Month: November 2017

Introducing : Trenton Babbage and The Diary Of A Bacon Smuggler

Friends are found in the most unlikely of places and none are so unlikely as serial blog commenter, Trenton Babbage. He started out as a sort of casual stalker, but his dedication to providing me with amusing photoshopped pictures of Nigel Farage saw me finally relenting and accepting his friend request on Facebook. It proved to be a good decision, although my social media is now prone to outbursts of random filth, on occasion. In this semi-regular series, Babbage will be sharing with you all his epic tale of a couple of fool-hardy bacon smugglers. He has promised to keep obscenity to a minimum, but if you are my mum I probably wouldn’t read this…

kids-in-cart1

Introduction:

This diary was inspired by a comment conversation with one Lucy Brazier (hi Lucy!); I forget how it started, but it ended with an idea about bacon, and its undoubtedly transformative abilities with regards social harmony and ultimate world peace. As logically follows from this statement, bacon also has the power to divide people and nation states if its distribution is not universal, nor of the highest quality. So follows the adventures of the bacon smugglers Manfred Pear and Perl Ritorg; they also bump into Arthur Browne, because no-one should be going on any trips without a guide such as he; and Trent Lewin, because one isn’t adventuring correctly if one doesn’t come into contact with a crazy moose loving canadian such as he. Thanks to exhaustive research and my own patented algorithm, I have discovered that the optimum WordPress post length in order to achieve both comfort and retention, is 637 words. There will be no deviation. Enjoy.

The Diary of a Bacon Smuggler

The 3.16 from Chester – 3.24pm

Well the train’s late. But unlike a tardy menstrual cycle there will be no alterations to ones life plan resulting from this unwanted delay. I’m standing on platform four, the greatest of all platform numbers; all those famous movie scenes in railway stations? filmed on a platform four; the majority of welcome home and farewell smooches occur on platform four; a station hasn’t made it in the eyes of other stations until it gets a platform four, they look down on it, I’m not saying it’s right, just that it happens; more suicides have been prevented on platform four…although more suicides have been attempted on platform four, so that may just be a statistical thing – train’s here!

3.52pm

I’m on my way to Southampton; gateway to the world, mouth of the ocean, sphincter of the high seas. I’m going like so many have before me; to seek adventure, fortune, fame or infamy it matters not a jot to me, but I will make my mark! together with my partner in porcine crime; a striking blonde danish goddess of a woman going by the name of Perl Ritorg, she is perfectly unfiltered and has a particularly undefinable look in her eye, like a light bulb seducing a door handle…but better.

I am travelling from Cheshire and she from somewhere else, but we have agreed to meet in Oxford in order to blow up a co-op. Specifically the one at 42 Walton Street. The beauty of this store is that it is under a mile from the station: walk south – 220 ft; turn right towards Park End St/A420 – 141 ft; at the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Park End St/A420 – 279 ft; at the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Hythe Bridge St/A4144 – 0.2 mi; turn left onto Worcester St/A4144 – 0.1 mi; continue onto Walton St, destination will be on the left – 0.4 mi. The other convenience associated with the wanton destruction of this type of premises, is that all bomb making paraphernalia is located under the one roof.

No-one was to be harmed in the bombing, is was merely designed to rid the world of one more bloody co-op…bastards.

But before the delight of seeing Oxford alight could begin, I had to suffer the indignities of the buffet car: specifically the lukewarm muroidal faecal matter the server had the effrontery to call a bacon sandwich…I impaled it…the sandwich that is…on the seat next to me, in the manner of the late 19th century serial killer Johannes Pannerberg: not impaling as one object, but displaying it in its constituent parts; annotated in detail, the organs cursed with the genetic predisposition to fail; that which drove Pannerberg to save any destined offspring from suffering the same fate by butchering the prospective parent…my notes on the degenerative nature of the bacon were extensive.

