Category: Bafflesby

100 word story: Roots Stew

“You not from round here, then?”

They surrounded him, their faces tight and closed. A truthful answer might be his death warrant.

“As a matter of fact, I was born in that house over there. Local boy, me! Well, I had to come back and see the old place once more before I … ”

Their eyes widened. He pressed on.

“Six weeks left, the doctors say. But standing here in Bafflesby beside you guys is a tonic all by itself. No place like home, eh, rubbing shoulders with your own kind? Gotta tell you, feels so good!”

“We in Dumbleton, fella …”

 

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Image: iStock

Vox Pop

You wanna know what’s wrong with the world? I’ll tell you what’s wrong with the world! What’s wrong with the world is that the world isn’t Bafflesby!

Take my word for it. I know all about this stuff. Bafflesby born and bred, that’s me, man and boy! Never set foot outside the sound of her ancient bell tower, as it happens, and never wanted to. You can’t get lost here, see? The streets tell their own story. Witchfinder Way, Gibbet Gardens, Bedlam Bridge. You can’t move for history.

I’m like a stick of rock, I am, Bafflesby through and through. I got traditions built in. That’s what these Outcomers can’t understand. They’re not like us, are they? Smell different, for a start.

Old Barry Cade says they look different, too, but I wouldn’t know. To be honest with you, I can’t bear the sight of them. Last thing I wanna see is them curling their lips at our old ways, sneering at our customs. Forever asking the rules of Bladderball when any fule no there ain’t none! You either get it or you don’t.

Same with the Festival of the Flaming Firkin. Spot a stranger a mile away by his singed whiskers, the Old’uns used to say. Used to. Not no more. Six foot under, most of them, and their wisdoms buried with them! The good old days is gone for good. Anyone says he can bring them back gets my vote, even if he is pissing into the wind.

See that mausoleum through the mullion window? That was our old Squire, that was, bless his brutal heart! Time was when every job in town was in his pocket. If you wasn’t true-blue Bafflesby, you never got a sniff. He knew we was born to it, you see, it was in our blood. Natural aptitude, he used to say, comes with the territory. We didn’t need telling what to do, all that nonsense! Nowadays it’s all, What do I have to do?

They tell them, too. Waste of money even if they are paying them less! Back in the day we never needed no training up. Hit the ground running and – Bob’s your Uncle! – you got a job for life. Not just your life, neither, the job were yours to pass on. Keep it in the family, they used to say, and the family will keep you.

Not no more. These days the thought police are everywhere. They got to have interviews. All these Outcomers talking stuff they don’t know. Asking things. We never had to ask nothing.

Same as the Facts of Life. No one said nothing. You kept one eye open and your ear to the ground in them days, then if something arose you jumped at the chance. You don’t have to go to college to cook a pie, they used to say, may they rest in peace …

Ha, fat chance of that, they’ll all be spinning in their graves! They wouldn’t recognise the place now. All these new estates, you get lost on them, with their Anyroad Avenues and Whatchamacallit Walks. Go to the end of your street and you don’t know where the hell you are. No point asking a constable because there aren’t any. And the ones in cars don’t like you flagging them down. It’s a war-zone out there.

Worst of it is, the enemy don’t wear different uniforms. Muggers, rapists, murderers … they look just like you. Once upon a time there was just the village idiot and the old witch who used to shout things at you. You knew who they were because their jobs ran in the family. They came from a long line of idiots and witches. They just knew what to do. Now they got to have interviews. Political correctness gone mad, I call it, taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut. And you can’t crack a joke without po-faced prudes breathing down your neck. Anyone who gets those creeps off my back can have my vote.

What’s wrong with the world is too many creeps. Anyone takes a sledgehammer to my back door has a surprise coming, I can tell you. Can’t tell you what it is, so don’t ask, but let’s say I’m good and ready. Fort Knox has nothing on me. Time was when you could leave your back door open in case Old Mother Hubbard came round for a cup of sugar. Now you don’t know who is outside your house trying to sell you exploding clothes-pegs  and foreign encyclopaedias. And if Ma Hubbard gets both barrels, tough!

