Saturday, 31 May 2014

My aunt won a screaming skull in a tombola at a church fête

My aunt won a screaming skull in a tombola at a church fête

“Of course they'd gagged it otherwise nobody would have been able to hear the Lord Mayor's speech.”

My aunt,Gladys, was describing in unnecessary detail the circumstances through which she came to be the owner of a screaming skull, that she had won in a tombola at the St Edwards church summer fête. The raffle was one of a number of money-making ventures aimed at raising funds for a commemorative sundial, marking the centenary of the birth of Sir Dennis Thatcher – the late husband of the recently deceased former Prime Minister – Baroness Margaret Thatcher. The face of the sundial was to be inscribed with a quote from Sir Dennis, concerning his tendency to lose his spectacles: "It would be fine if the housemaid didn't keep moving them around. I've said to her a hundred times before she tidies up to either leave them where they are or put them on the mantelpiece. She still insists on hiding them away." Curiously it was to be mounted on the exterior, east-facing wall of the bell tower, just below the steeple, where there had previously been a clock.

In life the skull had been the most highly-prized possession of Sir Robert Bleven. In 1541 no lesser figure than King Henry VIII had expressed his opinion that it would look much better mounted on a pike on the ramparts of the Tower of London. Bleven, who found himslef in the awkward position of being in disagreement with his monarch, reluctantly gave up his head only after several dull axe blows finally severed it from his neck. His pained screams carried him out of this world but sadly failed to usher him into the next.

“It was wearing a ball gag like you buy from an S.E.X. Shop,” continued my aunt over the whirr of an electric hand-whisk that was being brusquely wielded by her sister; the looped metal of the two fixed balloon whisks were in a state of perpetual collision rattling against the glass interior of the mixing bowl. Mindful of the children who were playing in the adjoining room my aunt had spelled-out the problematic word, underestimating the intelligence of the oldest child, Eunice, who seldom achieved anything less than a perfect score in vocabulary tests.

“Mummy, what's sex?”

“I'll tell you when you're 30,” her mother responded dryly, as the beaters of the hand whisk slowed to a standstill. “Until then I don't want to hear you mention that word again.”

When the ball gag was unfastened the skull began to issue an unending succession of blood-curdling shrieks. My aunt placed it on the kitchen counter next to the bowl of cake mix where it screamed for the duration of Here, There And Everywhere, which happened to be playing on the radio. By the time the song was over the novelty of a screaming skull had worn off and everybody was bored with it.

“Anyone would think you were giving birth to triplets,” scolded my aunt as she roughly refitted the ball gag with the overly-familiar air of someone who has done that kind of thing before.

Although initially my aunt planned to donate the skull to a local charity shop, she later had a change of heart and decided that she would hold on to it, in the hope that it would deter burglars and keep her cats company while she was at work.

What she had failed to take into account were the local by-laws that forbade screaming skulls from being kept within 100 yards of a public library. Unfortunately her home was located a mere 89 yards from Southchurch Branch Library – a world-renowned centre for the study of the writer Jilly Cooper. Furthermore her cats disliked the skull and when placed within its vicinity would dig their claws into the pile of the capret, push themselves up on their back legs and hiss. It was these two factors that convinced her to dispose of it.

That was how the screaming skull of Sir Robert Bleven came to be in the possession of me and the woman who I shamelessly introduce to family, friends and complete strangers as “my soul keeper.”

As a couple who make a dishonest living by purchasing a popular brand of mass-produced cupcake and then reselling them online garnished with trite inspirational slogans, we immediately looked for ways that we could use the skull to supplement our income.

An attempt to get it cast in the role of Yorick in a London theatre-land production of Hamlet came to nothing after the director blocked our phone numbers, and obtained a restraining order preventing us from venturing within 50 yards of him or any of the actors.

Equally unsuccessful were our plans to rent it out as an after dinner speaker at corporate events. Guests at the only booking we secured (a Christmas party) were reportedly confused by the significance of a skull placed stop a podium screaming at them for half an hour.

A friend tipped me off that, as designated keepers of the skull, we were entitled to tax credits. At the local HMRC office I was given a form to fill in: 'Does the screaming skull have its own room?' we were asked. 'No, we keep it in a soundproof box' was my honest response. This provoked a visit from a social worker who informed us that the skull had a right to self-determination and that we were acting against its human rights by stifling its freedom of expression. The now liberated skull provoked our neighbours into contacting the police with a complaint about the excessive noise. They, in turn, referred the case to the office of environmental health.

