I am trapped in the dark with a lot of old actors, and we have no idea where we are. I am going to write to my MP about this. "Dear MP," I will write. "How are you? You don't know me, but I saw you once in the supermarket. You were buying a large jar of marmalade and some rubber gloves and nothing else. I thought that this was very odd at the time, but then when I got home and put my feet up in front of the telly, I realised that you were very probably having a party, and that everything was all right. On an unrelated note, have you ever tried putting your feet up in front of the telly? I wouldn't advise it because it means you can't see the screen. Of course, it all depends on how big your feet are. On another note - which is unrelated to the two notes I have previously noted, and which is really the real reason that I am writing to you - I am stuck in a grotty dark place with a load of old men. This is really not on, and you should make a law that will stop this happening. Bye!"
That is what I am going to write, but for now I have to figure out where I am before something really bad happens. I notice that the dust in here has an odd taste. Now then, I was a detective for an afternoon once, and during this time I made a special study of the taste, smell and texture of various types of dust, grime, muck and mess. These things can tell you a lot about a place. For instance, did you know that the dirt you find behind a washing machine in a launderette in Exeter is very different from the grease on the back of an oily duck in Nottingham. Oh yes, you've got to know these things. Right, time to put my powers to work.
I stuck out an experimental tongue. The experimental tongue is a spare one that I have in my pocket, which allows me to keep my real tongue minty fresh. Hmmm, I know that taste: pocket lint. We were in giant pocket!
I am going to do one of my special recaps now, so you must all pay attention, because there may be some questions afterwards. I found a sandwich behind my fridge, as a result of which an awful lot of other stuff has happened and now I am trapped in a dark and horrid place with a lot of elderly actors who used to be Fagin's gang of pickpockets from the musical Oliver! by Lionel Bart!
Right, now here are the questions:
1. Who was the strange man in the bicycle cape who followed me all the way home from the lido last Tuesday?
2. What colour was the lady's hat in Episode 38? (No, not that lady, the other one.)
3. How many times must I tell you not to play with it when you are sitting at the dinner table? Put it away, Nigel.
4. What are the three chief exports of Tuvalu?
5. Why is a raven like a writing desk?
6. How does the man who drives the snowplough get to work in the morning?
Answers on a stamped, addressed thing to:
Admiral Pontius Beefsteak
4b The Mews
Please remember to enclose your name, address and blood type. Now, where was I? Oh yes, trying to figure out where I was...
I awoke in the fusty darkness with an old man's elbow in my face. Well, this was a load of grotty old nonsense, and no mistake. You're probably wondering how I knew that it was an old man's elbow, seeing as how it was so dark. Well, it was attached to an old man, silly. How else would I know?
Where was I? That was what they call a "rhetorical" question - I don't expect you to know the answer. I'll tell you where I was in due course, if you'll just be patient about it. I decided to call out a challenge into the blackness, to see if this would provoke a reaction. "My name is Samuel Ozymandias, you are the Black Fingernail and I claim my ten pounds reward!"
"No you're not," said a voice. It was Dodger's voice! Perhaps, seeing as his voice was here, the rest of Dodger was here as well. I reached out a finger and prodded him in the ribs. He went "Oww." His ribs. His voice. I think it was safe to assume he was present in his entirety.
"The gang's all here," said Dodger. "Me, Oliver Twist, all the other ones that we haven't got names for." They all had the same story to tell - they had all been creeping up on the man with the big pockets when suddenly whammo! There was a great splunk on the back of their heads, and they woke up here.
"So what do we do now?" said Oliver, because it was about time he had a line.
"Let's put on a show!" said Dodger.
"No, let's not do that," I said. "Let's try to find out where we are." And we all agreed that this was a much better idea.
My gang of pickpockets is about to wallop its first victim, a man with unusually large pockets. As I think I may have mentioned before, if you've been listening, large pockets are good for novice pickpockets, because you can get in there and have a good old rummage about without being detected. There is a downside, of course. People with big pockets tend to keep a lot of rubbish in them. Sometimes you have to dig your way through layers of used tissues, boiled sweets, bus tickets, envelopes, cow bells, fully integrated goat milking systems, rolls of lino, dead mice and apple cores before you get to the shiny valuables and the cash.
Perhaps that was why Dodger was taking such a long time, because he seemed to be gone an awfully long time. I looked at my watch, but it didn't really tell me much because it wasn't there. One of my gang grinned up at me and handed it back. I congratulated him and cuffed him round the ear. According to my watch, the big hand was on the three and the little hand was on the fourteen. This still didn't tell me much, because I hadn't made a note of where the hands had been when Dodger had left.
I turned to Oliver and told him to go and find out what had happened. He left. We waited. We waited some more. The big hand was now on sixteen and two thirds. I turned to one of the other of the gang. I didn't know his name, we weren't that close, but I told him to go and find out what had happened to Oliver. Well, he disappeared as well, and in this fashion I worked my way through the whole gang until I was the only one left. That's when I felt a "thunk" on the back of my head, and everything went dark.
There comes a point in most people's lives when they have to bite the bullet and lead their gang of decrepit, geriatric, pickpocketing thespians out onto the streets to take on their first victim. For me, that point had now arrived. We decided to make our first attempt under cover of daylight, because I am scared of the dark. We found our first mark waiting at a bus stop. We chose him for two reasons: one, he looked quite rich; and two, he had really really big pockets. Big pockets are an important factor for the novice pickpocket. Not many people realise this, but it's dead obvious when you think about it.
Dodger was chosen to make the first attempt, while the rest of us waited round a corner out of sight. But I detected a problem - Dodger was jangling whenever he moved. This is not very good for a pickpocket, because really you want to be in stealth mode. Upon investigation, we found it was down to a bracelet that he was wearing as a lucky charm. He handed it over, but the jangling continued. This was down to his lucky pendant. Reluctantly he removed it, but hark! More jangling. This, it turned out was the lucky cow bells in his pocket.
Actors are ridiculously superstitious, as you probably know, and Dodger seemed to have assorted lucky charms secreted all over his person. We removed about 14 pounds of ironmongery from him before he was ready. Here we go then! Dodger tearfully kissed us all on the cheek, we told him to break a leg, and he was away.
"Mail order tattoos..."
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"Police crackdown on trippy cows..."
"Exciting and challenging work being done in the field of flap research and design..."
"The police haven't always taken such a proactive approach to enlistment..."
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Talking rubbish for Britain.
Dancer mown down by chorus line.
Transport of the future
Sidney found something wholly unexpected - a World War II German U-boat.
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of the Bleeding Obvious
All material Copyright © Paul Farnsworth 2000-2021, and may not be reproduced without the express permission of the author. All characters, companies and organisations are fictitious, and any similarity to persons living or dead is entirely coincidental.
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