So anyone says he’ll Bring Bafflesby Back gets my vote, even if he just wants to turn it into a theme park. He doesn’t need to change anything much, as long as he shoots his big mouth off about people I don’t like so that I can too. Time was you could say whatever you wanted. Now it’s all, button your lip in case you upset every little waif and stray in the big cruel world.

Well, losers, get used to it! The candidate who gets my vote will shoot first and ask questions later. The candidate who gets my vote will always say the first thing that pops into their head just like I do. The candidate who gets my vote will promise me the moon without waiting to commission a boring old feasibility study. And after no consideration whatsoever, I have decided that the only person worthy of my vote is me. My election campaign begins here.

Image result for vote meImage: Clipart Kid

The Next Step Forward?

by Bafflesby Beacon roving reporter Watt Ware

Tongues  are wagging all over Bafflesby about the mystery construction that has been rising from the ancient dust of the now-demolished Shirehall Public Library And Theatre (SPLAT) like a phoenix from the ashes. Imagine a phoenix wearing a cool pair of shades and you might capture the soul of this new building with its opaque walls of mirror glass reflecting your own puzzled expression back at yourself.

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Donning an appropriate pair of Ray-Bans, I venture out in search of Beacon readers through streets awash with wild surmise and afloat with a thousand theories. It’s time to test the water.

SPLAT near-neighbour Ria Wynn-Doe, 74, sounds relieved. ‘Well,’ she tells me, ‘anything’s better than having a horde of undesirables peering through your lace curtains. That arty-farty place lured them in like moths. Some days it was Night of the Living Dead round here. Beads, beards and bare feet – you know the type – and half of them only in there to warm themselves up for free and gratis, thank you very much! Rest of them was most likely gawping at naked bodies and glorying in smutty dialogue at the taxpayer’s expense! And as for all those books, I’d have had a bonfire!’

Si Knightley, 19, isn’t so sure. ‘I never went in but me and my dad used to walk his dog round the Shirehall and look at all those Greek statues on the outside. Frieze, he called it. I’m not surprised because they didn’t have no clothes on. Wonder what happened to them. Do you reckon they put them in there?’ He was pointing at the new building. ‘I would of.’

In the Culled Badger the ale is flowing, along with the conversation. There’s a copy of The Bafflesby Beacon on the bar. It’s a good sign. I ask them about the new building.

‘I got a mate in the know,’ Bill de Wall, 63, tells me, ‘and he says it’s a hostel for migrants. What it is, you can’t see inside so there’s no way of knowing how many are in there. But they can see out so they’ll be able to watch our every move. Plan their operations. That’s what my mate reckons. He’s got this mate in the know, see?’

Someone else, who won’t give his name but says he isn’t Joe King, will have none of this. ‘Nah, what it is, it’s a five-star prison for famous people who’ve been done for doing bad stuff to people who aren’t famous. All these left-wing luvvies, it’s one big club, they’re all in it together. They got secret signs and all sorts. Goes right to the top, too, that’s why you never hear about it. Hush-hush, see? You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. Just behind that glass they’re living in the lap of luxury and laughing because nobody can see who they really are. You can’t hear a thing but they’re laughing at you, right now!’

At this point the pub landlady buts in. ‘A few pints of Old Conspiracy and these monkeys start imagining the mice behind the wainscot are plotting to pinch their peanuts.’ She glances around, leans towards me and lowers her voice. ‘No, sweetheart, if you want to learn the truth you must gain access to the Dark Web and ask for Daffy Duck. Don’t laugh, there are mysterious forces in this world and far beyond her that mean to rid the galaxy of humankind and all its idiot progeny. Next thing you know, these mirror boxes will be everywhere. Today Bafflesby, Tomorrow Never Knows. By the way, despite all appearances, this is Happy Hour. You can drink three pints of Old Conspiracy for the price of one.’