The tone of the day is given the greatest possible omen as not just one, but both our trains arrive at platform four, twenty three minutes apart; one of the very best amounts of time between two things…but not dinner courses, or twins, or toilet trips. We embrace, tightly – unhindered by our ergonomically designed hats, specifically fashioned for a number of aesthetic and practical purposes, one of which being embracing – inhaling the smells of leather, skin, and of course, bacon. We double check the time and head out onto the mean streets of Oxford: we walk south – 220 ft; turn right towards Park End St/A420 – 141 ft; at the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Park End St/A420 – 279 ft; at the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Hythe Bridge St/A4144 – 0.2 mi; turn left onto Worcester St/A4144 – 0.1 mi; continue onto Walton St, our destination is on the left – 0.4 mi.

Tinned musac fills every aisle, and the pair of us die a little inside; just a

The Curious Monk

Hot on the heels of the success of The Box Under The Bed horror anthology, the team are putting together a follow-up collection of unlikely tales, this time in the genre of humour. Here is a teaser of my contribution, The Curious Monk

Curiosity killed the cat, or so they say. What cat? Why a cat? Were any dogs ever seriously injured by curiosity? Could curiosity maim a fish?

This rather eclectic train of thought belonged to Barnaby, a middle-aged monk, as he hoisted his ample frame over the unforgiving stone monastery walls of the Blind Brotherhood of St Bastian, his home since he was a small boy. Barnaby had scant memory of his parents, save for that they were devoted to the Lord and fashioned themselves as 12th day Advent Hoppists. It was a curious religion, rising from the fact that their bible had a misprint. It taught of ‘faith, hop and charity; and the greatest of these is hop’. Every Sunday was spent hopping around the parlour with great vigour, singing joyful songs and trying not to stub a toe.

Their furious hopping must have paid off as the good Lord saw fit to take them in his arms soon afterwards, leaving the little Barnaby alone in the world, until one day a benevolent member of the Brotherhood came across him weeping in the woods and took him in. The Brotherhood was so named not because they were blind in the literal sense, but because they endured an elective blindness of the outside world and its nefarious ways, so that they would not be tempted from their righteous path. They were good men and kind, but life was monotonous and dry, and Barnaby had something of the spirit of adventure in his bones.

THUD.

Barnaby exhaled a small groan as he hit the ground on the opposite side of the wall. His arms had grown strong through hard labour, but his belly was large from a hearty diet and need to eschew vanity. The Brotherhood had warned that there may be nuns nearby and the strapping physique of a man might agitate their baser instincts. It would not do to agitate a nun.

Tumbling a few feet on the mossy earth, Barnaby came to rest beneath a bushel. He stopped to catch his breath and glimpse the rolling twilight above, gently chasing sunset from the sky. As the first stars of the evening began to wink at him, he cast his mind back to that rare excursion to the local market, several weeks previous. Accompanied by one of the elders, Barnaby had been tasked with procuring garlic, the Brotherhood’s crop having been ravaged by weevils. The visit was short but in that brief time he heard wonderful tales woven among the chatter and bartering of the market. Tales of far away places, strange creatures and, most pertinently, wine, women and song. Barnaby like the sound of these enormously.

And so it was that he decided to escape the monastery for one night, to learn what he could about these curious entities. He had noted a tavern on one side of the market square and supposed that this was a good place to start. Scrabbling to his feet, he set off at a pace along the winding path that led down into the village.

Bereft of the hustle and bustle of commerce, the market square was eerie by night. But across the way the tavern blazed with light and laughter, the walls almost straining to contain the merriment within, leaking tantalising zephyrs of jocularity through the door and window frames. Barnaby thought to himself that surely here all of life could be found and his curiosities would be satisfied. A jaunty sign hung above the entrance, declaring the establishment to be named The Pickled Pig. Pushing open the door, several sets of eyes observed Barnaby’s arrival, followed swiftly by swirling whispers and, finally, an uneasy hush.

