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!
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.
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.
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."
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.
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 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
"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
"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
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
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.