The Pajama Game


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(original Broadway windowcard: Wikipaedia)


Oh look!  Here comes Peabrain Minor’s mater, alias Head of The Grievance

Committee, expostulated Virginia Fisher-Gyles, PA to The Headmaster of

St Birinus Middle School.

Late again, commented Mr Augustus Snodbury, Senior Master, on his way

to Registration via his partner’s office.

The aforementioned parent hopped out of her 4×4, still in a onesie, or

her pyjamas.

Gives a new aspect to the adjective ‘deshabille’, he added. Mind you, I

wouldn’t mind if you turned up for work in that rather fetching negligee

which the saleswoman persuaded me was entirely appropriate as a Christmas

gift for a friend.  I think you would make a better understudy for Shirley

Maclaine than Mrs P does.

Let’s be professional. Virginia stood on her principles- as well as her

four inch stilettos.

Oh, the subjunctive- and so early in the morning, quipped Snod.

You say ‘pyjamas’ and I say ‘pajamas’, countered Virginia, closing the

conversation and starting to hum ‘I’m not at all in Love.’

The Carry On Teaching vision with choreography by Fosse faded from

his magisterial brain, but not before he had noted the similarity

between Virginia’s embonpoint and that of a certain fictional Gladys

Hotchkiss.  Yes, they no longer produced the great musicals of

yesteryear. That Lloyd Webber character…  Sigh.

(Does anyone out there recognise the etymology of ‘magisterial’ ??

Are we all going to adjust our spelling to ‘ognon‘?)  The Editor.

There was a peremptory rap at the door.

Enter! boomed Virginia.

Peabrain Minor’s mother appeared in her usual matitutinal


I’ve just brought a bag with a change of clothes for Noah, if I could

leave it in The Office for him, she announced.

Oh, we are a Left Luggage Establishment now, Snod thought, but

didn’t remark aloud.  That was a forbearance that he had learned

from Virginia, in the course of their relationship.

I’m afraid I don’t quite understand, said Virginia.

Well, it’s just for the lesson after break.  Noah doesn’t respond well

to formal learning strategies and, if Mr Snodbury doesn’t mind, my

son would be more comfortable in his jim-jams.  Oh, Mr Snodbury!

She had just noticed the schoolmaster lurking behind the door.

Ah, his namesake was quite comfortable with appearing in a

Post-Diluvian Apocalyptic public space au naturel, Mrs P, Snod

pontificated. But, unfortunately, even the members of the patriarch’s

family took exception to his informal, nay  casual,  plein-air approach.

I take it that that’s a ‘no’ then, Sir?

She left, with the Waitrose bag of clothing, looking rather


Not exactly Doris Day, said Snod in his habitual report-speak.

But more intelligent than you’d think.

Doris Day - 1957.JPG




Our Principles Define Us


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Image result for Chinese vase

(Walters Collection, Baltimore)

I wouldn’t trust him with a barge pole, said Brassie, firmly.

How does she create these mixed metaphors?  What would

she expect someone to do with a barge pole?  Run off with it and

sell it on E-bay?

I kept thinking about the short advert for UOB Private Bank which

I saw on KrisFlyer, on the screen on the back of the seat in front of

me, during my flight on Singapore Airlines, from Changi to Heathrow.

The advert was a lot more interesting than the films on offer.

Trust.  “Our Principles Define Us.

A sweet little boy- Jia Xiang- is shown a large blue and white vase

by his father, who tells him that it is priceless and irreplaceable.  The

parent places it on his display shelves and asks his son not to touch it.

The boy nods and promises.

Later Jia Xiang is bored as it is raining and he goes to the shelf and takes

the vase down, in order to look at it.

A servant calls him for Dim Sum and the boy hurriedly replaces it on the

shelf, but not in the exact same position.

(Matt@PEK Flickr)

His father later questions him as to whether he touched the vase.  Truthfully,

the boy confesses and his father raises the vase and smashes it to the floor.

He then tells his son that trust is of the utmost importance.  They hug.

Hmmm, as a non-committal Anglican vicar friend of mine might comment.

