‘The Spanish Legions!’ tinkled the pieces…

But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s financial forecast is for bankers to invent a handy pocket-sized coin worth one billion dollars to make their day-to-day lives a bit more manageable.
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DSCN3441It’s strange… it’s weird… and it’s eerie… Yes dear reader, it’s another 1960s British pulp ‘Supernatural Special’ paperback – a Badger Book from my modest collection. As you see it is called Legion of the Lost and is by someone called Pel Torro – what a great name! Pel Torro is of course one of the many pen names of Robert Lionel Fanthorpe the writer of most of the Badger supernatural and science fiction output.
I wonder what the blurb on the back cover has to tell us?
‘Servius had always been a faithful servant of the goddess Diana…
…a vision of Diana made him a strange promise. He would die, yet he would not die. He would live, and yet he would not live. When he found himself he would be lost, and when he was lost he would be found…
Servius closed his eyes on the shores of Lake Nemi and opened them again in a strange, frightening world where chariots ran without horses and where men flew inside iron birds…’ Gosh, doesn’t it sound great?…
Perhaps we should flip the book over again and have a good look at the front cover?
Well, this is all a bit easy, that must be the vision of the great goddess Diana, and relaxing on the deck that must be good old Servius. I notice that this cover painting is by the usual Badger cover artist Henry Fox (signed bottom left) and that he must have been especially pleased with this one as he has given his signature an extra long flourish, or perhaps he was just pleased to get another one of the bloody things done and off his easel and to look forward to the cheque in the post…  Well, Diana certainly has a god-like glow hasn’t she? Look at those eyes, Fox is great at doing eyes; see how her forehead is a little frown-furrowed too – is she feeling some pity for the poor puzzled mortal lolling on the sand in front of her? Oh, and doesn’t she have nice hair? I wonder where she gets it done – I expect she has a couple of cherubs brushing it for her all day long. I like the way our Servius is holding one hand up and hesitantly pointing – he probably saying, ‘Now, hang on a minute Diana… what’s all this nonsense you are telling me about iron birds?…’ He’s a good-looking lad though isn’t he? Look at that chin, is that what you’d call a lantern jaw?… I expect he models himself on Victor Maturehe was always good value in those old ‘swords and sandals’ epics – he was great at sweaty suffering…
Shall we crack open these brown crusty pages and find some interesting pieces of text to give us a feel of the writing style dear reader?
‘The hatred and unpopularity had been welling up, had been swelling, had been growing, had been vibrating, had been pulsating, had been resonating with a deadly, sinister life of its own, as though the hatred itself was going to destroy Nero…’
And:
‘He ran from room to room, but a thousand mocking whispers followed him. Every thudding footstep seemed to say ‘Galba!’ ‘Galba!’ He seized a beautiful ornamental vase of exquisite workmanship and smashed it to the floor, as he heard the crash ‘Galbaaaaaa’ shuddered back from every echoing corner.’The Spanish Legions!’ tinkled the pieces, ‘the Spanish Legions!’…’
And:
‘The general of the legion, the officers and the centurions looked coldly at the palsied, hysterical hulk, the mountain of diseased, voluptuous flesh with the staring eyes from which fear now looked out, like a living thing…’

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Crush and Monty in Dulltown…

