I’m following a capybara on Twitter. This one. He’s called Caplin Rous. Would you like a capybara? I would. But I don’t have a swimming pool. Or a blue blanket. Or £2000. Yes, that’s how much it costs to buy the world’s largest rat. And they are large, growing up to four and a half feet long. You can find out more about capybaras here and you can find out more about Caplin Rous here. I hope he doesn’t mind me using his picture.

I loved capybaras when I was a teenager. I frst saw one at the Manchester Museum. Stuffed. The Manchester Museum had floors and floors of stuffed animals. And then when you got to the top floor there were two stuffed alligators. Except they’d then go and move.

In a modern museum this would be done with animatronics. Back then though, these were two live alligators. In a museum! Amongst loads of stuffed things. I like to think they aren’t there anymore. No! I don’t mean dead, given that their average lifespan is 50 years. Maybe just moved outside, or to a zoo. 50 years stuck in a glass case in a dark room at the Manchester Museum is no life. Unless you’re the curator.

I’ve just checked at the Manchester Museum website. They had a new vivarium built in 2000. Phew! But no mention of the alligators. Farewell alligators, wherever you are. Or crocodiles. I don’t know! Who do you think I am? Bloody Lord Richard Attenborough? Ghandi? Johnny Morris?

Back to the capybaras. In South America they are eaten. Rat meat. Except during Lent when the Catholic Church has decreed they can be fish. It’s like the Church just makes these things up. Fish, the Church says, because they swim, and because they are a bit podgy they prefer to mate in water. Surely that could describe any of us.

Don’t eat them. Just follow the adventures of Caplin Rous.

Social secretary

January 27, 2009


I’ve become a Social Secretary. How it happened I’m not so sure. I’ve never seeked high office. I was off at a Barack Obama Quiz Night Party when Vicky, the genius behind Note-orious, the choir I am now a member of, said she needed people to form a committee. And somehow or other last night at our first choir practice of 2009 I was voted in as the Social Secretary. This for someone who has enough difficulty just saying “hello” to people.

That’s me above with Phil Denison and Trev Neal. We’d organised a comedy gig in a field. This would be in the late 70’s/early 80’s when comedy gigs in fields were all the rage. You may remember FieldAid in 1983 when comedians with coutryside-related names got together to try and raise awareness about the plight of the field mouse; Harry Hill, Sid Fields, Shane Meadows (not strictly speaking a comedian- he made a short black and white film for the occasion called Somerfields), Lee Cornes, Benny Hill, Bob Mills, Charlie Drake, Chris Rock, Craig Hill, Noel Fielding, Dave Gorman, Eugene Cheese, Glenn Wool, Harry Enfield, Jeff Green, Jimmy Cricket, Joan Rivers, Jon Plowman, Joe Cornish, Katy Brand, Keith Fields, Matthew Horne, Mike Gunn, Paul Thorne, Reece Shearsmith, Reginald D. Hunter, Richard Herring, Rob Deering, Russell Brand, Sean Lock, Tim Vine, Tommy Cooper and Victoria Wood.

It was a pretty big bill, and every comedian who was a big noise in 1983 tried to get their five minutes in that field. We had no hope. Neither of our names lent themselves to any aspect of the countryside. Having said that, a few of the above were lucky to make it. There a was petition sent around by some peacenik comedian trying to get Mike Gunn banned. Mike pointed out that just because he was called Gunn didn’t mean he either liked or even had a gun. They let him in. The biggest fuss was over Dave Gorman. A lot of comedians tried to have him barred. He said he was allowed in because he knew a friend of a friend who lost an arm in a nasty combine harvester accident. Cheeky, I know. And also trying to make light out of a tragedy. The event chairman, Angus Deayton, overruled all objections and let him in.

FieldAid took place a year before LiveAid. By the time of LiveAid these charity types had got their act together. FieldAid was a fiasco; All comedians overrun, and with the exception of Charlie Drake (who did a tight two and a half minutes) the average set ran to about 17 minutes. Jimmy Cricket did 78 minutes! The whole event went on past 8 o’clock and no one thought about bringing any lights. By the time Victoria Wood brought the show to a close at 5.34am there were only four people left in the field.

