Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Big Chip Dale's Christmas Message

I’ve been away for so long, I wanted to prove that I’m still here in Bangor, living the high life. Actually, things have been pretty grim. Gabby never stops complaining that I do nothing but sit in front of the TV and watch ‘Deal or No Deal’. She says I’ve let myself go.

I admit, there might just be a small fraction of truth in that, but I also like to think that I’m the same old Chipster. I’m just going through a period of self-discovery. The only bad thing to happen in my life is that I can no longer fit into all my favourite thongs. It’s now over three weeks since I abandoned the thong in favour of grey brushed cotton tracksuit bottoms.

Anyway, enough about me. It’s Christmas Day and I wanted to thank all of you who have taken time to read Chip Dale’s Diary in the last year. Will The Chipster be back in the New Year? I haven’t yet decided if I will. It depends on my financial situation and the amount of work I can get between now and then. To be honest, I’ve lost my regular bookings. People tell me it’s a slow Christmas, which I have to believe. Then again, life is slow these days. I thought stripping was a hard way to make a living, but it’s easier than writing.

This is Big Chip Dale, signing out until the New Year.

Have a great Christmas, and don’t eat anything I wouldn’t eat.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Two Fakes

If you ask me to name my favourite of all Orson Welles’ films, I wouldn’t say Citizen Kane. Not that I want to dismiss what’s widely (and rightly) regarded as his masterpiece, but there’s another film that’s much more fascinating, less well known, and far more characteristic of the arch-trickster who once made a large portion of America believe that Martians were invading. That film is F for Fake. Yet to describe it as a film is to misrepresent it. It’s more of a documentary, though that isn’t quite right either. It’s perhaps better described as an oddity. There really is nothing quite like it.

It’s about illusion, scam, trickery. Welles the magician steps before the camera to act as our guide through the world of forgery. Cheaply made and, for years, hard to find until its recent appearance on DVD, it’s the story of two forgers, one, Elmyr de Hory, working in the art world, and one a writer, Clifford Irving, who famously forged the official biography of Howard Hughes. Not only is it an example of how Welles used film to tell great stories, it is also a reminder that fiction is somehow more compelling than fact.

All this came to mind this weekend when I sat down and watched The Hoax, another film about forgery, this time dealing with the story of how Clifford Irving came to write the most notorious unpublished biography of the twentieth century. Based on the Irving's account of events, it stars my least favourite actor of all time, Richard Gere, yet it’s among the best films I’ve seen all year. How I equate the two facts, I’m not yet sure. I’m certain, however, that it stands as a testament to his performance, so worthy of an Oscar nod next year.

Gere doesn’t even look like Gere. This isn’t a film about good looks as much as the illusion of piety. Pretty soon, I’d forgotten all about those annoying swaggering performances he consistently turned out in the eighties. He was simply the talented novelist facing ruin when his career is derailed by critics. Finding revenge in a book proposal for the biography of the most reclusive man of the century, Irving’s one small lie soon becomes the biggest hoax in the history of publishing as publishers greedily offer him more dizzying amounts for ‘the book of the century’. He drives the film as Irving’s grip on reality begins to slip.

Set in the 1970s, The Hoax is pertinent to a modern world awash with hoaxes. What gives Clifford Iriving’s story an extra edge, however, is that it is played out against the broader picture of Howard Hughes’ relationship with the Nixon administration, Watergate, and the perpetual willingness of people to believe what they want to believe.

It’s out on DVD in this country in February, but if you go to any American retailer, it’s available now. Irving’s ‘biography’ of Hughes is finally being published next year. I, for one, can’t wait to read it.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Happy Birthday Tom!

A reminder from Nige, who happily shares this momentous day with the great man, that Tom Waits celebrates his birthday today.

While you're enjoying my favourite of Tom's middle-period songs, the world's biggest self-confessed Waits fan is going to write off the rest of the day and watch 'Big Time' in celebration.

One of Those Meme Things

I don't normally go for these memes but at least it's got me writing something and has cheered me up a little... Thanks to Reading The Signs for this.

A ~ Available? For parties, hen nights, and poetry readings. Reasonable rates.
B ~ Best friend. Oh, Gabby. Of course it’s Gabby.
C ~ Cake or pie? Cake. Lemon meringue. Actually, at the moment, I’d prefer flan. Keep things simple. Cheese and onion.
D ~ Drink of choice: Water. It's God juice and good for you!
E ~ Essential thing used every day: what else but my thong?
F ~ Favorite color: Black.
G ~ Gummi bears or worms? What the hell is a gummi bear? For that reason alone: worms.
H ~ Hometown: Bangor.
I ~ Indulgence: Lunch when we can afford it.
J ~ January or February? February.
K ~ Kids and names: It’s probably a good idea but not for me at this time in my stripping career.
L ~ Life is incomplete without: a collection of thongs.
M ~ Marriage date: Ha!
N ~ Number of siblings: One.
O ~ Oranges or apples? Apples.
P ~ Phobias/fears: Snakes, frogs, public nudity, failure.
Q ~ Favorite quote: ‘Brace yourself Brenda’.
R ~ Reason to smile: none at the moment. It’s all pretty bleak.
S~ favorite Season – Spring.
T ~ Tag three people: Must I? Okay, Fictional Rockstar, Elberry (since he claims to be back blogging, let’s make him suffer), and Richard Madeley (because I just like making him suffer).
U ~ Unknown fact about me: I’m not really a stripper… No, only joking. I’m really a hugely successful man of letters and have lectured at Cambridge. Okay, I’m six feet two inches tall.
V ~ Vegetable you don't like: the guy at the local supermarket who packs the bags. He had some kind of accident involving metal piping… He’s pretty gone most of the time but seems to have it in for me. He deliberately digs his nails into my fresh fruit.
W ~ Worst habit: snapping the strap of my thong when bored. Just… like… this…
X ~X-rays you've had: once on my back when a traffic warden fell on me during a show.
Y ~ Your favorite food: pasta. I love pasta!
Z ~ Zodiac: Libra. Two hanging cups perfectly balanced just about sums me up.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Chip Dale Guide To Handling Birds

Gabby informed me that we’re not having Christmas this year.

‘You want Christmas, you go have fun with blogging friends. You go with Dick Middlely, The Dirty Referendum, or The Fractional Popstar. Gabby not doing Christmas. We all out of turkey.’

This was news in the shade of the unexpected and with distinct highlights matching my shock and surprise. I picked the remote control from my lap and muted the lunchtime news. ‘Out of turkey?’ I repeated. ‘But what’s happened to Henrietta?’

‘Henrietta’s gone,’ said Gabby. ‘Escaped.’

‘Escaped? You’ve been rearing that turkey for the last six months just for our Christmas meal. She couldn’t have just fled!. Not when we’re so close.’

‘She gone. She jump fence and run away.’

‘Jumped the fence?’ I protested. ‘But she could barely walk. I’ve not seen breasts that big since I visited Richard Madeley’s website and realised that he’s started to post porn.’

‘Henrietta gone and Gabby not know what to do. I grow turkey. Biggest turkey I ever grow. And I looking to cutting off head. Now, what am I to do? Gabby very, very disappointed.’

I sat back on my chair. In the last few weeks, it had slowly begun to shape itself to my immobile torso as my malaise rarely shifted me before the TV. Moping might be a more accurate term for it. Only this was different. This was perhaps the news I’d been waiting for. This could put mustard back in the Chipster’s thong.

‘Well, I’m not going to accept it,’ I said as I slapped my thighs and stood up. ‘I’m going to find Henrietta and I’m going to rescue her.’

‘You find turkey?’ laughed Gabby. She threw herself down on the sofa and propped a cushion under her head before she picked up the latest edition of ‘Choke Holds’ magazine that had arrived in the morning’s post. ‘You go find turkey, then I sit here and read.’

‘And when I do rescue her, I’ll bring her safely back here so you can chop off her head.’

Gabby waved away my promise. ‘Turkey gone. It eaten. A fox get it.’

I nipped to the bedroom where I put on an insulated thong and my waterproof vest. As soon as I reached the door, Gabby came running.

‘You really do this for Gabby?’ she asked, suddenly full of eagerness.

‘I’m doing it for my Christmas lunch,’ I said.

She patted me on my chest and ran back into the living room. When she returned, she had a gift for me. ‘Be careful,’ she said as she pushed a large knife into my hands. ‘If you find Henrietta, you not let her peck you. Chop off head before you get hurt.’

I took the knife and was about to slip it under the narrow band at the side of my thong. Then I had second thoughts. ‘I not going to get arrested for carrying a weapon,’ I told her as I concealed the knife down the spacious pouch of my winter thong, ‘but there might well be charges of gross indecency before the night’s out.’

The obvious place to start a turkey hunt was at the last place the bird had been seen. The allotments were unusually quiet when I arrived there around three. It was a brazenly cold afternoon, with a stiff breeze cutting across the open patch of land. My nipples were hard and tingling, like two sensors set to white meat as I began my search around the turkey enclosure. It was there that I noticed some heel prints in the soft mud that ran to a small gate that led to the series of small cottages that sit to the rear of the allotments. It seemed a bit too obvious a lead but I thought I’d check them out first.

The garden of the first cottage overlooks Gabby’s allotment and belongs to an old doctor who retired from the profession some years ago, about the same time as he was struck off the medical register. As far as I knew, he still lived there with his sister. It took me no time to get around to the front of the house and ring the door bell. Moments passed before it opened to a dark crack.

‘Yes?’ asked a soft voice from within.

‘Oh, hello,’ I said as a pair of wizened eyes came peering out to greet me. ‘I’m looking for a bird…’

‘A bird?’ said the voice. The door opened a little more and a little old lady wandered forward and began to peer at my groin. ‘What on earth are you wearing, young man?’

‘It’s a thong,’ I said.

‘A thong? It doesn’t look very warm.’

‘Oh, it’s very warm,’ I assured her. ‘Very spacious too. Can you believe there’s a weapon packed in there?’

