Thursday, December 25, 2008
Poor Harold Pinter was a great playwright, excellent cricketer, watchable actor, discerning ladies' man, quondam pretender to the Albanian throne and political adolescent.
Now that he's dead all sorts of ingrates will mock his penchant for Milosevic and rudeness to Americans.
"Art has always been free of life. Its flag has never reflected the colour of the flag that flies over the city fortress," said Shklovsky.
I would add that artists are not housepainters. They may be able to dash off a challenging abstract, but will probably bugger up your wainscoting.
I like to think I'll be remembered for my sexual prowess and ability to dislocate my shoulders, not for my Dadaist car maintenance or Esperanto poetry.
z"l, says the Cymru Rouge. Chwarae teg.
Scots words from the original German, sung by some Fenland elves in a setting by one of Wales's best and gentlest sons.
"What a fine example of an integrated community".
Merry Christmas to you all.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
Let's go down to a party
(And I said)
If that's not good enough
Then we'll both end up in
So crooned Paul Haig, late of scowling Scottish songcrows Josef K, before embarking on what for all I know is his current career as an impersonator of Ward Cooper, evil genius of the Genesis album market. The resemblance is canny.
A jolly number, the video of which reminds me of how splendid 1980s tailoring could be, "Never Give Up (Party Party)" had all the ingredients for becoming a hit - not least of which was a title with brackets in it.
This always works. Think of "Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine", "Escape (The Piña Colada Song)" and "I'm The Pope (You Know What I Mean)". MC 900 Ft. Jesus's "Truth Is Out Of Style" could have moved mountains if he'd added some parentheses.
And, on that subject, isn't Your Lord 6 Ft. Blonde Blue-Eyed Jesus about to enjoy His celestial birthday party? How He must delight in the demented diversity with which we mortals join in the celebrations. Poles mark the occasion by adopting a carp and letting it cavort in their bath, if they have one. Tagalogues nail themselves to trees in a sincere form of flattery. Catalans pay homage by naming their yule log after bowel movements.
Here on the feral high streets of Albion we have work Christmas dinners. These epitomise the British devotion to enforced cheer in confined spaces. Paul Haig's equally tuneful compatriot the K Man is a devout Calvinist who will not snub The Creator's yuil, especially if Management is paying, and so he developed a technique for dealing with these horrors at his various place of employment.
"I developed a technique for dealing with these horrors," he bellowed thoughtfully at The Tethered Goat the other day.
"Source a few sociable, chain-smoking bastards like yourself, get pished in a nearby bar, then rock up at the restaurant on time. Your boss and his cronies will already be up one end of the table, so you can grab the other. All the bores who've been parking their cars or hiding from drunks will fill the space between and leave you alone. A triumph for Scotland!"
"I'm looking at an empty glass, by the way," he added.
I nodded in regret at how things can go wrong if you heed not the words of the K Man. My own immediate colleagues, it must be said, are a bateau ivre heaving with wit, poise and beauty, so all of our frequent works outings resemble an En Vogue calendar shoot in Oscar Wilde's drawing room hosted by John Cassavetes.
The same could not be said for one of my previous places of work. There I broke the K Man rule, and ignorance was no defence. I made the common Christmastide mistake of taking pity on a lonely soul. Let us call him Feargal.
This fellow had recently joined our team, and was looking forward to getting to know us better at our Christmas dinner. So all the warning signs of his insane venality were already there, had I the eyes. Like Renfield I escorted this vampire to the '70s sitcom trattoria where the gang had gathered.
Sure enough, Feargal kept me waiting a crucial ten minutes while he knotted his scarf. We then pushed aside the wicker-clad chianti bottles to expose the open leaves of my personal Doomsday Diary.
Two places remained at the table. The first was at the smoky end nearest to us, where a blonde and a brunette were demonstrating their novel resuscitation methods on a bottle of barolo and an International Finance editor amid raucous drumming of pipes on primrose waistcoats.
The second lay at the other end of the table between - between! - a married couple who had met during their final-year exams in Censorious Silence at the University of Disapproval, where they both graduated pursed lips cum Birkenstocks.
He was a Green Party councillor, she played the bassoon. I had a feeling they both thought of me during their monthly bout of joyless coupling. Otherwise their chief interests were solidarity with the Castro régime and opposition to smoking and children. Oh yes, and they were Esperantists.
Feargal did not hesitate. He slid betwixt blonde and brunette with a Sid James swerve and cracked open a pack of Major. I couldn't escape. The look the other couple gave me mixed yearning with contempt in a way that only cohabitation has accustomed me to. I sat down, ordered a bottle of grappa and asked them how the Havana Philharmonic's wind section was doing.
I trust you will now run through the checklist as you approach the restaurant doors. How late are you? How drunk are you? How many of you are there? Do you smell of perique soaked in rum? Why not?
You will leave at the end of the evening either with an unlisted phone number smeared in lipstick on your cuffs, or much wiser about Turkish police interrogation methods. In the best of worlds, perhaps both.
In the meantime, enjoy the awkwardness of Paul Haig's performance on "Never Give Up", and ask yourself why the brackets didn't work for him on this occasion. Perhaps he hesitated on the threshold too sober and too long:
Sunday, December 07, 2008
Was he once a singular faction of the Rote Armee Fraktion? He remains as shtum as Stammheim at any mention of Leila Khaled, but deemed Danny the Headhunter from Withnail & I to be a "man with much wisdom concerning hair" after I'd loaned him the DVD.
He disappeared recently, only to return to the Tethered Goat last week. Our liquid luncheon party thought he'd been to Scotland, which is very pleasant this time of year. Instead, he assured us, he'd been on a chainsaw course at Wellington College.
We squeaked in emasculated awe. Short of attending a seminar on throwing bags of hammers at a wall, I cannot imagine anything butcher.
"Ja, I have learnt much more English," noted Der Uli. "Fuck off out of here! Every word there was fuck this and that," he added.
We explained that this is not the sort of language one uses in front of our elegant and exacting barmaid. Der Uli looked as if we'd recommended an Autobahn speed limit. "This was not correct?"
We elaborated that a proper register in the chainsaw-wielding community might not chime with the drunk-hosing sorority. We encouraged him to try out his new lexicon elsewhere, noting in particular that Reading night-club bouncers appreciate a midnight shove on the shoulder accompanied by a cheery "Fuck off out of here".
This exchange got me thinking about many issues of public concern. The Breaking of Andrew Sachs, the Exposition of Captain Jack Barrowman, the Resignation of Sir Terry Wogan - it all adds up to a Britain ill-adjusted to brandy-baffled gentlefolk and their 45 rpm needs.
