Tuesday, November 26, 2013

More Fun with Rehab

Dear reader,
I'm making brilliant progress in stroke rehab. Today I want to present you with one of the exercises.
(It's okay, I'm not breaking any rules.) My therapist gave me a block of type that had been badly punctuated. There was barely a full stop in the whole thing. Anyway, my job was to make it read like English and retype it. It struck me as I was doing the work that the prose had a surreal beauty about it. It was basically telling people what to do on days where some sporting event you don't like is taking place. It's not an article that was created to be taken seriously, or they wouldn't have made the references to Julie Andrews. Everything under EXERCISE is my corrected version of the copy.

Julie Andrews shows her obvious contempt for gridiron.

Everything under ADDENDUM is the instruction I felt I had to add, just in case readers didn't get the gist of the article. In other words, it was me just pissing about. My therapist pointed out that I had made some mistakes in rendering the content of the exercise, but that it seemed like I hadn't made any goofs in the addendum, which I guess means I preferred typing it. I wanted to make my therapist laugh. She did, then we continued with Mathematics for Living. (I can't put those on the blog for two reasons. They are copyrighted for medical use only and they are as interesting as algae.)

Anyway, here we go with the exercise, which I believe Basil Fawlty would describe as a journey into the bleeding obvious.   

You don’t have to be a football fan to love Super Bowl Sunday. You can have a terrific time without ruining the game for others. ‘It’s actually a great day for non-football fans,’ says Julie Andrews, author of A Woman’s Guide to Football. You can go places and do things in relative peace because so many people will be wrapped up in the game.  So, plan your activities and leave the football fans to their entertainment. Here are Julie’s suggestions for having a super time during the January 28 Super Bowl:
Celebrate the end of the season by throwing a party for your non-football friends, with plenty of food, music and fun activities. Have the party at the home of someone who has no fans in the house, so you won’t be disturbing any serious football-lovers, Julie advises. Rent videos you’ve been wanting to see. It’s a good day to get those hard-to-find movies that are always out.  Enjoy them with your favourite snacks in a room away from the gridiron fans.  Go somewhere you usually avoid because of crowds. Shopping malls, amusement parks, hit movies and other attractions will be less crowded because the Super Bowl keeps many people away. Find a quiet place to enjoy one of those books you’ve been meaning to read. This could be a quiet time when you can read without interruption. Spend time with a friend who’s not a football fan. Plan an entire day that includes lunch at your favourite restaurant and other activities that the two of you will enjoy together. Consider joining the football festivities if you don’t really hate the game, but you don’t understand it enough to be a fan. Take some time before the super Bowl to learn about football. Julie suggests it’s not that difficult and you may discover you actually enjoy it.

Things to avoid when planning your special non-Super Bowl Day:

Do not have your special gathering in the sporting arena where the game is actually being played as there will almost definitely be crowds there and you will find yourself in the very situation you were trying to avoid! If you have an acid-throwing machine at your house, make sure to switch it off before your non-Super Bowl activities take place. You probably shouldn’t have an acid-throwing machine anyway, as Julie Andrews argues at some length in her recent two volume bestseller, Don’t waste your Money on Stupid, Dangerous Machinery that throws Acid.

Julie Andrews adds with a note of caution that it is considered exceedingly poor form not to attend the Super Bowl if you are actually a gridiron player on one of the two teams competing. Also, remember that many people go to the game as a family, which of course will mean that their homes are vacant for the afternoon. Seize the opportunity to burgle these houses as you will meet little resistance, and you may also come away with quite a substantial swag of contraband. It is best to steal small, valuable things that are easily transported. Julie Andrews suggests it is unwise to steal refrigerators as these are large, cumbersome and difficult to maneuver. You will find it easier to hock items such as jewelry and up-to-date electronic equipment. If your husband insists on attending the Super Bowl, despite your imploring that he spend time with you, then you may care to pursue couples counselling, or indeed shooting him if this does not render positive results. Though Julie Andrews is quick to remind her readers that murdering your husband can lead to all manner of complications. There is also the very real possibility that your bullet may miss and Hubby may return fire, leaving you dead and bleeding on the settee. Hardly the Super Bowl celebration one would hope for! Toodle-pip!

Monday, November 25, 2013

And now … in new, improved GERMAN flavour

I’m not going to bore any of you with a definition of  onomatopoeia, because most of you already know, and if you don’t, it doesn’t especially matter. In my very first verse book that I wrote for Penguin (it was called In the Garden of Badthings and it was a long time ago) one of the verses is nothing but a collection of nonsense words.
My first book of verse with Penguin. It's still in print, if you go for that kind of thing.

 The verse is called A Swamp Romp, and, when read aloud, it’s meant to sound like trudging through a swamp. That’s all there is. There’s no sharp sting in the tail, and nobody dies in a peculiar way. (I was a little surprised when I read my second book of Penguin verse, The Fed Up Family Album. Just about every character ends up dying in a weird way. 
My second book of verse with Penguin. A complete bloodbath. The corpse count is higher than Romeo and Juliet, which manages to knock off all the teen characters except one.

People are devoured by shearing machines, or expunged by sculptures made of plumbing. One cousin meets her demise in a knitting machine, and another in a coffin perched on roller skates. It didn’t occur to me at the time that  the book is fixated on death, yet purports to be funny. A critic called David Tickell gave me a really hard time about it, and I now see why. I’m also amazed that I can remember such a dreary name as David Tickell after all these years. We pretend the bad notices don’t bother us, but of course they do. If David Tickell were a character in the Fed up Family Album he’d die a particular nasty and bizarre death, no doubt involving machinery. And yet he’s probably a perfectly nice person. We always pretend to believe that, as well. He’s obviously not a nice person. He’s a troglodyte, a reprobate and that 'c' word that I never use. CRITIC. We seem to have wandered off the point a bit. Here is the original version of A Swamp Romp as it featured in In The Garden of Badthings. (There's an illustration too but you really don't need to worry about that.)

Makes no sense at all. Really doesn’t work unless you’re prepared to read it aloud and indulge a horribly precocious author.

To my knowledge, none of my work has been translated into any wonderfully exotic language, not even French. The Night Before Mother’s Day was translated into American English by the painless rendering of ‘Mum’ as ‘Mom’. I was surprised when Penguin told me that someone wanted to translate one of my poems into German. I was even more surprised when I learned that the poem they wanted was A Swamp Romp, which really can’t be translated from English, since it’s not actually in English to begin with. I wished them all the best and was startled to find out, eventually,  what a good job somebody had done of translating Anglish nonsense into German nonsense. Here’s the German version. (And German really is the ideal language to use if you’re going to create the impression of trudging through a swamp.) Eins, zwei, drei …

I'm immensely flattered that someone went to all the trouble of making English onomatopoeia into German onomatopoeia. Here's the German book …

And here's the monster that apparently makes all those German onomatopoeic noises:

And here is the finished cover art of my next Penguin novel, Tigers on the Beach. It's due out early next year.

Pretty, isn't it? The book will investigate such topics as why there are so many weird deaths in a book that is meant to be funny (The Fed up Family Album, not Tigers on the Beach). Yes, it's a book about comedy.