Ai Weiwei.jpg

(Image by Hafenbar)

The underlying metaphor reminded me of the video at the NGV, Melbourne.

The Ai Weiwei/ Warhol exhibition is brilliant and featured footage of the

Chinese artist raising an ancient vase above his head and smashing it to

the ground. I think we are meant to question its cultural, aesthetic and

historical value.  All I could think was:  What a shame!  I hope it was a fake.

It’s like David Battie on The Antiques Roadshow, assessing some priceless

piece of porcelain.  I keep wanting to shout out at the screen:  Be careful!

You are making me nervous!

I remember some visitor stumbled down the stairs at The Fitzwilliam Museum

in Cambridge and knocked over three Qing vases on a sill in the stairwell.

They had a combined value of £500,000.

He should have tied his shoelaces.

Restorers did manage to put all the shards together again- unlike Humpty


But should the museum have trusted the visitors?  Well, 9 million people

had passed them before and nothing untoward had occurred.

When The Husband broke both of my prize lustre vases in one week, I had to

ask myself where I placed my value.  The Bible says we have our treasure in

earthen vessels, so I suppose the vessels are only the receptacles.  Where

your treasure is, there will your heart be.

I was still annoyed!

Sometimes I remember the patient child in the psychology experiment on

deferred gratification.  When told not to touch the sweets and there would be

a greater reward after a little time, some kids just could not wait.  Others

could and reaped the benefits of even more confectionery.

Sometimes I wish that I was able to trust God and leave things alone and not

touch them.

But then, it is the same old problems as our forefathers had in The Garden of

Eden:  curiosity, impatience and lack of trust.

Our principles define us, as the UOB advert says.

Christianity often recommends having a firm grasp.  Horatius Bonar’s hymn

sprang into my mind:

Here, O my Lord, I see Thee face to face.

Here would I touch and handle things unseen.

Here grasp with firmer hand eternal grace…

Oh, for a more tactful and careful approach to dealing with sensitive matters!

The Wrong Wellies


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(image by abc 10)


So basically you have been unfaithful to ‘Costamuchamoulah’ cafe here in

Suttonford? Brassica accused me.

It wasn’t like that, I tried to defend myself. No bog-brush bearded baristas

were involved, I assure you.  It’s just that ‘Brunetti’s’ salted caramel eclairs in

Melbourne were so tempting.

That Italian name’s familiar, Brassie interrupted.

You’re thinking of Donna Leon’s Commissario Brunetti, I surmised, knowing

she’d read a couple of the volumes in the series at her ‘Bookworm’ group.

But, you know, I’d prefer to make a tangential mental leap to summon up a

vision of Commissario Montelbano- the young one, I mused.  Actually, one

of the waiters who brought me extra marshmallows was kind of like him. He

had the same bandy legs, but Botticelli curls.

Mmm, quite a lot of Italian guys do.  Yet, you’ve been swanning round the

globe while the rest of us were generating mould in our ‘Hunter’ wellies from

the condensation build-up of Apocalyptic precipitation levels?

Join Nicola Sturgeon’s clan.  But not David Cameron’s.

How so?

She shares your taste in trending wellies.  Apparently Cameron wore a cheap

pair when he visited the flooded areas.

Oh, that was for the press, she exclaimed.  Do you think SamCam would

let him out in anything cheap if he was (say) visiting Rebekah Brooks for a bit

of a pot supper, after helping her to muck out at her stables?

Okay, I’m sorry.  By the by, I would be surprised if SamCam, as you call her,

allowed him out at all, when he is off-duty.  She would probably prefer him to

come home smelling of roses.

Why do I always get Donna Leon and Donna Tartt mixed up?

Dunno. Easily done. I took my tablet out of its case.

Look! This was us on our final evening at ‘Raffles’, on the way home.

Put it away, barked Brassie.  I’m not interested.  Anyway, you said you

went there twice, so I can’t forgive you.

She couldn’t resist a peek.

What were you trying to do?  Live up to your gravatar?

No, I was just having a ‘Singapore Sling.’

She drew me an even greater disapproving look.

Not a ‘fling’. You can get virgin ones, you know, I pleaded.