With this in mind, Gyppo Byard and I have decided to launch a campaign to teach youngsters like Sachs, Wogan and the BBC the art of self-restraint. Too long have we allowed unbelted youth hegemony over our airwaves and watering holes.
Careless readers will know that this blog supports rap music, in both its hip and hop varieties, as well as diverse "skools". I therefore propose adapting this genre because of its singular ability to appeal to young and old alike.
My rapper of choice is, of course, Schoolly D. The banning of his "Signifying Rapper" by Page & Plant out of Led Zeppelin is one of the most egregious acts of cultural vandalism of our tarnished times, ranking alongside Classics FM and the Taliban destruction of the Bamian Buddhas.
The Devil repaid his debt to Robert Johnson by giving Jimmy Page the features of Norman Lamont, while Jermyn St is clearly continuing to boycott Robert Plant. In the meantime, some stout heart has risked the Wrath of Crowley by posting Mr D's finest moment on YouTube, where I urge you to check it one time:
Word, I'm sure you'll agree.
But it doesn't really speak to the wearers of tweed and nutria, unless they use these materials as underwear or to upholster their Cotswold "cribs". Instead, why doesn't Schoolly drop the ostinato from "Kashmir" in favour of, say, the opening minutes of Eric Coates's London Bridge March, as heard at 1'45" on this recording?
This splendidly little-known piece is unlikely to bring Schoolly any legal problems, and the interview with Mr Coates himself will give a few pointers as to the desired diction and cut of cloth for Mr D's Home Counties comeback tour.
Now to matters of wording. A study of the middle quatrains of "Signifying Rapper" will soon reveal Schoolly's mastery of New York vernacular and his flair for the picaresque. For those readers without Internet access, allow me to quote:
He said, you know your daddy and he's a faggot
And your mother's a whore
He said he seen you sellin asshole door to door
Yeah that's what he said, listen to what else he said mister badass pimp
He said, your granny, she's a dyke
And your other brother, he's a faggot
And your little sister Loo
She's so low she sucked the dick of a little maggot
Yeah that's what he said.
And I for one do not doubt it. Nonetheless, the London Bridge March time signature requires a more sprightly tempo, and much of the Bronx argot may be lost in Berks. I would recommend something along the lines of:
Your father rather enjoyed his time at Peterhouse,
And your dear mother - how is she, by the way? -
Went to great lengths to get you into Wellington
Where, I gather, you courted easy popularity with the prefects.
I doubt whether your housemaster approves
Of your current employment by an
Furthermore your grandmother - I forget which -
Spent the late '20s in Berlin,
While your younger brother summers in Morocco,
And your sister Louise, despite her youth,
Already enjoys local renown as an undiscerning fellatrice,
Or so I'm told.
Try it out for yourselves by trilling along to the clip of Coates, either by following the melody or adopting rap's sprung Sprechesang.
It can only help to revive Schoolly D's career, which has flagged since 2000's "Funk 'N Pussy", and might at least improve the demeanour of Britain's notoriously tetchy après-pub masseuses. It is Advent, after all.
Wednesday, December 03, 2008
Северное сияние (Severnoye siyaniye - Aurora Borealis). One part vodka, two parts Crimean Sekt. Thus called because that's what you start seeing. Popular with sailors and date-rapists.
Saturday, November 29, 2008
With such acclaim and gunfire ringing in my ears, I am happy to present the next chapter of my secret life of Armenia.
In 1986, the group of Russian-language students to which I was loosely attached set off on a trip from the sepia-tinted town of Voronezh for a week of summer sun in Soviet Armenia.
"The blokes will screw you, mate," chortled my room-mate Sergei through his morning moonshine mouthwash. "They're like that down there. Goes back to Roman times." He was studying something in the history faculty, usually the plump Cossack rump of Olga the hostel bike.
Reassured that I wouldn't be lonely, I clambered aboard the Aeroflot air trolley-bus for Yerevan, the Murmansk of the South.
My sympathy for the Armenians, combined with a general loucheness, had drawn me into the orbit of a small-time black-marketeer called Tigran. Nominally a student in the economics faculty, he spent his time trading vodka and jeans in a pleasant wooden house behind Voronezh railway station.
Now, the Soviets had just decided to give Prohibition a chance, on the grounds that it had worked so well in the United States and the Arabian Peninsula seemed a reasonable place.
As a result planes were falling from the skies as ground crews drank the flight fuel, the criminals who came to own the Russian economy accumulated the capital and contacts to get properly organised, factories stopped producing combustible television sets as workers bunked off to source some sauce, and housewives found their weekly shopping basket reduced to a bucket of fermented potatoes and two straws.
In a fatal display of flexibility Moscow had allowed the Caucasian republics of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia to carry on drinking because the locals just enjoyed an odd bottle of wine with their grilled meats. The Slavs, in contrast, had a habit of sticking their heads in a vodka trough, wrestling a pig, bursting into tearful song then collapsing in a snowdrift.
Armenians and Georgians were quick to flood the Russian market with spirits of varying degrees of toxicity, distributed by taxi-drivers, flower-sellers and pretty much anyone swarthy and unshaven on a street corner near you.
To this explosive mix just add British university students of the mid-1980s - a grisly lot at the best of times. The failure of General Galtieri, Red Wedge and organised labour to oust the ghastly Mrs Thatcher had left edjucated youth with nothing to hope for but comfortable jobs in accountancy, foreign holidays, a two-up/two-down in Amersham and occasional wife-swapping.
They squelched about in Dr. Marten's boots, long black overcoats and shoe-gazing fringes, snagging keffiyehs on their CND lapel badges and blinking sullenly at Sloane Rangers through their Lennon specs.
They made themselves feel better about having tolerated Fascism etc by conscientiously objecting to life.
Students eschewed fine wines, gaudy clothes, fellatio, pantomines and all the stuff that gets normal people through the day. Instead they tried to read the NME, admire the Style Council and fancy Alison Moyet (I find that task easier nowadays. Mmmm).Where was I? Ah yes. This Savonarola tendency kept my fellow-students in Voronezh away from Armenian spivs and dancing-girls, let alone contraband and currency speculation. At least initially. Closer encounters with Actually Existing Socialism slowly opened some of their clammy little hearts and beaded purses up to a New Economic Policy of bartering Billy Bragg t-shirts for booze and cigs. I was happy to help, for an undeclared commission fee.
The problem with a largely unregulated financial sector is unpredictable availability of cash and credit, as we have been finding out of late. The same applied to the Soviet black market, and it happened that my pockets were empty of all but some lint and a list of shady phone numbers as we disembarked at Armenia's euphonious Zvartnots Airport.
