Magic Penguin And The PC Brigade

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Magic Penguin and Mystic Mouse were enjoying a drink in the Shoe and Phone.

“It’s nice in here,” said Mystic Mouse.

“Is it?” said Magic Penguin in surprise, for he had always felt that the Shoe and Phone was a dingy backstreet watering hole, and certainly not the kind of establishment that anyone would ever describe as being ‘nice’.

“Well, no. ‘Nice’ probably isn’t the best word to describe it,” admitted Mystic Mouse, “It’s actually kind of horrible. But it’s nice that you invited me.”

“Well I thought we were overdue a catch-up,” said Magic Penguin, “after all there are precious few female characters in the Magic Penguin stories.”

Mystic Mouse pondered this for a moment.

“Are you saying you only invited me, so I could be a token female character?” she asked.

“Oh no,” said Magic Penguin, “I genuinely wanted to meet up again. It’s been ages. But it certainly won’t hurt in trying to alleviate some of the criticisms we’ve been getting of late, in terms of the lack of female representation in the Magic Penguin stories.”

“Oh,” said Mystic Mouse, “I’m not sure how I feel about that really.”

“Don’t get me wrong,” said Magic Penguin hastily, “We really wanted to include you because you’re an interesting character in your own right. It’s really just a happy coincidence that you’re also a strong female role model.”

“So, I’m definitely not just a token female character then?” asked Mystic Mouse with genuine scepticism.

“I mean, not intentionally, no,” said Magic Penguin, “although, as things stand, given the lack of any other female characters, with the exception of last week’s villain, ‘the Melancholy Tomato’, one might mistakenly make the assumption that you are the ‘Smurfette’ of the Magic Penguin series.”

“But I’m not, right?” verified Mystic Mouse, “The writer is planning on there being other female characters in the stories soon?”

“I’d imagine so, yes,” said Magic Penguin, “as I say, it’s not intentional sexism on the writer’s part. It’s just, as has been mentioned before, he’s really not a very good writer.”

“Well it’s political correctness gone mad if you ask me,” said Wise Owl from a nearby table, where he was completing the ‘angry word’ in the Daily Hate (the ‘angry word’ was like a crossword but much more incendiary).

“Well no-one did ask you,” said Magic Penguin, “and you can keep your stupid intolerant ‘Daily Hate’ inspired bile to yourself”

“Is the Daily Hate, basically just our version of the Daily Mail?” asked Mystic Mouse.

“Essentially yes,” confirmed Magic Penguin, “But the writer thought it would be clever and satirical to rename it the Daily Hate.”

“Hmmm,” pondered Mystic Mouse, “It’s really not that clever or satirical is it?”

“On reflection, no,” agreed Magic Penguin, “but the writer does what he can, which is not easy when you’re as utterly talentless as he is.”

“It can’t be easy,” nodded Mystic Mouse, “I think he does very well for even having a go, particularly given his recent legal problems.”

“It’s a load of rubbish though isn’t it,” grumbled Wise Owl, “and it’s particularly bad now he’s busy pandering to the PC Brigade.”

“I mean I don’t think he is especially pandering to the PC Brigade by just including a long overdue female character,” argued Magic Penguin.

“Yes, he is, he’s bloody pandering,” said Wise Owl bitterly, “and they won’t be happy, that PC Brigade, they’ll want more.”

“Did someone mention my name?” asked PC Brigade, of the local constabulary, who was also in the pub, enjoying a few whiskies, while on his lunch break.

“Er, no officer,” said Magic Penguin, “Wise Owl was referring to the erroneous notion that there is an entity known as The Politically Correct Brigade, often abbreviated to the PC Brigade, who like to go around being offended by stuff and ruining everyone’s fun, when in fact there’s no such thing and actually Political Correctness is just a way of trying to make the world a fairer, more equitable and ultimately nicer place for everyone.”

“Oh, ok,” said PC Brigade, downing another scotch, “as long as you weren’t talking about me.”

“We definitely weren’t officer,” said Magic Penguin before adding, “should you really be drinking so heavily if you’re on duty?”

“Who are you, the Health and Safety Police?” growled PC Brigade.

As it was obviously a rhetorical question Magic Penguin chose not to answer.

There was a brief moment of silence as everyone went back to what they had been doing prior to the conversation.

“Seven down,” said Wise Owl returning to his ‘angry word’, “a scourge on society, eleven letters, starts with ‘I’.”

“Well, as long as I haven’t just been included on the basis of my gender and I’ve actually got a full role to play moving forwards, then I’d definitely be delighted to be part of the Magic Penguin stories,” said Mystic Mouse, “after all, last week’s story actually had something resembling a narrative, and if that’s going to be a regular feature then  it could be quite a lot of fun moving forwards.”