But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s weather will feature aerial slabs of sticky lard with a backdrop of white spotted azure sheets hanging out to dry – in the afternoon there may be spatters of heavenly bullets towards the coast.
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Well she did say that they might be coming – Veronica and Monty that is. Yes, Veronica Crush, writer from the glory days of the Hull Surrealist League, now based in New York with her partner tall tree surgeon and heir to a multimillion dollar fortune, Monty Tick.
They were pausing in Dulltown on their way to Amsterdam where Veronica was to give an interactive (waterproof clothing will be worn and eggs and rotten fruit will be freely thrown) public reading of her poetry and prose. She thought that Monty might like to have a look at her home city as they were passing through – apparently he wasn’t very impressed with the view from the hotel window and refused to be moved from the sofa, the mini-bar, and the TV.
I received all this information from my friend Stella, whom you may know from my occasional blog posts where I pass on the pithy comments that she makes on my drawings.
Veronica decided that in order to do a bit of nostalgia wallowing and revisit the ‘good’ old days she would gather together the surviving members of the Hull Surrealist League, Simon Doom, Tony Mayonnaise, et al, hire a room in Dulltown’s poshest restaurant, and treat them all to a slap-up meal – a surrealist banquet.
It true H.S.L. style it was a ‘themed’ evening, mixing music, surrealism, costumes, and plenty of free booze (paid for by Monty, who did manage to attend).
Veronica hired some musicians, a zither player, a trombonist, a xylophonist, and a banjo player. They were all made to wear ear muffs so that they couldn’t hear what they, or their companions were playing, and they were each instructed to play only their own favourite tune, and to repeat it for the duration of the event. Stella says that the music was ‘marvellous’ and was also ‘a terrible row’. The food served had a musical theme too, she gave me a copy of the menu, and said that she was sure that I would have enjoyed the night, had I been invited. Apparently even Doom and Mayo’ were surprisingly well-behaved and there was only one bloody nose fist fight all night.

Menu:

Crotchet and minim soup with grated arpeggios.
Intermittent bright brass stabs.
Golden trout trumpets with poppadoms.
Whole roast scherzo (wet pizzicato interludes).
Mixolydian mode synth-gush on dry staves.
Hot steaming sprouts on hickory drumsticks.
Sugared Bieber bean surprise.
Milky Schubert meringue.
Jumping red Firebird delight.
Strauss mousse with broken Beefheart drum fills.
Barbecued Glass on a spit basted with honeyed Brahms.

Nuts, dotted quavers, assorted minor intervals, and as many glissandi as you can get down.

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A short Guide to Great Britain (5)…

But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s unusual pencil sharpener is the one shaped like a gorilla.
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Here’s that little gem of a junk shop book again – a short guide to Britain and its culture handed out to the American troops who came over here in 1942 to give us a hand to sort out A. Hitler and his bunch of thugs.

DSCN3749Today we shall have a look at page nine.

Government:
Although you’ll read in the papers about ‘lords’ and ‘sirs’, England is still one of the great democracies and the cradle of many American liberties. Personal rule by the King has been dead in England for nearly a thousand years. Today the King reigns, but does not govern. The British people have great affection for their monarch, but they have stripped him of practically all political power. It is well to remember this in your comings and goings about England. Be careful not criticize the King. The British feel about that the way you would feel if anyone spoke against our country or our flag. Today’s King and Queen stuck with the people through the blitzes and had their home bombed just like anyone else, and the people are proud of them.

Britain the cradle of democracy:
Today the old power of the King has been shifted to Parliament, the Prime Minister and his Cabinet. The British Parliament has been called the mother of parliaments, because almost all the representative bodies in the world have been copied from it.
It is made up of two houses, the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The House of Commons is the most powerful group and is elected by all adult man and women in the country, much like our Congress. Today the House of Lords can do little more than add its approval to laws passed by the House of Commons. Many of the ‘titles’ held by the lords (such as ‘baron’ and ‘duke’ and ‘earl’) have been passed from father to son for hundreds of years. Others are granted in reward for outstanding achievement, much as American colleges and universities give honorary degrees to famous men and women. These customs may seem strange and old-fashioned but they give the British the same feeling of security and comfort that many of us get from the familiar ritual of a church service.
The important thing to remember is that within this apparently old-fashioned framework the British enjoy a practical, working twentieth century democracy which is in some ways even more flexible and sensitive to the will of the people than our own.