‘A weapon?’

‘For the turkey,’ I said. ‘That’s what I’ve come for. My girlfriend owns the allotment at the bottom of your garden and our Christmas turkey seems to have gone missing. I was wondering if it might have escaped over your fence.’

She gave me one of the oddest looks I think I’ve ever received. ‘And when you find this turkey, you’re going to kill a turkey with you weapon?’ she asked and pointed to my thong.

I shrugged. ‘That’s the general idea,’ I replied.

She waved me after her. ‘The turkey is out back. Let me go and get my glasses. I want to see this!’

Sure enough, Henrietta was sitting in the rear garden, trapped by four sides of trellis fashioned into a makeshift pen.

‘It was my brother,’ whispered the little old lady as she emerged from the house. She’d wrapped a shawl around her shoulders and a pair of glasses now rode the smooth incline of her nose. ‘He’s been watching that turkey grow all year,’ she continued to explain. ‘He’s rather naughty, I’m afraid. I told him he shouldn’t steal it but he said you wouldn’t notice.’ A she smiled, yellowing false teeth moving uneasily on thin gums. ‘Now, I believe you promised to show me how you’re going to kill a turkey with that “weapon” of yours.’

‘I was planning of cutting it’s head off,’ I said, though now I had found Henrietta, I didn’t think I had it in me to do the wicked deed.

‘Chop off its head?’ asked the old woman. ‘I thought you were going to bash it unconscious. I was quite looking forward to watching you giving it a good bludgeon. Mind you,’ she laughed, ‘it’s so many years. I can’t remember what a good “weapon” really looks like…’

To be honest, I think she was a little senile. She wasn’t making a word of sense. I pulled out the knife and held it up to the light.

‘Just a standard carving knife,’ I said. ‘The handle’s a bit fancy but nothing too modern. Surely you have knives like this?’

The woman looked confused. ‘Oh,’ she said, and touched a hand nervously to her throat. ‘I… well…’ I thought a blush illuminated her thin makeup from beneath. ‘Perhaps you should just take back your turkey,’ she said, her manner changing from enthusiasm to casual indifference, as though she didn’t want me around any more. ‘I’ll make sure my brother doesn’t steal it again.’

‘You can tell him from me that he needn’t go stealing it,’ I replied, not liking this change of mood. ‘I’ll make sure we save him a breast. After all, it is Christmas and there’s more than enough turkey for all.’

As I led Henrietta past the front door, the little old lady reappeared again.

‘Oh, young man,’ she said. ‘You never told me your name.’

‘Chip Dale,’ I replied. ‘And the turkey is called Henrietta.’

She waved me over to the doorstep. ‘Listen,’ she said, ‘there’s nothing like stuffing at Christmas, so when you do cook your turkey, you must use this.’ In her hands she held out a small box of Paxo. ‘It goes wonderful with meat.’

‘That’s very good of you,’ I began to say but before I could finish, she grabbed the front of my thong and shoved the box of Paxo down the pouch.

‘Very spacious,’ she cooed. ‘And like I said, there’s nothing that can beat a little stuffing at Christmas.’

Monday, December 03, 2007

Help Wanted: Angry Mob


Here’s a post to keep my blog ticking over while I’m relining my thongs, reoiling my hips, and giving my buttocks a closer than normal shave. I came across this little offer of free tickets when I was researching my chances of appearing on 15 to 1. Although I’m not going to take the offer up myself, I was hoping that there’d be an angry mob out there who could do the job for me. Gabby suggested that she contact friends in the Romanian military but I think I can do a better job by using the power of the internet.

If you know an angry mob, or perhaps you yourself are an angry mob, could you get yourself down the studios and spend an whole afternoon jeering. I’ve written letters to television production companies suggesting that Gabby and myself would make a better job of hosting this show, while Jordan and Andrex can get back to what they do best… Okay, you’re right. I don’t know what that would be. They could just disappear and stop rubbing our noses in it.

Are you with me, angry mob?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

A Few Mini Film Reviews

Not a stellar lineup this time but I thought I'd post the rest in order to encourage you all to see the first.

Rescue Dawn

Christian Bale gets thin again. This time he’s in the jungle and not eating enough rice. Gabby spent two hours waiting vainly for Dawn to turn up and missed an oddly commercial film from Werner Herzog. The last time Bale ‘got thin’ was for 'The Mechanic', one of the great amnesia films. This prisoner of war film, set during the Vietnam War, is an equally good. Okay, I'd say it's even better. I’d recommend it from its fantastic slow motion opening sequence to the end credits that were only ruined by somebody shouting 'I don't get! He was Dawn?'

Flood

Only we Brits could make such an odd thriller about the weather. Heavy storm produces a tidal surge that floods the Thames. Not a bad premise once you stop reminding yourself that Londoners would be saved had they either climbed on top of The Dome, or simply moved upstairs for the duration. However, not a bad film considered the rather low budget and David Suchet's poorly dyed eyebrows. Actually, if you do watch it, there's a really impressive bit in the middle when one of the minor actors has a scene in which they're totally silent. Perhaps it was my imagination but I thought it really great piece of acting that made the whole thing worthwhile.

The Last Legion

Gabby chose this one. Ben Kingsley has a very bad beard in this rather brainless romp which isn’t as bad as you’d think. Lots of sword action to keep Romanian commandos happy in this version of the King Arthur legend told in a very roundabout way. I, myself, was taken with a rather lovely woman from the Indian subcontinent who had a way with the knives that reminded me of somebody who is now snoring not two rooms away from me.

Resident Evil: Extinction


Well, another of Gabby’s choices. Young athletic woman gets to wield large caliber weapons and very sharp knives in the vicinity of zombies. An odd thing to say but I’ll say it anyway: should have been longer. I quite enjoy a good post-apocalyptic scenario but why the producers insist on filling them with mindless action, I don’t know. I, myself, was taken with the rather fine Milla Jovovich who had a way about her that reminded me of... Oh, you get the picture.

Friday, November 30, 2007

With One Leg On The Bar

I did two things last night that I’ve not done in a while. I nipped down to the Green Dragon Tavern to loosen my muscles with the first proper dance since my recent accident. The other was to return to writing a novel I’ve left for nearly a month. They were but two of the many reasons why people were commenting on the improvement in The Chipster’s mood.

‘Chip,’ said Samantha, the waitress at the Tavern, ‘I don’t think I’ve ever seen you dance as well.’

‘I’m feeling oddly limber,’ I admitted as I threw my leg up on the bar and touched my chin to my knee. ‘I think it’s November. Some men get gloomy about the shorter days, but I get cheerful because of the longer night. There’s more time for a man in a thong to impress the ladies and walk the stage naked.’

‘I’ve never thought of it like that,’ she said. ‘And how’s the book coming?’

‘Again, better than I expected. I read through the first 10,000 words this morning and I laughed at least five times on every page. That’s quite something. That’s writing to the levels established by Bill Bryson and Jeremy Clarkson. If I could get it to six times a page, I’d be heading into Wodehouse territory. Can you imagine that? P.G. Wodehouse with an expert knowledge of the tensile strength of a fully loaded thong?’

‘So you’re limber in both mind and body?’ replied Samantha. ‘And how is the blog going?’

I tutted as I pushed my chin to my knee a second time. ‘The blog is a problem. I’ve been annoying people with my slightly less than ebullient mood of late. I’ve even had emails complaining that I’m not the man they have come to know and love.’

I dropped my leg to the floor and threw the other one up to repeat the same exercise.

‘People like consistency,’ said Samantha. ‘If you didn’t come in here every night, dressed in your alligator jacket and luminous orange thong, I’d think there was something wrong with you.’

‘And there would be something wrong with me,’ I said as I gave my thong a snap for good luck. ‘There would be something very wrong with me indeed.’

Later, I got back to the flat and took a quick shower before changing into a casual thong. I sat down, turned on the TV, heckled Newsnight, and then listened to Gabby as she struggled with a mugger in the street below the flat.

‘Had a good evening?’ I asked when she finally appeared at the door.

She wiped a spot of blood from her cheek and gave me a kiss.

‘Gabby make him beg for his life,’ she said.

‘I bet you did,’ I replied and knew there and then that I was feeling much better with the world.

The thong is at 95% and still rising.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Chip Dale's Dream

Should the Chipster ever profess his love for another man, let that man be Richard Madeley.

His offer to sell me the musk from his glands must have touched a nerve last night. It acted on me like some kind of psychic drug that seemed to cleanse my soul. My sleep was like a peyote hallucination. I dreamt that I met Alan Titchmarsh and I was forced to say to his face all the things I’ve ever said about him. The ‘other’ Richard Madeley was there too. He found me and gave me a thrashing for all the things he thought I’d written about him. It made no difference to him that I’m Chip Dale. He believed I was Dick Madeley and wished to punish me for all that man’s sins.

Then the dream changed and I was being chased across a field by hundreds of celebrities. Jeremy Clarkson was there, dressed for a hunt. Then there was Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, Ken Dodd, Sharon Osbourne, Oz Clarke, Jamie Oliver, and the whole of the England football team. They’d managed to corner me in a ditch where Clarkson came forward to give me the coup de grâce, despite all my protestations that I like the man and I think he’s one of the genuinely funny English writers working in the form of the abbreviated essay. At the last moment, Stephen Fry took pity on me and called for a vote to see whether I should live or die. Before they could finish arguing among themselves, I managed to slip away and made it to a road where I flagged down a car. Only when we’d gone about a mile or so did I turn to look at the driver. It was Angus Deaton and he began to mock me for not being funny enough… In the back seat sat Lenny Henry and Alan Carr, glaring at me as if they were the apostles of wealth and success.

Thankfully, that’s where I woke up. I found Gabby sitting beside me with a tape recorder in her lap. Poor girl. She thought I was undergoing a religious moment and I was speaking in tongues.

The truth is more mundane.

