Discussing Captain Crab

Captain Crab, recently retired as ‘Officer n Charge’ of the stationary dept at Slumpdown Barracks, could claim, in secret anyway, that whatever the situation faced by British troops worldwide, regardless of the weaponry at the enemies disposal, the men supplied by him would never be without a biro.

Now in his mid-fifties and with a largely faultess record he could boast both a long-service medal and paper clip to wear at ceremonial occasions.  Lets be candid, which those with any kind of life behind them know can be unsettling, despite his record, which was safely resting in the file marked “Bland,” in Whitehall,his departure from the military had not been cloud free.

Some reckless soul had introduced him to the subtle pleasures of JD and coke after a decent luncheon involving an analysis of a challenging fish pie: we don’t know why, but those smooth, gentle yet titillating flavours had sung to his mouth as if they were being conducted by angels. As someone used to working with logistics, he had felt required to try this new pleasure “Across the ratio range” which he told his commanding officer at the subsequent enquiry, had demanded the consumption of an entire bottle of “this holy nectar.”

He had been found standing in front of his mirror with his smooth and gentle cheeks, “As soft as doughnuts” as his wife would say, displaying an unusual redness of colour;  looking at his reflection and saying, “The name is Crab: Crababababa, then switching to “Crabuley, the Crabster, Crabunicious and other impressive variations when the Colonel in charge of ordinance paid him a surprise visit: for reasons which were never fully explained he, Captain Crab that is, was wearing a ballet skirt.  Given his previous exemplary record, they decided to pretend he’d had a nervous breakdown and discharged him from the army on medical grounds with immediate effect.

His wife, who luckily never got the full story, was unsettled by his appearance at their army lodgings, with the news that “I am now retired” and that they would be moving, forthwith, to their holiday home at Belchering on Sea, which nestled in a small cove on the south coast.

He swore to avoid all contact with the JD and coke concoction, and returned to his normal habits apparently untouched by the abrupt ending to his career. His only problem, as it had always been, was explaining his record in the army. “Can’t say too much” and “Better not go there” normally sufficed with new acquaintances met through his wife’s sea-side hobby of thistle painting, or the weathered locals often found nestling in the corner of the bar at ‘The Reckless Gull” where he and the missus might seek refreshment after their Saturday shop.

Not everyone was satisfied with this elegant brush off unfortunately so he decided to reinvent himself as an artist. Here luck was with him, having been christened with the name “Cornelius,” Those of you with marketing pretensions can see immediately that, in the seaside environment, any painting signed with the name “Cornelius Crab” was bound to sell, just to have  that name on your wall when you returned to some boring dwelling deep inland and far from the coast where myths are created with a wave of the hand.

So well did he do at his new calling that he dropped the word Captain, and took to boasting that he never fired a shot in his entire army career. Surprisingly canny for one who spent most of his working life  in stationary, he realised that a hint of pacifism, combined with his army background,  revealed that inner turmoil which gives edge to the most casual of  seaside painting careers.


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A Weekend With The Powerful

At University you could get a bit of street- cred by striking attitudes, or looking mystical and muttering quasi-profundities such as “Yellow is the heart of Green” and then looking deep into the other persons eye as if a number of prophets and mystics were lunching between your ears. Of course, most of the ladies just told you to “Keep taking the tablets” but if you struck enough poses in enough rooms, some young lady would look at you as if you had recently parted the red sea.

That’s what happened to me with Josephine Splatter, whose eyes shone at me as I made a series of statements, which I realise in hindsight, would have failed to get into a pack of Fortune Cookies. To add to the glory of the moment she became so enamoured with my inner gifts that she invited me for the weekend at her parents dwelling, complete with sixteen bedrooms and twenty- two bathrooms, presumably built in case any of the couples were recovering from some invigorating argument or other. On this occasion it was just me and her parents. Her mother, also called Josephine and her dad Ned Splatter who’d made a pile or ten from something to do with cement.

Mr Splatter didn’t seem interested in the relationship between Green or Yellow, or my observation that “Clouds pass like memories over the  verdant fields,” Nothing was said exactly, until he mentioned during the evening meal that”Would I like to help Mario,” the waiter at their table “With clearing the plates away,” and staring directly at me, as if I’d stolen his shirt, which I thought was a bit rich given that it was only his daughter I wanted.