Stepping over the threshold, Barnaby gasped. Taking in the scene with a sweeping gaze he saw skins of every age and hue, apparel of unimagined types and, in the case of some of the ladies, apparel that was barely there at all. The air was heavy with a kind of smokey stickiness and now the only sound was of the Bar Tender’s cloth squeaking around an already clean glass.

“Good evening, Brother,” said the Bar Tender, clearing his throat. “What can we do for you?”

Barnaby drew himself up to his full height, which was fairly considerable.

“I have come here this night out of curiosity,” he began. “Nearly all my life I have lived in the monastery and have grown wise in the ways of the Lord and many other things. But I have an inkling that there is more to life and now these things I also wish to know. More specifically, about wine, women and song.”

Some eyebrows raised, some glances exchanged. Someone at the back asked him to speak up. The Bar Tender shrugged.

“Well, you’ve come to the right place,” he replied. “But first, if we are to share with you our expert knowledge on such things, you must give us something in return.”

“I am a humble monk with nothing in the way of material goods,” said Barnaby, his ragged robes tied at what was once his waist with mangey rope a testament to this.

“Alright. Then you must tell us all the secret of how to get into Heaven.”

Barnaby thought hard for a moment before making his reply.

“The Good Book teaches how to get to heaven and every Sunday your priest will tell the same.”

“We’re not big on readin’,” snapped a crow-faced old man from his barstool, grizzled features twisted into a grin. “An’ church ‘appens very early in the mornin’. Give us the abridged version and we’ll teach you the ways o’ the world.”

Barnaby thought again.

“Well, I suppose there is one notable element that is often overlooked in traditional teachings that is imperative to getting into Heaven,” he replied, slowly. “If you teach me the things I want to know, I will tell it to you.”

Bargain struck, Barnaby took his place at the bar and the patrons gathered round, eyes shining and limbs fidgeting.

“Let us begin with wine,” suggested Barnaby.

To find out what Barnaby learns about wine, women and song you will have to buy the book! I don’t know when it’s out – or even what it’s called – but rest assured I will be plugging it shamelessly once I do!

 

In the meantime, why not enjoy a trip to Old College?

AMAZON UK

AMAZON US

Guest Post – Welcome, Dermott Hayes!

Today we are proud to welcome writer, poet and raconteur Dermott Hayes to the blog. A proud and dashing Irishman, he would like to share with you the true story of Zorro with whom he – rather unexpectedly – shares his heritage. Over to you, Dermott…

I learned to swash and buckle watching Zorro in the Disney produced tv
series of the same name. It only ran for three seasons between 1957
and 1959 and finally reached my local station sometime in the early
‘60s. Don Diego de la Vega may have been a poetry loving fop but
Zorro, the masked man with the fast horse and a sharp blade, now there
was a hero.
My sword is a flame
to right every wrong
so heed well my name

el zorro
There was no shortage of small screen heroes then, perfect for
impressionable boys. These shows vied for space and attention in that
narrow coveted window between 5 and 6 o’clock. Heroes like The Lone
Ranger, The Cisco Kid, Robin Hood and Ivanhoe and for the older kids,
Rawhide, Cheyenne, Wells Fargo and Bonanza, abounded.
Zorro was different, though. He was deceptive and cunning, appreciated
the finer things in life, rode a horse, wore a cape and a mask and, to
crown it all, he was an exceptional swordsman.
We made our own masks and fashioned swords from shaved twigs.
But what I didn’t know was he was Irish. Imagine how that might have
played for a six year old Irish kid in a cape and a mask and a broom
for a horse.
That he was a Freemason, too, might not have had the same impact but
for a 60 year old, the bits fall into place and you can see why
Hollywood embraced him.

reubens_zorro
His real name was William Lamport, a descendant of an old Irish Norman
family who settled in Ireland after the invasion of Richard de Clare,
2nd Earl of Pembroke, in 1170 AD. His family built a castle in
Rosslare, Co Wexford in the south east of Ireland, a location that
gave the family unprecedented control of trade routes to England and
Europe.
The family were scions of the English ascendancy they came from but
their roots were set in Ireland and, to coin a phrase used by Irish
historians before, became more Irish than the Irish themselves. This
brought them into frequent conflict and rebellion against the forces
of the British Crown who they considered, for all intents and purpose,
invaders. Lamport’s grandfather, Patrick sided with Hugh O’Neill, Earl
of Tyrone at the disastrous Battle of Kinsale in 1601. He was pursued
by Elizabeth’s successor, James 1, until he was caught and arrested in
1617 and executed by the express order of the King.

