Tag: Bafflesby

The Big Ask

It was two years ago today that Bafflesby Borough Council – responding to the widespread perception that it was doing nothing much about anything at all – voted to hold a people’s plebiscite that posed a single, seemingly-simple question:

Are you in favour of change?                Yes                No                (tick one only)

The result was famously close. After several recounts Bafflesby’s Returning Officer, a very weary Ida Clare, gave the victory to Yes by one vote.

In keeping with the Town Motto Better Late Than Never, Bafflesbytes then began a furious debate which – arguably – they should have conducted before the vote, about how much change they actually did want when push came to shove. Some thought lots, lots thought some and lots more thought none. The only area of agreement was that nobody trusted anybody else either to change anything or to keep it the same.

Ever happy to serve our fellow citizens, we at the Bafflesby Bugle are throwing open the pages of our publication for all and sundry to have their four-pennyworth! Not getting your point across in the pub or over the breakfast table? Bursting with big ideas? Well, friends and readers, here’s your chance to let rip!

Today’s precious print platform goes to Curio Corner proprietor and part-time local historian Luke Backwoods, who reckons we can learn a thing or two from the distant past:

My big idea is to rebuild the medieval walls that used to go right round Bafflesby. Can’t beat heritage, can you, when it comes to pulling in the tourists? You could vet them at the gate to keep out undesirables. Any of them turn up with foreign bugs you just keep them in the gatehouse till they get better.

Or say the police are looking for shoplifters in Bafflesby. Put the word out. Lockdown. Besides, building up the walls again means jobs for local people. And you could stop all these cheap memorabilia products flooding the market. Charge them tariffs when they come over the drawbridge. Plus you’d have a portcullis when  things start to kick off with other places. 

Improve morale no end. Peace of mind all round. Easy.

 

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Image: Bluffton University

Swings and Roundabouts

Two years is a long time to spend in the blogosphere and I find my thoughts tracking  back over those 211 posts – a little over one a week by my reckoning – to consider what, if anything, they signify. Worth remembering, I think, what I wanted to achieve – here’s a mash-up of the first few posts:

My voyage of exploration begins. I want to recapture the spirit of childhood, when we would set out from home with the deliberate aim of getting hopelessly lost …

I find it sad that children today don’t occupy the streets and open spaces like we did when I was young. There have always been risks in such freedom but we made a habit of going around with our friends, rarely if ever alone. We knew the dangers and were able to avoid them. So many kids were out and about, there was safety in numbers. With more adults around, too, we behaved ourselves most of the time because we didn’t want to get into trouble. In this way, we learned how to take responsibility for ourselves.

Sitting alone in your bedroom is not a healthy substitute, especially when you factor in the online risks and bad cyberspace influences that would shock many parents. It’s a case of out of the frying pan into the fire, I’m afraid. Let’s make the open air a place for children again, providing proper facilities and a sensible but not stifling adult presence. It would be quite a challenge but I can’t think of a better way to create the communities of the future.

I love the idea that when you start saying something, you don’t know where you’re going with it …

Hmm, not sure all those lofty declarations of freedom have borne fruit. More often than not, my writing is tightly controlled: acrostic poems, haikus, hundred-word stories. Such constraints enable me to turn out posts on a semi-regular basis but there is a danger that they can become somewhat glib and formulaic. I’m wondering what became of my desire to go off-piste once in a while, starting stuff I wasn’t sure I could finish with my adult dignity and amour propre still intact!

Two years ago Obama was still in the White House and the United Kingdom still in the European Union. The future – always glimpsed through a glass darkly – at least showed signs of being recognisably and reassuringly like the past. But now all bets are off. I’ll risk a wild metaphor and say we are adrift in a sea of raw emotion clutching at puny straws of reason. At times like these, I sometimes think, only the heightened language of poetry can hit the spot:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
                                        from The Second Coming by WB Yeats
 Anyone dismayed by the surfacing of ugly prejudice in their own societies will find the poem’s final imagery disturbing:
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds …
… And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
A while back I created an imaginary town called Bafflesby because I had a strong urge to send up the sort of blinkered thinking that threatened values I grew up with:  the likes of tolerance, empathy, clarity, openness.
Just recently I’ve found it hard to invent new scenarios because it turns out that truth really is stranger than fiction. What with all these alternative facts and all this fake news, truth is a now a character in a costume drama. Remember those cheesy sword-and-sandal epics where the Romans wore wrist-watches?
Truth is now so strange that complete strangers come up to me and say, You couldn’t make it up! It’s true. I can’t. If I tried, it would be like shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Actually I’m hoping he’ll get bored running around and come sneaking back home for some hay and a nice rub-down. In the meantime, I’ll read Private Eye to discover how to poke fun when things stop being fun.
I suppose most countries have satirical magazines which probe wrong-doing and parody folly. What about those in your neck of the woods? It would be good to hear about any.
Private Eye’s covers are an art-form in their own right …
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Laughter is the best medicine, they say. They would say that, wouldn’t they, as it’s also much cheaper? But I don’t want to end this post on a cynical note. I played with my little granddaughter today and we just followed our noses, making it up as we went along. You don’t need toys when the whole world is yours for the taking.