By this time we had discovered through a process of trial and error that the skull could be pacified by the two live-action Ghost Rider films. It would calm down whenever the eponymous hero was on screen but would scream at a louder volume than normal when confronted by the flesh and blood embodiment of Nic Cage.

One afternoon a vicar rang our doorbell offering to exorcise the skull. On another occasion we played host to a pair of TV ghost hunters who seemed perturbed to find themselves in a situation in which the restless spirit was already present and there was no need for them to linger in the darkness jumping at the slightest noise, while making occasional frightened dashes along gloomy corridors. The accompanying cameraman who had arrived with his night-vision equipment in tow seemed rather put out when I explained to him that we didn't mind paying to keep the lights on while they filmed. After a while the conversation dried up and we sat there awkwardly playing with our tea cups while the skull, which I had placed on a paper doily surrounded by triangles of highland shortbread, screamed and screamed.

Our most interesting visitor by a wide margin was a man named Percy Peel who recalled the screaming skull being used during World War II to erode enemy morale:

“We would put it in front of a radio mic and of course it would scream the place down. That got broadcast all over occupied France and Germany. I don't know how their soldiers took it. It used to annoy the living Jesus out of me. The Nazis had a whimpering skull which didn't have quiet the same effect although it could be disconcerting if you happened to be on your own.”

Eventually, having exhausted all other possibilities, we donated the skull to a sanctuary on Dartmoor where it will see out the remainder of its days in the company of other screaming skulls and a haunted shin bone. In the winter months they are kept in hutches in a heated barn. In the summer they are taken outside where there is a paddock and a pear orchard. A few times a year the skulls are visited by parties of children from nearby schools who paint them and decorate them with craft paper and wild flowers.

If there truly is a life beyond the veil of death then let it be like this.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

The Manolov Method

Gregor Manolov's pioneering stunt-work saved countless Hollywood actors from crippling testicular injuries. Read his amazing story here:

The Manolov Method

It's approaching high noon in the Chihuahuan Desert. In front of a dusty white-washed chapel, movie stunt coordinator, Mikey 'the Rhinosaur' Cherlin, is briefing a pair of actors.

“You've got to curl your toes and roll the ball of your foot. So it's not a jab, it's more like you're caressing his nut sack. And Eric, the moment you feel Paul's toes you've got to draw your scrotum in like I taught you.”

Both men nod. Cherlin pats them energetically on the shoulders, one with each hand, before removing himself from the set.

In the scene they are about to shoot, veteran character actor, Paul Yaste, will kick his younger co-star, Eric Purdy, hard in the genitals. To the unschooled eye it will appear to be a genuine blow to the gonads, however if all goes according to plan neither actor will walk away with so much as a bruise.

Watching from the sidelines Purdy's wife, Lillian, nervously plays with the strap of her handbag. The pair have been married three months and are hoping to raise a family. If today's stunt goes badly awry then they could be adopting...


In Hollywood circles Cherlin is considered the leading authority on how to deliver a realistic-looking kick to the groin. In the battered RV that doubles as his trailer and mobile home, he lectures me on the history of what he likes to call “the phantom ball-buster”:

“It all goes back to Gregor Manolov in the early 1920s. His family were Russian immigrants who fetched up Brooklyn. Later he moved out west to California to work in the orange groves, but he ended up building movie sets. From there he moved into stunt choreography.

“Back then it was all silent films – most of these guys – the main actors - did their own stunts and most of them were tired of being kicked in the nuts all the time, but they couldn't get anyone higher up in the studio system to do anything about it.

“The real change in terms of safety came about after Mitch Landies lost a testicle. There's a story that after being rushed to hospital he was initially refused treatment on account of him being dressed as Kaiser Wilhelm. I don't know whether that's true or an embellishment.

“Anyway Manolov was the guy who sat down with a director called Sean Carsey and worked out a technique where it looked like someone had been kicked in the nuts, but nobody got hurt.

“That way of doing things became known as the Manolov Method. Some 'behind the scenes' guys get famous for creating state of the art special effects or, you know, for lighting or sound editing. For Gregor, his thing was faking blunt-force trauma to the testicles.