Lamport statue
William was educated by Augustinian and Franciscan monks in Wexford
and later, the Jesuits in Dublin. In 1628 he went to London’s Gresham
College to study. Remarkably, he was only 15 years old. He fled from
England under charges of treason, after writing and publishing a
controversial pamphlet critical of the rule of James I. En route to
France, he was captured by pirates and spent two years with them
before making his way to Spain and aligning himself with exiled
members of the Irish ascendancy. Here, he attended the Colegio de
Ninos Nobles, changed his name to Don Guillen Lombardo and converted
his old pirate friends to Catholicism and loyalty to the Spanish
crown. Within a couple of years he won a scholarship to study at the
Colegio des Irlandeses in Salamanca and, from there, gained the
patronage of the Conde Duque de Olivares, King Philip IV’s principal
minister who sent him from there to the Colegio de San Lorenzo del
Escorial, recognised as the training ground for top level servants to
the Spanish Crown.

Lamport Reubens
Having already distinguished himself during his pirate days for his
part in defeating the British navy at the siege of La Rochelle, Guilem
became a captain in the Spanish army, an advance facilitated by
recognition as the protege of the Conde Duque de Olivares and the
assumption of his family name, Don Guillen Lombardo became Don Guile
Lombardo de Guzman. As a captain in the Spanish royal army, he
acquitted himself with distinction against Sweden at Nordlingen (1634)
and the siege of Fuenterrabia (1638). A short, red haired and handsome
Irishman, well educated (he boasted he could speak 14 languages by the
age of 25) and a Spanish captain, Guillen turned to diplomacy and this
capacity he served at the Belgian court. Here, renowned Flemish
artists, Peter Paul Reubens and Anthony Van Dyck, painted his
portrait.
Guillen returned to Spain and the service of his Catalonian patron,
Olivares where he continued his activities of diplomacy and espionage.
He was also involved in an Irish plot to put together a second Spanish
armada for the liberation of Ireland. It was during this time too when
he began a liaison with a Spanish noblewoman, Dona Ana de Cano y Leyva
with whom he had a child. The scandal compelled him to flee Spain for
the new world and Mexico. He travelled in the escort fleet of the
newly appoint Spanish viceroy to Mexico, the Marques de Villena and
would later claim he travelled under the express orders of his patron,
Duque Olivares to keep an eye on Villena, a suspected sympathiser to
the Portuguese secession of 1580.
That secession was the first crack in the authority of the mighty
Spanish empire and Olivares was then convinced there was similar
unrest amongst the noblemen of Mexico. On arrival, Guillen befriended
and took up residence with Don Fernando Carrillo, a prominent member
of the Mexican Imperial government and also a leading figure in the
community of Mexican noble families. Through them he became familiar
with local politics. He also befriended the Bishop of Puebla, Juan de
Palafox y Mendoza who was plotting the overthrow of Viceroy Villena.
This got official sanction from Spanish Prime Minister Olivares after
he received a report from Guillen, critical of the viceroy.
Despite this, Guillen was not given a post in the new administration
led by the Bishop of Puebla. He did meet a court petitioner named Don
Ignacio who he helped to frame his petitions and between the two and
their occasional forays with peyote, the hallucinogenic mushroom,
contrived, in 1642, a declaration of Independence for Mexico from the
Spanish empire.
This was not a traditional coup d’etat style overthrow either.
Guillen’s proposals were a broad plan for sovereignty and a complete
change of regime involving expansive social change. His allies were a
broad coalition of disaffected native born nobles, ex-slaves and
miners. Don Ignacio declared Guillen would be Mexico’s future king but
it would be unlike any other kingdom in existence.
In 1642, Guillen was arrested by The Inquisition on charges of heresy,
