Thursday, 25 June 2015

Seagoon's Return

Greenslade This is the BBC Home Service.
Grams (clink of coin in enamel mug)
Greenslade Thank you so much. Welcome to the highly esteemed Goon Show. Now, 
tonight’s story, Seagoon’s Return, is a torrid tale of greed, wanton expenditure, shame, humility and, yes, forgiveness, brought to you by your talking-type electric wireless, 
direct from your sideboard, via airwaves provided.
Grams (scene setting-music)
Seagoon What what what what what?
FX (loud knocking at the door, which continues)
Minnie Bannister Heeennnnnrrrryy! Hhhheennnnnrrrryyyyyy! There’s someone 
knocking at the door!
Henry Crun Mnn, mnn, must be the Prime Minister.
Minnie Mnn, Mnn, what did you say?
Crun Mnn, mnn, that must be the Prime Minister knocking at the door.
Minnie I can’t hear you.
Crun It must be all that knock-knock-knocking at the door.
Minnie (pause) Mnn, Mnn, what did you say?
Crun I said it must be all that knocking at the door.
Minnie I can’t hear you. Open the door, and perhaps the knocking will stop.
Crun I can’t hear you. Tell you what, I’ll open the door and perhaps the knocking will stop.
Minnie I can’t hear you because of all that knocking.
FX(much knob rattling, knocking stops, echo-creaking of hinges)
Crun What do you want?
Minnie I want you to stop all that knocking, buddy.
Crun It stopped when I opened the door.
Minnie No, don’t, whatever, you do, open the door.
Crun Why ever not?
Minnie We’ll all be murdered in our beds!
Crun But I’m not in bed, I’m opening the door. They’re not what they used to be – you can’t get the wood, you know. Ah! There seems to be a gentleman standing here, with knuckles red raw. Good evening. Are you the Prime Minister?
Seagoon No, but it’s probably just a matter of time. I have come on an important errand.
Crun Well, it’s at the top of the stairs. Don’t forget to put the lid down afterwards.
Seagoon Thank you, yes, perhaps later. Meanwhile, I have come to take my inheritance.
Bloodnok Now, then, what’s all this noise? Neddie, my boy, what are you doing out there?
Seagoon Knocking at the door.
Minnie Not any more, buddy.
Bloodnok Why were you knocking?
Seagoon Because the door was closed.
Bloodnok This boy’s no fool. And why, pray, were you knocking at this hour?
Seagoon Because earlier I was standing over yonder and I couldn’t reach the door 
from there. Needle nardle noo!
Bloodnok And what do you want?
Seagoon Well, first of all, I’d appreciate it you’d open the door…
Minnie …which we have…
Seagoon …so now, I have come for my inheritance.
Bloodnok Fair enough. What will you do with it?
Seagoon Put it in my handkerchief-type satchel and transport myself away by means 
of this sound effect…
FX (whoosh)
Seagoon … to Dissipation City!
Grams (laughter, piano music, glasses clinking)
Seagoon Listeners, it was rife – I say rife – with jollity and revelry. The men were 
handsome and some of the women were, to my eye, quite remarkable…
Throat Yes mate.
Seagoon …while the gambling and eating and drinking went on well into the night. There were dancing girls, including Sabrina.
Grytpype-Thynnne No, no, it’s just me, with my arms folded. Concentrate on the poker. Now, then, I’ll see your marshmallow trouser press and raise you… a clockwork encyclopedia. Have a gorilla.
Seagoon No thanks, they hurt my throat. I’ll see your encyclopedia and raise you three – yes, three – steam-driven pencils.         
Grytpype-Thynnne H’mm. I’ll raise you this photograph of a five rupee note. 
(aside) What a Charlie…
Seagoon (aside) Haha! Listeners, I’ve got him right where I want him. (aloud, clears throat) Now, I’ll see your photograph and raise you a quarter past three on a damp Tuesday. 