“In the late 1960s there was something called the Dorothy McFadden Method that you could use if you were going to kick a woman in the groin. I always thought that was more about feminism and equality than it was about opening up movies to scenes where women are kicked, uh, you know, in their female parts. Historically those kind of films never do well at the box office.

“Of course we're moved on since those days. Now it's the Vaughn-Cheney Five Point Plan, which is safer. More recently you might have your actor kicking at thin air in front of a green screen and then CGI the groin in later. That never looks realistic though.

“Sean Carsey went on to make Compassion of the Mummy. It's about a team of archaeologists in World War II, who unearth an Egyptian tomb and awaken an undead Pharaoh. Instead of tearing the archaeologists to pieces he follows them to a nearby military field hospital where he uses the bandages he was mummified in to treat the wounded soldiers. At the end of the film, just after he's used-up his last bandage, he's killed by enemy artillery. Not a dry eye in the house I swear. People don't remember that movie now, but it won 15 Oscars.

“Monolov had a good career but he never really got the credit he deserved. You know what? It's because being kicked in the nuts is considered lowbrow humour, so no-one likes to delve into the logistics. If anyone deserved a star on the Hollywood walk of fame it was him. He's the reason why no male actor for decades has hobbled off a movie set in search of an ice pack. But it's all politics and I guess maybe his Russian heritage and his staunch communism counted against him.

“I've had it easier. People know what I do and they respect my work. I've had actors name their children after me!”


Back on the movie set Eric Purdy crumples under Paul Yaste's pointed cowboy boot.

Lillian Purdy puts a hand over her mouth to stifle an involuntary gasp of shock and concern. A second later somebody yells “cut” and Eric springs to his feet.

Cherlin leans over and audibly whispers in Lillian's ear.

“If it's a boy you can call him Mikey.”

Tuesday, 27 May 2014

The Knights of Farage and the Enchanted Cave of Racism

The views included in the links below were voiced by various members (past and present) of the UKIP party. They do not reflect my own views. My opinion of UKIP is that they are a bunch of consummate wankers.

The Knights of Farage and the Enchanted Cave of Racism

Nigel Farage lived in a big white castle in the green and pleasant land of England. He was a powerful man who had many responsibilities in Europe, most of which he chose to ignore.

Aside from these minor differences that served to single him out from the hoi polloi, he was an ordinary bloke who you could easily imagine having a drink with down the pub. The walls of Nigel's castle were lined with portraits of him supping pint glasses of ale in public houses all across the United Kingdom of Great Britain.

The era that Nigel Farage lived in was a time of wonders:

In the north-west, a swollen, red-faced man called Nicholas had briefly risen to prominence by claiming to be the offspring of a griffin. Later it turned out that he was just an ordinary man. Every day he would find a child's birthday party where there was a face painter and ask to be made-up to look like a griffin. His crude deception gave rise to the expression “you sir are a painted griffin” to describe someone who pretends to be a griffin but who, in reality, is nothing of the sort.

Nigel Farage learned from the mistakes of the fraudulent man-griffin and wisely made no claims to be related to any kind of mythical chimera. Although, in a certain light, he resembled a tortoise who has joined a golf club, if he shared any common DNA with the tortoise species he chose not to reveal this to his subjects.

One day while returning from the pub Nigel Farage rediscovered a magical racist cave. The cave, which was spoken about in reverential tones by people whose hobby was racism, and also by professional racists, was thought to have been lost forever. The ancient writings inscribed on the walls had formed the basis of the scripts for many 1970s TV sitcoms. Some of these could no longer be broadcast on account of their stereotypical portrayal of minorities and women, which were considered by many to be deeply offensive and not terribly funny, although a lot of Nigel's friends couldn't see what all the fuss was about.

In the 1980s a gobby young knight called Ben Elton had bricked-up the entrance to the cave. Although at the time Sir Ben was feted for his actions, later a consensus formed that he too was a bit of a twat, albeit one of a different stripe.


Nigel found that spending time in the cave sapped his energy, for the walls were made from a type of quartz that hated minorities and had the power to make people tired and prone to making racist remarks.

Nonetheless he invited others members of his court to share in his discovery.

One of the Knights of Farage was a man called Sir Godfrey – a philosopher whose time was spent pondering the nature of the universe. He had once penned a treatise on how the wantonness of a woman could be determined by looking behind the fridge in her kitchen and gauging the level of filth.