“Yeah, the writer seems to have lost his way again this week though,” said Magic Penguin, “and truthfully, last week’s effort was really just a rehash of something he wrote back in 2003 before he lost all hope and resigned himself to a life mediocrity and disappointment.”

“Well, there’s still hope he’ll find his way again,” said Mystic Mouse with naïve optimism.

“Possibly,” said Magic Penguin, “but to be fair, this week’s story is not a particularly promising sign that things are going to get better.”

At that moment Fat Giraffe burst in through the doors of the Shoe and Phone.

“You’ll never believe what’s happened!” he exclaimed.

“What is it old friend?” asked Magic Penguin.

“No time to explain,” said Fat Giraffe, “but come quickly, I think we’re about to have the adventure of a lifetime!”

“Now that’s what I’m talking about,” said Mystic Mouse leaping up to follow Fat Giraffe.

Magic Penguin followed too, but he was a tad more sceptical. This was a little too much like the cliff-hanger in Magic Penguin And The Third Character and he suspected it was the work of his old nemesis, Red Herring.

Tune in next week to discover that Magic Penguin was right all along and there was absolutely nothing to get excited about whatsoever.

 

 

Keyboard Warrior

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The tea was hot, milky and very sweet, just the way Byron liked it. He took a sip as he stared at the screen. The match was not five minutes over and already the furore had begun on the forums.

Red4eva2001 had posted the first inflammatory comments about the game, citing the poor refereeing decisions as the main reason for the ‘Reds’ defeat.

Uptheblus04 had been quick to respond to the slight, suggesting that the Reds had benefited from more than their fair share of dodgy refereeing decisions in other games that season.

The forum continued to be abuzz with comments, many about the game itself, some about the ramifications for other games, still others lamenting the sport as a whole, deliberately trying to provoke a reaction from die-hards who couldn’t see that their enraged responses to these comments were exactly the reason they had been written in the first place.

“Don’t feed the trolls” Byron said to himself, taking another sip of tea and continuing to watch more and more comments appear on the screen.

Some commenters had already descended into personal battles with others, some were posters they had jousted with before, although there were also newbies who had been naively sucked into a war of words with some of the more experienced wind-up merchants on the forum.

Byron had yet to post anything himself that afternoon. Partly this was because he was enjoying the vitriol that had already been unleashed by others and partly because he hadn’t actually seen the game in question, and was trying to get a feel for the main areas of controversy before diving in with his own words of wisdom.

The main crux of a lot of the arguments was whether a penalty that had been given in the 38th minute was really a penalty, or whether the Blues striker had gone down a little too easily. There also seemed to be a contentious tackle in the 73rd minute which perhaps should have resulted in a Blues player being sent off.

In truth, Byron was ill-equipped to comment on either of these incidents, but, in the absence of any other information to go on, he was more than prepared to nail his colours to the mast. He took another swig of his tea and, assuming his identity of blueboy439, he began typing.

Typical whinging pinks, can’t take losing to a better team. Always got to blame the ref #pathetic

He was particularly proud of the ‘pinks’ slight – the emasculating of the Reds was always guaranteed a response.

Indeed he needed only wait a few minutes before he’d reeled in his first catch of the day. Redking2005 responded with a very personal attack, indeed so full of vitriol was it that Byron was certain the moderators would take the comment down after a few minutes. He took a quick screenshot of the comment just in case it was deleted. He saved the image into a folder he had named  ‘The Trophy Cabinet’. There were already well over a thousand such screenshots in there, but he was particularly proud of this one. It was always fun to get under the skin of a ‘Red’.

He was all set to type a response, partly to further incense Redking2005, but also with the hope of sucking in more prey when he heard a call from downstairs.

“Byron sweetheart, dinner’s ready!”

Byron sighed. The forum would be overloaded with comments by the time he made it back upstairs. Still, there was bound to be another comments section opening up on another news site, as various pundits wrote up their post-match analysis. There’d be another Redking2005 to irritate that day.

He closed his laptop and went down to dinner.

Lasciate Ogni Speranza, Voi Ch’Entrate

Dante

Continuing my theme of drawing third-rate portraits of well know literary figures, here is my attempt at capturing the reasonably talented Dante Alighieri, who is perhaps best known for his Divine Comedy. I haven’t read it, but I do enjoy a good comedy so I’m sure I’d really like it. He is cited as an influence on many subsequent literary greats, including, but not limited to, Milton, Chaucer and Tennyson.

But his greatest legacy is probably the fact that the ‘Inferno’ bit of the Divine comedy was the inspiration behind Dan Brown’s fourth Robert Langdon novel of the same name. Unlike the Divine Comedy, I’ve actually read Dan Brown’s Inferno and I can honestly say I didn’t dislike it as much as some of Dan Brown’s other novels. Which is high praise indeed.