The Chipster may suffer terrible guilt when he doesn’t post here but self-doubt is a much more potent force. I suppose both would be lessened if I thought people thought I wrote other things, but that is too much to expect and I wouldn’t like to take any credit for another man’s hard work. Yet the fact remains, I am troubled by a conscience. I’m sorry if I’ve not been posting enough. But now my spirit is rid of the demons that have been haunting it for the last few weeks and I’m working again. I feel a little better and hope to improve my output in the next few days.

Richard Madeley, I thank you. And I thank you all for sticking by me. The Thong is at 75% and rising.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Suffering the BBC Blues

I see now that The Chipster’s continuing grouchiness is partly the result of watching too many food programmes. Rick Stein, Gordon Ramsay, Nigella Lawson… They present a view of food that I’m totally unable to share. Perhaps there are people who are able to afford freshly culled Bulgarian shrimp or that rare form of lemon grass which only grows in the shadow of a Buddhist monastery in Tibet, only I don’t see it for sale at my local Co-Op. Nor do I have oddly shaped dishes to serve it on, nor lots of middle class friends who we have around for dinner and discuss the middle period of Gustav Mahler’s life. TV chefs throw Parmesan cheese around like it’s cheaper than mud and then, usually in a self-pleased air, admit that ‘I don’t particularly like Parmesan and would always prefer to spend that little bit extra and use a cheese scented with the extract of a unicorn’s horn’. Have you seen what a piece of Parmesan cheese is going for these days?

It’s probably the misfortune of many of us that TV presents us with a vision of the world seen through celebrity eyes. Top Gear is the worst example I know. Despite being reduced to cycling everywhere, I still love the show but I do wish they wouldn’t keep reviewing £120,000 cars and then mocking each other when they admit they’re buying one. Clarkson can sound like a terrible bore when he starts on about his supercars. The only one I find I have time for is James May, who seems to have retained a sense of proportion, though he too might stretch my patience if he hands around that Oz Clarke for too long.

I also feel sorry for any poor fool who tries to copy the Top Gear’s challenges, not remembering that whey the trio drive across Africa in a second-hand car, they have a team of people to back them up, if not an army detachment or two. Holiday programmes do the same, presenting exotic locations as if they’re merely a bit further than ‘down the road’. And if you’ve not had your nose rubbed in it enough, leave BBC2 on after Top Gear and watch Ewan McGregor and Charley Boorman ride down Africa.

I suppose many of us have long since realised that we’ll never earn enough to own an Aston Martin, but does the TV have to make it so hard for us? When they mock me for not being able to afford to buy a hunk of cheese, I begin to think that I should save money by not renewing my TV licence. It does nothing but make me feel miserable.

Monday, November 26, 2007

On Having Nothing To Say

I’ve had nothing to say, so I’ve been choosing to say nothing. I suppose it’s an odd position for any blogger to be in. It seems to me that so many blogs exist precisely because people who have nothing to say want to say something. It’s why we end up reading the mundane details of their lives.

So my silence is different. I’m silent because I’m not in the mood to entertain you. Life is difficult. It’s coming up to Christmas and it’s a struggle to sustain my indifference to the outside world. I don’t really know what’s wrong with me. Desperation, fatigue, a seasonal shift in my moods…

There is, however, a terrible inevitability of a blog dying. You begin with high expectations and work hard to establish a readership. The readership begins to dribble in. Then, one day, you get noticed. You have a peak when there are hundreds of people hanging around the blog and leaving messages. It lasts for about 48 hours and then all your new friends are gone. You’re back working at the coal face for a few loyal visitors, in whom you begin to feel a ridiculous pride. From therein, you’re lucky if you attract one new regular reader a week.

Then, at some point, you begin to wonder ‘why’. That happened to me the other day. The Harlan Ellison piece I found on Why That’s Delightful made me realise that in all the few years I’ve been publishing my work to the web, I’ve written close to 500,000 words and that it has earned me nothing. Nada. Zilch. What a fool I've been!

After half a million words, I think the shine of blogging has finally begun to wear thin.

I don’t know why this blog has failed to take off. Perhaps it’s simply because it’s not funny enough. Perhaps I’m simply not a good enough writer. I might lack interesting things to say. What entertains me, clearly doesn’t entertain the masses. I’m not a political blogger, so people don’t come here for informed gossip about the Home Office or Westminster. Nor am I a ‘personal’ blogger who people get to know as if they are getting to know a friend. If it doesn’t sound too conceited, I consider myself a ‘humourist’, though today lacking the humour. I write about nonsensical things. I write to amuse myself. I write to make you laugh.

All of this is a way of saying that the readership is just getting nowhere fast. I also don’t know if it’s just me or whether this is a wider phenomena, but traffic has been down for the last month. One of the rules of blogging is supposedly not caring about readership. Yet I do. If I don’t get readers, I begin to think that I should move on. I should write something more meaningful for myself. They say writers earn £4000 a year. What riches! How do I get some of that action?

And yet…

Yet, I’d miss the feedback. I’d miss the hits. I’m miss the comments, the trackbacks, the incoming links. I’d miss the excitement of writing these short pieces that I write to amuse myself and which send to bed at night chuckling to myself. I’d also miss thinking that I’ve made somebody I don’t know laugh.

And yet…

I can’t help but feel that I’ve half a million words for very little purpose. I have another novel half finished but blogging gets in the way when I could have it done in a month or two.

And yet...

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Quality Street My Arse!

I hate being treated as an idiot by a big corporation, so when I was handed a box of Quality Street today, I knew I’d have to find five minutes to sit down, brood, and then write about the stinging wart on the behind of the British confectionery industry.

Those damn heathens, wearing their sheep’s testicle necklaces and waving dead chickens over piles of fuming herbs, they have gone and done it again. Nestlé have introduced two new chocolates to the Quality Street family. And what might those two new chocolates be, you ask? Do you anticipate the ‘Mint Sensation’, a mint cream wrapped in dark chocolate? Or maybe it’s that ‘Lemon zest’, a lemon flavoured cream in milk chocolate? Or you might not like soft centers, so how about a Hazelnut Blob, or a Walnut Whizz, or a bloody Nougat Knob?! No, no, and no. Apparently this is all too obvious to the witch doctors at Nestlé. Not when they can introduce the world to the taste sensation that is the ‘Milk Choc Block’ and, wait for it, ‘The Toffee Deluxe’. The Toffee Deluxe! I feel ulcers bursting in the sugary corner of my digestive tract. What the hell is ‘deluxe’ about caramel? It’s burnt sugar! How much more cheap could an ingredient be?

Every person on the planet knows that caramel is the most miserable substance on the earth. The devil god of confectioners created when he was cast from Belgium. Buy a tin of Quality Street at Christmas and you can guarantee that by New Year’s Day there’ll be nothing but Toffee Pennies left at the bottom. So why introduce another toffee we are all sure to avoid? It says on the box: ‘Indulge yourself with toffee deluxe – our rich, buttery toffee wrapped in smooth milk chocolate’. Give me a break! Come on, Nestlé, I’m sure you could save yourself another fraction of a penny per box by taking space up with another cheap-to-produce lump of flavourless gunk? What the world needs now is another version of the Caramel Keg! Your copywriters can make something scraped from a kennel sound exciting. ‘Why not treat yourself to the Doggy Delight, a luxurious lump of faeces wrapped in a delicious dark chocolate’?

As for ‘the choc block’, it’s chocolate wrapped in chocolate. There can be nothing cheaper unless they wrap air, which, let’s face it, is what they do every Christmas and Easter when the thickness of the chocolate in novelties and eggs get thinner and thinner. A ‘choc bloc’ is hardly a confectionery innovation and I’m damn sure it doesn’t excite me when they advertise it on the box in lovely clip art stars with ‘New’ in glowing letters. As for it being ‘a bite sized block of creamy milk chocolate’… Bite sized? For who? A midget, perhaps, or a small Persian cat. A one year old baby with a very tiny jaw.

I get so utterly fed up of corporations selling us things with words that attempt to disguise reality. Small cars are ‘compact’, ugly cars are ‘exciting’ or ‘innovative’. When Renault launched the Megane, they disguised the fact it has a terrible rear by showing us images of women's bottoms. The car was still ugly but like one of Ivan Pavlov's dogs, I now drool every time I see one drive past.

Nestlé operate their ‘new cholocate’ scam so they can these cheap ‘new’ chocolates we’d never choose to eat take up space that was previously occupied by chocolates you might actually enjoy. How many Orange Creams, Strawberry Creams, and the Hazelnuts do they save with this little example of penny-pinching? We’re being screwed on a global scale. Sod ethical business practices and all the stuff that gets Mark Thomas’ goat. What about being able to buy a decent box of reasonably priced chocolates? I don’t eat chocolate that often and when I do I usually prefer something expensive but delicious, even it is means only having a very small quantity. Don’t give me fudge! I hate fudge! And don’t call it a ‘fondant center’ when you mean fudge. I just want to share a box of chocolates with my family knowing that I'm not going to have to elbow my own mother in the face just to get to the orange cream.

Nestlé, I’m onto your game, you cheap miserable bastards. The Chipster says wake up and smell the cocoa.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

The Other Type of Thanksgiving

We men of the thong get asked to do many odd things by apparently normal people. Occasionally we get asked to do very ordinary things by some very odd people. I don’t know which category this falls into but a hit on my statistics attracted my attention. I wish I hadn’t clicked on it and I warn you about clicking on it too. It seems that the old Chipster isn’t good enough for some ladies, who have examined the packaging and moved on.

Wake up ladies! Smell the pineapple! You don’t know what you’re missing. Wales’ top male stripper is at your service.

Changing Perspectives

Don’t expect to see much activity on the live Chip Dale monitor today. The subdermal tracking device has been setting off car alarms all morning so I’m restricted to the flat until Gabby can contact her supplier in the Romanian government and find out how to jam the frequency. The confinement has given me time to reflect on the exciting times I shared with Trixy. How we laughed when I got my thong caught in the heel of her shoe as we fled Bangor through the back gardens of Holyhead Road! I also think that marriage has left me a changed man. And I don’t just mean in the sense of my now being the biggest emitter of radio waves in the North Wales region.