It is in this scholarly work that we find the origin of the ribald expression: “I bet she hasn't cleaned behind her fridge in years.”

Etched into the walls of the cave, Sir Godfrey discovered a map of Bongo Bongo Land: A mysterious kingdom whose income was derived mainly from donations sourced from the immense treasure vaults that lie beneath the Bank of England. This treasure, Sir Godfrey suspected, was being used to used to shore-up the Parisian property market and bolster the sales of name-brand sunglasses.

He voyaged far and wide in his search for Bongo Bongo Land, vowing to return the English gold to home soil, but found no trace of it.


The ceiling of the enchanted cave was inhabited by a colony of xenophobic bats who did not regard themselves as prejudiced, but who disliked the idea of foreign species of bats moving into the adjacent caves. Their pungent guano carried a nauseating odour, however the bats had evolved a selective olfactory sense, rendering them unable to smell it. Nor did the vile stench seem to trouble Farage and his knights, who were either obvious to it, or secretly enjoyed it.


Branching off from the racist cave was an annex that had been formed over many millions of years from a blend of homophobic granites.

Another knight called David Sylvester studied the runes that had been chiselled into the bigotted igneous rock and concluded that homosexuality was a "spiritual disease". He claimed the floods that had inundated parts of the British Isles one Christmas were a sign that god was displeased by the legalisation of gay marriage and had become so angry that he had drowned a few random people and raised the insurance premiums of others. This was despite him solemnly promising in the Old Testament that he wouldn't pull that kind of stunt again, and then signing off his covenant with a rainbow, which is the godly equivalent of dotting your 'i's with hearts or smiley faces.

When the gay men and women of Great Britain learned of their ability to cause floods and other natural disasters they became instantly drunk on power and resolved to all marry on the same day. The resulting biblical deluge marooned Sir David atop the protruding hump of a submerged hillock where he has remained ever since, fighting off all attempts to bring him to safety, and dismissing his would-be rescuers as grasping immigrants out to steal his land from under him.

Court Physician, Dr Julia Gasper, also ventured into the dim recesses of the homophobic annex where she uncovered in the strata strong links between homosexuality and paedophilia, “so much evidence that even a full-length book could hardly do justice to the subject.” Luckily for Dr Gasper the magic homophobic cave was much larger than a book and so there was plenty of space to write about such things.

Upon attempting to return to the surface Dr Gasper was struck by the way the light from her lantern reflected on the wet racist quartz, causing tiny rainbows to appear that superficially resembled the gay pride flag. Unable to pass through this screen of rainbows, she instead chose to retreat back into the gloom where she remains to this day.


Veining the racist quartz and the homophobic granite were seams of misogynist pyrite, which had been used by the cave's early occupants to inlay crude drawings. It was one of these images – depicting a woman playing a game of chess with the personalisation of death, and losing after only a few moves – that led the Master of Coin, Sir Stuart Wheeler, to conclude that women were not very good at board and card games; certainly nowhere near as good as men.

Nigel Farage, who had also studied the pictograms, found that they gave him cause to wonder whether women could ever be the equal of men in a work environment.


Nobody could quite say why they had chosen to be ruled by a man who harboured such dubious beliefs; who had so many strangely-opinionated friends; and who was the caretaker of a cavern that had formed from racist quartz, homophobic granite, that was seamed with misogynist pyrite and home to a population of xenophobic bats.

It was as if they had fallen prey to a magic spell and in hindsight the only way they could justify their actions was to proffer the opinion that Farage seemed like a normal person who you could imagine sharing a drink with in the pub, so he must be alright, even though, they conceded, some pubs are full of complete arseholes.

And so it was that because of his amiable lunchtime drinking, Farage and his knights were asked to organise a piss-up in a Belgian brewery – a task they refused to play any part in, as they didn't like Europe or foreigners all that much.

