Category: humour

Gone West

Recently I was asked to perform a 10 minute sketch at a local music pub’s Americana night. My brief: you are Marshall Amp (geddit?) and we want you to devise a story to illustrate a line from a traditional American song. Oh, and you can do a harmonica solo …

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Always game for a laugh, I agreed. I found a risqué old blues and wrote a cod-Western script to accompany it. Now, two days before the show, I learn it’s been cancelled. I reckon the promoter and the landlord have fallen out … again!


Now it’s no skin off my nose.  I don’t sing and play for money – they do buy me the occasional beer – but just because I like doing it. However this time, because I’ve gone the extra mile and devised a little routine, thought I might as well make it the basis of a blogpost. So here, my friends, is an exclusive preview of the sketch that never was …

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(Marshall Amp, star pinned on his check shirt, leather waistcoat, jeans, boots, ten-gallon hat over his eyes, asleep)

Hunh? Uh … yeah … howdy! Mus’ say that it’s a reel honor and privilege to be sat here in the world-famous Runnin’ Horse listnin’ to me … Marshall Amp … kinda well-known hereabouts on account of that byoootiful big beast up there on the wall behind y’all …

(Points at the life-size facsimile of an American bison head)

… yup, that’s the very las’ prairie buffalo of ’em all and it was yours truly what pulled the trigger … got the pictures to prove it, too, put ’em up all over Facebook … you seen ’em, ain’tcha?

(Adopts smug pose with foot on imaginary dead animal)

Put that in your peace pipe and smoke it, Co-chise! … Now folk always tellin’ me – Hey, Marshall Amp, how come a lawman like you always out huntin’ endangered species like that? Well, I tell ’em, I reckon it give me summat to do since they stopped all that bounty huntin’ for lawbreakers … y’all seen them posters … Wanted, Dead or Alive!

‘Course the little woman always bitchin’ I ain’t never home, where’s the money comin’ from, all that stuff! You heard ’em – How’m I gonna make ends meet, Marshall? Well, take ma word for it, she know how to make ends meet! My back turn no more’n a minute on the trail o’ everlasting glory in shootin’ circles, know what ma wife done? Only high-tailed it downtown, cruisin’ all them there juke joints, fulla men with big pockets and no morals! You know them places …

(Looks suspiciously round audience)

Y’do? Well, I got my eye on you! You know Bootleg Sal? Howzabout Little Suzanne? Y’ever been down Django Hill?

Yeah, see, there’s this song they wrote about it. Kinda public-service warning to stay away from all that stuff. So I aim to sing it and all the while I’ll be watching out for signs o’ guilty knowledge. All you poker-faces out there, here come a li’l musical lie-detector test! Maybe you better join in with the chorus …


You know Bootleg Sal she used to live cross town
The law went there and he closed her down

Now you can’t get the stuff no more
You can’t get the stuff no more
No matter how you try
You can’t buy
You can’t get that stuff no more

You know that place on Django Hill
The law shut the gals and the liquor still

Now you can’t get the stuff, etc.

Little Suzanne used to sell hair grease
Got in trouble with the Chief of Police

Now you can’t get the stuff, etc.

(harmonica solo)

There go Amp with a great big knife
Somebody been foolin’ round with his wife

Now you can’t get the stuff, etc.

Old State street girl used to give it away
Now you can’t get it if you offers to pay

You can’t get the stuff, etc.

All the girls used to walk the streets
The law done put ’em off his beat

Now you can’t get the stuff no more
You can’t get the stuff no more
No matter how you try
You can’t buy
You can’t get that stuff no more

You get the message, people?

(Another hard scan of the audience)

Well, I guess you passed that test! So I aim to make some o’ you ma deputies ‘fore the night is out. Eyes an’ ears on the street, see … an’ hear? We gonna clean up this town, make it fit fo’ families, yeah? Make it a place where good ol’ private enterprise can flourish again.

So any o’ you folk wanna open up a house o’ ill-repute, won’t get no trouble from li’l old me, jus’ make a decent donation to the M.A.F.F.K.W.H. … that’s the Marshall Amp Fund For Keeping Wives Home. Don’t want no more How’m I gonna make ends meet, Marshall? Her end gonna stay jus’ where it is, thank y’very much, so howzabout a li’l old goodwill contribution?