The thought came to me this morning as I found myself browsing the increasingly troubled musings of Richard Madeley. The man has a monster of an ego but I think he occasionally serves a purpose. This morning, that purpose was in directing my attention to Why That’s Delightful, the comprehensively mad blog by Graham Lineham, who will be forever blessed (perhaps even cursed) as being known as one of the writers of ‘Father Ted’. The latest post is a gem and goes down as one of my favourite YouTube finds.





Harlan Ellison has written many science-fiction short stories, books for teenagers, and TV shows, though I can’t, honestly, ever recollect reading anything of his. His rant touches upon one of the truths of modern life as a writer, and indeed, as a blogger. I’ve often been contacted by people in the media asking me to do something for them, whether it’s give an interview or write a brief snippet for something they’re doing. What’s striking is that, every time, they don’t mention money.

‘Hi Chip,’ begins an email. ‘Would you give us a quote about your life as a top stripper in Wales?’

Or the phone will go. ‘Chip. We loved the thing you wrote about pineapple chunks and the guide dog. Could we reprint it in our next magazine?’

At other times, I’ve seen my wisdom crop up in newspapers, quoted in full, with the barest indication as to who said it. I’ve even seen my pictures used in the media without my permission. Blogging is the problem. The media treats us as though we’re easy filler for their papers, shows, websites. Many of us produce quality content for no money. It's insane!

Since I opened this blog in January, I’ve written 345 posts. If each post is, on average, 500 words long, then that would make this blog 122,000 words long, or as big as a thickish novel. Actually, many of my posts are more like 1000-2000 words long (some even longer) and the total word count for this blog is actually over 180,000 words. The point is, I’ve not earned a penny from all this effort. That’s like my having written two comic novels in the last year – or what Jeremy Clarkson or Billy Bryson write between them. Perhaps you could argue that there’s still fewer laughs. I’d hope there have been more. What would a serious bad writer expect to profit from a novel? A thousand pounds? Two thousand? I don't know but this blog has earned me $9.88 from Google ads. So that's 180,000 words written for $9.88, or about 0.002 pence per word.

So I gave a loud cheer when I heard Harlan Ellison’s rant. I've listened to it ten times now and it makes me smile and cry in about equal measure because there’s a degree of self-recognition there too. If I ever want to consider myself a professional writer, perhaps I should give up blogging. Why should I write for nothing other than my own amusement? As much as I enjoy writing about my adventures, isn’t it just foolish to do it for nothing? I’d ask anybody reading this the same question that Harlan Ellison asked the woman who rang him up: would you work for nothing? And isn’t this a failure of blogs? Doesn’t it make writing look easy? Doesn’t it devalue the very thing that so many of us are trying to accomplish?

[Update: The video is from a documentary about Ellison called 'Dreams With Sharp Teeth', which has leapt to the top of the list of things I want to see. The great thing about books is that you can go years believing you've read all the writers who deserve to be read yet I now find myself browsing Amazon for an apparently significant writer I hadn't heard of before today. And the man seems to be my kind of madman. He sits at his typewriter wearing silly hats, for Christsake! That almost beats writing in a thong.]

The Yorkshire Moors

It came to an end, as most adventures of this kind end, at a remote farmhouse on the Yorkshire moors. It had been Trixy’s idea to head north, thinking that Gabby’s natural inclination to veer towards Romanian airspace would steer her in a south-easterly direction. We were wrong. Trixy was busy arranging her shoes in the hay loft that she’d conveniently turned into a walk-in cupboard, when the noise of an engine fired up from somewhere outside the cottage.

‘It’s her,’ I said, not knowing what I was saying as much as just instinctively reaching for the obvious conclusion.

Trixy quickly gathered up her shoes and made a jump for it as a tractor ploughed through the wall of the cottage and something snarling leapt from the driver’s seat.

‘Ayiiiiiiiiii!’ went the same war cry that made the Mongol hordes stop at the Romanian border.

‘Gabby, won’t you listen to me?’ I cried as I felt steel-like fingers grip me by my neck.

‘Divorce her now, Chip Dale, or you lose windpipe.’

I waved my hand in the air, a sign of a thonglateer’s truce. Meanwhile, Trixy had disappeared and only when I sat up did I spot her running for the main road at an unbelievable rate of knots for somebody so given to cravings for nicotine. Not that I had long to consider this fact. Gabby leapt up to the tractor and pulled a large canvas bag from the back of the seat. She unzipped it and shook it out.

The figure was that of a man, tied up and with tape around his mouth. It was only when Gabby made a slit in the tape that I recognised the wheezing noise of Mr. Meradith, my solicitor.

‘Say it,’ threatened Gabby as Mr. Meradith gasped for air.

‘You are not legally married,’ he said. ‘Facebook can’t hold you to it and if you can’t technically be married given the documents that Ms. Gabby has shown me.’

‘Documents?’ I asked. ‘What documents.’

‘It would see that you’re already registered as the private property of Ms. Gabby under Romanian law. Technically, it might be argued that you’re a free man but given the EU’s relationship with Romania, I wouldn’t bet on that. You couldn’t marry anybody with Ms. Gabby’s permission.’

I didn’t know how to feel, even as Gabby pulled a length of rope from a hook hanging in the cabin and began to bind my wrists to my ankles.

‘I’m so sorry about this,’ I said to Mr. Meradith. ‘You must think something awful about us…’

He managed to get a smile out before Gabby resealed his mouth with more tape.

And that, as they say, is that. The marriage was short lived and I think you’ll agree a welcome diversion from the usual round of dull events here at Chip Dale’s Diary. The solicitor was released unharmed back in Bangor and I was dragged up to the flat where I was finally set from of my rope bonds once Gabby had inserted numerous GPS trackers under my skin. Some of you might feel it goes against the Libertarian grain but I do like a clever use of technology. Especially when it gives rise to a new feature, which you should be able to see in my sidebar. It’s a live track of my position, fixed via Romanian GPS satellites and updated every five minutes. It’s innovations like that which you begin to miss as a married man.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Big Chip Dale's Got Married!

I never imagined Armageddon would look like this. I certainly didn’t expect there to be so many shoes.

It began last night. The marriage ceremony had been short and relatively sweet. It had also been totally unexpected. I hadn’t planned on getting married this year, though if I had, my money would have been placed on a certain Romanian being the bride and there being a shotgun involved in the ceremony. Not that I would have expected Gabby to ‘be with child’, you understand. I just imagine that Gabby wouldn’t get married unless she were surrounded by friends, family, and her weapon of choice. Luckily, I didn’t place that bet. I’m now married to a woman called Trixy.

Gabby was at her judo class when the doorbell rang. I opened the door and saw a forlorn creature standing there, one shoe missing, and an overnight case in her hand. The rain had flattened the stranger’s spirits as well as her hair so I didn’t immediately recognise her.

‘Can I help you?’ I asked.

The woman smiled, brushed a stray tendril of hair from her eyes, before she collapsed into my arms.

‘Chip,’ she gasped, ‘it’s taken me ******* hours to get here…’

‘Do I know you?’ I asked, as I dragged her across the room.

She recovered before I could throw her over the back of the sofa. She pushed herself upright and gestured to my thong. ‘You are Chip Dale, aren’t you? Only you're more handsome than the photo on your blog.’

‘I get that a lot,’ I explained, ‘but I still can’t work out who you are.’

‘It’s me,’ she said. ‘Trixy, from the hugely successful blog, “Is There More to Life Than Shoes?”’

I looked at her feet and the missing high heel.

‘I know,’ she said. ‘Ironic isn’t it? I lost it when the taxi driver threw me out of the cab. I don’t think I should have called him a ****.’

‘Alas,’ I sighed, ‘isn’t that just the way out here in the provinces? What passes as a clever use of swearing in the highly charged arena of Westminster politics comes across as overly aggressive in Bangor.’

‘So it ******* seems,’ she said.

‘I hope you don’t think I’m sounding unhappy to see you, Trixy, but can I ask what exactly are you doing here?’

‘Oh,’ she said, relaxed enough to kick off her remaining shoe. ‘We’re getting married.’

‘Who are?’

‘We are,’ she smiled. ‘You and me.’

‘Are we?’

‘Well, technically, we already have. Many people already think of us as man and wife.’

I was confused. Moments earlier I had been sitting enjoying a cup of hot chocolate with Dragon’s Den. Now I was in the process of negotiating a post-nuptial agreement with a drenched London blogger with the mildest case of Tourettes.

‘It’s complicated,’ said Trixy. ‘The thing is: I went and ******* told Facebook that we’re married. I don’t want to go into the reasons other than I was looking for a man with fantastic good looks, a brilliant sense of humour, and with a chance of superstardom in the next two years. It was between you and Richard ******* Madeley but I preferred you because Facebook already recognises him as being married to Judy.’

‘Does that matter?’ I asked, thinking I was missing something.

Trixy laughed. ‘Does it ******* matter? Of course it ******* matters! A declaration of marriage on Facebook is a legally binding agreement in certain countries.’

‘Certain countries?’

‘Iraq, Peru, Norway and…’ she smiled winsomely, ‘Wales.’

‘Oh, I see,’ I said, not quite seeing. ‘Do you mind if I sit down?’

‘I do, actually,’ she said, dropping her bag and opening it. Unsurprisingly, it was filled with nothing but shoes. ‘We have to get to either a sea captain or a priest before midnight. Otherwise I’ll have broken the rules of Facebook and they’ll kick me off.’

‘Is that a bad thing?’ I asked, not being, as you probably know, Facebook’s biggest fan.

‘It would,’ she replied as she slipped on a new pair of high heels. ‘I couldn’t live without my account on Facebook.’

‘Only,’ I said, nodding towards the TV, ‘Dragon’s Den is on and there’s somebody about to get the force of Duncan Bannatyne’s considerable Scottish wrath.’

‘Sod Duncan Bannatyne!’ cried Trixy. ‘We have a wedding to arrange.’