The next morning at breakfast when I sat down he gave me another stare and said, “I hope you are keeping your eye on the train times in case you decide to leave early,” and although I presumed at the time that this must have been a joke, the delivery was strangely lacking in humour. I’d popped along the hundred yards over to Josephine’s bedroom at the end of the previous evening to say goodnight but found the door barred by some guy who was built like a dumpster truck, and seemed about as friendly as one: something in his manner suggested that normal courtesies could be dispensed with.

When I said at breakfast, “the truth will brook no dissembling” Mr Splatter looked at me and said, “The truth is used as a garnish to make the weak feel better: period”. OK, a hint of profundity here: perhaps I was making a bit of an impression on Mr Splatter, and I grinned at my newly discovered fellow mystic. Both mother and daughter seemed uncomfortably quiet and the reason for this became clearer as I left the breakfast room to see my packed suitcase adjacent to the front door. Mr Dumpster Truck was standing beside it.

The girls seemed to have melted from the company and the Nedster came up to me and said, “Get in the car and leave, and if I hear you’ve spoken to my daughter again you will become ill” “Is bravery a quality or an affectation?” I asked myself as his eyes bored into mine. It was a question I sought to answer during the ride to the station.

I never spoke to Josephine again, and the next term I saw her climbing into a Lamborghini with the door held open by some literal materialist who clearly couldn’t tell a Fortune Cookie from a Christmas Cracker. Later, as I forged a career expressing my wisdoms for the greeting card industry, I remembered her and wondered if I should have fought harder to rescue her from a life of stultifying prosperity.

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A Moving Testament

A sense of destiny, of course, is sprinkled liberally amongst the young, but I, middle aged and drifting towards obscurity, know that character will out, and make its disappointments and possible justifications known to those who drift beyond the innocence of youth. We who talk of hope, publicly of course, breathing and dying within this frame we call an era; this brief view of life, know there is a bit more to it than that,

I caste the brochure of strategy aside some time ago, along with thoughts that each man might discover his destiny and accepted that, lost in a mass of beings, I would live a muddled life, much like yours , and struggle haphazardly along until death snatched the glass from my grasp, and forced me into a box labelled common history.

Grasp it while you can is my simple observation:, that single moment: that view of creatures unmoved by circumstance, or seasons evolving blind to your significance and the sense they offer of a lifespan beyond our own. I offer you no prospect of personal redemption, but this I know: you and I, striving to be significant, seek our moment of  importance, working to justify ourselves individually and drive ourselves to protect our limited understanding, grasping the presence of evolving life within our own: growing an awareness which fuels and inspires the footsteps of this, the driven army, till we, who think our own dreams touch the immortal, understand, at last, that the immortal touches  those more surely, who live unwary of themselves, lost as they are in the mysteries of life around them.


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Gliding Round the Truth to Paradise.

I was talking to Jeff the other evening, the one who’s been best man at two or three of my weddings: we keep arguing about the exact number. The object or subject of conversation, and I don’t know which one it is, Samantha, had been pencilled in as the lady who would help me reach the big Ten, that is 10 for those like me, whose spelling is slightly wobbly. I admit to my early Fifties although for the pedantic among you, chronologically speaking, I suppose I’m nearer sevent-two and three-quarters: keep that yourselves.

Samantha, who admits to her late thirties, has a pale, drawn face and thinning hair which indicates there is a level of uncertainty about her actual age. I’ve got no problem with that: banal candour, pedantic literalism or mindless honesty have little place in that small world between the present and the future where daydreams might dwell and I like to live.

“Let’s face it Jeff, I think Sammi might be dragged towards the town hall by the promise of a cocktail or two, and a swift turn round the dance hall but these local government types like facts, and we both know facts and happiness are seldom found in the same envelope.” . Anyway, both Sammi and I like to dream and, to be candid, I’d rather walk naked into a chemist’s shop and ask for diarrhoea tablets than burden Sammi with a literal account of my past. None of my previous wives have been willing to accept it when they discovered it, so I don’t see why she should be faced a burden others find unsettling.