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This small law-abiding town was suddenly shocked by…

But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s demure and undemanding fruit is the clementine.
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‘The peace and quiet of the small town of —— in the picturesque vacation state of —— was shaken by the horrible discovery of…’
Yes, the television has been so bad recently that I have taken to watching a few of those US ‘true-life’ ‘real’ police/forensic investigation detective shows. They all seem to begin like the above, and go on to describe some ghastly grisly crime and of course its ultimate satisfying conclusion with bad people going to jail. It really is quite uplifting to see science triumph over the ‘evil-doer’, especially as you don’t need to pay that much attention to what’s going on; you can loll on your settee and twang your guitar at the same time, just pausing for a bar or two for the more interesting scientific bits. The producers do like to revel in the violence a bit though – slow motion shootings, and stabbings, and beatings, and drownings, with sound effects, and music, repeated as many times as possible through the length of the show – I twang more though those bits…
Watching these one can easily come to the conclusion that the US must be packed full of people plotting to kill each other in inventive and bloody ways. Of course the unsettling thing is that these shows, as well as being gripping and deliberately upsetting entertainment, are also useful instruction courses for criminals on how to avoid being caught – I’ll bet these series are very popular with the inmates of prisons:
‘Damn Billy-Ray, if only I’d wiped off that little bit of blood spatter on the kitchen wall!… Damn!…’
‘Yeh, Earl-Bob, I was caught by the tiny amount of DNA in my chewing tobacco spittle on the stoop… Damn! If only I’d taken a handkerchief…’
Some of the parts in these re-enactments are played by actors, usually the victims and the perps who are not available for filming for obvious reasons, but the cops and forensic people play themselves – it’s really great to see non-actors acting! The detectives and FBI agents come over as a bit slab-faced and don’t move their mouths much as they speak. They also don’t seem to blink very often, oh, and they all have beady scary eyes – I suppose they would have, having viewed such awful things all their working lives. Oh, and a lot of them have weight issues – all that coffee and doughnuts I suppose…
I know it’s silly, but I started to notice that the cops, lawyers, CSI people, and general public featured in these things often have interesting and unusual names. Perhaps in the US these names are not that unusual, but here in the UK I think they are. I jotted a few of the nice ones down over last few weeks:

Farah Plopper
Phil Trexler
Vince Felber
Roger Wedgeworth
Stewart Mosher
Neri Yclan
Craig Kapitan
David Messmore
Robert Erspammer
Mark Stodghill
Lenny Bandy
Jennifer Bloink

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Some song lyrics misheard over the cafe hubbub…

But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s existential angst is centred around the sound of the word ‘mulch’. (M)
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‘Girl, I spat on a Sunday…’
‘Love colours know weeping.’
‘Oh, one moment, melt me goo…’
‘Baby, slide to me-ee.’
‘Now me, now me, witty keep me-ee…’
‘Coo-oo-oo, mm-mm-mm…’
‘You bedda be-ee, you bedda be-ee.’
‘Gotta be whoo, see me count down!’
‘Beat in de-oh, dipco-coo!’
‘Your palms – all-out rage girl.’
‘Blay blay, in your trapdoor…’
‘So what did I yeah?’
‘I don’t want poultry.’
‘Abbaloo day-glo woman…’
‘Here I am, here I am, here I am…’
‘All over the up bubba!’
‘Oh, oh, it’s on a three-ee…’
‘Situation round, turn and found me.’
‘Time and nowt and strong no…’
‘Nuthin’ mo to say-yay…’
‘Two-whoo-whoo ah-ah…’
‘Keelong time and taste the day Babe.’
‘Hap-stay, hap-stay…’
‘Gordon toffee on his car…’
‘Oh, never the feel shoe-oo…’