No, actually.  Look, I’m not trying to be elitist.  Nowadays

it is a virtual extension of a creche.  Kids everywhere.  All these

special venues are commandeered by fathers in baseball caps

and shorts and mothers pushing giant buggies with babes who

only require feeder cups.  You dress for dinner and they throw theirs

on the floor- or ground-, if we are referring to the outside courtyard. 

Sometimes the infant accessories even manage to project their

regurgitations into your lap.

I do so agree on the distinction you make between ‘floor’ and

‘ground’, Brassie reflected. But, have you always been irritated

by kids, Candia?  I mean, didn’t you once teach the little darlings? 

Surely teachers like children?

Don’t bank on that, I replied.  D’habitude, we only like the well-behaved

ones, of which there are fewer and fewer.  I don’t mind them at informal

eateries at lunchtime, but if I am spending a mint on a rare grown-up

treat, I prefer a kiddychino-free zone.


Coming to ‘Costamuchamoulah’ by Chinese New Year, I predict.

We both sighed.


Mrs Lovett’s Pie Shop


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Now The Husband is getting in on my act. I’m supposed to be

the one who notices things.

Today we were in Wintoncester Cathedral’s Refectory and I spotted

something amusing on their advertising banners.  Actually, I saw

it a couple of weeks ago, but The Husband made the most fruitful

collocation, as it reminded him of Mrs Lovett’s song in Sweeney Todd.

He is a bigger fan of Sondheim than I am.

What caused the mirth and the despair?

Some bright spark had composed the following enticement:

We grow our own herbs, with as much love as our resident monks did

years ago.

They take centre stage in our Refectory menus.

This reminded us of the lyrics:

It’s priest, have a little priest

…..Sir, it’s too good, at least



Not as hearty as bishop, perhaps,

But then again

Not as bland as curate…

Trouble is

We only get it on Sundays

Have you any beadle?

Beadle isn’t bad till you smell it and

Notice ‘ow well it’s been greased.

Stick to priest.

Try the friar.

Fried it’s drier.

No, the clergy is really

Too coarse and too mealy.


Can I help you?

Two resident monks and chips. Salad on the


Orthographical Side-Effects


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(Photo by Pawel Wozniak-

So, you were in school today? Chlamydia asked.  I don’t

know why you keep going in.  You must be a sucker for


Au contraire.  It’s interesting sometimes.

How so?

Well, I was taking in exam papers and noticed some graffiti

on a desk, which said: ‘Ebola surviver.’  The vandal was obviously

infected by orthographical side effects.  Someone needs to write a

research paper on the correlation.

Not you.

No, not me.  I am too busy telling boys who punch walls only to

lash out if the wall hits them first.

Anthem for Doomed Language


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I heard it again, I groaned.


Someone on the radio saying, ‘I was sat…’

Oh, I know, agreed Brassica.  It’s really annoying.

It made me think of Browning’s poem about the

grammarian’s funeral, I reflected.

What’s it called? asked Brassie- only mildly interested.

‘The Grammarian’s Funeral’, I think Anyway, his body is

being carried by his students to an elevated position, suitable

for his entombment.  There’s a lot of ‘leave the vulgar thorpes’

and ‘leave the unlettered…’

That’s not very kind, is it? remarked Brassie.  Browning sounds a

bit arrogant.

Robert Browning by Herbert Rose Barraud c1888.jpg

Never confuse an adopted persona with the poet himself, or

herself, I cautioned.

Well, I bet he was full of himself, rejoined Brassie.

Hmmm, Richard D. Altick said the grammarian was a dead

gerund-grinder, I countered.

Who’s Richard…?

Don’t even go there, I replied. There aren’t so many grammarians

nowadays.  As a group, they seem to have declined. And never speak

to the moniker; only the gerund-grinder.

She didn’t get the jokes.

When I heard that journalist saying ‘I was sat’, what do you

think came into my head?

Candia, how could I ever guess what would come into your

crazy mind?

Maybe you’ve got a point, but it was pure Parry.

Parry?  Bruce?  He’s quite fit- in both senses of the



No, the composer.  Hubert.