(Holds out upturned hat)

Kinda shy, huh? Well, it’s not every day you meet a gen-u-ine hero. Jus’ think of it, folks, the very las’ prairie buffalo an’ I’ll be posin’ right next to her fo’ all o’ your pictures in two shakes of a –

(Promoter calls out “It’s plastic!”)

Whoa, baby, best not tell Ranger Rob (indicates pub landlord) or he’ll be asking me for his money back! Anyhow, I’ve been Marshall Amp and you’ve been … kinda patient!

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Me again! On second thoughts, perhaps it’s just as well they cancelled. They probably wanted a nice little fireside chat conforming to cosy 1950s stereotypes, Burl Ives meets Gene Autry …

O ma darlin’
O ma darlin’
O ma darlin’ Clementine
You are lost
And gone forever
Dreadful sorry Clementine …



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The Time Has Come

I have a confession to make. I am guilty of terrible crimes. My public face – decent, caring, compassionate – is a sham, a hollow mask which conceals a crawling, squirming, grotesque monstrosity you would hate to hallucinate in your deepest and darkest nightmares.

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  • I have voted for people who have betrayed humanity.
  • I have worked for employers who refuse to contribute to the well-being of the wider society to which they belong.
  • I have quietly pocketed my share of the spoils.
  • I have bought products from organisations who lie and cheat their way through the world.
  • I look forward to a pension bloated by financial investments in dubious, amoral and even illegal activities.
  • I have turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to countless sins and abuses committed in my name.

Thank you for listening. Just by bearing silent and non-judgmental witness, you have managed to lift my burden of shame.

As a matter of fact, I feel much better now. A trouble shared is a trouble halved, they say, or else quartered or maybe eighthed or perhaps sixteenthed …

It may even be that my sense of culpability has been spread so microscopically thinly that there is actually no vestige left of personal responsibility for anything at all … anywhere … ever …

                                                                            Did I just say that out loud?

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Images: and and


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.’



All Chilled Out

Below is the final poem in my little acrostic series, which has been an enjoyable and relatively easy way to keep my hand in while I’ve been away from home. Now the holiday is over, I guess it’s back to thinking up rather more substantial ideas for posts. Hmm, time for a team meeting …


  • Right then, what do you need to say?
  • Er …
  • Well, what do you think the world needs to hear?
  • Erm …


That went well, didn’t it? Bear with me, I’ll have to go in there and bang a few heads together …



Never mind, normal service will be resumed as soon as possible … as the bishop said to the actress. In the meantime, here is that acrostic poem I promised you. Bet you can’t wait to read it. It’s in response to the Daily Prompt Shiver


So cold, this old
House, full of
Invisible fingers plucking
Violin strings
Everywhere and nowhere –
Rallentando of dry bones.





26 reasons to watch Alan Partridge

Now this is something I can’t resist sharing. There’s only one reason for doing anything, they say, but I never do anything other people tell me so here is more than one. Yeah, people, suck on this!

I’ve shared this clip because (a) it mentions the word ‘Nomad’ (b) I like the scattergun satire of Alan Partridge (c) it’s clever (d) it’s funny (e) I can’t be bothered to think of anything original (d) it questions the whole concept of self in line with my previously stated intention to post about who I am (f) I like to share good stuff (g) it’s a handy filler while I’m composing the post mentioned in (d) (h) it’s a well-made little film (i) I like the colours (j) I don’t like Game of Thrones (k) I wish I’d thought of it and can bask in the glory of its creation as if I was a part of it (l) it contains schoolboy humour (m) it’s quintessentially British, whatever that means (n) the silent bit at the end is well worth waiting for (o) it sends up the idea of self-publicity (p) I like the unintentional self-revelations (q) it mocks snobbery and silly one-upmanship (r) he’s an even bigger loser than I am (s) I’m interested to see what others think of it (t) I enjoyed it (u) there is real truth behind the humour (v) (for American readers) there is real truth behind the humor (w) I do like to see a man in a cravat (x) there are obscure local references which will annoy foreigners (y) there is much in it for the international community to appreciate despite its somewhat parochial perspectives (z) we all need to laugh at ourselves but, failing that, let’s all laugh at Alan Partridge

Warning: this link may take a few moments to load up but it’s well worth the wait!

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.