Monthly Archives: October 2004

Breaking News


President Bush pardons a turkey.
He’d probably rather send it to Iraq.

Here’s important news if you ever have the misfortune to mislay any turkeys.
An American company has now developed a range of audio products which will startle them and make them gobble, so you can locate them again. These oddly-shaped accoutrements replicate the calls of other creatures which are guaranteed to perturb turkeys.
And the peacock call is particularly good at causing loud outbreaks of turkey panic.
My favourite turkey locator is the Primos Triple Shock. This offers you no less than three call options. It therefore “gives you more choices for locating gobblers while taking up less room in your turkey vest.” The Triple Shock “reproduces the ear-piercing, high-frequency call of the peacock and woodpecker and a coyote howl.”
I’d also recommend the Ragin’ Rooster. “Roosters crowing in the early morning will often times cause turkeys to gobble. While being extremely loud, the Ragin’ Rooster is a very natural sound. Comes with free instruction tape.”
The Pileated Woodpecker Call is “an excellent turkey locator and is perfect for mid-day shock gobbling.”
Finally, the excellent Quaker Boy Power Screamer comes with a fiendish “combination woodpecker-peacock call”. The “volume-enhancing horn makes this call extra loud.” It is indeed a ” great shock gobble call”.
More info on the gamecalls website. But be warned. It’s for hunters in the Mid-West, therefore contains disturbing photographs of unattractive men with beards and no fashion sense.

Chav Charlie and Teen Tigger


Yes. The Chav look has finally hit Oxford and is modelled here by Charlie and Tigger.

Spelling The Blues

I’ve just transferred some jazz CDs into iTunes, which automatically updates track information from the internet. This is a splendid idea. Or it would be if the database people could spell. Thanks to them, my computer playlist now refers to the blues legend Bessie Smith as Bossy Smith. And my PC has given a well-known rag tune the charming new title of Buggle Call Rug.

The Bollinger Look


I’ve noticed recently that the Bollinger look is very in this autumn. Bollinger lookalikes are to be found everywhere, from catfood boxes to pink notepads in Claire’s Accessories.
The fashionable must-have Bollinger look comprises:
(1) Tabby bits
(2) White fluffy bits
(3) Sweet pink nose
(4) Green eyes
(5) Rounded pear-like shape
Look out for it on a catwalk near you…
Kitty Fashion Site


A Boll lookalike, on the cover of my new notepad from the laddish Claire’s Accessories.


Bolly with kitten siblings, looking suspiciously like the cat in the tiara.

Tramp in Cadogan Hotel

The Six Degrees of Separation indirect namedrops continue. My friend Cyn’s godson was in Midsomer Murders on Sunday, playing Henry the rower. Meanwhile, my friend H told me a story about having dinner at the Cadogan Hotel on Sloane Street when she saw an old tramp in the corner. She assumed he’d been brought in by a kindly diner. Then she realised it was Bill Bailey.

