The following is based on an old poem, probably anonymous. Some have attempted to expand it, and details have been changed. Even the name of the danger-prone female has sometimes changed. A recent version on the internet names her Mrs. Ravoon. I believe I saw the original where she was Mrs. Gaboon. Below is my version, and I have retained stanza 3 from the internet version, with a very minor change.

I woke with a start, and leapt from my bed.
A dreadful low moan, and some words were said.
For there at the window - like a malevolent prune,
Was the ghastly visage of Mrs. Gaboon.

At the edge of the forest, a long way off,
A pale figure beckoned, towards the horse trough.
And there, by the light of the gibbous moon
Swam the waterlogged corpse of Mrs. Gaboon.

I entered the drug store, to get me some balm.
I aimed to ensure I would come to no harm.
There, surrounded by pills, and clutching a spoon,
Sat the rigid blue figure of Mrs. Gaboon.

I stood by the canal, so green and so thick.
And I stirred the scum with my old withered stick.
When there rose through the ooze, like a monstrous balloon
The bloated cadaver of Mrs. Gaboon

Thirsty and tired I repaired to "The Hen".
Where would I encounter that woman again?
Yet there in a corner, atop the spittoon
Sat the clean-severed head of Mrs. Gaboon.

Homewards I raced, to my comforting bed.
Sleep, the great healer, or so it is said.
But there, in the sheets, I perceived quite soon,
Lay the decomposed parts of Mrs. Gaboon.

A True Story of Childhood
When I was growing up in a village in the English Midlands I was highly amused to note that three tradesman living in, and working from, adjacent houses were named Flint, Twist, and Cashmore. Several hundred yards down the same road Mr. Profitt ran his butcher's shop. Whether the personalities of the former three reflected their names I have no idea, but Mr. Profitt was a most likeable fellow who did the best for his customers in the hard days during and after the war. But it was such a pity that he didn't see fit to move!

Marmite Madness?
For 40 years I have lived in a long, low, block of flats (apartments) in North London. In front of the whole block runs an attractive and venerable hedge, probably Bushy Honeysuckle (Lonicera Nitida). It is some four feet high and regularly trimmed by the gardeners. We are very proud of our hedge. If someone had told me when I first arrived that, 40 years hence, I would be smearing Marmite (a sticky brown sandwich spread based on yeast) along the whole length of the hedge, I would have been sure that I was destined to become certifiably insane!

In fact, there was a perfectly rational reason for this performance. If anyone can correctly deduce what this reason might have been they will get an honorable mention, but no prize! Send an E-mail if you think you know the answer.

Plate Tectonics
An American lady friend, waxing geological on the telephone, killed me by remarking that she "Loved plate tectonics". But I know how she feels. The trouble is that they are so very loveable. I am sure they do me no good, but I just can't kick the habit.

Woody's Ghost
As a hard-bitten scientist I am no supporter of the occult, nor of ghosts in particular. Nevertheless, I cannot explain certain things that occurred after my cat died.

Playing in a Croquet tournament in 1979 I, each day, passed a tabby cat who had taken up residence in our hedge. Clearly she was a lucky cat because that was one of the few tournaments I won. The cat, always covered in twigs, was clearly a stray. So I adopted her and named her 'Woody'.

No one could have asked for a more friendly and intelligent pet than Woody. She lived with me for four happy years then, one day when I was out, she was savaged by a dog. Despite veterinary care she died of her injuries three days later under my bed. I was heartbroken.

That night I went to bed without the usual 'Goodnight' visit, and without the warm bundle nestling against my feet. Then, around 5-00 am. I felt Woody jump on the bed, and walk up my body with stiffened paws to maximise the 'wake-up' effect. This seemed quite normal when breakfast was due, though this was somewhat early. In a second or two, I realised that it was far from normal, sat up, felt the recoil as she jumped off the bed, and heard the rattling and squeaking of my loose floorboards as she raced to the kitchen. So realistic were these sensations that I got up and searched the flat.

This happened the next night, then the next, and I rationalised it as something I had been, as it were, programmed to expect. I no longer searched the flat of course, but on the third night I heard angry voices on the stairs outside. Then a loud knock on the front door. It was the residents who lived below me. "Look - enough is enough - will you kindly stop trundling your damned Croquet balls around at night."