I make my excuses and leave without telling them the real truth, that The Bafflesby Beacon has just signed a rental contract with the owners of MirrorBox House and will be moving in before the day is out. I don’t tell them how its unique 360 degree all-round vista will facilitate our hi-tech sight-and-sound surveillance of Bafflesby now that the phone-hacking scandal has deprived us journalists of optimum listening capability.

Or it will do once we’ve cut down all those old trees. I don’t tell them that, either. Never mind. They can read all about it here.

The Bafflesby Beacon Says …

You can rest assured, Bafflesbytes, that the ever-watchful Beacon is on your case. Now, more than ever, we will guard you against those who seek to make unwanted intrusions into your placid lives. We are primed and ready to blow the whistle at the very first sign of the enemy at your door, be they false friends or foreigners or even foraging aliens.

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 Images: pinterest.com
         cartoonsmovies7.blogspot.com

Our Boy Done Good!

Although we won’t be blowing our own trumpets any time soon from the top of BLAG Towers, spiritual home of the Bafflesby Lifestyle Advisory Group, please allow us a brief moment of smug self-satisfaction. Like fond parents we watched from the wings as the very first graduate of our brand-spanking-new leadership course – Special Panic Attack Social Management (SPASM) – took to the stage before a big Bafflesby audience.

The room rippled with rage and resentment but young Mickey Finn managed to stun everyone into silence with a sustained barrage of banality incorporating the very latest techniques of seated crowd control. People found themselves nodding for no reason and many fell asleep long before our protégé had finished speaking.

Here is a transcript of his speech to aid politicians of the future in their quest to suppress  despair whilst stifling specific hopes of anything better:

“To hear some people talk, my friends, you’d think we were all caught in the eye of a terrible hurricane. Now I’ll admit the water has grown a little choppy of late but it’s only a storm in a teacup. We just need to wait till the clouds roll by and ignore folk who pour cold water on everything and want to sit around in wet blankets. At the end of the day we’re all in the same boat and we sink or swim together.

Oh, the gloom and doom merchants will tell you we’re up shit-creek without a paddle but that’s only mud-slinging. And when we make landfall and begin to blaze a trail with best foot forward, you can bet your bottom dollar that your common-or-garden naysayer will be up there on his high horse like a cat on hot bricks with his tail between his legs, his heart in his boots, bees in his bonnet and bats in his belfry.

Whatever else we do, let’s keep the pot boiling. This is no time to throw in the towel when our backs are to the wall and our future is in the soup. It may only be cabbage and potato soup but there are several excellent recipes to choose from. And there is always alcohol. Let our glass be half full rather than half empty. There may be trouble ahead but while there’s music and moonlight and love and romance, let’s face the music and dance.

Yes, my friends, spend any loose change on dancing shoes. Our more patriotic celebrities are hoofing for everything they’re worth, showing all of us the way. Dance marathons could be the leg-up that the man in the street is begging for. And remember, it could always be worse. In some countries they shoot beggars, don’t they?

So come on, Bafflesby, play up and play the game! The lion’s share goes to the lion-hearted. Seize the time and take the bull by the horns. Strike while the iron is hot and devil take the hindmost. But let us not throw caution to the winds. We must play our cards close to our chest, keep our powder dry and never let the cat out of the bag.

May your upper lip be stiff, your feet up to the mark, your shoulders to the wheel and your ducks forever in a row. By hook or by crook we will come out on top … don’t forget the glory days when good Queen Bess knighted Francis Drake and Walter Raleigh for their services to international piracy … while never, of course, condoning anything below the belt. Nip that in the bud tout suite, I’d say – if it wasn’t French! After all is said and done, that just wouldn’t be cricket, would it?”

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Image: Amazon.co.uk

Some Hope for Bafflesby

So it’s official: the latest survey of Bafflesbytes (that’s us, folks!) shows that we’re glummer than we were this time last year! It seems a bunch of negative emotions are jostling for supremacy with disappointment leading guilt, suspicion and resentment by a short head!! And it’s got the boffins scratching their heads about just why we’re all chewing the carpets!!!