An hour later, an unreasonably sober man crossed the threshold of his apartment carrying a woman called Trixy in his arms.

‘Did you need to call the taxi driver a ****?’ I asked, as I dropped her onto her again shoeless feet.

‘Force of habit,’ she said as she sank into a chair. ‘How’s your back?’

‘Better than I would have expected after carrying you three quarters of a mile.’

‘I’m ******* exhausted,’ she said. ‘I’d grab a shower but I think somebody’s already using it.’

That’s when my blood ran cold. I could indeed hear the noise of a power shower.

‘What’s wrong?’ asked Trix, as the new Mrs. Dale likes to be called.

‘It’s Gabby,’ I said. ‘She doesn’t know.’

‘I’m sure she’ll be reasonable,’ said my darling wife.

‘Have you actually read Chip Dale’s Diary?’ I asked. ‘I know plenty of people link but only a few read. But don’t you know what kind of woman you’re about to cross? I hope you have shoes in that bag that contain high levels of neurotoxins cleverly concealed in a sharped toe?’

She looked regretfully towards her luggage. ‘I don’t think I do,’ she said, and suddenly brightened. ‘But you make me wish that I did! We could always go out and do some late night shoe shopping?’

But it was too late. The power shower powered down and a small shadowy figure appeared in the corridor. It was wrapped in a bath towel that did a poor job of concealing duelling scars.

‘Chip? Where have you been?’ asked Gabby. ‘And why are you dressed like you go wedding?’

I looked down at my crushed velvet jacket and purple cummerbund riding high above my formal black CofE thong. Then I looked at my poor wife who seemed oblivious to the fact that we were both about to witness The End of Days.

‘Gabby,’ I said, ‘I don’t want you to get excited. I want you to listen because what I have to say might sound a little bit strange.’

‘Who is woman?’ asked my girlfriend, always quick to feel jealousy when I have a wife sitting on the sofa and picking confetti from her hair.

‘I’m not just any woman,’ said Trixy before she added, I thought a little foolhardily, ‘I’m Mrs. Chip Dale.’

The towel fell and I gazed down at a perfect Romanian body with at least three orifices concealing more arms than an IRA weapons dump.

‘Chip got married?!’ she screamed.

‘It was Facebook,’ I began to explain, backing towards the door and Birmingham. ‘Poor Trixy here went and clicked on the relationship option and accidentally married us and…’

How we managed to get out of there, I can’t reasonably explain. And how Trixy managed to escape with her shoes will remain one of the great mysteries of the century. I do know that we are currently hiding in a Travel Lodge outside Essington on the M54. We’ll be moving on soon so Gabby won’t be able to track us. There might well be more to life than shoes, but from where I’m lying, there seems to be more shoes than there are chances of my escaping this little episode with my life. I do know that it’s hard to flee Romanian justice when you’re loaded down with so many pairs of ******* shoes.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

All The Right Moves

The Chipster is in a dilemma and he doesn’t know what to do. I entered one of my own private thongs, designed and hand sequined by the Thonglateer himself, into a competitive fashion show last week. To my horror, I discovered on Friday that I’d won.

‘Mr. Dale, we are so proud to have your thong in our collection,’ said the designer when she rang me on Saturday. ‘Now, as you know, we’ll be doing a special London catwalk and we’d love you to come along and dance in your thong. It’s really quite an honour and I think you’ll like the exposure it will give you.’

If you know me at all, you’ll know that ‘exposure’ is my favourite words of three syllables. I couldn’t have been more happy. Happy, that is, until it got down to some muttered details at the end of the conversation.

‘And, of course,’ she said, ‘if you could come down a couple of days before the show, we’ll give you a few of lessons with our choreographer who will teach you the dance moves.’

It wasn’t professional of me, I know, but I laughed. ‘Dance moves?’ I asked. ‘You needn’t worry about that. I’m Wales’ number one male stripper. I think I have some pretty good moves of my own.’

Only the designer didn’t want to know. ‘But Johnny’s written you out a wonderful line of steps which he says will really show off your thong.’

I sank into my chair, wondering what to say. ‘But that thong has history,’ I explained. ‘We’ve worked together for years. I think I know what moves go well with it. Can’t you listen to what I’m saying to you? This thong will look fantastic if only you let me dance my own moves.’

‘But Johnny’s already worked them out,’ insisted the designer. ‘He’s won awards for choreography.’

‘Well, couldn’t he at least incorporate my ideas?’ I asked, growing more desperate.

She fell silent. ‘I don’t think so,’ she said. ‘I think we’d be happier if our choreographer does it his way.’

The Chipster may be many things but he’s not demonstrative. I hung up the phone having agreed to dance the steps arranged by the choreographer. The only compromise I’d managed to win was that of the designer promising to post the sheet of steps to me. They arrived this morning.

Gabby had already gone to work, it being the day she does the 7 to 2 shift as the only member of Bangor’s traffic warden licensed to use firearms. I stripped down to my thong and cleared a space in the living room. I practised the moves all morning, broke for lunch, then practised again until three. That’s when Gabby came home with half a dozen of her friends in the traffic warden department. I’d forgotten it was the day she gave them extra instruction in methods of disemboweling a man with just a biro.

‘What Chip doing?’ asked Gabby, finding me stood in the living room in just my thong. I never like sweating heavily before strangers unless they know what I do for a living. But like most people, they seemed quite relaxed once I explained it to them. Then I told them all about the honour of being chosen to dance in my thong in London. I also mentioned how I’d been working on the moves sent over by the choreographer.

‘Lets see them,’ said Gabby, ushering her friends to chairs around the room.

‘Come on,’ said one young warden. ‘I used to take dance class.’

‘Yes,’ said another. ‘My sister dances with the Royal Ballet.’

What could I say or do? I put on the music and danced the dance.

The reaction was polite but not exactly ecstatic.

‘You see,’ I said to Gabby. ‘It’s not winning people over.’

She shrugged. ‘I see you dance better,’ she agreed. ‘So why not show us Chip’s moves?’

So, I played the music again and danced again but this time to my own steps. They were less elaborate than the choreographer’s moves, and they took less skill, but even as I was doing them, I thought they somehow fitted more with the essential nature of the thong I’d hand stitched myself. When I was finished, the sweat was coursing down the contours of my highly muscled torso.

The reaction was unanimous. ‘Chip stick with his own steps,’ said Gabby as the applause came to an end. ‘They suit you better.’

All her friends were in agreement. ‘Funny and intelligent,’ said one of her friends in what I thought was an American accent.

I pointed at the woman. ‘You see,’ I said. ‘That’s exactly what I thought. Funny and intelligent. Exactly what I want an audience to think.’ It was a comment that just convinced me that I was right and that there was a dilemma out there with my name on it.

I couldn’t face talking to the designer so I sent her an email. She still refuses to budge. I’m going to London in two days and I don’t know what to do. I’m honoured to be part of her show but it disappoints me that my point of view is being ignored. Am I even in the right to think that I should have a say in the dance I’ll be dancing? It’s her show but my thong. I just want her to listen to my suggestions. Is it so very wrong?

Monday, November 19, 2007

Back

Well, I’m back after my weekend break. I feel a little more energized after avoiding the PC for a whole weekend. I remember the time I once spent a week wearing underpants (due to a medical condition I don’t want to go into) and when I went back to wearing thongs, nothing felt right. It was as though I had my hips on backwards and my buttocks were six inches too high. I feel the same way now about the computer. The keyboard feels odd, as though the keys don’t quite lie right under my fingers. My brain can’t snag a good idea. It will clearly take me a day or two to get back into the habit of writing.

I wish I could report a weekend spent doing something outlandish, but I spent it hidden in a corner of the flat, reading a book that did me little good. It was a ‘bad book’ weekend, in that I deliberately had to choose a book that wouldn’t get me thinking. The only trouble with that is it has left my brain working on standby and I can’t get it going.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

News From A Sagging Thong

Where is everyone? The blogosphere seems subdued, as if it’s gone into one of those occasional periods of hibernation. Or perhaps that’s what’s called the pathetic fallacy when the truth is that I wasn’t going to blog today. To be honest, I wasn’t going to blog for while.

As you can probably tell by my rather mediocre week’s work, my heart hasn’t been in it. I’m lacking my usual slightly crazed enthusiasm to write. Deflated, withdrawn, reduced to browsing other blogs, I’m aware that energy here doesn’t go into more profitable industry. I have three novels in different stages of completion, and ideas for others that I won’t start until the other three are complete. Every 1000 words I write here are a 1000 words I don’t write there. I think I need to break away from the blogs, for just a few days, refresh myself and come back with new enthusiasm to be usual foolish self.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Stop The World....


Shamelessly taken from the Girl Friday blog, the very existence of this book sums up my mood, my week, and I why I want the world to stop right now so I can get off and go do something more meaningful.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Blogging From The Bathroom


For the sake of my health and my dignity, I’ve locked myself in the bathroom. Gabby is waiting for me outside and she’s armed herself with a pair of lacy knickers. Some might look on this scene of domestic disharmony and think it an example of why relationships don’t last in these troubled times. I merely say it’s good that people can express their honest feelings so we can work them out.

The argument began over a set of keys that Gabby had given to a homeless guy she met while doing her round as a traffic warden this morning.

I had slept late, as usual, only to wake up and smell bacon cooking. I emerged from the bedroom to find a stranger standing in the kitchen wearing Gabby’s nightgown and frying himself eggs, sausage, and the aforementioned rashers. He must have stood six feet three, with a large mass of hairy stomach pushing its way through the gown like some demonic pregnancy. His nose had been flattened by the impact of a small asteroid.

‘Morning,’ he said, stabbing a banger with a fork.

I reached for the nearest blunt instrument which I proceeded to wave in his direction. Only later did I realise it was a plastic pepper mill.

‘Who are you?’ I shouted, looking towards his large distended stomach. ‘And what have you done with my girlfriend?’