An Announcement
Great news that the new emendation of the classic 'English As She Is Spoke' is to be edited by that master of pithy pleonasm and oxymoronic obfuscation, Lieutenant St. John Chalmondeley-Featherstonehaugh, author of the British army training manual 'Parts We Have Not Got'. The new work will become an essential item in the baggage of every Kurdish immigrant and American tourist. It will even teach them how to pronounce the editor's name.

Branch Account
I approached the native with caution and a little trepidation. He crouched behind a sort of barricade and clearly expected me. His face was framed by a window which I took to serve some protective purpose. Beneath the window there was a small slot - the only access, barring a considerable detour, to his person. His clothing hung from a skeletal frame in that manner so characteristic of one who takes little or no exercise. He wore a confident sneer and his fingers twitched acquisitively. I spoke.

"I believe that in this region there are natural deposits." "Do you have an account?" he asked, leaning forward so that I could peer further into the collar surrounding his scrawny neck. I considered - 'Account', what might that be? Something to do with giving a good account of myself, perhaps. I did not consider that he, himself, would cause me any trouble should the encounter turn hostile. On the other hand, he was not alone.

Leaning my spade against the barricade I spread my hands and replied "I have come unarmed and in peace."

"Have you opened an account here?" he snapped. "No," I replied, "but you could well be the first." I went on, "Please answer my question."

"It wasn't a question. You said that you 'believed' something or other." His manner irked me but I responded "Very well, let me put it this way. Is it true that there are deposits here?"

He gazed at me with eyes narrowed and said, slowly, "Yes. It is true that there are deposits here." He paused, then said loudly and with exaggerated emphasis, "Other people's."

"What - you mean that I am not the first in this region". "No - you are not the first, nor will you be the last." Then quietly muttered, "Unfortunately."

"Well - if you would be so kind as to let me pass I shall look for myself. There may be some deposits unworked. Even undiscovered." "Out of the question - out of the question," he shrilled, his face flushing from a dough grey to a sickly yellow. He continued, "Look, I don't know who you are, what you want, or where you are from, but we don't seem to be speaking the same language."

"You do not need to know who I am," I riposted "But I will tell you that I come from Stoke Newington, so it is hardly surprising that we do not speak the same language. Now let me pass." We glared at each other across the barricade, and I picked up my spade.

There was no doubt, now, that the natives were hostile. Others were converging on us, though all, I noted, on his side of the barrier. In the background a dull and irregular thumping assailed my ears. "Ha - so the war drums have started have they?", I asked rhetorically. "Rubber stamps," came the reply. "Does he indeed?" I said with all the confidence I could muster. It was all clearly intended to intimidate me!

One of the natives spoke. "Perhaps he should see the manager." His tone was authoritative and the others nodded approval. I thought 'manager'? The chief maybe. The speaker disappeared for a moment then, suddenly, was by my side. I took a firm grip of the spade. "Please follow me," he said.

I complied. It would, in any case, have been difficult to scale the barricade, and there were now at least five of the natives facing me across it. I was led past a sign which read 'EXECUTOR DEPARTMENT'. One had heard grim stories of these, but I resolved to betray no fear.

The manager was even more cadaverous than the first native and his clothes were painted in aggressive vertical stripes which extended right down his stick-like legs. "Leave your shovel by the door, Mr. Err..". I ignored his directive and put it down close by where it would be handy.

"Ahh, whom do I have the pleasure of meeting?" he asked. "How should I know? You had better ask your fellow tribesmen." "Well - ahh. What can I do for you, Mr. Err..?" I came straight to the point. "I believe there are lodes in this region. All I ask is to be allowed to conduct my own search." Then, remembering what the first native had said, added "I shall not interfere with other people's deposits, nor with your tribespeople."

The manager looked at me with a hint of suspicion. Slowly he asked, "Who, ahh, recommended you, ahh, to come here?" "No one! If anyone had mentioned this place at all I would have kept well clear. People only 'recommend' worked-out deposits. I wasn't born yesterday!"

The manager sat down and put his head in his hands. After a while he looked up and said "I think I understand your problem. You don't have an account here and wish to open one. But perhaps you are embarrassed to ask because you would like an immediate overdraft. Am I right?"