What do you say to that, h’mm?
Grytpype-Thynnne You silly twisted boy. You will never beat me! I have five aces and two jokers.
Seagoon Rats! I’ve only got Kamchatka, Get Out of Jail Free and Mrs Bunn 
the Baker’s Wife. Argh! Penniless!
Grytpype-Thynnne Ace of clubs, hearts, spades and diamonds, plus Knave of Cups 
and the lead piping. I win! And now, something yet more grim.
Max Geldray & Orchestra Pennies from Heaven
Grams (‘back to the story’-type chords)
Seagoon The news was even worse than I could have imagined, folks. It was a national famine. I looked for a job and found one in a pigsty, tending hogs. I was at my lowest ebb, penniless, looking after porkers and all alone in the world, or so I thought.
Eccles (sings) I talk to the trees.
Seagoon The singer was a ragged idiot.
Eccles Hallo shipmate!
Seagoon Have you seen what these pigs are eating?
Eccles Yes, but only when I’m watching.
Seagoon And what do you think?
Eccles I think I talk to the trees.
Seagoon He stood three foot nineteen in his socks, and very nearly half that 
in the dark. What do you think of the food they feed those pigs?
Eccles It’s a disgrace.
Seagoon This boy’s got some spirit!
Eccles It’s a disgrace that they are getting better food than we are.
Seagoon It was undeniable. The pigs had delicious-looking warty pods, mouldy 
offcuts, rotting stalks and woody bits. We were in desperate danger of starvation, but 
only a complete fool would envy those pigs.
Eccles I wish I could eat what those pigs are having. Shut up, Eccles.
Grams (angelic choirs, etc speeded up, slowed down; about 20 seconds)
Seagoon What what what what what what? I could go home and eat all I want and 
work for my father and be a hired man since I’m no longer worthy to be a son. It’s true. 
I’m off!
FX (whoosh)
Eccles Everything’s going to be fine, fine.
Seagoon Except, of course, for this.
Ray Ellington Quartet Mama’s Got One Bloodshot Eye
Grams (‘back to the story’-type chords)
Seagoon Soon I was on the road home. Over this hill, down the track, round the corner, 
past the duckpond and beyond the next fencepost and then I shall be able to see my 
father’s farmhouse. I shall tell him I am no longer worthy to be called a son and ask 
to work as a hired hand. But what’s this? As I live and breathe, it’s my old dad, 
running out from the homestead to meet and greet me.
FX (running footsteps)
Bloodnok My son! Servant, come here.
Bluebottle Enter Bluebottle, waits for applause, as usual, not a sausage.
Bloodnok Servant!
Bluebottle My master, what is thy bidding?
Bloodnok Fetch some shoes and a robe.
Seagoon Boy, those servants ran busily, fetching shoes, a ring and a coat. 
After what seemed like forever, I was finally offered some food.
Bloodnok Kill the fatted calf!
Throat Yes, mate.
Greenslade And so, later, everyone had roast beef and fruit flan and wine and 
there was dancing and laughter and joyful celebrations.
Seagoon But even as I was tucking in to my dinner, I noticed Bluebottle dancing 
and prancing dangerously close to the edge of the duck pond. Suddenly…
FX (splosh)
Little Jim He’s fallen in the water!
Bluebottle You rotten swine, you deaded me!
Bloodnok My son was lost, but is found; he was dead but is alive!
Seagoon What what what what what what?
Grams (Theme music)
Greenslade That was the Goon Show, a BBC recorded programme featuring 
Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Spike Milligan with the Ray Ellington Quartet 
and Max Geldray. Script by Jesus of Nazareth, announcer Wallace Greenslade. 
Produced by Luke’s Gospel.