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Shoebox resurrection…

But fist…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s carefully selected adjectives are: fruity, decasyllabic, premosaic, argumentative, soapy, and snug.
I think ‘decasyllabic’ is my favourite – I must try to slip it into conversation this afternoon.
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After recently telling you about my days at art school and describing the making of my ‘Existence Meter‘ I realised that some of the stuff I did back at college wasn’t really that bad after all – I had been a little bit embarrassed by it and had tried to forget it all, and I somehow managed to persuade myself that I’d never actually done such silly things…
I don’t know what happened to the ‘Existence Meter’, it was a pretty useless thing and it probably was thrown out, but one other ‘box-like’ work of mine did survive.
It is about the size and shape of a shoebox, well maybe a shoebox for a very large person’s shoes. It is made from 1/4″ thick aluminium (‘aluminum’ for my US readers) it has rounded corners and is featureless and is stove enamelled glossy white; however it has become rather distressed and scuffed over the years it’s been kicking around the place; it looks like it has been ‘well used’ – that’s a silly phrase, it’s an art work, art works don’t get ‘used’ at all.
Back then in college days it was never quite finished, I wasn’t really sure what it was going to be, perhaps a piece of minimal sculpture, a glowing well-proportioned supine slab of white displayed in some austere posh gallery, in New York perhaps? Fat chance Dave!…
Anyway, after thinking about my ‘Existence Meter’ and reappraising my early work, I decided to do something with the ‘white block’ – yes, to finish this piece of work!
So, what should I do with it? The ‘minimal sculpture’ wouldn’t really work any more as it was looking a bit too tatty, so I considered making it into another version of the ‘Existence Box’, a replacement for the lost one. I bought LED lights and a buzzer for it, but it didn’t really work – modern buzzers are high-pitched, unpleasant, and scream and warble like someone is trying to break into your car; old buzzers sounded ‘warmer’ and actually ‘buzzed’ rather nicely, almost like a box of bees. Also you don’t seem to be able to buy old-style meters with moving needles on them, everything is digital display now.
I decided that the shoebox-shaped thing should now stand on its end, upright like a little white monolith, rather than it looking like a crisply cut slab of ice, or a stylish, very expensive, but knobless, hi-fi amplifier. After a few days of thinking about and experimenting with coloured lights, buzzers, bunches of red and pink plastic roses, loudspeakers, clever knocking devices, etc., and sweating over how it could be transformed into a new, interesting, and stimulating piece of work… nothing occurred to me… and I more or less decided that I should really dump the thing and forget it…
However, lying in bed the following morning, the solution popped into my head, fully formed and complete with title. No lights, buzzers and things – I would just cut out (buy new metal-cutting jigsaw blades!) a jagged hole in the front, like a nicely smashed window, paint the inside matt black, mount it on a stepped black plinth to give an idea of scale, as if it is a model of something ten or more metres high, and glue some triangular shards of metal from the ‘broken window’ scattered on the plinth in front of it… (Just a thought – it might be rather nice if it gave out a low-pitched hum too?) The title would be ‘Black-Body Radiation’ – it always sounds clever to throw in a bit of physics!… (B.B.R.)

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I think I’ll call this one ‘Style’…

But first…
Dulltown, Europe: Today’s joke is the one about all of the members of the British Parliament’s House of Lords being asleep in their seats at the same time.
Oh, how we chuckled quietly in the corridors of power…
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EPSON scanner imageYes, here’s another picture from my days of old-style black and white 35mm film and darkroom photography; this one was probably taken in the early 1980s.
As you can see ladies, the ‘salon’ entrance is on the left – look, there is a gap to squeeze in just behind the vegetables, just follow the black arrow painted on the door…
Oh, it’s so easy to mock isn’t it? But, no, really I think it looks great! It looks ‘homely’ and very much in the style of this city. What a warm and interesting place Dulltown is! I love it!…
I remember spotting and being drawn to this combined salon and fruit & veg shop as a possible subject for a picture, and was standing considering taking a shot, when the lady in the crash helmet turned up… Click!…
I wonder if she had arrived on a motorcycle, or whether she thought that her hair looked so bad that she’d borrowed her son’s helmet to hide it on her way to get it sorted out at the ‘In Style Salon’… Actually I think she was really only there to buy a swede, or a perhaps a cabbage…

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