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15 September 2014

Gin!

The new play from celebrated playwright Herman Frogspawn has premiered to fierce criticisms about its depiction of nineteenth century medicine. Readers can judge for themselves whether such opinions are justified, as the author has kindly allowed us to reproduce an excerpt from this dark Victorian melodrama here.

The scene is the drawing room of the Duchess of Caerphilly. Her niece, after choking on a grapefruit, falls down in a faint and neither the footman nor the boot boy can revive her. Luckily, professional help is on hand.

DUCHESS:

Good lord! Help! Help! Somebody do something.

DR GRUMBOLD:

Stand aside please. I am a doctor. Please, give me some space here.

DR GRUMBOLD KNEELS BY THE PROSTRATE FORM OF MISS PHILLIPS AND BEGINS TO LOOSEN HER UNDERGARMENTS.

DUCHESS:

Whatever is the matter with my ward?

DR GRUMBOLD:

This man has fallen down, your ladyship.

DUCHESS:

But this man is a woman.

DR GRUMBOLD:

Yes, yes, I know. I'm a doctor. That was one of the first things they taught us.

DUCHESS:

Is it serious?

DR GRUMBOLD:

Being a doctor? I should say so. The training lasts a whole week and they make us read a book.

DUCHESS:

No - this 'falling over'. Is that serious?

DR GRUMBOLD:

Oh yes, your ladyship. Very serious indeed. Luckily I am well acquainted with the condition. I have treated people who have fallen over before. You there!

FOOTMAN:

Me, sir?

DR GRUMBOLD:

Yes, you sir. Don't just stand there like a blithering idiot. Go and fetch some gin at once.

THE FOOTMAN DEPARTS. DR GRUMBOLD PROCEEDS TO LOOSEN HIS OWN UNDERGARMENTS.

DUCHESS:

Can she be revived? Only we have somebody coming to clean the carpets this afternoon.

DR GRUMBOLD:

Never fear, your ladyship. I have to tell you, this is one of the most severe cases of falling over that I've seen, but I'm confident that with care, patience and gin she can be revived. Oh, where is that fellow with the gin?

THE FOOTMAN RETURNS HASTILY, CARRYING A SMALL BOTTLE OF GIN.

FOOTMAN:

Here sir. Will this do, sir?

DR GRUMBOLD TAKES A SWIG FROM THE BOTTLE.

DR GRUMBOLD:

Well, it's not medical gin but it will have to serve. I only hope that this young lady is not gin intolerant.

BOOT BOY:

Is there anything I can do sir?

DR GRUMBOLD:

Yes more gin.

BOOT BOY:

More gin, sir?

DR GRUMBOLD:

Yes, yes, more gin I say! This young lady is in a critical condition. Without a steady supply of gin we could lose her. Well, what are you standing there for? Go! Go, I say!

THE BOOT BOY DEPARTS.

DUCHESS:

I say, doctor - should she be that colour?

DR GRUMBOLD:

What colour is she normally?

DUCHESS:

More sort of pink. Less sort of blue.

DR GRUMBOLD:

Then this is more serious than I thought. Oh, where is that blasted boy with the gin?

THE BOOT BOY RETURNS WITH FOUR LARGE BOTTLES OF GIN.

BOOT BOY:

Here sir.

DR GRUMBOLD:

Where in Hades have you been boy? This man is...

DUCHESS:

Woman.

DR GRUMBOLD:

...this woman is at death's door. She needs a constant supply of gin.

BOOT BOY:

Yes, sir. Sorry, sir.

DR GRUMBOLD:

Sorry be damned. Go and get more gin!

BOOT BOY:

Sir, I -

DR GRUMBOLD:

Gin! Gin! Gin!

THE BOOT BOY DEPARTS.

DUCHESS:

Is everything all right?

DR GRUMBOLD:

Everything depends on getting as much gin into her as quickly as possible. It's touch and go.

DUCHESS:

Good, well if you've got everything under control, I'll just sit here and get on with my needlework.