Friday, 6 January 2012

Double acrosstic

first and last letters of each line spell the key phrase

Tom, wayward boy, filled money belt
(His father’s promised wealth);
Enjoyed wild living, food and wine.

Pour, o’erflowing cup!

Overspent, now broke – aggro!

‘Look, his hired men eat so well…’

Smarter course was homewards;
‘Oh, my boy! – bring shoes, ring, too!
Now, slice a calf we chose to fatten!’

Deserting friends all gone. Now lad

Rebellious, sinful, growing poor

Is tending pigs (safari?)
Gross slop seems appealing
At once he thought of dear Papa

Thursday, 5 January 2012

Interior monologue

Reflecting James Joyce’s Ulysses, and among others

Asked P for cash, all in pocket, full. This road to DC, dusty, steep in parts, enjoying myself. Potato I have [1]Attractive girl, girl, jolly fellows, girls, see show, laugh, drink, eat, gamble, experience, girls, another show, new clothes – transfer wad to new pockets; also potato. Restaurant, drinking, tip, kiss, laughter, new friends, I love freedom to be generous. Food, show, kissing, gamble, drink. Wad reduced, it’s the same for all of us. All gone, friends also, no girls, no food, but spud is present. Generally, also without. Pigs stink, unclean, sick-looking; pods shockingly blemished, strangely appealing… Doesn’t have to be like this. Father’s men (Silas, Jud, Lemuel, big Jake – hands, grey tunic, tear in the sleeve, scar – sweating effort, weekly wages-day, queueing ‘Thank you, sir, thank you sir’, father…) meals, I could go back, ask, he’ll be okay, probably, ask to work for him, not a son, dinner, much better than pods, feeling inspired, sensible? best option not worthy son they’ll call me waster but survival not sure will try go walk tired hot sandal flapping hungry coat torn hill walk someone running chase me away? shouts angry or… why would Pa run? pleased to see him tell ‘unworthy’ not listening! servants shoes welcome ring hug coat kiss greeting happy hungry well-fed calf roast spit flames cooked plate of carved beef grease chin smile villagers party celebrate dancing dad (great mood brother not so much) lost dead found alive potato

[1] Stephen Dedalus' talisman, representing Odysseus' Moly, a medicinal herb

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Time shift

in which the narrative flits between flashback/present/flashforward in ways which could be described as chrono-illogical

He had stared, glum, hungry, lonely, miserable, hard-up, ashamed, filled with regret. His unseeing gaze did not see any thin pigs rootling through the mouldy, rotting pods, seeking any green bits from which to take nourishment.

But the feel of these lips is so welcome, as similar attention had been so many times before, but from such very different people and contrastingly motivated.

Neither did he notice the pig-farm owner, checking to see if he had stayed all night. Instead, he saw his wasted opportunity, the glittering of a spinning roulette wheel, the gleam in Georgette’s eyes, the resigned concern on his father’s face, the glint of moisture on Charlene’s lip as she savoured her champagne, the need in the faces of the beggars who were lining the streets, and the distant memory of the sparkle of early morning sunlight on the lake beyond Big Field on his father’s homestead.

Many years later he stood in his long-deceased father’s favourite spot on the farmstead rooftop, wrapped in his treasured coat, and described this season of his life as ‘reckless youth’ and himself as ‘having been a selfish fool’. But back at the start he’d been quick to seek his father’s money, very quick to take it and leave when the opportunity arose and even quicker to gather friends by a conspicuous display of prodigious wealth.

It was almost as generous as his father will soon demonstrate now he’s returned, laying on a fabulous spread of cooked meat, pastries, salads, vegetables, rice dishes, alcohol, fruit, puddings and trifles for the villagers, who will be invited to celebrate the boy’s return. ‘My son was lost, but is found; he was dead but is alive!’ the father will say if all goes according to plan, reflecting on the many days he had stood on his rooftop waiting, hoping, expecting, fearful… until this one day, while the boy is still a long way off, his son, who had encountered dancing girls, fancy restaurant dinners, casinos, famine, hunger and desertion by his new-found, soon-lost friends, stood in amazement as his father ran, undignified, to greet him.

His father will imminently order the servants to fetch a ring, a coat and shoes for his feet.

 ‘I am no longer worthy to be called your son,’ is what he planned to say, just after saying ‘Father, make me one of your hired men.’ He had come to his senses in the sty a few days previously (although he had been given the money some considerable time before), but is now being kissed, which is making his oft-rehearsed speech an irrelevance.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012


indecision or uncertainty, or maybe not

– I don’t know if I should give him the cash. He might take it and leave me here without liquid assets and in financial distress. I doubt I’ll be able to pay my bills. And he might go and gets himself into trouble. What if he spends it all? He may waste it quickly and then find that life is tougher than I have taught him. I’m starting to wonder if I brought him up properly, as he ought to have found out that life is tougher out there than it has been for him while he’s been here. I fear I may not have trained him wisely. Perhaps I did something wrong that he came to me, effectively wishing me prematurely dead, and demanding his inheritance.