Well, when the experts fall out, BLAG steps up to the plate …

Who or what is BLAG, we hear you ask?

We are the Bafflesby Lifestyle Advisory Group, a brand-new cutting-edge fresh-ideas factory, who believe with a deep and abiding passion that our beloved Bafflesby can bounce back. We combine the best of blue-sky thinking with the artful appliance of science to come up with the answers you want to hear.

Wanna hear our story? Betta sit down, folks, we’re gonna blow your tiny minds!

The way we see it, many people have grown so accustomed to chuntering on in bars and pubs about what’s really gone wrong with the damn country that they still can’t believe anybody who’s Anybody is really listening. And many others who have been listening but don’t like what they’ve been hearing can’t believe anybody who’s Anybody should have been paying any attention in the first place.

We’re talking about the kind of conversation that begins: Well, I’m not a florist but why import exotic orchids when the garden centres are full of beautiful English Roses all ready and willing to serve you … ?

Still with us? So far so good, as the actress said to the bishop …

We at BLAG believe everybody can agree that we need a firm hand on the tiller and all hands to the deck to steer the ship of state into calmer waters. [Keep Calm and Shut Up! T-shirts are available from BLAG in many sizes: L, XL, XXL, XXXL, etc. Each one individually handcrafted in Chipping Sodbury for only £99.99!]

Steerage passengers who find themselves suddenly promoted to the bridge and shown lots of pretty lights – don’t worry until they turn red and start flashing! – should sign up for our crash course in how to avoid icebergs. [Our Special Panic Attack Social Management (SPASM) classes are only £99.99 per day, discounts for OAPs!]

Meanwhile, as a free taster for you, our Derivation Etymological Archaeology Department (DEAD) have been scraping the semantic barrel in search of Olde-Englysshe proverbs to cheer us all up. Best avoid foreign sayings, especially anything Olde-Scottysshe such as ‘mony a mickle maks a muckle’. [You what, Jock? – Ed. Monitor]

Sprinkle liberally – or illiberally, you choose! – into the next conversation whenever Messrs Doom and Gloom turn up. [Top Tip: try these out in the bathroom mirror if you’re feeling hungover from the night before as an efficacious palliative, laxative, purgative, emetic, antiseptic or even analgesic – whatever that is, it sounds painful!]

 

Cheery Proverbs

  • Charity begins at home
  • Every cloud has a silver lining
  • All’s well that ends well
  • Enough is as good as a feast
  • Faint heart never won fair lady
  • None but the brave deserve the fair
  • He laughs best who laughs last
  • Make hay while the sun shines
  • Necessity is the mother of invention
  • New brooms sweep clean
  • No news is good news
  • Hunger is the best sauce
  • Least said soonest mended
  • Where there’s a will there’s a way
  • Let sleeping dogs lie

 

Proverbs to Steer Clear Of for a While

  • In for a penny in for a pound
  • Look after the pence and the pounds will take care of themselves
  • Penny wise pound foolish
  • Let not the pot call the kettle black

 

Meaningless Smokescreens

  • It’s a long lane that has no turning
  • Fine words butter no parsnips
  • It’s an ill wind that blows nobody any good
  • More haste less speed
  • A wet bird never flies at night

 

Proverbs to Avoid at All Costs

  • Absence makes the heart grow fonder
  • Forbidden fruit tastes sweetest
  • A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
  • A drowning man will clutch at a straw
  • Look before you leap
  • Once bitten twice shy
  • Out of the frying pan into the fire
  • Pride goes before a fall
  • We never miss the water till the well runs dry
  • If it ain’t broke don’t fix it

 

And don’t forget, when all else fails you can always talk about:

  • dancing on TV
  • baking on TV
  • the weather
  • and, er …
  • … that’s all, folks!