‘Done. I ain’t done nothing,’ he replied, slowly. ‘She gave me these keys and told me to make myself at home.’

You could argue that Gabby has a big heart but I knew that it was more complicated than that. She was getting her own back after reading some of the comments you’d all left to the photographs I’d posted of her last week.

‘Look,’ I said, ‘you can finish your breakfast but you can’t stay here.’

‘Not your business to say,’ said the man, stabbing another sausage in a somewhat threatening manner.

I shifted uncomfortably. ‘You might think that but I’m the owner of this flat. I get to decide who lives here.’

He turned and picked up a sausage from the pan. ‘You want me out,’ he said, waving the sausage with a malicious intent, ‘then you’ll have to throw me out.’

I had a better plan. I waited until the greasy breakfast had slipped its way into the large stomach and our guest stretched himself out on my bed to sleep off his breakfast. I found Gabby ticketing wheelchairs outside the hospital.

‘You’ve made your point,’ I said, ‘now could you get rid of him?’

‘Gabby not want to see any more bad comments about her on Chippy’s blog,’ she said, fixing a ticket to a paraplegic’s electric scooter.

‘No more comments,’ I promised.

She nodded and tucked her pen away. Ten minutes later we were back at the flat. Two more minutes and there was a lump of a man sitting unconscious in the seat of an electric mobility scooter that wheeled him down the road.

‘Now Gabby has one more request,’ she said, once we had returned to the flat. ‘Chip wear my knickers and I take picture to put on his blog.’

‘I beg your pardon?’

‘Chip enjoy laughing at Gabby so now Gabby say people laugh at Chip. You wear my knickers and you put picture on your blog so people can laugh at transvestite Chip.’

‘I’ll do no such thing,’ I told her, backing slowly to the bathroom. Luckily I had the foresight to pick up my laptop as I did the backing.

‘Chip wear knickers…’

‘Never!’

‘Chip better wear knickers or…’

I turned, ran, and only stopped running when I felt lino beneath my feet and I had a solid door behind me. And that’s where I sit now, typing this while sitting on the closed lid of the toilet. At some point I might have to emerge and I might have to don something black and see through. I hope I can spare you the photographs but I can’t make any promises. Perhaps those of your with sensitive dispositions should just avoid my diary for a day or two. Just until this knicker business blows over…

Monday, November 12, 2007

Roar for Powerful Words!

A solid night’s sleep was broken by an intense few minutes around dawn when Gabby got up and fired a few warning shots across the bows of the milkman who had foolishly come whistling up the path. You might say that it was the beginning of your average week here at Chip Dale’s Diary, or, at least, we all thought it was until Ms. Baroque popped along and presented me with one of these ‘Roar for Powerful Words!’ awards. I’m humbled, as I always am when people remember the old Chipster. It more than makes up for missing my morning bowl of Alpen and having the house surrounded by Bangor’s elite SWAT unit.

With this ‘Roar for Powerful Words!’ I’m meant to say three important things about words. I’ll have a try but these bloody pesky things never quite sit where I want them. It’s also hard to write when the hostage negotiator is talking with Gabby through a bullhorn.

1. Keep things simple.

The best writing has one foot in simplicity. This is self-evident when you read great writers of the past. I’ll take my analogy from architecture. Look at any great building and at its heart you’ll find something as simple as a triangle or an arch. From these basic units of construction, the most extravagant edifice can be raised. The same is true in writing English prose. Whenever prose goes wrong, it usually goes wrong because somebody is trying to do something beyond them. There is a mistaken belief that in order to say something complex, the language has to be convoluted. Simple sentences are preferable to those that are complex. Get the basic structure of the sentence right and you can begin to adapt it to make it interesting. Get the basic structure wrong and it’s like knitting spaghetti.

2. Break the cliché.

I don’t hate clichés. In fact, I tend to love them. They get a bad press like stereotypes. There’s something long-lasting in the cliché, an essence that a culture has retained because it’s a useful means of shorthand. It’s often hard to avoid the cliché, especially when you’re writing prose. Sometimes the cliché just can’t be avoided. Some words just lie naturally next to others and can feel like a cliché even when they’re not. Yet too many clichés leave writing flat, uninspired, workmanlike. So, when writing, try to spot your clichés and deliberately then skewer them. Twist a cliché an odd way and you can often end up with very imaginative writing.

3. Listen.

Words belong to the ear. You should be guided by your ear. Some words just rise from the page and are inherently beautiful or beautiful because they’re odd and misshapen. Use a normal word in an unusual place or even create your own word that the ear almost recognises. Find interesting common words rather than exotic words that nobody will recognise.

4. Write for the reader.

I’ll cheat and add a fourth because it’s an important point yet easy to forget. Writers write to be read. If they don’t, then they probably don’t deserve a reader's precious time. Your relationship with your reader is more important than anything, including your own ego. If you are selfish enough to write something which only you understand, then don’t complain when you’re not read. If you have something important to say, put it in an interesting way. Don’t assume that everything you write will interest other people. Be selective. Be creative. Be interesting.

And I have to leave it on that note. Gabby has been given one final warning to hand over her rifle before the police start to fire tear gas. I’ve always said that I’ll never become one of those bloggers who write wearing a gas mask. What begins as a necessity will end with me strapped upside down and naked in some Battersea warehouse next to Frank Bough while being whipped by ladies dressed as frogmen. To each their own, as they say, but, thankfully, not for me.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Taking of the Chipster 123

I awoke at noon and for the first time in about a week actually felt refreshed. I still don’t know if it’s been a cold that’s been hanging over me or just mental exhaustion after weeks of constant work, but a couple of days away from the computer seem to have done the trick. I’m not throwing my thong around with particular abandon but it does seem to sit more healthily upon my hips and I will occasionally give a spontaneous thrust as I walk around the flat.

Tomorrow I hope to be back to normal. In the meantime, let me recommend a film to you. It’s something they’ve remade once and are remaking again but I rewatched it last night and realised how great a film is The Taking of Pelham One Two Three.

Walter Matthau and Robert Shaw are two of my favourite actors yet they share only one brief scene at the end of the film. Despite this, the pair of them hold this film together in a way that no modern film would try to attempt. There's little violence, no action that's choreographed to an inch of perfection. It’s all hardbitten dialogue, a brash soundtrack fueled by testosterone, and with performances by some often under-looked but gifted character actors such as Martin Balsam and Dick O'Neill. I must have a thing for films made between 1974 and 1976. The Parallax View, All the President’s Men, and Three Days of the Condor, and Pelham make up a quartet of films I never tire of watching.

Gabby loved it too. It’s the first time she’s seen it and was greatly disappointed afterwards to discover that Bangor doesn’t have an underground train system she could at ransom for a million dollars. Can there be any higher form of praise than that? I don't think so.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer


I've just heard the sad news that Norman Mailer has died. A controversial figure, hated by some, loved by others, he wrote the book I always pick out at my favourite: 'Harlot's Ghost'.

I'm too exhausted to write on this today because I could write pages. Vonnegut and Mailer lost in the same year... Literature and the world of literature gets duller by the day, and we'll soon only be left with all the straight-laced writers full of their own worthiness.

A Limp Chip

A heavy schedule of live performances has left me worn out and don’t know if I have it in me to write much this weekend. Today I slept until noon, a whole eleven hours, after sleeping about as much yesterday. The long run up to Christmas is the busiest time for any man of the thong and the Chipster is busier than any. Monday night I was at the Rhyl Social Club, Tuesday back to Bangor for the Green Dragon Tavern. On Wednesday I danced at the Pink Flamingo, Thursday was the Duke of York pub in Holyhead, and last night I was back for my usual gig at the Green Dragon. If I include the proof reading I struggled through at the beginning of the week, I begin to see that I’ve barely had a moment’s rest. So, if I go silent until Monday, you know why.

If anybody is thinking of hiring me to dance, you should get your offers in early. I've got very few open slots (oh, please!) between now and the New Year. This year there will be an added incentive. With every strip I'll be including a free poetry reading of a selection from Auden, Stevens, and Yeats while oiling my buttocks with pineapple oil.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Why I Didn't Blog Yesterday

I tried to get to a computer yesterday but the fates conspired against me. Sometimes blogging has to come second when life becomes too complicated. First there was the problem with the train which had got stuck on the way back from Manchester. I’d gone there for another modelling session with my favourite catalogue. This time it was for next year’s Spring/Summer underwear collection, which made for a day light in thongs but heavy in the fleece-lined Y-fronts for men with bladder control issues. It made me realise, yet again, that I’m really modelling for the wrong people.

I finally got home around nine o’clock to find a scene reminiscent of Fiddler on the Roof outside the flat. A horse and cart was parked in the road and the cart was piled high with my belongings. I barely recognised the woman in the shawl and headscarf coming out from the flats with a bundle of my clothes in her arms.

‘That’s the lot,’ said Gabby, filling the last remaining space on the cart with a fistful of my best thongs. ‘Chip ready?’

‘Ready for what?’ I asked. ‘Do you want me to sing about being a rich man?’

She didn’t understand my allusion. ‘We must move. It here soon.’

‘What’s here?’

‘The flood!’

She leapt up on the cart and took the reigns in her hand and a whip in the other. Without a pause, she cracked the latter and dragged the former and the cart turned a neat one hundred and eighty degrees in the middle of the road before it started to head towards the main road and higher ground.

I could only jog behind.

‘Gabby, I think you’ve got a little confused,’ I suggested as the night air cracked to the sound of the whip.

‘Sky News,’ she shouted. ‘Jeremy Thompson say we be all under water.’

‘Did he?’ I asked, having not seen or heard a word of news all day. You might wonder about my not asking for more information but I will always believe what Jeremy Thompson has to say.

‘Tidal surge,’ was the last thing I heard Gabby shout as she got an extra bit of speed from the horse. I could only grab onto the back of the cart and pull myself up next to the washing machine.

We travelled for nearly three hours before Gabby gave the horse a rest. By then, we were on the border to England, a good few hundred feet above sea level, and I was frozen to the tumble dryer.

