a grade two listed building, satellite dishes are not an option. Basically, they’ve repossessed my television rights; not that the picture was that good anyway.

Of course I wasn’t watching all that much before in any case, but now I’ve been deprived of the cop-out of turning on the idiot box as soon as I get home and not doing anything for the rest of the evening. I can still do that, but I have to choose a DVD and get up every so often to exchange it for another. This involves too much thought, so I get sick of it sooner; and I save time anyway because I don’t have to sit through the adverts. No adverts means a drastic improvement in my irritation threshold, since adverts are annoying. There are only so many times I can watch a generic box on wheels being presented as the ultimate fashion accessory before I develop a strong urge to bury the nearest dealership in custard powder and do a rain dance.

The benefits don’t end there. I’m saving more than £150 a year by not buying a television licence, which means more money for books as well as more time for reading them. When I’m failing entirely to read anything I can use the time to post updates here, for which I feel your gratitude shining upon me like the June sun. Or not.

In short, then, all is well in my shiny new boxless universe, and that reminds me of a book I bought years ago from a library that didn’t want it any more. It was called The Evil Eye: the Unacceptable Face of Television, and it instructed me not to give in to the ionised siren song of the cathode ray tube; issuing dire pronouncements about social and psychological decay should I foolishly not heed its prophetic warning. How kind of the authorities to help me to go cold turkey and find that it’s quite nice with cranberry sauce.

I’m going to make one post stand in for several here so that I can switch off my brain and copy things from my reference library. It’s been a while since we visited Bizarre Books, so here are a few more gems from that indispensable volume.

Anonymous Bibliography of Mangrove Research, 1600-1975 (Paris: UNESCO, 1981)

Maclaren, Rob Grow Your Own Hair (Glasgow: Healthway Publications, 1947)

Reynolds, John W. The Earthworms of Ontario (Toronto: Royal Ontario Museum, 1977)

Glatt, Meier Teach Yourself Alcoholism. (EUP, 1975). Call me precocious if you will, but I’ve devised my own course of study.

Collins, Sewell The Rubaiyat of a Scotch Terrier (Grant Richards, 1926)

Scoffern, John Explosive Spiders and How to Make Them (Boy’s Own Paper, 1882)

Reid, Joseph V. You Can Make a Stradivarius Violin (Chicago, Ill: Popular Mechanics Press, 1950 & 55). Unless your name is Stradivarius, no you can’t.

Cort, Samuel Walter Cancer: Is the Dog the Cause? (John Bale, Sons & Danielsson, 1933). Clue: no.

Broel, Dr. Alfred Frog Raising for Pleasure and Profit (New Orleans: Marlboro House, 1950)

Stubbings, John Wilfred The Diseases of Electrical Machinery (Spon, 1939)

Hirschfield, Isador The Toothbrush: its Use and Abuse (New York: Dental Items of Interest Publishing Company, 1939)

Hore, Annie Boyle To Lake Tanganyika in a Bath Chair (Sampson Low & Co., 1886). Just when you think a Victorian travel monograph can’t surprise you, one does.

Today’s chronologically random quotation is from the German composer Max Reger (1873-1916), and was chosen for being gently scatological and insulting to critics.

Ich sitze in dem kleinsten Zimmer in meinem Hause. Ich habe Ihre Kritik vor mir. Im nächsten Augenblick wird sie hinter mir sein.

I am sitting in the smallest room of my house. I have your review before me. In a moment it will be behind me.

It’s been well over a week since I updated this, because I’ve been on a much-needed holiday with my friends in Essex. With the last exam on the 29th I was free to take a week off from all things dental and internet, and return to what I do best: drinking beer and slobbing around. This is how I spent the time I’ve been away.

The trip started as soon as the last Cardiff exam was over. I drove straight from there to Colchester with the roof down and a marvellous sense of relief, which somehow survived an exhausting six-hour drive in heavy traffic. As one might expect, not much happened that evening: we had a couple of beers and caught up with events in one another’s lives. My friends had been over to the Colchester beer festival, which had been going since Wednesday, and some good beers were still left. Saturday’s plans were not difficult to make.