 

Don’t miss my next post, when the very first SPASM graduate tries out BLAG’s brand-new cutting-edge fresh-idea techniques in the very first post-survey speech to an excited Bafflesby audience … Can he pour water on burning oil, to misuse a DEAD old proverb? [Tickets are £09.99 but WordPress readers get in free!]

 

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Bafflesby Echo Scoops Schools Shake-Up

                                                  by our special freelance correspondent Ziro Owers

News that Prime Minister Theresa May has given the green light to grammar schools was greeted with cheers of gratitude and a fair few tears of nostalgia at the Bafflesby Institute for Generating Upmarket Policy (BIGUP) earlier today. This conservative think-tank is the brainchild of Doctor Ry Twyng who welcomed me personally in the foyer of BIGUP with an iron handshake, his eyes glinting behind rose-tinted spectacles. I imagined he would whisk me up to his plush office but, washing his hand with a wet-wipe, he indicated a couple of plastic chairs next to a wilting plant. The interview clearly wasn’t going to be a long one so I plunged in at the deep end.

Was 11 years old too early to separate children by ability? ‘Well,’ Doctor Ry began, leaning forward, ‘in some ways it’s too late. As we speak, we’re working on techniques to predict personal profitability potential in five-year-olds. It’s only a matter of time before we can reach into the womb … as it were.’

Profitability potential? ‘Estimated economic value. Future earning capability. It pays to think ahead, you see.’

I pointed up at the motto under the BIGUP logo, which read Backwards Is The New Forwards. The Doctor blinked. ‘Ah, yes, well … you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater! And one thing never changes, taxpayers want big bangs for their bucks. A return on their investments, you might say. We need to identify the growth points and channel expenditure accordingly.’

Did that mean spending money to help disadvantaged children catch up? He sighed, as if dealing with a slow learner. ‘You don’t turn sheep into goats by giving them climbing lessons. Think of grammar schools as hothouses for jungle creepers. A battle to reach the light!’

Spittle flecked his lips. I asked if he saw human beings as a collection of different species. He thought for a moment. ‘Well, I’d like the school system to resemble a well-run zoo. It’s certainly cost-effective to keep meat-eaters and vegetarians apart.’

Did cost-effective mean cheaper, I wondered? ‘Some people know the value of everything and the price of nothing,’ he said, with a mysterious little laugh.

So there’d be no truck with antelopes auditioning for the big cat enclosure? He rolled his eyes, back to that lesson with the slow learner. ‘It’s all about giving children the opportunity to succeed. The grammar school is a beacon of high attainment.’

Did that mean a light on a far hill only glimpsed by most people from the valley below? His snort of impatience implied that I was struggling with his analogies, which was hardly fair. I was only trying to help him with them.

Time, it seemed, for a direct ball upfield!

What I found hard to understand, I said, was the claim that grammar schools improved choice when the vast majority of children failed to get into them. ‘Ah, well, the losers have the choice of paying for a private education. We still live in a free country. Or are you suggesting we abolish the human right to buy our children an educational advantage?’

For some reason I imagined myself as a French peasant telling Marie Antoinette I had no bread and being told to go and eat cake. I looked at my hands. The Doctor must have seen his advantage. ‘And don’t forget,’ he added, ‘that everyone has the right to purchase extra tuition in the run-up to grammar school selection tests.’

He’d pushed his case too far. I told him I thought the PM had ruled out a return to entrance exams. ‘Ah, yes, well … selection can also be made by interview.’

Did this mean weeding out social undesirables? ‘Now you’re trying to put words in my mouth, my young friend! Think of the grammar school as a lifeline to bright children from the wrong side of the tracks. The poor are always with us, alas, but some of them are surprisingly clever.’

He gave me an accusing look, as if I should doubt his word. I pressed on. What of the existing grammar schools, in which a mere 3% of pupils were poor enough to need free school meals as against the national average of 18%? Were these schools playing a part in their country’s heroic struggle for equality and community?