Friday, 23 May 2014

The fate of four galaxies

The fate of four galaxies

(I posted a variant of this as a comment below an article about breakfast cereals that appeared on the New Statesman website. The spoilsports marked it as spam, so it's going here on my blog instead)

On the 21st March, 2011, 'Kibo,' the Japanese Experiment Module on the International Space Station took delivery of the Taneda Lab: A closed zero-G environment in which the contents of a 255g box of Rice Krispies (each puffed grain meticulously named and catalogued) were allowed circulate in a state of perpetual weightlessness. The purpose of the experiment was to increase human knowledge of the movement and behaviour of celestial bodies. The larger Rice Krispies assumed the identity of planetoids, while the ground-up dust at the bottom of the packet took on the role of space debris. The transition of every object within the artificial galaxy was mapped by a pair of computers that were also able to influence the environment by producing effects that mimicked the space weather being observed by the ISS and by other unmanned space probes and telescopes.

Through this research scientists have gained an improved understanding of galactic dominance where objects in a vacuum assume a pecking order based upon their size, their relative position, and the 'alliances' they make with neighbouring objects. The data has also been instrumental in developing a model of galactic sedimentation which describes how layers of matter arrange themselves within a star system.

Experiment supervisor, Himura Ko, remembers the arrival of the lab:

“It costs a small fortune to send Rice Krispies into space. I was under strict orders not to let my colleagues eat a single one of them.”

Each cycle of the Taneda chamber lasts approximately nine months after which the equipment must be scrupulously cleaned - a process that usually takes 40 days. The lab is currently hosting its fourth galaxy (Tōrō nagashi). At the time of writing there are tentative plans to release it into space at the conclusion of the simulation, if it is thought that this can be done safely.

TN's three predecessors have all been boxed up and returned safely to earth. Of these only one survives:

The first (prosaically named 'Galaxy One') was sold last year at a charity breakfast in Tokyo, where it was consumed with milk by the winning bidder and their guests.

The second (Aomori - so called because the Rice Krispies were treated with a protein harvested from phosphorescent algae which caused it glow bright blue) continues to be the focus of study on earth. Himura hopes to eventually turn it into a reading lamp  for his daughter.

The third (Shomyo-daki - named after the cereal formed itself into a pair of cascading spirals meeting near the bottom of the chamber where they formed a v-shape) was intended for display at The Japanese Museum of Space in Osaka, but was eaten by vermin.

It was like the conclusion of an ancient mythological saga where the world is consumed a giant mouse,” recalls Himura. “It sounds ridiculous but who's to say that our universe isn't made up of somebody's breakfast cereal floating around in a lab somewhere?”

Sunday, 18 May 2014

DWP admits: “Outsourcing Universal Credit to Alpha Centauri may delay payments”

DWP admits: “Outsourcing Universal Credit to Alpha Centauri may delay payments”

With the first payments on the government's Universal Credit system expected to reach earth from Alpha Centauri sometime during the year 167014 AD, the Department of Work and Pensions has admitted that welfare claimants may experience delays in receiving their benefits.

A spokesperson for the department said:

“Despite some early teething problems, outsourcing the Universal Credit scheme to a race of salivating, tentacled monsters, who inhabit the Alpha Centauri star system, continues to represent good value for the hard-working British taxpayer and Gary Barlow.”

They added:

“We advise anyone who experiences benefit delays that food banks, payday loan companies and pub fruit machines can all help to bridge the gap between payments. We strongly recommended all those who are affected to treat the experience of not being able to pay for food or rent as an exercise in self-improvement that will help you to win the job of your dreams.”

A senior manager for the DWP was quick to highlight the “across the board” praise the decision to outsource Universal Credit off-world had received from jobseekers:

“We have been inundated with thank you cards from the unemployed, all expressing their heartfelt gratitude to us for handing their future over to a race of warmongering, intergalactic bastards, whose language contains no word for 'compassion,' but 23 words that describe the way in which a skull crumples under blunt force trauma.”

Critics of the government's increased reliance on bloodthirsty alien civilisations to run elements of the UK's welfare program have cited conflicts of interest. A spokesperson for the Citizens Advice Bureau said:

“The boldly-stated intention of the Alpha Centaurians has always been to enfeeble the human race, prior to establishing a military outpost on Mars and launching a planet-wide invasion of Earth. Clearly giving them the power to withhold or delay unemployment benefits plays into their long-term strategy for our solar system.”

These fears appeared to be confirmed yesterday in a statement issued by Alpha Centauri High Command from their embassy in London, Islington:

“Our inevitable conquest of the planet you call Earth will result in the slavery and genocide of your puny species on an unprecedented scale. However we would like to assure UK jobseekers that our thrice-daily regime of rigorous anal probing and back-breaking labour will be significantly less intrusive, humiliating and degrading than their current cycle of visits to the Job Centre, fitness for work interviews, workfare placements, and mandatory zero-hour contacts.”