We spent all of Saturday afternoon over at the festival, meeting up with other friends while we were there. Eschewing the usual custom of drinking half pints so as to sample more beer, I started on pints of the strong stuff and was rapidly not in a fit state to record much. I did, however, manage to get one picture before succumbing to my dissipation, and that describes the afternoon better than I ever could.

As you can see, the Colchester beer festival takes place in a deconsecrated church, and we drank sitting on someone's grave. This is probably a metaphor for something.

As you can see, the Colchester beer festival takes place in a deconsecrated church, and we drank sitting on someone's grave. This is probably a metaphor for something.

Sunday was spent doing nothing over in Silver End. I seem to remember quite a lot of Red Dwarf being watched, mainly the third series, and whatever anyone might tell you this is the best way to spend a holiday. The following day I finally got round to watching Eric Idle’s Rutles film All You Need is Cash, and Tony and I put a couple of old bicycles into working order. I was also introduced to the Meat Loaf song In the Land of the Pig the Butcher is King, which rapidly found its way onto my Facebook profile. Various jokes about my surname have led to a potential rumour that I am a serial killer, or at least a purveyor of meat produce. I make no attempt to dispel interesting stories about me.

We continued to do odd jobs on Tuesday. Tony had a supervisory meeting over at the University of Essex, so I spent half the morning there, impulse-buying in the university branch of Waterstones. After a brief look at the River Colne, we bought some concrete and went back to Silver End to put up a washing line, which killed a couple of hours. The rest of the hours had to be killed with At Last the 1948 Show and more beer. We agreed that the lovelyAimi MacDonald is indeed rather nice, and I decided that one could do worse than contribute to her ‘make the lovely Aimi MacDonald a rich lady fund’. She was ahead of her time: these days practically everyone with a blog is running the exact same charity.

Wednesday became the Day of Geekdom, and was spent watching the best Klingon episodes of Star Trek TNG and planning for an AD&D game. A whole day of releasing the nerd within is by turns delightfully self-indulgent and extremely relaxing. I made a cameo as an ancient Elven mage, but am released from charges of unoriginality by having been handed my completed character sheet five minutes before we started playing. I buried someone up to their knees in rock, then everyone else killed him at the same time: very messy and quite enjoyable. I have decided that I’m probably chaotic evil. You have been warned.

Thursday was earmarked for actually doing things, so we headed over to Sutton Hoo where Nicci met us, having got the afternoon off work. As luck would have it, they were having a second-hand book sale, and since nobody would believe such a coincidence, I collected some photographic evidence.

The Awful Truth

Proof that there really was a book sale. Other evidence included a lightening of my wallet and a car full of books. I may read them.

We found a rare clinker-built chair that fitted two people, so Tony and I declared ourselves to be sea-kings. History is unlikely to remember us as it does Leif Eiriksson, however, since we had no ship and our subjects were woodlice.

Athelings enthroned

The mighty chieftains sit in council, and demand to know where the tea is.

We rounded off this successful foray into English history with a tradition dear to a Devonshire man’s heart: a cider festival. This was a strange affair, held at the East Anglian Railway Museum, so we got to see some old trains as well. It looked something like this.

Thanks to my discovery of a timer on my phone, our whole cider festival group got into the picture.

Thanks to my discovery of a timer on my phone, our whole cider festival group got into the picture.

Friday was a day of nothing much. I got my things together and Tony and I headed over to Chappel again to spend the afternoon at the festival. In the spirit of the occasion we drank beer, while challenging one another to identify song lyrics. We don’t appear to have many songs in common. In the end we adjourned to watch a documentary about the making of Apocalypse Now, on which disturbing note my week away drew to its close.

I left early on Saturday, laden with a gift of unwanted DVDs and managed to get home without incident, arriving in a surprise monsoon. It rained heavily all night, but today there is no evidence of it at all, which is most peculiar. Even Devon seems to be subject to British weather.