Blank look.

(Image uploaded by Tim Riley)

Think Kate Middleton’s wedding.  Westminster Abbey.

Oh, that Parry!  Why?

All I could hear was:


I was sat…

sat’, when they said unto me.

You were NOT!  You were what??

‘Sitting’ is what it should be.

You stayed on that chair for some time,

so, in principle,

use a participle.

The past perfect’s a syntactic crime.

(Editor: This time the imperfect is fine)


You were sitting- ‘sitting’ is what was agreed

is the norm; judged good form-

what Dr Johnson decreed.

All right- a cat might be sat on a Yorkshire mat

and the vowel in ‘sat’ will be probably flat,

but it’s quite simply the wrong tense. That is that!

If you’d refer to the work of grammarians,

you’d have more class;

sound slightly less crass

and not be lin-guis-ti-cally bar-ba-ri-an!


O pray plenteous errors will justly decrease;

solecisms will wither and pall.

Recite declensions with fluency, ease:


and inflect-

shock them all!

You were ‘seated’;

‘seated’ is what is preferred.

It’s definitive,

like the infinitive:

so, ne-ver say ‘boldly go!’

Your feet ‘shall’ stand: that auxil-i-ary will show

your strength of will (in hail or snow);

you’ll be transfixed and simp-ly re-fuse to go.


I was gled.

Gled’ when I spoke marked RP.

Let us go…Tally ho!

into the royal marquee.

Inside I found jem and Jeru-salem

and tried to converge

(but then it emerged)

that the chep I thought was posh- just- made- the- tea.

I was glidding-

glidding‘ when they said unto me:

Let us go….Pedants, ho!

(That’s the subjunctive, you know.)

My feet...reprise

Da capo.

Then I was glud.

Glud‘ when some said unto me,

You’re prescriptive;

so restrictive.

Why don’t you go with the flow?

My heart leapt up as I su-dden-ly re-alised

that I’d been well advised

and parsed with ease, so easy pease, from way back in the mists of Prim’ry Three.

So, vivat Scolastica!

Vivat Grammatica!

Vivat Syntactica!

Vivat Pedagogica!

Vivat Logorrheica!

Vivat! Vivat! Vivat!

You just need an orchestra, said Brassie.

And a choir. And a large cheque book, or a sugar daddy.

I’ll have to ask if one can book Westminster Abbey.

You could reserve a New York venue like Ethel Smyth, the

conductor, or that Jenkins woman, suggested Brassie.

Narcissa Florence Jenkins?

Fits, said Brassie.  The name’s the giveaway.


Florence Foster Jenkins.jpg


Ten Little Children


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What a world we live in! sighed Brassie.

I know.   I couldn’t get this jingle out of my mind, during the

night, I agreed.

What jingle?

This one:


Ten little children

found an old land mine;


and then there were nine.

(Image: 2005 David Monniaux)

Nine little children

stuffed in a crate; shipped

by people smugglers-

then there were eight.

Eight little children,

told they’d go to Heaven,

if they wore a martyr’s vest:

now there are seven.

Seven young children

shared explicit pics.

One went to meet a man

and now there are six.

Six feral children,

unlicensed to drive,

nicked a powerful car

and now there are five.

Five drugged up children

broke into a store;

stole some Ketamine

and now there are four.

Four little children,

outside, running free-

the blonde one trafficked

and now there are three.

Three little children-

just as children do,

trusted youth leaders

and now there are two.

Two little children

found their father’s gun.

One pulled the trigger

and now there is one.

One little baby,

born to show the way,

will greet his true friends

on The Judgement Day.

Image result for baby jesus

(Photo: Jeffrey C Cann)

The Woman at the Well


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(Currier and Ives image)

Did you see Kim Kardashian’s toddler daughter, North West,

addressing the paparazzi with an authoritative:I said no pictures!’?

Yes.  She looked quite cute in her designer jacket and tutu, but

imagine having to be so media savvy from such a young age.

A lot of girls who are not that much older are desperate to

attract media attention, I remarked.

But some people maintain discretion, Brassie reminded me.  Not

everyone is narcissistic.