Response to the news from the unemployed has been mixed, with one claimant observing that Universal Credit has the same initials as Ulcerative Colitis, and pondering which might end up being the bigger pain in the arse.

Another jobseeker who was asked whether a delay in welfare payments might lead him to solicit help from a food bank, said: “It probably won't affect me. I've just been mandated to attend an A4e course called 'Blue Sky Drinking.' Apparently they are going to teach me how to use the power of positive thought to absorb all the nutrients I need from the air.”

Saturday, 17 May 2014

What made Crazy Golf go crazy?

© Copyright Julieanne Savage and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence.
In my role as an accredited 'Golf Course Whisperer' with over 20 years experience, one question that I am constantly being asked by my parents is: “When are you going to move out of our house, settle down with a nice girl and give us grandchildren?”

I suppose when you break that down it's actually three questions, but they always phrase it like it's one, and they always wear the same plaintive expression when they ask it. My mother likes to supplement this with an air of concern and desperation that she otherwise reserves for the interventions they periodically stage on my behalf.

I long ago came to terms with the fact that my higher spiritual calling will forever remain at odds with my parent's conventional notions of a secure middle-management position in a recognised industry, a stable relationship and a double-figure bank account. The vocation of Golf Course Whisperer is a solitary one, akin perhaps to that of a shaman who must exist on the fringes of the community he ministers.

My working week consists of a daily white-knuckle commute to-and-from the astral realm, bolstered by fistfuls of organically-grown, sun-dried psilocybin* which I supplement with other, synthesised compounds that have been bulked out with varying quantities of powdered detergent. I obtain the latter from a bloke called Dave who owns three Rottweilers and typically greets me from behind a reinforced door on those occasions when I visit his 12th floor flat on the flagrantly lawless 'Pleasant Oaks' housing estate.


Once a person has set foot on the mystical life-path of the Golf Course Whisperer no two days are the same, although I will admit that there are certain broad similarities: Generally my work will bring me into contact with a golf course of some description, however it may not be the same one as yesterday, or the day after.

You might encounter me one morning, striking naked yogic poses on the ninth hole at Royal Birkdale, at the mercy of a small crowd of troll-like elderly men, whose ear, nose, and eyebrow hair is in open rebellion, and who threaten and heckle me from a safe distance while they await the arrival of security.

Another day will find me freshly bailed-out of jail by an old school friend who, during the long drive home, will wearily inform me that this is absolutely the last time, while in the back seat, their wife or long-term girlfriend glowers at me in the rear-view mirror.

The time may come when you will see me from a distance – a hazy silhouette, a few shades darker than the dawn mist - licking a putting green in a spiral pattern from the edge to the centre.

The following day you may read in the local paper of my hospitalisation with suspected chemical fertiliser poisoning.

The itinerant life of the Golf Course Whisperer is physically and mentally demanding, accomodating few of the modern comforts that we mostly take for granted. When I told the careers advisor at my school of my intention to follow this path, he suggested instead a career as a pop star or an astronaut as more realistic alternatives.

Despite his counselling I chose to remain true to my calling: A man or woman who finds themselves gifted with the one-in-a-million ability to communicate with golf courses must graciously accept the heavy mantle of responsibility that has been laid upon his or her shoulders and should not be seen to buckle under its weight.


Golf courses are the thoroughbreds of manual landscaping - aberrations of a natural world that has been warped according to the fastidious desires of men and women with questionable fashion nous and a misplaced sense of self-entitlement that seems to exist in equal proportion to their material wealth. Is it any wonder that these shotgun alliances of manicured greens, rough-fringed fairways, arid sand traps and brackish water hazards are so prone to the mind-bent throes of lunacy?

The word 'madness' is a frowned-upon expression in this era of heightened political correctness and slavering Twitter hate mobs, however I find it an apt description of the turmoil that festers beneath turf of the average golf course, which, when left unchecked, will blossom into ever more extreme manifestations of mania and depression:

A Native American legend passed down orally from generation to generation speaks of a bunker on the 11th hole of Nopah Golf Course in the US that fell victim to insanity and began to expand, first covering an adjacent putting green, then a fairway, until finally it engulfed the entire course and the surrounding environs. Today this barren wasteland - the natural habitat of rattlesnakes and coyotes - is more commonly known as the Mojave desert.