Back to work tomorrow, but at least I was sensible enough to arrange one day to get the flat back in order before that. I shan’t be spending a week tripping over my suitcase like I did last time I went away, and there are worse ways than that to end a summer holiday.

A man ought to read just as inclination leads him; for what he reads as a task will do him little good.

Samuel Johnson

I had it in mind to write a serious post about a work-related issue that I’ve heard about this week, but it can wait. I know someone who needs cheering up, and since that person probably represents my entire readership, silliness it is.

Some time ago I was at a parish jumble sale over in Littleham when I came upon a strange little volume called Bizarre Books. It’s a collection of titles belonging to actual publications that are peculiar, concerned with extremely obscure or odd subjects, given to humorous misinterpretation, or just plain bonkers. Here are some examples.

Allin, Russell V., The Resistance of Piles to Penetration (Spon, 1935)

Watson, John L., The Big Book of Busts (San Francisco, CA: Hypermodern Press, 1994) – it’s about chess.

Wynne, May, Girls of the Pansy Patrol (Aldine Publishing Company, 1931)

Frolov, Yury Petrovich, Fish Who Answer the Telephone (Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner, 1937)

Makula, Alex, Thirty Years of Bananas (Nairobi: Oxford University Press, 1993)

Carlson, Bruce, Illinois Roadkill Cookbook (Farmingdale, NY: Quixote Press Publications, 1990)

Cobb, Ivo Geikie, The Glands of Destiny (William Heinemann, 1927)

Floyer, Sir John, The History of Cold Bathing (S. Smith & B. Walford, 1706)

Baldwin, Ed and Stevie, The Great Pantyhose Crafts Book (New York: Western Publishing Co., Inc., 1982)

Charles, Edouard, The Man with the Iron Eyebrows (Royal Magazine, 1902)

Hogan, William J., The Complete Book of Bacon (Northwood Books, 1978)

Morowitz, Harold J., The Thermodynamics of Pizza (New Brunswick, NJ: Rutgers University Press, 1991)

Farr, Adams, The Fangs of Suet Pudding (Gerald D. Swann, 1944)

Chase, Mary Ellen, The Girl from the Big Horn Country (George G. Harrap, 1937)

Handy, Etta J., Ice Cream for Small Plants (Chicago, Ill.: Hotel Monthly Press, 1937)

That’s probably quite enough to give you an idea of how entertaining this book can be. It does, however, present difficulties for someone like me, who likes to make things up to confuse and annoy people. I could recommend, for example, that someone read Bicycling in Neolithic Brazil, only to find that somewhere between these unassuming brown covers is a work with precisely that title, published by Trubshawe and Pratley in 1897. Nevertheless, I refuse to be daunted by such dark and forbidding prospects. Here are some titles that I have invented (the one about bicycling doesn’t exist either as far as I know).

Friblet’s Concordance to the 1927 Manchester Telephone Directory

Baines-Frusset, Col. Septimus Q., Badgers Across Arabia (Timbuktu: Oddfellows’ Press, 1921)

Crupper, Millicent, Great Works in Custard (Soligorsk: Ivan Ivanovich, 1904)

Steinkopf, Wilhelm J., Eels at Eighteen Feet (Hamburg: Keinmal, 1876)

Thicke, Ignatius Balham, Duplicated Hapax Legomena in Palaeolithic Literature (Minehead: Station Road University Press, 1988)

Squeek-Lytely, Irving, Cooking with Pumice (London: Nosuch, 1974)

Well, now that I’ve wasted your time and mine with that childish tomfoolery I’m off to do something more worthwhile – like throw half-cooked pasta out of my bathroom window or design a more aerodynamic daffodil. I suppose the moral of this story is that no matter how ridiculous your subject of interest seems, there’s probably someone out there who will publish what you have to say about it. I leave you with my random quotation for today.

If Mr. Selwyn calls again, shew him up: if I am alive I shall be delighted to see him; and if I am dead he would like to see me.

Henry Fox, First Lord Holland, 1705-74