THE BOOT BOY RETURNS WITH MORE BOTTLES.

DR GRUMBOLD:

Gin! Gin! Giiiiiiiiiiin!

BOOT BOY:

Gin's all gone, sir. We've got a two bottles of brandy and half a jug of cider.

DR GRUMBOLD:

Intolerable! Are you trying to kill this woman? We must have more gin! Your ladyship, I think we're losing her.

DUCHESS:

Good, good. You carry on.

DR GRUMBOLD:

You there!

FOOTMAN:

Me, sir?

DR GRUMBOLD:

Yes, you sir. Do you have a gin-pump?

FOOTMAN:

I believe that we have such a device in the cellar. It hasn't been used for years, but we might be able to get it going.

DR GRUMBOLD:

Then what are we waiting for? Let us fetch it with all haste!

DR GRUMBOLD, THE FOOTMAN AND THE BOOT BOY DEPART. THE DUCHESS CONTINUES WITH HER NEEDLEWORK FOR A WHILE BEFORE GLANCING DOWN AT THE STIFF AND MOTIONLESS FORM OF MISS PHILLIPS.

DUCHESS:

I saw that Mrs Thompson in the chemist again, yesterday.

MISS PHILLIPS CONTINUES TO REMAIN IMMOBILE ON THE CARPET.

DUCHESS:

Don't slouch, dear.

 

Murder Up The Gasworks will be running at The Old Abattoir Theatre until the building is demolished next Tuesday.


12 September 2014
Acme Safe Dropping


11 September 2014

Wicker Trousers

Hospitals are reporting a sharp rise in the number of cuts and lacerations they treat which result from injury by wicker clothing. The recent interest in outfits made from bits of old twig might seem rather strange but fashion has never been slave to mundane concepts like comfort and practicality.

Wicker clothing is typically cumbersome, scratchy and, as medical services can verify, often dangerous. Among the more common injuries such as rashes, cuts and inflammation, there are more serious incidents. The punctured lung of a man in Doncaster was attributed to carelessly putting on his wicker shirt as he got ready for work. Other cases have involved head wounds from wicker hats, someone who lost an eye to a pair of raffia trousers and one occasion involving a man who was strangled by a wicker tie (although the exact circumstances of this last case are questionable, as there is reason to suspect that the tie was possessed .

It's not surprising then that there have been calls for wicker clothing to be labelled with safety warnings, or even banned altogether. But amid these concerns, sales are steadily increasing. And why? Well, for one thing, wicker clothing has become something of a status symbol, largely because of how expensive it is. The manufacturing process cannot be automated, so a wicker cardigan or waistcoat has to be knitted by hand. And for really exclusive items, the raw materials are gathered from unmanaged woodland, and are not washed or treated. The signs of a really top quality wicker overcoat are if it's caked in mud and dirt, and crawling in beetles.

All of which means that our medical services are likely to be kept busy for some time to come. But this is no surprise to most doctors and nurses. They are used to the demands placed on their time by the exigencies of fashion, as those who lived through the inflatable underpants craze of the early nineties will most assuredly attest.


10 September 2014

Floral Armageddon

You know that the plants are becoming serious about taking over the planet when they start getting their filing organised. Or at least, that's what plant watcher and conspiracy theorist Davy Boner believes. According to Boner, the first indications of floral Armageddon will not be a string of unexplained deaths on allotments or the silent encroachment of murderous creeping vines upon our towns and cities. It will be a rush to purchase receipt books, box files and index cards.

"The secret of any good uprising is organisation," says Boner, a junior management assistant for a leading supermarket chain. "And the secret of organisation is administration. Where would Napoleon have been without his bar charts? Would we still remember Alexander the Great if he hadn't been able to follow a flow diagram? And what about Genghis Khan? How would any of his subjects have known they had been conquered had he not issued them with a receipt?"