In northern France a megalomaniac pond flooded a golf course transforming it into a wetland preserve for endangered wildfowl, ubiquitous colonies of newts and no less than three species of endangered frogs, each one more obnoxiously loud than the last.

In February 2013, a golf course occupying the English hamlet of Lower Knotly declared itself a work of art and claimed squatter's rights on the top floor of the Tate Modern on London's south bank. Following its court-mandated eviction it moved in with the model, Kate Moss and now has her name tattooed in a scrolling banner across one of its heart-shaped greens.

The examples I have mentioned above all represent extreme cases. By far the most common manifestation of madness in golf courses is a regression to infantilism:

Golf courses who retreat to the safety of childhood will shrink down to a fraction of their original size. Their crudely executed fairways are typically strewn with discarded toys - windmills are popular, as are waterwheels and faux Aztec temples. Outbuildings will be limited to a small shack where players can rent putters and balls, and maybe also purchase a Calippo that has been allowed to partially thaw and then refreeze over and around its crumpled tubular packaging.

One should never lose sight of the fact that these so-called 'Crazy Golf Courses' (as they have been branded in psychological journals) were once mature 18-holers. They had their own driving ranges. Their club houses played host to social functions, such as wedding receptions and 70s-themed quiz nights. They had trophy cabinets and some manner of large oak plaque where the names of former captains were recorded chronologically in gold lettering.

Although drug treatments do exist I advocate a program of rehabilitation based around the recovery of lost self-esteem. My aim is to re-instil within a crazy golf course the confidence to host an international tournament such as the Ryder Cup, or the Rider Cup where the players must execute golfing manoeuvres while on horseback.

Towards this end I try to appeal to my patient's concept of play: A novelty windmill whose sails perform no useful function, apart from perhaps preventing a ball from passing underneath, can be fitted with the mechanism that allows it to grind flour, which can be turned into bread by a local bakery. This new sense of purpose can help to foster within the golf course a sense of belonging to the local community

Etching hieroglyphics onto the sheer sides of a wooden obelisk can transform it from an inconvenient obstacle to a place of religious significance for those who worship the ancient Egyptian god Thoth, nurturing any unfulfilled spiritual yearnings that a golf course might have.

Fostering a sense of adult responsibility is vital to recovery: Recently I sabotaged the famous lighthouse at Branscombe Cove, leaving the smaller lighthouse on the 6th hole of the crazy golf course, in the nearby village of Buttonmoat, solely responsible for diverting container shipping away from the jagged rocks that line the narrow deepwater channel.

I have also campaigned vigorously against those practices that exacerbate mental illnesses in golf courses. To wit, an absurd law dating back to the late 1800s that requires all crazy golf putters to be forged from melted down murder weapons and cooled in vats of human blood.

Not all golf courses can be rehabilitated. The Yorkshire Dales National Park is made up of a patchwork of courses who have been allowed to return to a feral state. These are culled annually to remove any sick or weak specimens and ensure that their numbers do not increase to a point where they begin to encroach upon human settlements. Recent attacks on ramblers during the golf course mating season may lead to more draconian population control measures being introduced.


My parents will never accept or understand my chosen career, but I hope that anyone who has read this far will recognise the value of what I do.

* I firmly believe that I have discovered a loophole in the current UK drug legislation that negates the class A status of psychedelic mushrooms if they are consumed doused in milk, at which point they can be re-classified as a breakfast cereal and eaten within full view of the police, theoretically with zero negative consequences.

There are officers within my local constabulary who strongly disagree with me on this point and there is an impending court case that will clarify the situation, hopefully in my favour. These same police officers remain equally dismissive of my assertion that heroin is not illegal if it is used as a seasoning in cooking.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The London Links

Below is a short list of links to stories that I have written for the Smoke: A London Peculiar website:

Documenting the slow, sad decline of London's indigenous equine population.

Life on one of London's tidal streets.

Exploring the deep connection between the humble fennel bulb and South London, as seen through the eyes of an allotment owner, a sexually frustrated private schoolboy, and an amateur boxer.

The dreams of a dying girl intermingle with the subterranean journey of London's oldest lost river.