Watching a bit of telly is OK, though, when invention begins to flag. And YouTube is a great way to explore past and present together. She loves the Bill & Ben colour animations – though not the ponderous old black-and-white string-puppet versions we had to endure. But I did get her to watch this little gem from back in the day, when grown-ups could poke fun at themselves without losing their dignity … and we both laughed like drains!

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

Whistleblown!

Did you know that there is now just one way to get financial support for new scientific research in Bafflesby? Of course you didn’t. They don’t make it easy to find out these things, do they? So we here at Bafileaks (Motto: Who Drips Wins) have decided to make public the following pamphlet, obtained at considerable personal risk from a display-stand in the foyer of their so-called funding agency.

Guidance About Submitting Projects (GASP)

The public needs good news. Officially authorised research from Professor Tom Eliot over at the 4 Quartets Institute has demonstrated that human kind cannot bear very much reality. Or very much in the way of tax increases. That’s why, from now on, we’re investing in science which delivers purely positive messages.

In a nutshell: if it puts a smile on our faces, you get the funding!

So here are some simple Do’s and Don’ts to stop you wasting your time and ours …

DO

  • send us inventions that will make a profit
  • produce studies that show we’re getting it right
  • offer proof that people can solve their own problems without help from experts
  • conclude that throwing money at the problem isn’t the answer
  • suggest we leave well enough alone

DON’T

  • uncover problems that require international action
  • mention tipping-points or cliff-edges
  • bang on about worst-case scenarios
  • use big words or long sentences
  • recommend expensive fixes or further investigations

We are Avid Believers in Science. We believe it’s out there … somewhere or other. So come in out of the cold, you boffins, and pitch us your plans!

Just make sure you wipe your feet first.

This is not fake news. No facts used are alternative. Only the science is fiction.

 

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Image: Pinterest

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.

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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
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Stop Press: Truth Stranger Than Fiction!

The only newspaper I read is The Guardian every Saturday. I’m pretty comfortable with its broadly liberal, slightly left-of-centre viewpoint. And there’s so much to read it lasts me well into the week.

On a bus the other day I picked up a discarded copy of The Sun, a right-of-centre tabloid. I flicked through it and found myself torn between laughter and horror at its unhealthy diet of salacious gossip and prurient titillation. Not for the first time I found myself wondering whether this rag – you can’t call it a newspaper because it has little actual news or analysis – creates or simply confirms a narrowly philistine and frankly nasty mind-set in its regular readers.

Aha, I think to myself, let’s cleanse the palate with another post set in my fictional town of Bafflesby. The spoof tabloid can be called something alliterative – the Bafflesby Bullhorn, maybe, with a silly motto like ‘We Shout Louder Than You’ – and sending this garbage up will be a walk in the park …

Wrong! As screwed-up pieces of paper piled up on the carpet, it began to occur to me that this stuff is beyond satire. Who would ever believe me if my headline article was anything like the one they actually printed:

FLYER ARRESTED IN FIRST CLASS

Jet perv films up BA girl’s undercarriage

EXCLUSIVE by STEPHEN SNOOPER

A FIRST Class British Airways passenger has been arrested amid claims he used a phone to film up a stewardess’s skirt at 30,000ft.

Businessman Martyn Mennis, 61, is alleged to have pushed the handset under the 26-year-old (Continued on Page Four)

There is nothing else on the front page. I would remind you that The Sun, unlike the Bafflesby Bullhorn, is a national newspaper at a time when major domestic and international events are coming thick and fast …

One confession, though, I did change the names. Maybe I will be able to do a parody, after all, but my satirical target – The Sun – has set the bar pretty high … or should that be low? The prospect of writing it makes me feel a bit grubby. I wonder if Sun journalists feel grubby, or do they just get used to it? Perhaps they’ve all got thick skins to begin with …

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Image: ClipArtBest.com