So it had come to this. The portent of his words was all too plain. I could 'open the account', in which case I might have a chance of fighting my way out. But, if I failed, I would be forced to take poison. Springing to my feet I picked up my spade and said, "If I am to die it will NOT be by my own hand. So let us open this account right away."

To my amazement the manager made no attempt to rise from his seat and, grinning toothily, started to rub his hands together. "Excellent, Mr. Err.. How much would you like to pay in?"

I had expected him to call for assistance at the very least. What had he said? How much did I want to pay? So that was it. Plainly, robbery was the ultimate objective of this entire set up, and afterwards I would be forced to take that overdraught. I swung the spade. It struck the side of the manager's head with a resonant 'Bong'. Half rising, he staggered crab-wise for a few steps, and gasping "Foreclosed", collapsed into a debenture bush.

With a pounding heart I strode past the barricade - mustn't run. With luck they wouldn't notice their unconscious manager for a few minutes - time enough, perhaps, to get clear. I unhitched the mules, thrust my spade into a pack, and set off across the desert at a brisk trot. After a short while I glanced back.

There were no pursuing natives. Just a large sign hanging from a branch. It read 'EARLY CLOSING'.

An extract from my forthcoming novel:
"With a shrug of the shoulders, the wink of an eye, the flash of a thigh, and a wiggle of the hips - a wave of the hand, a nod of the head, a pursing of the lips, and a snap of the fingers - a heave of the chest, a gnash of the teeth, a stamp of the foot, and a click of the heels - a twitch of the nose, and a curl of the toes, Millicent Mincemaster clambered into the back of the van, escorted on both sides by the men in white coats."

On a scrap of paper found near the Natural History Museum
....provisionally assigned....
the taxonomic classification Yobopithecus Baseballcapii, and are frequently observed in urban areas. Specimens have been reported throughout northern latitudes and on both sides of the Atlantic. They are easily identified by the cloth-like appendage covering the head, and which appears to serve a function similar to that of the prominent brow ridges common in early hominids. A small hemispherical part covers the vestigial brain case, and in some instances is so small that it has disappeared altogether, the anterior 'peak' being held in place only by a strap passing round the back of the head.

Communication between members of the species seems to present difficulties. Speech, if it can be described as such, is monosyllabic though exceptions have been reported. Indeed Professor Harker-Tonks states that one of the creatures has even been heard to utter the word 'hamburger' - a useful evolutionary adaptation in their favoured habitat of junk food outlets. Furthermore, some have been observed to make indecipherable and unsightly marks on walls and public service vehicles, possibly a primitive attempt at writing.

Undoubtedly the most pressing problem facing anthropologists is to explain the growth in numbers when there is clearly a very great imbalance between the sexes. Almost all sightings have been of males, and ....

A Financial Buffer
How I hate Mr. Goldschlager - a man so rich that, rather than descend the escalator at Bank subway station in the usual way, he hurls himself from the top and is cushioned by his wallet. Those of us, with slim wallets, who happen to be walking down at the same time get a rough ride.

The wealthy, on their way to the 'top', are said ruthlessly to elbow aside those who get in their way. Here is a man equally ruthless on the way down. OK, so he can afford to travel on the subway. OK, so he sheds banknotes like dandruff when he lands. But I wish he would stick to his limousine - preferably the underside of it.

Memo leaked from the M.O.D - Whitehall
Medical Training Ship HMS Respite
Memo: 24/AARGH/511
From: Commodore (Surgical)
To: Surgeon Lt. Silver L.J.

Your request for additional theatre orderlies (I take it that is what you mean by 'Loblollymen') is refused. Please use the customary naval terminology when submitting requests and reports.

The establishment is fully provided with a wide range of modern pharmaceuticals. Your reluctance to prescribe these, and apparent faith in the curative properties of rum, is causing concern. Furthermore, I must warn you that I am investigating any possible connection between the abnormally high level of anaesthetic stocks and the fact that many post-operative cases appear to be suffering from headaches, amnesia, and contusions to the scalp.

I am not satisfied that the appropriate surgical procedures are being applied in all cases. It seems that the incidence of amputations is extraordinarily high for a training establishment in peacetime.

The wearing of shoulder parrots by theatre staff must cease immediately. These birds restrict movement, spread infection and, above all, cause confusion by calling for surgical instruments of the wrong kind at the wrong time.