Mr Boner says that he first noticed that trouble was brewing when he witnessed a daffodil trying to buy a wall planner in Staples. "It's not something that you see very often," he admits. "So it rapidly struck me as odd. Afterwards, when I stepped outside, I saw a bunch of tulips behaving very suspiciously and so I leapt to the only reasonable conclusion that there was."

Of course, sceptics might point out an obvious flaw in Mr Boner's reasoning, namely that paper filing systems would seem to an unlikely choice in a world where most administrative tasks are computerised. Mr Boner, of course, has an answer.

"When was the last time you saw a cauliflower use a PC?" he asks, quite reasonably. "Exactly. Most plant life tends to eschew modern technology. Some hedges have been known to do their shopping online, and you might occasionally see the odd sapling on Facebook, but for the most part they pretty much leave that stuff alone."

For the time being at least it seems that there is no need to worry. Mr Boner believes that we are not in any immediate danger, but he is nevertheless keeping a careful watch on his vegetable patch and will alert us at the first sign of unrest. That is, he will unless his carrots get him first.


09 September 2014

The Problem with David Attenborough

The BBC have revealed that the greatest number of complaints received over the last twelve months have concerned the natural history broadcaster Sir David Attenborough. Sir David - who was knighted in 1985 for his services to chickens, and again the following year just to be on the safe side - has been making wildlife documentaries since the late Mesozoic period and recent comments seem to indicate that his material is becoming a little stale.

"Why, oh why, oh why, oh why must we continue to put up with Mr David so-called Attenborough and his tired old shtick about frogs and crocodiles and birds of paradise and stuff?" runs one typical letter, from angry viewer Hubert Himmler in Kettering. "I first started watching Mr Attenborough's programmes in the eighties, when most of the animals featured were new. Of course, it was all good stuff back then, very entertaining, but the world has moved on. Sadly it seems that Mr Attenborough has not, since he is still wheeling out the usual suspects. I watched a programme the other day and I swear it featured the same giraffe that I first saw twenty-five years ago.

"Come on David!" Mr Himmler goes on. "I appreciate all that you've done in the field of natural history filmmaking, but it's time someone mentioned the elephant in the room - especially when that elephant is old, listless and blocking my view of the TV. How about coming up with some new animals for us to look at? Surely science has reached the point where it can do something a bit more imaginative than just sticking ears onto the backs of mice? It wasn't all that long ago that your brother was rustling up dinosaurs for Jurassic Park, so I don't think that it's beyond the realms of possibility that you could knock up some kind of half-Meer cat, half-vulture crossbreed in the name of decent ratings.

"Oh I know that technology has moved on," concedes Mr Himmler. "And now you're able to show us the wonderful world of nature in glorious high definition and 3D. But let's be honest, love, if it walks like a duck and it talks like a duck then it's still a bleeding duck and it doesn't matter how gloriously lifelike it seems, I'm still more likely to just switch over and watch a rerun of Columbo on another channel.

"So how about it?" Mr Himmler asks in conclusion. "How about giving us something with a bit more pizazz; something a bit more up-to-date? I gather talent shows are all the rage now, and if you told me I was in with a chance with seeing a juggling hippopotamus or a lion singing 'My Way', I'm pretty sure that I'd be glued to the set. In fact, I've got half a mind to pitch the idea myself."


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Jenny Appleton, a journalist and media critic, is currently suing the Banbury and District Examiner in what may prove to be a landmark case. It seems that Miss Appleton awoke one morning several months ago to find that she no longer had any opinions about anything. Since Appleton's main responsibility was to provide the paper with its TV review column, the paper's bosses deemed that she was no longer capable of doing her job and therefore dispensed with her services. Appleton claims that the constant stress of finding something to say about the insipid dross that she was forced to watch night after night has totally destroyed any critical faculties she may once have had, and is suing her former employees for damages. Apparantly she got the idea from a TV programme.

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All material Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2000-2014, and may not be reproduced without the express permission of the author. All characters, companies and organisations are fictitious, and any similarity to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.


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