Still, I remember it fondly, as I’m sure you do if you were there. And it’s legacy? The field mouse is no longer endangered. Job done.

I hope I’ve learnt from events like FieldAid. I hope I can put what I have learnt to use as Social Secretary for Note-orious.

Please feel free to leave your comments, particularly if you attended or performed at FieldAid. I would love to share your memories.

Bedtime Stories wins.

mum-jasonWhat’s gone wrong with the world? The day started off sweetly enough with a family trip taking my niece and nephew to see The Tale of Despereaux. And then at the cinema my mother was attacked by that axe-wielding maniac Jason. Of course, when I heard her scream I did what any caring son would do and took a photo. Then I suggested my six year old nephew tackled the nutter. How we laughed when we realised it was just a promotional display stand for a horror film.

If you’re thinking of taking the kids to see The Tale of Desperaux, think again. I’m not being a spoilsport here. I like kids films. But this tale of a mouse and a rat and a kingdom where soup is banished is so drearily worthy it might send you to sleep. Yes, it’s good to be courageous, and yes, we must all learn to forgive, blah blah blah… but please, make us laugh at least once. I liked Dustin Hoffman as the rat, but that was that. Sigourney Weaver as the narrator was so overly sincere and… even for the three year olds… patronising, I longed for her to leave the soundtrack and go off and fight a facehugger.

Some critics have said it’s nice to see a family cartoon that doesn’t rely on “bathroom humour”, and I agree. But this doesn’t rely on any humour at all.

Ok, I feel mean. So I’ve just gone and spoken to my niece and nephew to redress my meanness. Funniest moment? When Despereaux uses his big Dumbo-like ears to fly down to the king. There.

After the film we walked around a pet store and saw a dog being shaved.


Two more from the same series, and I apologise to those who are upset by the second picture, but this is Mummified Fox. In the midst of life we are in death etcetera.

cat-fight mouse-and-fly

Mucky Mouse was found right outside my dwelling. The two cats live just a little further up the road. I don’t know if the cats are related, or if they live in the same house. And if I meet one of them in the street and stop for a chat I don’t know if I’m talking to the one on the left or the right. In the street, they are happy to talk, and seem to like a bit of attention. But if they are outside the house when I come across them, they run a mile. Or could it be that one runs and one stays, and I just don’t know which is which. It’s possible that one of these cats killed the mouse. It’s also possible that they then brought it to me as a gift. The fly is just a bystander. Or a mouse-sitter. I like the cats. And I would have liked the mouse. The fly, through no fault of its own, stirs no feelings in me.

There’s this thing going on. They’re calling it a Credit Crunch. I don’t know who thought up that term, and heck, I’ve tried my damnedest to find out (ok, a 30 second web search), but it’s a useless and silly term. Crunch should be saved for cereals and cake bars. Cake bars, there’s another one that no one dares own up to coining. So, keep the crunches for cakes and bandicoots please. In the Thirties they called this kind of thing a Great Depression. You know where are you are with words like that. And if we are in some kind of not yet quite great depression, then I can be prepared in advance when I wander into town and find one of my favourite stationers closed down.stationery-shop And in all these years I have always thought of it as Bureau. But, somewhere down the line it became Nemeta. No matter, they’re both closed, both gone.

But if you’re going to go out of business why not try and cheer people up a little by putting a cartoon mouse by the letterbox? This mouse picture has been left by a Cat and a Snail, who I guess worked in the shop. I once left Bureau/Nemeta after waiting ages to get served. If I’d known a snail was slowly on its way, I’d have waited. I also once bought a grubby old Rhodia notebook. The assistant (maybe Cat) wanted me to buy a new, clean, sealed one. But I liked this grubby one, for inside someone had scribbled in pencil “I love you!” I liked that, and I got 50p off. Crunch that, hedge fund hogs!

stationery-mouse1Here’s the mouse; a picture done in pen (but, sweetly, sketched in pencil first). How perfect for a stationers.

If you’re going under, try and say farewell in a style that suits your business. It may not help you, but that dopey customer who fails to notice even when a business changes hands (me) may just about raise a bittersweet smile. Right, I’m off to have my Credit Lunch. What’s the chances the cafe down the road will have closed down; two fried eggs stuck to the glass door and a slice of bacon with a downward smile?