Equally uncertain was the itinerary of Young Young Aherne. Aherne had split off from the student collective early on and followed a more proletarian path to pleasure than my own. His great, unwashed room-mate Lukich had introduced him to "viper-pit" drinking dens where men grunt, spit, swear and gargle bottom-melting Zhiguli beer while calling each other "whore" in a lazily threatening manner.
Aherne had steadily acquired the three marks of Satan as far as our fellow-scholars were concerned - a social life unbounded by our hostel, a grasp of colloquial Russian and, worst of all, a grasp of a local girlfriend, when he should have been sitting in his room listening to The Cure and wondering why Soviet sugar lumps don't dissolve in tea.
Arriving in Armenia meant getting to know The Gang all over again, something Aherne wisely decided he'd rather not attempt. I had contacts, he had money. Together we devoted ourselves to some grand bouffery.
I whisked the gurgling Gael off on a tour of Armenian geezers from Tigran's address book, ranging from the Hooch King of Tsaghkadzor to The Fiendish Professor Morozov, a physicist at Yerevan University whose friends at the cognac distillery provided him with enough eau-de-vie to fell the Soviet women's shot-put team. In return Young Young paid for lunch.
Half-way through our trip I sensed his largesse was flagging, and decided to play my last and grubbiest card.
Earlier in the year one of the many girls called Hilary in our group had brough Aherne a bag of French letters back from Britain. He never wasted time on trips home, as these would have interrupted his delicate drinking/mounting/swearing continuum. The would-be Mrs Aherne, on the other hand, was clearly tired of making do with galoshes, the gritty, allegedly re-useable Soviet prophylactics that came in two sizes - too small and too large.
As a practical joke I and a few blades had lifted the condoms from Hilary's bag, fully intending to return them to her amid much relieved laughter and nudging after Aherne had calmed down. But somehow we never did. Hilly assumed she'd left them in Britain, and long agonised over her parents' reaction when they found them on her dressing table. I found this out relatively recently, in a bonus that has done my soul no good at all.
Through a complex series of thefts that remain unexplained, the stash had come to rest in the lining of my ox-blood leather jacket, which on that evening in June 1986 was draped across my shoulders on a balcony in Yerevan's atmospheric Micro Region No.5, where Aherne and I were sampling some of Armenia's primo hash.
"Things going well with the would-be Mrs Young Young?" I ventured.
"Aye, she's cracking, we're going to get married, joint bank accounts etc etc," he blathered.
"Then allow me to give you an early wedding present," I drawled, presenting him with the sheaths that he'd paid for some months ago, give or take a few.
Even I was moved by his squawks of Papist gratitude. Few were the men who willingly handed over their stack of johnnies to another in the Soviet Union, although he had no idea that I wasn't one of them. I dined like a provincial party secretary for another week, and returned to Voronezh laden with jazz records and kebabs.
"So, did you get screwed, Boyo?" beamed Sergei over his dried-fish and boot polish breakfast.
"Not me, cher Serge, not me," I murmured as Aherne barged past us on his way to the girls' floor, bag in hand.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
One of the wraiths that drift through my blog like pedalo Flying Dutchmen once asked whether I was or had ever been an office joker. The answer is a firm but inviting "no".
I have carried out guerrilla attacks on the email accounts of managerial fiends from time to time, but a packed lunchtime drinking schedule leaves me little time for japes. Indeed, I set an example of Montgomery clipped efficiency when leading my team of crumpled hacks to ever greater feats of tardy and inaccurate reporting with a distinct Byronic bias.
Sometimes my tow-haired charges gather at my shiny knee to hear cautionary tales of journos past. Those inclined to tomfoolery are chastened by my account of the Great Guatemalan Voodoo Hunt, and muck about no more.
I used to work at a business consultancy group, which was as disagreeable as it sounds. To leaven the loam I devised a game of mental poker for my colleagues. Our 0830 morning conference was organised by regional or thematic desk (Europe, International Business etc). Each desk had a staff editor (I was Soviet Union and Eastern Europe) and an outside specialist, usually an Oxford don or freelancer.
The Dons, as they were called, were likeable chancers in the main, but one or two took themselves far too seriously. The aim of the game was to slip an absurd story past them without their noticing.
We staff would usually assemble at 0745 while the office gimp was compiling the desk files. These were folders of agency wires and press clippings sorted by region, with each headline typed up on an overall crib sheet. The Dons got a copy of the crib-sheet in their files.
As the gimp listened to the BBC World Service headlines at 0800, one of us had to alter a headline on the crib-sheet in the typewriter. The technique was to find a story from a region where the Don was either too preoccupied/befuddled to notice the doctored headline, or more rarely would spot it and get the joke.
The challenge was to ensure that the Chief Editor, a bellicose and drunken Old Arab Hand, and the Director, a born-again American, didn't notice either. This required guile and confidence.
In case the Marxists among you were wondering, the gimp never spotted anything because he was too harassed and his eyesight had been ruined by years of rummaging in the early morning gloom.
My finest moment involved the then French prime minister Madame Édith Cresson, President Mitterrand's final act of revenge on the Socialist Party. La Cresson was the chainsmoking ideal of what French women of a certain age and wayward moral compass look like. She devoted a good part of her premiership to calling the English a bunch of poofs and the Japanese an army of speccy yellow ant men.
What would be fair comment for an officer in the Royal Welch Fusilliers c.1943 was not acceptable from a European stateswoman of the 1990s, one can only regret to note. Her refusal to apologise for anything only made me want her more.
The latest outrage was some comment she'd made about sex in Japan, thereby uniting her two favourite themes. The Reuter headline was something improbable like "Mrs Cresson denies discussing sex". I altered this to "Mrs Cresson denies discussing oral sex". The gimp printed 12 copies and away we went.
My gamble paid off as no one except the desk editors noticed it. Behold the keys to my success:
- I added a solitary word. Avoid ostentation, but don't play too safe.
- Make it plausible. Madame Cresson was quite capable of complaining about the service she'd got from some Kyoto gigolo.
- The headline was no higher than 5th or 6th from the top. By then most Dons have stopped reading and gone straight for their regional stories. Any lower in the running order would be poor sport.
- The European Don du jour was a bearded buffoon who read Le Monde at the conference table with great ostentation and rarely noticed anything else.
The risk was the reaction of the Chief Editor and Director. This time the former was fuming about some dastardly American plot to make Arab states behave themselves and the latter was pawing the sleeve of a visiting client, so I got away with it.