‘You’ve forgotten liberty,’ he said in a dry voice.

I pressed on some more. Why, I wondered, did London’s comprehensive school system outperform the selective system of neighbouring Kent for children from every social background?

The Doctor opened his mouth as if to speak but stood up instead. I followed suit and he gave my chair a quick once-over with the wet-wipe before flashing me a smile like a porcelain wall.

‘Do you have a coat, young man? There’s a cold wind blowing outside.’

 

 

Away With The Fairies

                                  by our Bafflesby Echo special correspondent, Trend Hunter

How often have we heard it said that Bafflesby is out of the loop when it comes to crazes? Remember that burning mountain of hula hoops, unsold because their target audience had grown too old and arthritic to use them? And who can forget how thousands of Davy Crockett hats would have suffered the same fate if their late arrival had not coincided with the onset of male-pattern baldness?

But now our town is at the forefront of the latest mania to sweep the nation. ‘Ungh,‘ I hear you gasp as you snuggle a little closer to the sad and soggy remains of your beloved Care Bear, ‘whassat you say, sleepy old Bafflesby ahead of the curve?‘ But don’t get too excited. The new craze is all about plucking tiny mythical creatures from thin air and collecting them in little boxes.

Sound familiar? Yes, Bafflesby has finally cottoned on to the late-Victorian fad for finding fairies at the bottom of every back garden. Suddenly, fairy-hunters are everywhere – just open your net curtains and you’ll see two or three of them lurching around like zombies. I wanted to know who started the craze but engaging these deeply entranced ones in conversation proved impossible – I was lucky to get a grunt or two.

Determined to find Mister Big, I entered pop-up shop Majik Momentz to confront owner Luke Shifty and his sinister moustache. Far from accepting responsibility or admitting exploitation, he just shrugged and said: ‘We are here to serve our customers and if they want extremely expensive ectoplasm-proof containment units, well, we’re happy to provide them.’

He pointed to a huge pile of what looked like old wooden school pencil-cases dipped in silver glitter. ‘Each and every one has been handled by a magus,’ he added, perhaps confused by my beard and beanie hat into thinking I was a prospective buyer. Highly insulted, I turned on my heel but not before he’d pressed a card into my hand. ‘They’re selling like hot fairy-cakes,’ he shouted after me.

Outside the streets were full of glazed-eyed people holding Majik Momentz fairy boxes. I glanced at Mr Shifty’s card. You had to admit it was the spitting image of him.

At this point, I was barged to the ground by a gangly young man whose eyes never left his box. He seemed not to notice the collision but someone close by shouted: ‘Never mind gawking at business cards, you wanna watch where you’re going!’

It turned out to be the youngster’s parents, following him around to prevent him from walking into the path of a truck. ‘We got him a road-safety app for his last birthday but he’s not even looked at it,’ his mum explained. ‘Oh well, we’re just glad he’s getting some fresh air at long last. He’s not left the house since we got him Grand Theft Auto for his eleventh birthday in 1997.’

I told them it was a lucky 30 year old whose folks still looked out for him in this day and age. They beamed with pleasure so I asked them why their son was such a keen collector of fairies. ‘Oh,’ said his dad with a careless shrug, ‘he says we gotta marshal the forces of goodness and light against the powers of evil darkness or summat.’

His mum nodded. ‘He’s always on about this Armadillo business.’

‘Armageddon?’ I ventured.

‘Yeah, whatever … anyway, it’s always Us and Them with him.’

‘Not us, though,’ added his father with a face like a sucked lemon. ‘He says we’d be about as much use in The Final Battle To End All Battles as a couple of blocked peashooters.’

‘Never mind,’ his mum added, ‘we’re just happy he has a hobby.’

 

Postscript: I later found out that the photograph on Luke Shifty’s card was in fact the creator of Sherlock Holmes, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, posing with real fairies. I mention this fraudulent act of impersonation in case you are thinking of patronising Majik Momentz any time soon.

 

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