Jeff nodded, he knew fact from fiction having spent three years in jail for indulging in a short period of embezzlement at an insurance company followed by a decent helping of perjury at the trial held to decide if he was guilty. The judge, who had clearly lived a fenced-off life in some nameless suburb apparently disliked fiction and sentenced Geoff, whose blazing and original imagination was revered by all who drank with him, to this unsettling period of incarceration.

Anyway I’m drifting from the point of the story which one tends to do if you are over seventy, drunk and wondering if you can manage one more spin around the marriage wheel: the point is Jeff came up a bloody brilliant idea. There is a custom, apparently, in a small island state off the South American coast were a certain amount of howling at the moon combined with drinking and dancing constitutes  exchanging wedding vows: form filling is limited to the hotel register and dreary levels of pedantry are not required.

For free-thinking, free-spirited “would-be” youths of mine and Sammi’s outlook, such a festivity is more than enough to clear any misgivings both of us might have about sharing a roof while unmarried. Let’s be honest with you, which I dislike, I’ve tried to be a good parent to all my fifteen children, although the jury’s still out on that one, but I’ve come up with a cunning plan that each of them might contribute 300 quid towards our proposed nuptials thus easing my financial burden.

The more unkind among them have suggested that having me out of the country for a while is certainly an incentive. Mind you, getting Jeff his airfare is going to be a struggle: he’s never been married, poor bloke, so no one is trying to get rid of him.

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Principle and Romance

The Rev Cardew Patterdale enjoyed everything a man might delight in as the vicar of a prosperous living in a southern county of the United Kingdom apart from faith. This small blemish, failing, disconcerting uncertainty or however you characterise it was something he made considerable efforts to ignore. Let us not be too harsh, it had not always been so: as a young man his faith in God and the Angels had been unquestioned and it was only with passing years that something of this divine awareness had quietly leached out of him and then vanished from his mind or soul, depending on your point of view.

That apart, he was in general terms, a kindly and well-meaning man who consoled himself with the thought that “it is not necessary to worship a product in order to sell it:” every computer salesman, property vendor or purveyor of any other goods or services need not necessarily believe they were the very best in the market in order to sell them: in all other areas of his responsibilities he was a diligent and caring individual. Sermons were a bit difficult as references to the Bible made him a little uncomfortable. To be fair to him, he was not a hard line atheist or a hard line anything: more a polite agnostic: a man of previous certainties who had drifted into the world of doubt, and who now clung to manners and appearance as his beliefs deserted him. Now he was of the opinion that evolution necessarily involves chaos, and that morals were man’s attempt to give order to any one civilisation in any one era. This may or may not have validity, but it was not a philosophy one could declaim from a church pulpit.

Two things kept him balanced: the discretely hidden supply of dessert wine which nestled behind “Knightly’s Guide To Rockery Plants: volumes 1 to 3, and the site of young Jennifer Croft who came to clean his house on two days a week, and made a kindly fuss of him. At thirty-eight years of age he was still young enough to dream that he might not have to live his life alone but old enough to understand that admitting to anyone but himself that he was living some kind of lie might affect his job prospects. He had learnt that people are always very nice to individuals of his calling as long as they are what they appear to be: admitting to doubts or appetites which extend any further than a longing for home-made marmalade would be unsettling to people who wanted order in any appetites but their own.

Never the less, as his emotions developed he felt compelled to start asking Jennifer those hard edged questions which identify that some kind of formal union could be discussed which was not necessarily built on religion. It should be noted that Jennifer was a devoted member of his flock and honoured to serve the pastor in any way possible. At last he could remain silent no longer, and having swigged generously from a bottle of Gewurztraminer Vendange Tardive 2007 he asked her, “What are your views regarding thick versus thin cut marmalade” Thus proving that the most profound of debates or conversations often open up with the most innocuous of questions. Could she love a man without faith or him if he was no longer a pastor? Would it be more honourable to resign before beginning the wooing process? These and other vexing questions consumed him as he discovered he had finished the entire bottle of dessert wine. She noted that his cheeks seemed unusually flushed, and that Marmalade was clearly a subject on which he held deeply founded opinions. She loved Marmalade too, although she considered that apricot jam remained a viable alternative in its absence.