Various headlines I recall from other colleagues were "Gulf states raise mermaid question", "San Marino denies irredentist ambitions", "Major recommends Chateau Lamont, then laughs" and "Bush backs bid to drill for owls".
We were swashbuckling news brigands, lusted after by men and women alike. Who would not want to join our lunchtime roistering at the Nags Head? Who would not want to join our teatime roistering at the Nags Head? And as for our evenings, you would have to imagine the Algonquin Round Table re-enacted by male models on water-skis.
One aspirant member of our fraternity of fops was an earnest young American intern whom I shall call Dr William Tompson, later of Birkbeck College, the OECD and Chatham House. Cursed with a real doctorate, corporate loyalty, a penchant for Monty Python, a fetching wife and a voice like Lippy the Lion, "Tompo" as he disliked being called was the diametrically-opposed opposite of everything we stood for.
He caused endless distress with his pressed trousers, good standing with the management, advocacy of blush wine, polished manners and young life of genuine achievement. One day Tompo decided to win us over by trying his hand at Headline Poker.
He came terribly unstuck by breaking the rules outlined above:
- He invented an entire new headine.
- He let his imagination run riot.
- He placed it too high.
- He chose Latin America, the Cinderella desk with a monomaniac editor who read and cross-checked everything.
As usual the Chief Editor went around the table asking for our top stories, desk by desk. At last he came to Latin America.
"So, Crabtree, anything to report from the Pampas?"
"Well, David, Menem is talking about a major deflationary package, De Mello is still denying a range of accusations, there are some interesting developments in the Bolivian mining sector and, and, it's rather odd but I can't actually find the wire, but there's a headline here, you all have it, third on the list, 'Guatemalan cabinet struck down by voodoo curse'. Most curious, as voodoo isn't usually a problem in Guatemala or indeed Central America in general. Does, does anyone have the wire in their folders?"
Extensive rifling of folders followed, growing louder to suppress a steady trickle of giggles from the ranks.
The Latin American Don that day was a sound fellow who'd never sold cocaine to convent girls or thrown anyone out of a helicopter. He raised his single brow from rapt study of the healthcare editor's cleavage to mutter "Suspect someone's pulling your leg, what?"
Our conference table would have given a fair impression of Pandæmonium if demons ever shopped at Burtons. The Chief Editor bellowed about lack of respect for the editorial process, the Director was babbling in tongues, and the poor Latin American editor looked like someone had wiped their arse on Isabel Allende and sent him the Polaroid.
Tompo decided to own up. "I thought it might be funnay," he ventured, thereby unbelting another blast of Berkoff from the top management. To Tompo's credit he never mentioned that we had all been tampering with the agenda for months. Nor did he express annoyance when the rest of us failed to point this out in his defence.
After a discreet interval Tompo retreated to the public sector, leaving his erstwhile colleagues to find other ways of having fun at the expense of human decency.
And so, my pretties, remember that office jokes are best carried off like married love-making. Ensure your victim is half-asleep, don't be too involved or obvious, and have someone you can blame if it all goes wrong.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Rabbi Simon the Righteous said the world stands on three pillars - God's law, worship, and the bestowal of kindness (Mishnah, Ethics of the Fathers I.ii).
Schelling thought our world stood on a fragile crust, below which boiled natural chaos (Naturphilosophie).
Lovecraft saw the world as a brittle veil, barely concealing squamous she-goats from uncounted stars (The Whisperer in Darkness).
In the fire sale of ideas you take your pick. I, however, know that the world rides on an army of drunks.
This web blog has already spoken up for the rights of drunk blokes, but it is now time to explain how much we all owe to shambling men in porous trousers.
I once worked in an office in Ukraine, Europe's bulwalk against Muscovite beastliness. One morning our office manager came up to me with a key and a fistful of grubby banknotes. "Boyo," he said. "I have to go out. Sometime this morning a drunk bloke will turn up with a sack of sugar. Give him the key, then give him the money."
I nodded gravely and assumed the lad had an appointment at the psychiatric clinic again. But sure enough there came a knock at the door. As I opened it an unshaven man wearing what look and smelled like a dog mattress barged past me. I followed him into the kitchen where he deposited a sack of sugar on the floor in front of a locked cupboard.
"Ffycin key whore innit," he muttered with outstretched paw. I gave him the key and he opened a Fingal's Cave of pots, bags and condiments. In went the sugar. He took the money, spat on it, fixed me with a milky eye and said "Ffycin off bitch 'til next month whore". And with that my knight was gone.
Our office manager later explained that all our kitchen, stationery, bathroom and running maintenance needs were met not by the various shiny new service companies that speckled the grey streets of Darnytsya, but rather by a network of drunken Touretteers in filthy vans.
"All Ukraine, indeed all the former Soviet states, depends on these derelicts," he went on. "No one outside government and foreign law firms can afford to pay taxes or proper wages. This is how we get things done."
The more I looked around that mighty land, the more I realised he was right. Every towering symbol of Ukrainian statehood was propped up against a lush in piss-strained brown trousers trying to roll a cigarette out of tree bark.
Of course, the drunks do not actually run the country, unlike its neighbour Belarus. That is left to thumping great crooks, demagogues and seedy financiers like everywhere else. Except when the crooks etc head off for a break in that hotel just down the beach from yours, and hand over the keys to arms dumps, missiles, gas pipelines, coal mines, more missiles, the gas mains, yet more missiles, jet fighters, nuclear power plants and Eurovision to the winos.
The results are always unfortunate, and teach us that drunks are useful but need strict supervision, especially during the summer months. The general term in Russian for a soused plebian is пьяный мужик (p'yany moujik), but in the House of Boyo we prefer the term Gosha.
Gosha is the improbable love interest in the evergreen Soviet film Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears, which won the USSR State Prize for Least Ponderous Title of the Year in 1981. Gosha is sanitised in true Soviet fashion, as a real moujik can barely utter two words in succession without snarls of "whore", "bitch", "ladygarden" and various imaginatively-conjugated invitations to copulate.
Nonetheless, his slovenly attire, manual trade, essential decency, consumption of dried fish and ready recourse to grain alcohol make him the acme of the worthy drunks upon whose self-tattooed shoulders the whole Slavonic world rests.
Whenever the power goes out in Madame Boyo's Carpathian redout, she doesn't call the electricity board but rather sends one of her urchins over to Kolya Lektryk with a half-bottle of monkey juice. Kolya soons returns with his bag of wires, Wehrmacht-issue pliers and diving helmet, eager to plug the missus back into the mains in return for the other half of the bottle and some bones.