‘How much further do you think we need to go?’ I asked, as Gabby appeared at the back of the cart.

‘We wait here, tonight,’ she said, taking a bearing from the stars.

‘I’m freezing,’ I chattered.

‘Better than being in water,’ she replied, uncaring.

Somewhere around three o’clock in the morning, a police car arrived and asked Gabby why she’d chopped down the ‘Welcome to Wales’ sign and was now burning it on the hard shoulder.

‘Chip cold. We build fire,’ she explained. She turned and smiled at the policeman. ‘You want hot dog?’ she asked, holding out a stick with something hot and sizzling on the end. The meat was tough. I hadn’t dare ask her where she’d got it.

‘No thank you, ma’am. But do you think you could explain what you’re doing here?’

‘We avoid flood.’

‘Flood?’ asked the officer.

‘The tidal surge,’ I explained, sitting at the side of the road and wrapped in the dressing gown I’d recovered from the pile of my belongings.

‘You mean the tidal surge that is currently moving down the east coast?’

I didn’t think I could have got colder but I did.

‘That’s the one,’ said Gabby, brazen in her ignorance. ‘We got to move. Get to high ground.’

I got home this morning at five o’clock, frozen and demoralised. Gabby doesn’t know chagrin, though she’s now more fully cognisant on the difference between ‘east’ and ‘west’ . She marched up the flat with a defiant swagger. ‘This good practice for next time,’ was all she would say. This afternoon will be interesting. There’s a cart to unload and a horse that needs returning to whoever she took it from.

All of which is why I didn’t blog yesterday. I hope you understand…

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

A Problem of Names

‘But they will think it’s porno!’ said the publisher.

‘But it’s my name!’

‘Then you’ll have to use a pseudonym.’

‘Like hell I will,’ I replied. ‘I’ve waited years for a chance to see my name in a book shop. I’m not going to hide behind Margaret Flippyhackle or John T. Moustache. What’s wrong with Chip Dale?’

‘Porno…’ said the publisher, stuffing my finished manuscript into her bag. ‘I would imagine that some shops would even refuse to stock it with a name like that.’

She was about to stand up but I couldn’t leave the meeting without resolving the issue.

‘Chipendale Monroe,’ I suggested as a compromise.

‘Sounds like an American president. And a bad Democratic one at that…’

‘Chip Pearl?’

‘A brand of toothpaste.’

‘Chip Waters.’

‘Too much like a bluesman from the old Mississippi.’ She sat back down. ‘You need to go for a radically new name. Something that sounds unique yet bland. Sean Marvin.’ I rolled my eyes. ‘How about Matthew Robbberts. We’ll play on the mystery of why your surname has three ‘r’s in it.’

She was clearly not thinking creatively. ‘Norbert Huskins,’ I said, believing I was onto a winner. ‘A novel by Norbert Huskins. That has a certain charm to it, don’t you think?’

‘Norbert? You don’t look like a Norbert.’

‘No,’ I replied. ‘I look like a Chip, which is oddly what I am.’

‘Look Chip, my dear, I understand your frustration. But we can’t be selling you with the name Chip Dale. Nobody will take you seriously with a name like that. It’s going to be hard enough to sell a nine hundred page novel set against the backdrop of the Belgian kipper industry.’

‘Archibald Clinker. Stanley Krinkle. Arthur P. Mucklebeer. Ernst Gunst. Terrence Wriggle. Norman Clutterbuck Jnr…’ I fell sobbing to the table. ‘What about Hector Sparrow?’

The publisher looked at me with a tear in her eye. ‘Poor Chip. Something as simple as a name and you fall to pieces.’

She was right. It hadn’t been the weeks of polishing, proof reading, and corrections that had broken me. It was the fact that I’d dreamed of seeing Chip Dale’s name stuck between those of Roald Dahl and Charles Dickens. I sobbed for a while, muttering the occasional name which sprang to mind, but after a while, I looked up and found that the other chair was empty. I paid for my meal and walked miserably from the coffee shop. I headed to the station for my train back to Bangor. I’ve got a few months of searching for a new name, a new identity, but I know it won’t be easy. Gabby wants me to take a Romanian name but I’ve started to compile the list though, as you can see, I’ve not got very far. Henry Brusque. Victor Kripple. Saul Bellow. Simon Onions. John Updike. Randolph Mercy. Philip Roth… Philip Roth? Not bad...

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

November 6th

The crackle of small arms fire came from the direction of the allotment shed. I ducked. Gabby winced.

The trouble began when Gabby had uttered a few words of complaint about the quality of the cheap Chinese rockets she’d picked up in town. Compared to the Romanian fireworks that had arrived last week, the Red Star Dragon Super Burst Astro Rocket had been a rather tame addition to the night’s display. She’d decided to remedy the problem by tying four of the rockets together. The result had been as unpredictable as I’d predicted.

The bundle of rockets had begun to bounce around the garden, first taking out the chicken coop and eventually punching a hole through the side of the shed and igniting Gabby’s cache of .44 ammo.

The shed burned through the night, with the sound of the occasional bullet still making us hit the ground. At one point, a fire engine arrived but we managed to get them to leave us alone by claiming the shed was actually a bonfire, to which, by that time, it bore a great resemblance.

Not that any of this put Gabby off the job at hand. The Romanian fireworks were still set off with spectacular results, and the Romanian Strategic Cruise Roman Candle was fired towards Birmingham. It blazed into the sky, narrowly missing a jumbo, which must have been at 30,000 feet. I’m waiting to hear reports of it landing.

This morning’s clean-up hasn’t even begun. Gabby is still in bed, disappointed that November the 5th has passed for another year and I’m trying to find reasons to write. You might sense that I’m rather low today. Perhaps it’s the weather that shrinks a man’s spirit. My thong hangs limply, and my fingers have barely the energy to jump from one key to the other. However, I will see what I can do. I now have only 15 pages left to proofread...

Monday, November 05, 2007

More Silence

Another day of silence from CD Central. I've spent the day down in the bunker, well away from Gabby who has been wiring up the garden with high explosives. We're setting them off in ten minutes, so this might be my last report.

Residents of Manchester can at least rest easy. The Roman Candle has been turned away from you. It's now pointing towards Birmingham, which I think you'll all agree, is a much more suitable target. If you notice that Birmingham has gone missing in the next few days, you'll know why. Not that I expect anybody to actually miss Birmingham. Horrible place. Got terribly lost outside New Street Station.

As you can see, it’s a brief post tonight. I've been proofreading the draft of a novel all day and it's nearly finished me off. I have twenty pages to finish tonight and then it's done. I'll be back tomorrow at full strength. Assuming we get through the night.

Okay, Gabby's begun the pre-ignition sequence...

Damn. Seems like she's launched them already.

She's now running around shouting 'The missiles are flying. Hallelujah, Hallelujah!'

Sunday, November 04, 2007

A Tale of Two Dicks

Hello fellow Thonglateers, Chipsterites, and Devotees of Big Chip Dale. I’ve been silent for good reason: I’ve been struck by a strange melancholy that has left me feeling unhappy with the state of the world. I don’t mean you, of course. You’re all right. Salt of the earth, and all that. I mean the others. Them over there. They’re always doing that, hardly ever stop it, and rarely look like they’re going to give it up for something more reasonable.

I mean what’s wrong with the world? What is wrong with people? What is wrong with Pakistan? What’s going on in Burma? And why do the Spice Girls insist on reforming? Christmas approaches and I’m staring into its headlights like a small rabbit with its foot trapped in a manhole cover. Run, Chipster run! Before it’s too late!

Only it is too late. Cliff Richard’s back. He’s bringing out an album to menace all of us over Yuletide. I suppose a man won’t be able to walk around his local Woolworth’s without having Cliff injected into the base of his brain. There some tune will fester before breaking out as a canker on the lips, the size of a tennis ball. A man won’t be able to go five feet without whistling it, hating himself for his very susceptibility to catchy middle-of-the-road songs. Damn this musically blessed brain and whistle-tastic lips.

I don’t know who said it – I suppose it some witty type with wisdom dropping from them like dandruff – but ‘hell is other people’. I don’t know what they meant by that unless the other people were Cliff and the Spices. Or perhaps Jamie or Britney or Paris. Ah, Paris. We’ll always have Paris. I mean it. We’re stuck with her for the rest of our lives.

What’s wrong with the world? What is wrong with me?

I’m just sour. I see that Madeley got a puff from The Guardian. And his blog was visited by Stephen Fry. All in the same week. Good luck to him. I wish the man well. I really do. Only the blogging highlight of my month was to welcome my first visitor from Nepal. Interesting. They searched for the phrase ‘thonging’. I don’t know what it means but it was a highlight...

October's highlight...

[sob]

[sigh]

I wonder what November has in store... I wonder...

Friday, November 02, 2007

The Welsh Amateur Thong Awards!

Wow! What a party! We’re just back from the Welsh Amateur Thong Awards, sponsored by PouchSoft. I must say that I’ve never had such a fun time. Gabby is such a great dancer. I was spinning her round the floor all night and I don’t think her hip popped out on more than twice. And, even when it did, it only took a couple of smacks with a tyre iron to get in back in there and we’d be off again, tripping the light fantastic.

I was there in my role as President of the British Thong Society, and I presented two awards to upcoming strippers. It's great to see young Thonglateers following the footsteps of the great Chipster himself. And what's even better, I ended the night with my hands full!

Noise

The young chav neighbour is currently parked outside the flat and is cleaning out his car while listening to music. Drum and bass music pushed through speakers the size of refrigerators and a sub-woofer bigger than the engine.

Is there any way I can make him stop that's legal, doesn't involve Gabby and her knife, and that won’t require my having to go through the courts? I can’t write. I can’t think. I can barely breathe. It’s the sort of dull throbbing noise that disrupts the body’s natural rhythms. And, before you ask, he's not the sort of person who responds to friendly requests.