I often wondered what Photini would have done after she met

Jesus, I mused.  I bet she wouldn’t have asked to take a selfie

with Him.

Who’s Photini?  Brassie asked.  Her name sounds like something

to do with photos, so maybe she would have sold her story to the local

Nablus rag.

No, she sounded as if she had more respect, I decided.  How

about the following villanelle for an exploration of the encounter?



(Matson Photo Service, Matson Collection,

Library of Congress)


They labelled me: The Woman at the Well –

Put in the Pitcher by a Nazarene!

They said I had a story that would sell.

Swine rooted round me, snuffling at the smell

of scandal – reckless as those Gadarene.

They labelled me: The Woman at the Well…

and camped outside my house, convinced I’d tell;

amazed that He should speak to the unclean

and said I had a story that would sell.

Some vowed He’d mesmerised me; cast a spell

on me; elaborated what they’d seen.

They labelled me: The Woman at the Well…

Those paparazzi made my life sheer hell.

Why not take the shekels and spill the beans?

They said I had a story they could sell.

Rabboni’s Living Water seemed to quell

my raging thirst.  Now I know what peace means.

They labelled me: The Woman at the Well

who had a Story that she Wouldn’t F***ing Sell!

Trick or Treat


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Frankenweenie (2012 film) poster.jpg

(A seasonal re-blog, folks. Enjoy!)

It was Hallowe’en and Carrie’s children were hyper-excited.  Tiger-Lily was in

charge of her siblings.  She had dressed as a witch and her brother, Ferdy, was

carrying a plastic trident and sported horns.

Ming had a black plastic cape and his smile was rather disconcerting as he

had managed to retain plastic fangs from a Christmas cracker in his mouth,

in spite of the additional dental obstruction of a brace.  The whole effect

was akin to Frankenweenie.

Bill was a white-faced zombie with fake blood dripping down his jaw.

Edward’s facewas green and he had a screw sticking out of his neck.

Rollo was a Ghostbuster.

All carried pumpkin lanterns and empty, be-ribboned mini-trugs, for the

reception of donated goodies.

Now be polite, children, and only visit the houses on High Street.  Ring the

doorbells once only and say thank you if anyone gives you fruit.  You

mustn’t accept money…

Edward looked disappointed.

I’ll wait round the corner in The Peal O’ Bells with the other mummies. 

Stay together and when you’ve finished, knock on the window.

Let’s go to Grandma’s first, said Ferdy. She won’t be scared of us.

Yes, let’s get it over with, said Tiger.

They rang the doorbell and stepped back politely.

Suddenly a white-sheeted figure with two black holes for eyes

opened the door and shouted: Boo!

Little Edward was terrified.  He seized his sister’s hand and dropped

his trug.

It’s only Grandma, silly, said Tiger, annoyed at the naughty nonagenarian.

Trick or treat, Grandma?

Ginevra pulled the sheet off and smoothed her hair.

We’re not having that American nonsense here, she lectured.  When your

daddy was small he had to do guising properly.  We’re a traditional family. 

So, who’s going to do the first turn?

Turn? quailed Rollo.

Yes.  A  recitation, dance or song.  You don’t get owt for nowt as they

used to say.

What’s a recitation?  asked Ming.

Come in.  I’ll show you, said Ginevra enthusiastically.  Ola! Have you put

the apples in the basin of water?

But Ola wasn’t there.  She had run off to Bric-a-Brac with Jean-Paul,

the widower from the twinning visit.  Ginevra had forgotten the new

carer’s name.

Sorry.  Magda, then.

They all trooped into the sitting room and Ginevra moved her case of

Dewlap Gin for Discerning Grandmothers off the sofa, so that they could

sit down.

She took a deep, somewhat juniper-scented breath and launched


Of man’s first disobedience and the fruit

Of that forbidden tree whose mortal taste

Brought Death into the world and all our woe…

Sing, Heavenly Muse!…

Two hours later Tiger had to shake Edward awake as her

grandmother uttered the final words:

…through Eden took their solitary way.

Ginevra bowed with a huge flourish and pronounced:

Paradise Lost: now that’s poetry!