Goshas also underpin/mine our own economy, as a visit to Humphries Tyres & Exhausts, Caversham, will confirm. The phenomenon of Goshery (Russ: Гошность) has spread into the other castes and classes of meritocratic Britain as well. Our financial system has collapsed because the grown-ups at the Bank of England and HM Treasury did not notice that City traders are sweaty little soaks in Aquascutum suits.
Academia and the world of business are also a den of Goshas. I used to work at a consultancy group and regularly commissioned studies of this sector or that on behalf of major corporations. Nynex, Morgan Guaranty and Levi Strauss were naturally delighted that the high tables and snuff boxes of Oxford were abuzz with how to penetrate the Polish telecoms and Egyptian cotton markets at their request.
In reality the work was done by a 20-year-old postgraduate from Sheffield in a Bollocks To The Poll Tax! t-shirt whom I'd found arm-wrestling for coppers down Cowley Working Men's Club.
Lovecraft was right when he wrote that "We live on a placid island of ignorance in the midst of black seas of infinity; and it was not meant that we should voyage far" (The Call of Cthulhu). Do we really want to know that car and computer repairs are carried out by bandaged men armed with sticks, agony aunt and marital guidance columns were once written by my Dad and his Army mates for beer money, and leading broadcasters employ people like me?
Lovecraft went on to say that we would "either go mad from the revelation or flee from the light into the peace and safety of a new dark age". In this he was wrong. That dark age is already here. Cheers.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
- the burning at the Javanese stake;
- the last Roman-candle splutter of a political career that was not meant to be: and
- the use of one's face as a dartboard, pissoir and brieze block by irked troglodytes.
A fetching lady lecturer of a certain age and bouyant embonpoint had caught my bloodshot, ravenous eye one morning during her paper on the "Anal Triad of Nikolai Gogol". Later at elevenses she was fussing happily over the coffee jugs. I approached, cup in hand.
"Shall I be mother?" she simpered.
He would not have approved of pretending to be a Greek pervert, either.
Sunday, November 09, 2008
As ever, the sausage-fingered managers who staff the Labour Party opt for process over product. What do they hope to achieve by getting primary-school dwarves to draw Venn diagrams of ladies' intimate plumbing in non-toxic crayon?
"Doubtful," I reply, "But what about the more important matter of giving the ladies a thoroughly good time? How can Play-Doh® models of Fallopian tubes help Mrs Benson next door blow her top like a narwhal slung from a siege engine?"
As ever, the Cymru Rouge not only has a solution - it has the only solution. Both of them.
I propose a Council of Merry Widows to ensure that the young men of Britain are brought up to a consistently high standard of amatory prowess - the last thing we want is a postcoital postcode lottery whereby Shropshire lads will march on Llangollen because they heard Mrs Owen Edwards has a saddle strapped to her dresser. Again.
By the same measure, I would urge harnessing the thoroughbreds from Britain's rainbow stable of diversity - literally, in some cases - to this noble cause. The Kama Sutra, Thousand and One Nights, the Red Book of Hergest, Unaussprechlichen Kulten, Old Moore's Almanack, the Freemans Catalogue - there is so much to bring us all closer together, from Position XIX ("The Surprised Peacock") to Joan the Wad.
2. If, however, the Government insists on using visual aids to reduce teen pregnancies, I would suggest recourse to hardcore pornography. By which I mean American films with primo production values, waxed blondes and a funky soundtrack, not handheld barmaids in a Brummie bedsit.
A year hanging out at the Moscow Institute of Cinematography gave me an epicure's eye for glossy scud. The techniques, devices and choreographed deviance deployed in such flicks send sprays of seed in all imaginable directions but never hit anything that could remotely cause conception outside the pages of the Gospels.
Persuade our youngsters that this is what it's all about, and I'll be surprised if we don't have a procreation gap to rival that of Vatican City within a decade.
Mr Speaker, I commend these measures to The House.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
Saturday, November 01, 2008
For those of you who thirst for seasonal Silurian cheer, I commend Comrade Sedgemore's recounting of a typical Welsh start to winter.
Mrs Boyo mounted her sonic broomstick this morning and headed off to the US, where she will be enlightening Mr Obama as to the Ruthenian Question.
Last night she did the doors as trick-or-treaters ventured out into the Berkshire gloom.
We alternate festive duties. Last year the kids who came calling got genuine Welsh taffy and Glenys Kinnock masks from me. They were ecstatic.
This year they took the Moldovan prunes in ration-book chocolate (from Mrs Boyo's father's bunker in Czernowitz) without a word.
Wait until they open the wrappers and each find a copy of "Auntie Dühring", Mrs Boyo's specially-written children's guide to and critique of the early opponents of Marxism!
Friday, October 31, 2008
In overdue reponse to Gyppo Byard's invitation, here are six random Boyo facts:
1. Dodgy Slovene semioticians and rock gods Laibach slept on the floor of my flat.
Not really my flat, but rather the People's Flat, this being a council block in Ted Knight's Lambeth Socialist Paradise. I was sharing with one chap who went on to feature aomg the Liberal Democrats' least successful general election candidates before joining the diplomatic corps and a housing officer.
Laibach were very jolly and not at all sinister. The comically-misnamed Socialist Workers Party didn't appreciate their totalitarian imagery, which can only be called a virtuoso lack of self-awareness, and its claque booed them offstage at their gig. We still exchange Christmas cards.
2. I was the only sixth-former at Ysgol Y Gader secondary school, Dolgellau, not to be made a prefect.
I thought The Man knew I was down with the kids, and would let them shelter in the classrooms during the constant rain.
Reigning School Bully 1976-1980 Paul Humphreys told me it was because the teachers thought I was "a twat".
Paul was literally in a position to know, as he spent considerable time and effort on impregnating successive gym mistresses and any girls who looked like they might become gym mistresses.
Paul never bullied me, on the grounds that we were cousins. As far as I can tell this was not true, but I kept the information to myself. We still exchange Christmas cards.
3. I was engaged to marry a Belarussian ballet dancer.
During an enjoyable career cul-de-sac as a ballet impressario in 1991 I proposed to a charming lady from Minsk, the idea being that if the Soviets suddenly turned nasty and reversed perestroika we could whisk her away on the wings of my British passport.
The Soviet Union collapsed quietly and she, having visited our Tulse Hill flat, decided to stay in the irradiated swamp that is Belarus. It was good while it lasted.
4. I have a double.
Some fellow with the same name as mine lazily stalked me around Britain from about 1983. It wasn't all bad: he won the University of Wales Russian-to-Welsh translation prize, and I garnered the credit due to our identical names and interests. The real me came third.