– Should I go today? I could stay wherever I like once I have the cash! Now I need to decide where to go. All the way to Dissipation City? I could stay in an hotel, or a guest house. Meat and two veg or full á la carte? It’s difficult to decide which of these girls I prefer. Or do I really need to make a choice, as all three seem willing…? I can place a bet on every horse in the race, and on each number at the roulette table. These chums may or may not like me for who I am, or perhaps just for my money. I’m having so much fun that I’m not sure I am all that bothered.

– The economy, driven by agriculture, will perhaps let us all down. My friends seem to have let me down, rather for some reason, and perhaps everyone is as hungry as I.

– Perhaps these unclean animals are not so bad… Yet they are practically starving, too, I think. Their food is probably unfit for consumption, and yet, strangely, I have been considering gnawing at the diseased pods myself, so great is this feeling within which may be hunger and may be worse than that – I just can’t decide.

– Oh, for how long will you run from the love of your father? For many days you have teetered on the brink of starvation, while unrelated farmhands toil at your father’s behest and eat joyfully every day at his table. Are you so filled with pride that you cannot return? You should probably arise and seek his forgiveness.

– Leaving the pig farm was perhaps the best decision, but this road is hard and the end will be humbling. How can I address the old man, whose early death I effectively wished upon him? I might say ‘I am so foolish,’ or I might say ‘I am not othy to be called your son.’ But I will probably finish with ‘please make me one of your hired men.’ I think. Unless he throws me out of the village, which he has every right to do, and may very well feel that way inclined.

– Could today be the day I stop waiting and hoping and decide to get on with the hard life here on the farm? I shall probably stay here on the roof for the morning, and then join the hired men working in the field over here (or perhaps the field over there instead), unless I go and examine the calf we’ve been foolishly giving extra portions of grain, when the famine we hear reported may be coming our way and so we should probably be husbanding our resources more pessimistically. But what is that figure on the distant horizon? Not my son, that’s for sure. Or… Does he walk like that? Only when his shoes are practically falling off his feet, and he wouldn’t be… But then it might be. It’s hard to know for certain. Oh, if only I could be sure!

– Who’s this chump running wildly? Dad wouldn’t be so undignified, so it can’t be him. Perhaps it’s someone coming to tell me to go away, as I feared. But he sounds like he’s happy, and he isn’t waving a stick… Could it be dad? I think it might be! He’s still running, and I think he might be happy…

– My son! My son! It’s hard to see you in this state, starved, footsore, weary. And are you returning?

– Father, make me an hired man, for I am no longer…

– Servants, have we any new shoes in his size? I think there may be some in my wardrobe – please check, and bring brown ones – no, black. No, both, and then he can choose.. And fetch a winter coat for him. One with a lining. No, a waterproof… or perhaps a short jacket. You might look to see if there are any with a hood. And it must have pockets. At least two, plus one on the inside, on the left. No, one inside pocket on each side would be better, probably. Meanwhile, tell Jed (or Nathan, if you can’t find Jed, as he may have gone into town for supplies – or Darius, if Nathan’s out on top field today, which I think he is, unless he’s working with the others who are checking out the threshing machine, I hope, ready for next week’s harvest – unless we do it over the weekend, as I’m wondering if it would be better to take advantage of the sunshine, as I think the weather might change – do you think it might change? Although the wind and clouds have dispersed over the last few hours, so perhaps not…) Anyway, get someone – anyone – (well, someone who knows what he’s doing, so don’t get Joshua or Caleb) to take – oh, or Thaddeus – to take the long sharp knife (it’s probably on the kitchen window ledge, unless it’s on the shelf by the bags of stud nuts or in the big red tool box – actually I might have left it in the brown one) and slay the fatted calf, and we should probably set a fire to roast it. Now, son, which finger is best for this family ring? Rejoice, everyone, either inside the farmhouse or here in the yard, for this my son was either lost or dead, yet now he’s found and alive! Have some more meat, do. Or vegetables if you prefer. Or not, if you’ve had sufficient.

Monday, 2 January 2012


Classic poetic form with strict mathematical algorithm [1]

The farm boy might have said ‘I wish you dead!
Just share your wealth with me and let me go…’
His father, sad, observed his course. Soon the lad
Was drinking, rashly gambling with the cash
False friends flocked keenly grasping and consumed
Such grand, top-classy and exclusive food.