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Internet Dating With A Side Order Of Chips

The Duke of Mildshire could look back on a traceable ancestry or 700 years, peopled by those who lived in a social stratosphere free of financial constraints and rich in statesman of varying moral profiles and other politicians. Owing to a remorseless stream of what the Duke called “bad luck” and others referred to as reckless behaviour the circumstances of the current bearer of the title were markedly dissimilar to those of his ancestors. Now residing at Croxton Castle, Flat 3, 25 Whiteley Crescent, the current nobleman was the distinguished leaseholder of the local fish and chip shop, by-line, “ Every meal served with distinction” which Frederick Norman Octavius de Launston, twelfth Duke of Mildshire, now commonly referred to as Freddie toiled at during his abnormal working hours.

At night, as he lay his weary head on the pillow, which had been washed within living memory, he sought ways out of the drudgery that he felt ill- suited a man of his distinguished background. Gym-averse, and with the figure to prove it, our tired nobleman wracked his brains for ways to escape what he secretly described as “a living nightmare.” Round, he might be, but both his wrists and earlobes bore testimony to his remaining health and with these assets he felt sure he might be able to indulge in what he niftily described as “Reverse Russian bride dating,” by that he meant a lady of East European origin who wish to live in a world of takeaway restaurants and hair salons with a pleasing range of outdated magazines. Needless to say her father would have made a decent pile of money in the gas industry or  some other noble enterprise.

Barely was the thought formed in his languid brain than a surge of what some people might call “energy” coursed through his system. Regardless of the hour, he sprang out of bed and switched on his laptop. Within minutes his eyes were grazing through a field rich in grinning female faces of East European ancestry. Petroska Bulgin, who boasted that she liked to “make cakes the good” caught his eye. He sent her a message “Dear Petroska, I read of your enthusiasm for baking with pleasure. I am involved in the food industry and feel your skills would lie very happily with mine. The whiff of double entendre in the word “lie” gave a pleasing edge to his message, he considered. He signed it Freddie, Duke of Mildshire.

Freddie prided himself  he could look  beyond  any surface blemishes  to the inner  bank statement  and Petroska seemed  similarly  inspired  by his circumstances:  affections  swiftly  deepened  to the point  where  curiosity  about  the others  providence  came to the fore,   Freddie managed to refer casually to his need to repaint “Croxton Castle”by which  we know  he  meant Flat 3, 25 Whiteley Crescent. Both parties raved about the spiritual beauty of the other, and how hard it must be for someone of such purity to survive in the brutalising world we lived in today. When Petroska asked him how far his castle was from the nearest hair salon, complete with  outdated magazines, he realised he had seriously engaged her interests. On her part, his enquiry about the number of gas pipelines controlled by her father displayed, she considered, a pleasing and caring side to his character.

At last the time arrived  when  she decided that she must fly over and see her soulmate in person and enjoy  a quick  tour  round his castle and estate . Clearly this was a slightly disturbing prospect to our adventurous nobleman but possibly his first challenge was to smarten up the fish and chip van to a standard more suited to the transport of would-be Duchesses. Regarding his residence,  our  wily Duke told  his  “besotted one” that the castle was being redecorated and they  would  be forced to stay at  a  country hotel within walking distance of a local salon: that seemed to please her. He thought briefly of hiring a car for  the  duration of her visit but fish sales had been ebbing recently and he was not sure the business could stand the extravagance. Still, he was determined nothing would get between him and a lifetime’s supply of free energy. ” Fortune  favours  the knave ” he said  misquoting  the old proverb  with a gusto  which would have made  his ancestors  proud: others might praise this surprising profundity.

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Off On Me Hols

You may have noticed I’ve not been on much .Oh you haven’t! Well I’ve not been on much: travelling and that kind of thing. Anyway, what I’m meant to be saying is, I won’t be around much, if at all, for the rest of the week because, we’re off to Cornwall for walking, seafood, drinking and seafood. You don’t have to tell me, that’s a pretty punishing schedule which won’t leave much time for writing or social interaction.


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