Various people would denounce me as an imposter, having sworn that they had met the real Boyo. He's gone quiet since the early '90s, and I still wonder who he was and why. And whether he was real and I'm the fake.
5. My party piece:
is to sing the Hungarian folk song "Erdő erdő de magos a teteje" while Cossack dancing.
Like writing poetry in Esperanto, this has been a real hit with the ladies.
6. I am Wales's foreign correspondent.
The role of explaining Kosovo, Iraq and the Isle of Man to Welsh-speaking news junkies via Radio Cymru and S4C is passed from one Cambrian hack to another in an arcane ceremony each St Trisant's Day.
Like the transmission of the Torah from Moses to the rabbis via the Prophets and the Men of the Great Assembly, this is a hallowed affair. I received the ceremonial dictionary, nasal-hair clippers and pack of mints from "Bedroom" Jones, who himself had been handed them by Sioba Siencyn.
The highlight of my tenure was calling on the people of Wales to hoist the banner of Glyndŵr in support of our Chechen mountain brethren in a Radio Cymru interview that turned out to be going out live.
No one in Carmarthenshire seemed to mind, and I got a street named after me in Duba-Yurt, so fair play.
I'm meant to pass this tag on, but can't be fagged. Just write droll stuff about yourself and let us all rejoice in the anarchy of it all.
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Boyo: So, The K-Man, when Barack Obama turns out to be yet another American president and not the Messiah Son of David (for whom we wait although he tarries), what will you do with your "Obama 2008" baseball cap?
The K-Man: (Draws moodily on roll-up)
The Dog of Deceit (and Hypocrisy): Burn it?
The K-Man: (pause) I may raffle it.
Wednesday, October 29, 2008
Ĉu ti vere povas leĝi pensojn,
Porcelane, nun sidante,
Ĉu ti povas kredi sin?
Believe me, that was not the worst of my schoolboy Esperanto poems. Another, called "La Numenio", included the horrific line:
"fluĝis sub la stelajn lampojn".
Sweet Lethe has washed away all other traces.
Esperanters have been dragging their Frankenstein idiom around this and other web blogs ever since I made a passing reference to Incubus, the only major goat-themed film shot in something approaching that language.
If Marcel Proust managed, through bad luck and indolence, to end up in Hell, each crumb of his madeleine would dredge up memories of shambling terror such as I have endured and will now inflict upon the rest of you.
I had drowned all recollections of Esperanto through a combination of alcohol, drugs and acquiring a life. But the selective candour with which Wales commends itself to the nations demands that I retrace the steps of shame that brought me into its bucktoothed penumbra.
As a 14-year-old Welsh nationalist I had drawn the melancholy conclusion that other peoples were never going to learn my vowel-shunning native tongue, meaning that I would have to learn every other language or use English. Then my German teacher introduced me to Esperanto.
You would think that someone whose livelihood depends on persuading 1970s British youth to learn a genuine, difficult language generally associated with beastly behaviour and lumpy women would want to keep Esperanto a secret. But then my German teacher was not only Dutch, but a Quaker.
Quakers, of course, have turned lack of self-interest into a religion. The Dutch, however, are aggressive landgrabbers who conceal their plans to colonise the North Sea bed by pretending to be irritating, hash-mashed peaceniks.
If people learn German they will realise that the Hun, for all his faults, is willing to buy a round of drinks and has something approaching a national cuisine. The Dutch will then be exposed as grubby polder-dodgers and get schlepped back to the marshes from which they never fully emerged.
So Mevrouw Niederlage inducted me into the Zamenhof Cult. She herself had joined the Esperanters while being brainwashed at a volunteer work camp in Communist Czechoslovakia.
Stalin had stamped out all Esperantovian tendencies in the 1930s, understanding that the colossal struggle with the Nazis meant there was room for only one kind of internationalism. But by the 1950s the Soviets realised that feckless Western youngsters could be lulled into fellow-travelling through an appeal to their idealism and dislike of all things American - apart from the music, singers, films, actors, clothes, food and Marshall Aid.
Luckily for the cause of freedom, the Communists thought the best way of bundling bourgeois youth into Bolshevism was by sticking them in a logging camp with a bunch of thyroid-deficient Slovaks, no soap and singsongs in Esper-bloody-ranto.
The only teens who enjoyed this were Communists from the Rhondda, for whom near-starvation in the singing Tatras was like a fond memory of holidays in Snowdownia. And the Quakers, of course.
For me, as a louche Cambrian Gaullist, Esperanto appealed as an easy way to conjugate with French girls rather than their verbs. I learned it fast and convinced my Byronic self that young women swoon over speeches about the Battle of Morfa Rhuddlan, detailed accounts of my political programme and, of course, poems written just for them. In a language only Belgian peace-studies teachers can understand.
My first and last school exchange was educational in showing me that French girls liked cigarettes, singing English pop songs, discos, mopeds and non-spoddish boys several years their senior. Among their major turn-offs were all things Welsh, poetry, and total bollocks like Esperanto.
I've stuck by being Welsh over the years, and just can't shake off poetry, but Teach Yourself Esperanto went straight down the Red Cross Shop once the bus got back from Guérande.
So, if your teenage son starts saying things like "Verb declensions are pointless, but the accusative case and noun-adjective agreement are a must", this is what you do:
Slip into his bedroom when he's out, and check under the sports bag in his cupboard. There you may find grainy mimeographs adorned with Lovecraftian symbols like "Ĉ" and "ĝ" and group photographs of squirrely people in windcheaters.
These are the fetishes of the Esperanto Cult. Replace them, along with any pamphlets on the Baha'i faith, vegetarianism and the United Nations, with some decent porn, a hairdresser's appointment and Top Gear magazine. Then get him laid by one of your divorced ladyfriends fast. He will thank you for it in years to come, and most likely immediately.
I know I did. Thanks, Mam.
And thanks, Aunty Meryl.
Tuesday, October 28, 2008
All day random people (parents; the still, small voice of calm, etc) have been throwing stones through my window wrapped in paper. Moreover, they've been ringing me up and saying "Boyo, you work in the media, what do you think about the BBC/Jonathan Ross/Russell Brand/Andew Sachs ansaphone/granddaughter scandal?"
To which I reply:
- No good scandal has such a long name;
- I don't work in the media, I am a medium; and
- I refer you to the strapline of my web blog.
However, I do have some unsolicited advice. The BBC handles these matters badly. The Queen, Gilligan, Barbara & Yasser 4 Eva, phones-in, boycotting Gary Numan, you name it - the BBC always follows the same pattern:
- Managers stoutly defend integrity of initial broadcast.