In hotel bars and restaurants, fine food
Enjoyed, but soon all GDP was dead!
And everyone found nought to be consumed.
His friends all rapidly decide to go;
Thus he was left bereft of any cash.
Or company or hope, this hard-up lad.

Work tending pigs was low – he was not glad
To watch them chow down on such awful food –
Their rotting pods… but how else to earn cash?
His thoughts turned to his pa, no more wished dead
I’ll humbly seek work there, so now I’ll go
Dad’s hired men lunch famously consumed…

His mem’ry soon with family consumed
My actions have been wasteful, mulled the lad
So time has come for me to up and go
Where I’ll find love, I hope, as well as food –
Deserve rejection? Yes! But here I’m dead
Forsaking heritage for meagre cash.

This journey – long – used up residual cash:
Both sandals wore to nothing (trudge-consumed).
His coat was also torn and hopes near dead.
While still a long way off… Dad saw the lad
And rushed to greet him, ordering roast food
Plus ring and coat and shoes. Complaints forego!

His servants ran (he ordered them to go
To fetch). Now fat-calf’s throat gets knifely gash
And tables laden bounteously with food.
The villagers throng in; all is consumed
While father shows his joy to see the lad
‘This is my son – the one we thought was dead!’

‘He set by his ego; let’s consume!
And though he spends my cash, I greet my lad
Back from the dead! Oh neighbours, eat this food!’

[1] End-words repeat: ABCDEF, FAEBDC, CFDABE, ECBFAD, 
DEACFB, BDFECA, with an envoi of half-lines BE/DC/FA

Friday, 30 December 2011


acknowledging Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-5 and Martin Amis’ Time’s Arrow

They praised God and celebrated, as streamers leap from the ground via the sky, into neatly-rolled packages. ‘My son is alive, yet was dead; he is found but was lost!’

Villagers crowded around the trestle tables, filling the crumb-strewn plates and unwashed bowls with pies, salads, punch and all manner of goodies from their throats, until the spread was complete and everyone was free to escape to their homes, awaiting an invitation.

The wood drew in flames and smoke as the calf’s carcass sucked hissing fat; the charred flesh grew pink and cold, until the spit was removed from the animal, and a knife swiftly drawn over its throat, healing and sealing tender flesh as it restored life – blood flowed from the mud over the cowman’s arm and into Daisy’s arteries as she sprang to her hooves and then waddled slowly, rump first, into her stall.

The father took a ring from the boy’s finger, and replaced his suede sneakers with old, broken, worn sandals; he took from his son a fine coat and gave him a ragged replacement. Finally he let go of the young man and stepped away with a smile as salt water trickled up his face into his eyes. Pa ran backwards to the house and up the stairs to the roof, from where he could see the lad, who by this time had retreated to be a long way off.

‘I’ll ask to be a man that is hired, as to be his son I am no longer worthy,’ the boy said to himself. Then he planned what to say when he met his father.

He retreated several miles, eventually climbing backwards over the gate, sat down in the pigsty and allowed darkness to fill his mind, envying the pigs their activity of orally ejecting pods which settled into their trough. Over several days, as other men brought buckets in which they skillfully caught the pods that leapt out of  the trough, the boy observed that the food gradually improved in quality, growing less diseased and wizened. The boy later became less familiar with the pigs and spoke to their owner, agreeing a price for the opportunity to walk away.

The famine lost its grip as national wealth increased.

The boy’s feeling of hunger diminished as he went from place to place vomiting food and wine, and was given money by shopkeepers and so-called friends, and by waiters and café owners in exchange for filling their plates with exceptionally fine dinners.

He also watched several showgirls getting dressed in time with odd-sounding music, and collected large numbers of gambling chips in games which involved forgetting in which slot the little ball started before whizzing around the wheel several times and ending up being expertly caught by the croupier, at which point everyone took stacks of chips from the felt surface.

He left the city and went home, where he gave a great deal of money to his father.

‘I want my inheritance,’ he said. He grew younger and younger, until eventually his severed umbilical cord was reattached by means of a knife and he squeezed himself feet-first and breathless into his mother’s womb. Less than two years later, his brother did the same.