Until he goes quiet, I will have to be quiet. This is driving me crazy!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Iranian Tourist Board

Gabby informed me last night that she’d liked to see more of the world.

‘I grow tired of UK,’ she said, clearly remaining at heart as much the roving vagabond as the day I found her sleeping in the doorway to Timothy Whites all those years ago. ‘Gabby wants adventure, to see old ruins, drive through mystical landscapes, be attacked by local bandits and return fire from back of Land Rover.’

‘So why not have a weekend in Pembroke?’ I suggested. It wasn't that I'm against these exotic holidays but I do fear for the size of carbon footprint Gabby’s wanderings would leave on the planet.

‘I want to go abroad,’ she said with a thick pout.

‘England?’

‘Abroad abroad.’ Now she stamped her foot and a bayonet slipped out of her trouser leg.

‘Okay,’ I said, ‘you want a holiday. Where would like to go?’

A sheepish look developed over in her quarter of the room. I could see that things were not wholly unplanned. There have been plenty of midnight phone calls between the Cheeky sisters and I thought I could detect the influence of the slightly more hair-brained Monica in this unexpected turn of events.

‘I been in contact with the Iranian Tourist Board,’ said Gabby. ‘They tell me Iran is exciting country full of fun activities.’

You can imagine my surprise.

‘Fun activities?’ I asked. ‘Such as what?’

‘They tell me I would be very welcome. They like athletic young women who enjoy rough and tumble, likes to throw stones, climb cranes.’

I cradled my head in my hands, my hands on my elbows, and, most reassuring of all, elbows on my thong. ‘Look,’ I said, ‘do you really think Iran is a country for you?’ I thought about that for a moment and decided to start again. ‘Of all the places in the world, don’t you think Iran is a bit dangerous, even for commandos who’ve had the best that Romania has to offer in combat training?’

She jumped up from the sofa and picked up her laptop, which she dumped before me. The screen was already loaded and I was looking at the website for the Iranian Tourist Board, complete with personal welcome from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

‘You know,’ I said after a few moments of careful consideration. ‘I’m not sure this website is entirely legitimate.’

‘It real,’ screamed Gabby. ‘It say so. It say Iranian Tourist Board.’

I waved down her complaint. ‘It’s not that I would every doubt the words of a man like Ahmadinejad but don’t you think it odd that the Iranian Tourist Board would have a website with the tag, “There’s More to Iran Than Missiles”? If you ask me, this isn’t entirely official.’

She snatched the laptop away from me. ‘But Gabby want to play stoning game with people.’

‘The stoning game is not a game,’ I said. ‘And that’s it, as far as I’m concerned. We’re not going to Iran. Don’t you get enough kicks torturing the innocent in your duties as a traffic warden?’

‘No,’ she said, simply. ‘No I do not.’

Half an hour later she comes crawling back, tapping on the door to my den.

‘Chippy,’ she said, her voice trailing sincerity like a slug trails slime.

‘Yes, Gabby,’ I sighed. ‘What is it now? Can’t you see that I’m busy curing these thongs with my mallet?’

‘I don’t want to go to Iran for holiday.’

‘I’m glad you see sense. Horrible place.’

‘We stay in UK instead.’

‘Fine idea.’

‘We got for week in Newcastle.’

The mallet hit my finger and I cursed a foul word. ‘Newcastle?’ I pushed the pile of new thongs aside and grabbed my own laptop. ‘You know,’ I said, ‘perhaps Iran isn’t that bad an idea. What did you say the address of the Iranian Tourist Board is again?’

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

The Crate

On behalf of myself and my Romanian friend, I’d like to apologise to the passengers of the 8.32 express from London Euston to Bangor for the non-arrival of their train. Not that any of this is my fault, you understand. All I did was open the front door when the bell rang. The rest was merely the result of my being caught up in the maelstrom of history.

‘Delivery for Dale,’ said the thick set man from DHL. ‘You Dale?’

‘Big Chip Dale,’ I confirmed. ‘Thonglateer Extraordinaire, aka The Chipster.’

I only told him this because I’ve been expecting a large crate marked ‘THONGS’ to arrive from the manufacturer and I was already excited, anticipating an afternoon spent curing them. After a six hour soak in warm pineapple oil, each thong would have to be carefully beaten with a mallet until it became soft and pliable. Only then would I hang them up, still damp with oil, ready for the next performance. This, I think you’ll agree, is a detail of the stripper’s life that it’s rare to see portrayed in the media.

The delivery man’s eyes narrowed. Peas pressed beneath an iron heel came to mind. ‘This is for Gabriel Dale,’ he said.

‘There’s nobody here by that name,’ I replied, loudly enough to wake the sleeping Romanian, recently back from a night time commando training exercise in suburban England.

‘Wait, wait,’ came the excited squeal from the bedroom. The room shook and a door opened. ‘I Gabby,’ she said, racing to the door.

The delivery man looked down at her naked body and whistled.

‘I know what you’re thinking,’ I said. ‘Shark attack. Well it wasn’t. Those are the scars if battle and unless you want to add to them, you’d better hand over the package and stop keeping her waiting.’

He stuck his pencil behind his ear and turned back to the landing. He returned a minute later wheeling a large crate. By then, I’d persuaded Gabby to get dressed and I was alone to help the delivery man get the crate into the apartment. It was a huge box, with straw sticking out between the wooden lats. Across it were written words in Romanian that I could not interpret except they seemed to have some relevance to the big red skulls painted on each side. I tipped the guy fifty pence and he smiled the smile of a man who didn’t realise how close he had come to mortal danger.

‘Well?’ I asked Gabby as she arrived from the bedroom and began to circle the crate. ‘What is it? Please tell me that you’ve not ordered another goat.’

‘Gabby get samples from Romania,’ she said. ‘She so excited!’

‘Samples of what?’

She whipped the knife from the sheath she keeps strapped to her back and began to work the lid of the box open. Then she stuck her hand into the straw and retrieved something the size and shape of a thigh and tapered at one end.

‘Fireworks!’ she screamed and began to skip around the flat, cradling the explosive to her chest. ‘Gabby decide we have firework party so I email my friend. She have key to bunker.’

Has there ever been such an ominous word uttered by a Romanian dancing with a firework?

‘Bunker?’ I repeated. ‘What sort of bunker?’

‘It not matter. Fireworks here.’ She stopped skipping and her eyes went wide. ‘We try out now?’

‘Not here, you’re not,’ I said, leaping after her as she went to the drawer where we keep our box of matches.

‘Oh, but Gabby want to see if they work.’

‘Go out somewhere,’ I said as I tried to pull the matches from her fingers.

‘The park?’

‘It’s as good a place as any,’ I said, just happy to see her away from the flat.

‘And Chip come with me.’ She released the matched and grabbed my neck in a inverted-shoulder twist hug with added thigh grip. ‘Gabby and Chip go fireworking!’ she screamed as she let me go and began to start skipping with something I was sure was meant to be handled carefully.

Bangor’s park was cold, empty, and green. Gabby had found a place well away from the small play area set aside for toddlers and a row of trees separated us from the concrete bowl used by skateboarders. Not that either places were being used on a day when a man in thermal thong was still feeling the cold. My nipples were harder than pennies.

‘This is exciting,’ said Gabby as she worked a hole in the frozen grass. The rocket was to be supported by a thin piece of wood which Gabby was now pushing into the ground. ‘Gabby think this good fun.’

‘Are you sure that’s strong enough?’ I asked but Gabby wasn’t listening. She’d got the rocket pointing vertically, give or take then slight lean where the stick was bending under the weight of the big Romanian munition.

‘I think we should have a gantry for something that big,’ I said. But it was too late. Gabby was busy trying to light a match. ‘Look, Gabs, I don’t think…’

The match flared.

‘Ready!’ squealed Gabby as she applied the match to the fuse which immediately began to spit flames as it trailed across the ground. Gabby came running back to where I was hiding behind a tree. And not just a small tree. I think I’d chosen the biggest oak tree in Wales.

‘Gabby love fireworks,’ she said, her breath clouding in the cold air. For a moment, I was sure the condensation was in the shape of a mushroom cloud.

The rocket ignited with a magnificent rush of flames that immediately incinerated the feeble stick holding it upright. This accounted for it’s first movement, which was from the vertical and to the horizontal. Fortunately, it fell away from us and more towards the toddler’s swing area, towards which it immediately began to fly.

‘No!’ I mouthed as took a turn towards the shed used by the pensioners for their crown green bowling equipment. Only some change in the rocket’s altitude took it above the shed and it span around and began to sail harmlessly away from the park.

‘Wow,’ said Gabby.

I had no time for wows. I had just seen the rocket change direction yet again and it was now heading towards the rail tracks.

At any other time of the day, it would have sailed harmlessly over the embankment, clearing it by a good twelve feet. Unfortunately, with the 8.32 London Euston to Bangor Express sitting there, waiting for the signals to change, the rocket impacted at the mid point of the lead engine. The noise was like a dull thump. When the smoke cleared, I could see daylight through the mid section of the engine and beyond it, the trail of the rocket still climbing into the far distance.

‘It’s gone clean through it,’ I said.

Gabby clapped. ‘Armour tipped,’ she said with evident pride at the quality of Romanian fireworks.

We got home in time to hear the news of the explosion at the Army’s weapons dump outside Rhyl. No injuries have been reported at this time and the cause has yet to be determined. As for the hole in the 8.32 London Euston to Bangor Express, a migrating heron is thought to have been behind the mysterious hole. We all know quite different, of course, but for the sake of Welsh-Romanian relations, I’d think it best if we leave it there.

Gabby got home and ran straight to the crate to see if they’d sent another rocket. When it was evident they hadn’t, I sank into my armchair.

‘Let that be a lesson,’ I began.

‘Lesson? You mean bigger stick next time?’ asked Gabby standing up. In her arms was something three feet long with tail fins.

‘My God, what the hell is that?’

She hugged it to her breast. ‘This,’ she said, ‘is Romanian Strategic Cruise Roman Candle but I’m saving this for November fifth.’