- Managers actually watch initial broadcast.
- Managers abjectly apologise for initial broadcast.
- Someone called Jonty is sacked.
- All BBC staff go on a "don't lie or be a bastard/don't say ffyc" course, run by an independent consultancy recently set up by Jonty.
This is not good enough. I advocate the No Good Boyo Damage Limitation Plan:
Applying these precepts would produce not the lukewarm brew the BBC has served up today, but rather a cracked mug of brick-red steaming bulldog defiance.
I donate this draft letter to the Governor-General of the BBC, Sir Lew Grade. He can use it gratis. If it works, I ask only a commission and the wiping clean of my personnel file.
From the Governor-General of the BBC,
My Fellow Britons, I am flying in my private Zeppelin high above this Great Britain of ours. A catsuited minion - probably Oriental, certainly female - has brought to my attention various complaints about a broadcast on the Light Programme by the jesters Ross and Brand.
Their capers have long amused you, so I must admit to some annoyance at your red-nostrilled mewlings. Where is your patriotism? Having fun at innocent people's expense is an essential component of our national character, judging by the tele-visual programmes before which you eat your meagre suppers.
Has something changed since we slipped anchor at Ravello (that, and so much else)?
I taught Churchill all he knew, including his favourite slogan "Action Now". And so I am obliged by the yoke of history not merely to reply but also to respond:
- The radio programme of Ross & Brand is immediately to be transmitted live on BBC1 from 1800 hours until further notice.
- It is to be broadcast through the emergency services public address system in all market towns where sales of The Daily Mail outstrip those of Razzle.
- The programme itself is to be renamed "You Bleedin' Kant".
- Agaton Sax and his family will have a programme of their own, on which they will be welcome to accuse Mssrs Ross and Brand of regular church attendance, admiration for musicals such as "Miss Saigon", and use of hair-buffing products.
- I am the Queen of the Divan.
Lord Sir Lew of the Grade.
Saturday, October 25, 2008
- He launched the US civil rights movement with the film The Intruder, and kept it going in the dark days after the assassination of Martin Luther King by kissing Lt Uhura on Star Trek;
- He denounced science fiction as "pants" on Saturday Night Live despite the great personal risk to himself from thwarted mummy's boys and, possibly, alien beings; and
- He proved that Pulp's Common People didn't depend entirely on having Sadie Frost wander around Asda in the video, while at the same time giving Joe Jackson a break from his job at the Ramada Inn, Reading ("Your bossa favourites in a bontempi tempo").
Monday, October 13, 2008
The nationalisation of British banks has persuaded Madame Boyo that revolution is once again just around the corner.
This, and the return of rainy weather, has prompted us to head off to Crete for a week.
From our headquarters in the village of Keratahori Madame B will prepare for government. I will continue to plant evidence of early Welsh settlement at archaeological sites off the coast.
Our daughter Arianrhod is looking forward to visiting a leper colony.
Please feel free to join the Cymru Rouge now that we teeter on the cwm of power. We especially welcome opportunists and slogan-chanting child soldiers.
Saturday, October 11, 2008
For readers new to Anti-Danube, East-Central Europe's second most intense and significant novel of the 1990s, here are links to the previous chapters in petit-bourgeois order:
Chapter I: In which I ascertain the source of my own Danube
Chapter II: In which I add to my enemies
Chapter III: In which I have a Proustian moment, caused by loukoum
Chapter IV: In which I appreciate the virtues of heavy drinking
Chapter V: In which I attack the Secret Police with my lunch
Chapter VI: In Which I Encounter the League of the Wives of Dr Bohdan Naxajlo
Chapter VII: In Which Mountains Vanish as My Troubles Do Not
Chapter VIII: In which I learn not to rely on geography
In which Agent Kafka and I differ on popular culture
"Slezynka plunged deep down the orphanage well
To smother her shame wrought by Szekler lords fell.
But "crack!" went her bones on a rocky outcrop -
The Szeklers had stolen the water as well.
"Poor Slezynka knew that to stifle her sob
And drown out her heart like a leper boy's bell
She would weep booming tears that droplet by drop
Filled the well and her lungs from bottom to top."
The audience at Zhakhiv Cultural Agitational Facility No.17 in the Name of Bragg was struck dumb and, in a few happy cases, deaf, by "Szkeklers Shamed Slezynka", the latest in a long series of poems about violated orphans of the monarchy era read by the author herself, Symona "Shmonka" Cheshetsya - Deputy Minister of Peasantry and retired People's Popular Folk Bard (1952).
Agent Kafka and I applauded as freely as our NAKRO-issued civilian suits allowed. These garments came in two sizes - too large and too small - and were fashioned from the clothes cut off the pulped bodies of CIA infiltrators at the Comrade Samantha Smith Memorial Execution Ground and Timber Mill.
As no bourgeois spy ring had bothered with Ruthenia since the notorious Yankee Incursion of 1947, this left the Ruthenokex State Textile and Haberdashery Trust with a small selection of brown shorts, green arms patches and a whistle (minus nutritious pea) from which to kit us out.
According to the History of the Workers' Democratic and (United) Socialist Party of Ruthenia (Medium Course), CIA agents masquarading as a group of so-called Hungarian Boy Scouts had crossed the border in 1947 using the cover of an invitation from the Ruthenian Scouting Association.
They were immediately intercepted by a detail of the Internal Retentive Border Coordination Guards. Their private possessions were redistributed along collectivist principles among various individual commanders, and the alleged scouts themselves were given the fraternal opportunity to dance with Bodjo the Largely-Tamed Bear - a gift from the Moldavian Socialist League for Animal Cruelty - while the Guards put on a reciprocal display of virtuoso slyvovytz drinking.
The Guards then retired to consume a festive meal of mamalygha and papanasz, leaving Bodjo to forage for himself among the Scouts.
Provocative questions from the wholly-compromised Hungarian "government" led to an urgent NAKRO investigation of the incident. This concluded that the Border Guards had acted correctly in disarming the insurgent unit of "American-trained paramilitary dwarves", and rewarded Bodjo with the title of Progressive Woodland Ranger, a peasant ration book (grade IX) and several conjugal visits to the infirmary at Political Prison No.49 in Szeumas-on-Myłn - at least once at an inmate's request.
NAKRO later arranged a visit for the leaders of the Ruthenian Scouting Association to the scene of the incident, where the Internal Retentive Border Coordination Guards and Ranger Bodjo were happy to re-enact the events of that day with them.
For Kafka and myself, this meant that the clothes allowed me to raise my right hand to an almost horizontal position, while Kafka struck his with knee-length lapels.