Haunted Hertford


Statue outside one of Hertford’s many antique shops
As Halloween approaches, here’s my personal guide to haunted Hertford. Or “haunted” Hertford if you wish. I’ve avoided writing “allegedly haunted” and so on, as it’s tedious. I’ve not seen any of the ghosts mentioned. And I’ve always found the establishments in this guide to be perfectly pleasant places. Although I do sometimes feel a bit spooked when I walk past Wiggintons at night and look up towards the attic. I have had an odd feeling of being watched a couple of times. For more ghostly accounts, I’d recommend the book Haunted Hertfordshire. For best results, read this guide by candlight and hire a small owl or bat to sit on your shoulder…
Fore Street
A waiter at Cafe Uno once told me that no-one who works there likes going to the loos at night. “It’s because the cubicles are sometimes locked…from the inside…when there’s no-one else in the building. And it feels very very weird down there.” When the building was a shop, it’s reported that no-one ever used the loos. They were so spooked by the atmosphere, they preferred to leave the building to pay a visit. And, during the building’s conversion into a cafe, three builders witnessed a pile of planks flung across the room, as if by unseen hands. Wires were ripped out overnight. And bricks placed in preparation for cement were all moved round 90 degrees. Since then, cleaners have experienced loud bangs and the mysterious removal of the iron chain which is placed across the stairs to keep the public out. And, one night at Christmas, staff clearing up the cafe were terrified as dark shadows started moving around the walls. Friends of mine have also reported feeling ill at ease in the loos.
Staff at Sheffields Chemist have reported banging on the floorboards, floating medicine bottles and a bottle of strychinine appearing from nowhere and flying through the wall. One day, a 200-year-old prescription book mysteriously disappeared and was then discovered in a totally unlikely location, open at a particular page. Then, the next day, it vanished again. The staff said “Can we have our prescription book back please?” whereupon it suddenly re-appeared through the wall and thudded on the floor, still open at the same page. When the owners tried to call psychic investigators, the phone went dead. Eventually, they managed to communicate with the ghost by tapping and discovered it had been killed by its brother. Having shared its story, the ghost quietened down.
Threshers cellar is haunted. Staff sometimes report turning up in the morning to find a tap has been turned fully on overnight, flooding the floor.
Albany Radio was once a private house called Cupboard Hall and was haunted by a lady in a Georgian costume.
Staff in Gays Newsagents often report the sound of someone playing a violin, but can never locate the source.
Marshalls Furnishings. After a huge fire in 1996, a policewoman had to guard the smouldering, blackened ruins of the building overnight. Looking up, she saw a man peering through one of the shattered upper windows. He was wearing “Cromwellian clothes.” Terrified, she screamed for help. But, when back-up arrived, there was no-one there. Cromwellian figures have also been sighted at night in the Salisbury Arms.
Staff working alone at night in the old Hertfordshire Mercury building, on the corner of Parliament Square, reported lights going on and off, sudden blackouts, doors slamming and door handles moving. One reporter was so spooked by this that he called the police. A policeman turned up with an alsation which started scratching at a cellar door. A bunch of keys was swinging in the door. But, when they opened the door, the cellar was empty.
Red House, part of Bluecoats School, is haunted by a lady in a grey matron’s outfit, carrying a tray up the stairs.
Around Town
The Hertford Club. One day, the barman turned up at 6pm and heard the sound of a snooker game coming through the wall: laughter and lots of male voices. No game had been scheduled and he was expecting the building to be empty, so he went to investigate and discovered an empty room, with snooker balls scattered on the table and cues quivering in the racks, as if a game had been ditched in a great hurry.
Staff have reported a ghostly presence in the back bedroom above Wiggintons Toy Shop. The owner’s daughter used to sleep there and reported visits from a lady and old man with white hair and a beard. Psychic investigators believe the ghosts are benevolent and believe a young lady once nursed her dying father in the room.
However, family members refuse to go into the attic storeroom. Dogs growl and whine outside the room. And one psychic investigator concluded there was an “evil and nasty” presence.
A young man who appears thin, cold and hungry and is dressed in a wide-brimmed hat is often sighted on Port Hill near the Quaker Burial Ground.
A child in a modern conversion in Cowbridge reported the appearance of ghostly horses in his room. His parents investigated and discovered their flat was on the site of an old knacker’s yard.
Do contact me if you have any good real-life ghost stories, especially ones relating to Hertford. Thank you.
By the way, who’s that person standing behind you?

My Next Radio Programme


The Secret Life of Telephone Numbers produced by Alan Daulby
BBC Radio 4 (92-95FM)
Repeated: Monday 27 December 2004 (Day after Boxing Day) 8.02pm
‘Choice’ in Radio Times
Here’s what the Radio Times critic says:
There was once a man who was so enamoured by the “girl with the golden voice” that he tried to persuade the speaking clock to go out with him. This is but one of the many strange-but-true stories that come up in a surprisingly compelling journey through the untold history of telephones in Britain. The comfortingly familiar sounds of old telephones and dialling tones make for an evocative picture of our not too distant past.

Careless Wyndham


Early 20th century Vorticist Wyndham Lewis clearly had a premonition of George Michael when he painted Tyro. If you want to see more extraordinary art lookalikes, including my hero and occasional colleague John Peel, go to www.robmanuel.blogspot.com and click on Classic Lookalikes (which I got my George pic from).

Black Shuck


This is Black Shuck – the East Anglian hellhound which, according to legend, left scratch marks on Blythburgh Church door (see Dunwich entry). If you want to know more about him and his connections with the Hound of the Baskervilles, go to Black Shuck and Black Shuck Sherlock. The Darkness track Black Shuck, which opens Permission to Land refers specifically to Blytheburgh Church and has the following lyrics, which I find profound and moving, in an understated East Anglian sort of way…
In a town in the east
The parishioners were visited upon
By a curious beast
And his eyes numbered but one and shone like the sun
And a glance beckoned the immediate loss
Of a cherished one
It was the coming of the
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a f**k
Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a f**k
Flames licked round the sacred spire
And the congregation’s last line of defence
Was engulfed in fire
As the flaming priest stepped into the firing line
On the business end of despair
God, he took his own life
During the coming of the
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a f**k
Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a f**k
A nimbus of blue light surrounds a crimson paw
As he takes another fatal swipe
At the Blythburgh Church Door
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a f**k
Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a f**k
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a f**k
Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) Black Shuck
(Black Shuck) That dog don’t give a f**k
Woof!