She then proceeded to help herself to a bag of Mars bars which

Magda had been instructed to purchase for the children.


Grandma, we’ve got to go.  It’s past Edward’s bed-time, said Tiger-Lily


Oh, what a pity.  We didn’t get round to ducking for apples, said Ginevra,


There’s always next year, replied Tiger, scarcely banishing a rather un-

grand-daughterly thought: If the old bag is still around.

Carrie was frantic:  Where have you been all this time?

Blame Grandma, said Tiger.  Give her any opportunity or a platform and

you’ll be there all night.

You should have taken the crucifix and the garlic, like I told you, said

Carrie, bundling them into the 4×4She’s always been a monster.

Even to Daddy? asked an exhausted Ming.

Especially to Daddy.  Never mind.  We’ll have good fun at Clammie

and Tristram’s Guy Fawkes Party.  Burning effigies is so therapeutic!




Ode to Autumn


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John Keats, by William Hilton (died 1839). See...

St Crispin’s Day, sighed Brassie, my close-bosom friend.

The nights are drawing in. This weekend we change the clocks,

don’t we?  Which way?

Fall back; Spring forward, I reminded her.

(She can never remember in which direction to adjust her timekeepers.)

Think about it like this: tights down. Tights, as in stalactites.  My teacher said

they hung down.  But people are hanged. She also recited: One ‘l’ lama he’s a

priest; two ‘l’ llama he’s a priest, but you can bet your silk pyjama, there isn’t

any three ‘l’ lllama.

Dalai Lama at WhiteHouse (cropped).jpg

Why should tights hang down?  Wolford ones don’t. And shouldn’t it have

been ‘pyjamas’? remarked Brassie.  Anyway, what are you

talking about?

Just deliberating on my life and how it has fallen into the sere..

You sound a bit depressed, she stated bluntly.

I can’t help the pathetic fallacy of the season.  Keats was too upbeat in my


I wouldn’t exactly have called him a glass half full kind of guy, objected


Suppose he had written about Autumn thus, I volunteered, pushing a

sheet of A4 in her direction.


Season of fogs, mouldy putrefaction,

enemy of the geriatric sun,

bringing depression, dissatisfaction,

blasting the mildewed fruit trees, one by one;

tainting blackberries with lead pollution,

eroding limestone buildings as the air

saturates with sulphuric solution.

Emissions from cars, whose owners don’t care

make children’s lungs bloat as they breathe exhaust

fumes more deadly than poppy opiates:

an inspiration of enormous cost-

harvest to be garnered at future dates.

Who has not seen them oft amid their stores,

stockpiling for Christmas, demented folk?

Those raking rotting leaves: of garden chores

the most thankless.  Resulting bonfire smoke

irritating neighbours, whose dank washing

is ash-specked.  Home-brew enthusiasts start

ineffectual sterilising, squashing

of elderberries….It’s then their wives depart

for evenings out, to let men watch the ooze;

they do lotteries with syndicate friends,

hoping for windfalls; drinking decent booze.

Who hears the songs of Spring?  It all depends

to what you are attuned.  If you have kids,

you’ll hear the first whine of the Christmas list,

as children’s advertising makes its bids-

o’erwhelming, so no parent can resist

its importunities.  The dismal rain

fills gutters blocked by aforementioned leaves,

which de-rail, or delay the British train,

which sceptical commuter scarce believes.

Cold, full-grown lambs may bleat from hilly bourn,

outwith the fold, or a housing bubble.

Reaped fields disappear; crops, livestock we mourn.

Winnowing is gone- designer stubble

the only razing we can recognise.

Clearly Men and Nature are out of synch.

Seasonal disorders rise.

If Keats were here, whatever would he think?

I think that is SAD, said Brassie.


Yes, the product of Seasonal Affective Disorder.  Go and get a light


Very helpful.  If the Romantics had been persuaded to get a light box,

we wouldn’t have had all that marvellous poetry.

Interesting subject for a dissertation.

Well, why don’t you write it, instead of all that drivel?

Because we might not be amused. How much are light boxes, anyway?

(re-blog from 2013)


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