associated with his use of the peyote fungus. He spent the following
seventeen years in prison, defending himself against the Inquisition
and writing several treatises, a memoir and 900 psalms, all contrived
with the use of a chicken feather for a quill, ink fashioned from
candle grease and water, his own bedsheets and cigarette papers.
On December 25, 1651, Guillen did manage to perform the impossible by
escaping from the high security prison where he was incarcerated. Free
for just one day, he spent it posting pamphlets denouncing the Spanish
empire and its Mexican imperial government and was re-arrested and
imprisoned. In his last three years he declined into insanity but left
behind an image that was elevated to legendary status by his prison
escape. He was condemned for execution by the Inquisition and burned
at the stake. Guillen had other ideas and managed to throttle himself
with the rope holding him to the stake before it could be set alight.
And that’s where it might have all ended, Guillen Lamport or Don
Guillen Lombardo de Guzman might have been consigned to the footnotes
of history or a mention in a family memoir until Vincente Riva
Palacio, a retired Mexican general, politician and author published
Don Guillen Lombardo: Memoirs of an Imposter in 1872, depicting
Lamport as a foppish poetry spitting dandy by day and a glamourous
swashbuckling swordsman by night. The renewed interest in Lamport also
revived enthusiasm for him as the first hero of Mexican Independence
and a true revolutionary for his radical socio-political ideas. His
statue now sits in a mausoleum beneath the Angel of Independence
alongside the remains of other noted names of Mexico’s revolutionary
past.
And thus, once more, Lamppost rose and just as quickly fell out of the
limelight until 1999 when an Italian historian (Fabio Troncarelli of
Viterbi University) asserted Lamport/Lombardo was the inspiration for
the comic book, tv and film character, Zorro.
There were similarities, certainly. Both were poetry loving gentlemen
who eschewed violence but led double lives as gallant swordsmen who
fought oppression. The character Zorro first appeared in a five
episode serialisation called The Curse of Capistrano in the pulp
fiction magazine All Story Weekly in 1919. It was written by pulp
fiction writer, Johnston McCulley who set most of his stories in
southern California. El Zorro means ‘the fox’ in Spanish and was a
name Riva Palacio gave another of his characters in an earlier novel,
Martin Garatuza, a notorious 17th century conman and aside from the
plot similarities, this was the point Troncarelli used to illustrate
what he claimed was a direct link between Palacio’s 19th century book
about Lamport and McCulley’s El Zorro.
Other writers drew comparisons between McCulley’s hero and The Scarlet
Pimpernel created by Baroness Emmuska Orczy.
Whichever is the truth, the story of William Lamport does lend
credence to the adage that truth is stranger than fiction. There is
another odd angle to the story, suggested by Troncarelli, almost as an
afterthought.

zorro
Zorro’s creator, Johnston McCulley was a freemason and the letter ‘Z’
bears particular import for masons being derived from the semitic
word, ziza, a symbol of light to freemason initiates in their struggle
against the forces of oppression and darkness. If nothing else, for
the purpose of a swashbuckling pulp fiction hero, it gave him gravity
and righteous purpose. McCulley’s Zorro story was well received and
within a year the film rights were acquired by Douglas Fairbanks and
led to Zorro’s first appearance on the big screen in 1920’s Mask of
Zorro. Conspiracy theorists will be happy to know Fairbanks was a
freemason, too.
Whatever the truth, Zorro was my hero in my youth and even if he’s not
William Lamppost, though I doubt it, at least I’ve gained another
hero, an Irishman of wit, bravery and intelligence who fought against
oppression.

Please do visit Dermott at his blog, Postcard From A Pigeon, where you will find all manner of wonderful things.