We squinted at full attention as the crowd shuffled in the pews and pulpits of what had once been The Cathedral of The Interrupted Ascencion, and prepared for the main event of the evening - the Battle of the Bands.
Socialist Ruthenia had fought a stern rearguard action against the advance of music throughout the postwar period, prompted by Comrade General Secretary Yütz's displeasure at a performance of Symphony No 5 in G# Minor ("The Bastard") by People's Popular Composer Uzz Kalnis.
Massed timpani had hammered out the Morse Code for "Starve The Comprador Latifundistas!" a few metres from the General Secretary's box, while a chorus of Fishwives for Peace chanted "Fist Up, Fist Up, Comrade Yütz!" during the 20-minute ondes Martenot improvisation in the scherzone.
The Central Committee's decision was swift. Kalnis was called up for a "lap of honour" second stint of military service, this time in the 8th Experimental Submarine Parachute-Launching Brigade, despite his advanced years and inability to breath underwater.
The new principles were cascaded more broadly across the portfolio of the Ministry of Applied Culture. All music had to accord with the 1949 Yütz Theses:
- It must accord with the Will of the People, as expressed through the mood of the General Secretary.
- It must be played on instruments whittled, ground or stolen by workers, peasants and ill-nourished soldiers, and at a distance of not less than one county from all members present and future of the Præsidium of the Central Executive Committee of the Acting Organs of the Workers' Democratic and (United) Socialist Party of Ruthenia.
- It must not exceed five minutes in length (considerable debate followed as to whether this referred to individual pieces of music or all music composed in the People's Democratic and Popular Republic. Much of this debate was conducted in prison).
- All public performances in the capital must feature young Gypsy women in bodices a size too small.
Then came Beatlemania, and the country was flooded with six reels-to-reel of songs by what turned out to be The Scaffold. By 1981, the authorities felt they had to intervene - especially as Lily the Pink was taken to be an attack on Comrade First (General-)Secretary Novak's wife Liljljanja and her allegedly Polish tendencies.
The Ministry of Cultural Reassignation therefore empowered itself to create two singing ensembles in order to stem the "rising tide of subjective melody and crypto-Francoist rhythm" ("Sotsjalystychna Muzsyqa", editorial, 4 March 1983).
These two "bands", as they came to be known ,were recruited by the People's Self-Defence Army Penal Battalion from a group of conscripts found trying to mount an accordion in the backyard of a distillery. They were joined by four prostitutes and a drummer who, on medical examination, proved to be a barbary ape donated to Zhakhiv Zoo by the government of Algeria.
The ape was shaved carefully and emerged as the leading songwriter of Kava Break, the marginally faster of the two groups. The other band, Izotop, played up to its fondly-imagined "bad boy" image with single-entendre song-titles like "(Swing From) My Girder Of Love" and "(Politically-Engaged Miners) Slide Down My Shaft".
They alternated as winners of the annual Battle of the Bands, filmed live and shown five months later by Ruthenian State Television on lignite-powered sets in many interrogation centres of the less mountainous parts of the republic's maritime territory.
This pattern was briefly interrupted in 1987, when the Party decided to show solidarity with the Progressive Palestinian People by adding the category "Least Zionist Ensemble" to the competition criteria. That year's winners, Izotop, pointed out that this objectively made Kava Break the Most Zionist band in the country and therefore liable for re-education and confiscation of their possessions.
NAKRO and at least two other security organs, one of them subsequently believed to be Izotop dressed in Bulgarian marching-band uniforms, turned up, turned over and turned in Kava Break. They got 15 years hard labour: five for lack of Semitic awareness, five for not understanding the charges, and five for each year they had failed to reveal their Zionism.
The ape got off with a suspended sentence after convincing the judges that he was a member of Neturei Karta. He then joined Izotop, making it Ruthenia's first super-group.
Izotop enjoyed its three-year run as default winner before successfully petitioning the Supreme Higher Party Council of Organs (Verxvysszstrankradorh) to pardon Kava Break on the condition that the freed musicians should undertake Izotop's solidarity tour of South Yemen.
Izotop generously relinquished the ape as well - rumour had it because lead singer Lev Basar resented his sidelocks and college-girl following.
Kava Break scored a commanding musical and ideological comeback with the ape's drum-led single "Golda Meir Stole My House" [translator's note: the song later enjoyed a copyright-free afterlife as a remixed trance track on the Tel Aviv dance scene.]
Now, the two bands mounted the stage to compete once again for Ruthenia's highest popular music award - the continued waiver of their military service. In keeping with the the Party's drive to economise on power, time and individualism, both bands performed their latest hits simultaneously and on the same instruments.
This policy was dubbed "Creative Lamarckism" and promoted the adaptation of a citizen's limbs to the eventual ideal of Socialist multitasking in gunfire, forgery and the seduction of West German Embassy clerks.
As the bands tussled over their dulcimers, Kafka nodded towards the bar as vigorously as his crumbling garments would permit. We crabbed our way through the throng, with Kafka rather undermining our cover by brandishing his Laika pistol and NAKRO club card at anyone who stood between him and 500 grammes of slyvovytz.
"What do you think of this competitive element in popular music, Agent Kafka?" I inquired as he crunched the cap off another bottle with his eye socket. "I mean, surely it's an inherently capitalist approach to what ought to be a collaborative effort?"
He downed the spirits thoughtfully, pausing to belch a blue flame of satisfaction around his Karbin filtertip, and said: "I void myself on them, on their music, on the nuns that bore them, and on the Slovak who comforts the pig that sired them. And then on that pig, too. But most of all, Zhatko, I crack open my codpiece and..."
His words were drowned by the bitonal, overamplified version of the banned royalist anthem "Hey Ruteni, masluy mi sztifli!" (O Ruthenians, Oil My Boots!") being blasted out of the sound system. Kava Break and Izotop gestured in vain that they were not playing their lyres, hornpipes and gamelans as the local militia and music-lovers seized the opportunity and backing vocalists and stormed over the footlights, truncheons and skinning belts aloft.
Banners strung across the stage proclaimed that all concerned would Put The Resolutions of the XIIIth Congress of the Workers' Democratic and (United) Socialist Party of Ruthenia Into Life. They suddenly fizzed and sparked into life, leaving behind the stench of sulphur and these letters stencilled into the proscenium - ZHIJE NAXAJLO! - Naxajlo Lives!
"He focked us," Kafka concluded. Not for the first time, Agent Kafka was understating the matter. As gouts of slyvovytz-scented khaki ichor erupted from our every accessible orifice, we turned to the barman. He was gone.