 

Films I Watched When I Was Younger – Issue 7: Pretty Woman

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1990’s Pretty Woman might seem an odd film for me to enjoy given the genre of film that I’ve tended write about in recent weeks. But if the nineties action movie was generally the staple of my teenage movie diet, I did occasionally sample other delights and I did really like Pretty Woman when it came out.

That said, my reasons for rewatching it recently were more as a direct result of revisiting a small screen classic of the era. Mrs Proclaims and I spent much of 2017 watching the entire nine seasons of Seinfeld, which, with the exception of Jerry’s hairstyle in the earlier seasons, has stood the test of time rather well (perhaps better than some of the subsequent sitcoms it clearly inspired). As much as Seinfeld is an ensemble piece, and all four leads contribute to it, both Mrs Proclaims and I are in agreement that George Costanza, played by Jason Alexander, is the standout character.

Which reminded me that the only other thing I’d ever seen Jason Alexander in was Pretty Woman. Plus Mrs Proclaims hadn’t ever seen Pretty Woman before, which seemed like an oversight because it is totally the kind of film she would like.

So, when it was broadcast on terrestrial TV recently,  we felt obliged to watch it.

And I have to say it was every bit as good as I remembered it being.

There are some troubling elements to overcome, it is essentially a film about an unscrupulous businessman paying for the services of a sex worker and that doesn’t necessarily seem like the basis for a romantic comedy. And the briefest of internet research indicates that it was intended to be a much darker film at the outset but was reimagined as the Pygmalianesque tale that it ultimately became. Obviously, in order to appreciate the sanitized feel-good movie that it definitely is, you do need to turn of your inner cynic and just go with the flow. But once disbelief is fully suspended, it really is hard to find much to not like about the movie. The afore-mentioned Jason Alexander is excellent as the loathsome lawyer Stuckey, Hector Elizondo is charming as the sympathetic hotel manager Barney and Laura San Giocomo is suitably kooky as Kit ‘the best friend’. As for the two leads, Richard Gere is perfectly adequate as Edward, the ruthless businessman who ultimately re-thinks his life for the better, but this movie belongs to Julia Roberts, who charms from the moment she arrives on screen and renders the character of Vivian entirely sympathetic.

As previously mentioned, there isn’t much about the plot that is plausible, and even the darker elements that remain in the script seem to be momentary blips that are easily overcome rather than the horrific life-changing and traumatic events that they would actually be in real life, but it doesn’t matter. The movie is a fairy-tale at heart, in spite of the adult themes, and is best enjoyed as pure escapism.

Pretty Woman set the standard for the nineties romcom, a standard few others measure up to. Whereas I’ll more than happily sit through a nineties action movie of dubious quality, I’d struggle to get all the way through a bad romcom, so the fact that I’ve seen Pretty Woman multiple times is probably the highest endorsement that I can give it.

A Sententious Sonnet

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How do I love thee, let me count the ways
Although perhaps counting is not for now
When I’m trying my best to express how
I feel about you today of all days
Maths is not a noted way to give praise
Quantity of sentiments won’t allow
Expressions of feelings of love to thou
Indeed, and I feel that I must paraphrase
Enumerating is not effective
When expressing affection and love
To the person who I claim to adore
A better solution might be to give
A more considered declaration of
Passion with which to build up our rapport

James Explains Morality Amongst Other Things

James Explains

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Hello, and welcome to another James Explains, the regular feature on my blog where I answer the seemingly unanswerable. Remember, if you have a problem, if no-one else can help and if you can find them, maybe you can hire the A-Team. But if you just have a question and you can’t be bothered to Google the answer yourself, but you can be bothered to leave a question in the comments below, then maybe I’ll answer the question. For free. Which is definitely cheaper than the A-Team. Although if you lock me in a warehouse I won’t be able to fabricate a tank out of an old bathtub and bits of a bicycle. So really I‘m not in direct competition with the A-Team. We offer very different services. But we do both pity fools.

And so on with today’s questions and they are as follows:

Regular contributor Pete asks:

 What was the name of the first vegan aardvark and why was it significant in helping to explain Pythagoras’ theorem?

Phew, Pete, that is quite a question. At first I thought this was a trick question and that there was really some sort of link between aardvarks, veganism and Pythagoras. So I Googled all those things and found nothing obvious. Although interestingly there is a suggestion that Pythagoras was actually vegetarian and indeed in the days of yore, before the term ’vegetarian’ was widely accepted as the way to describe that particular lifestyle choice, people referred to themselves as being Pythagorean. Obviously that might not be true at all, I haven’t taken the time and trouble of verifying my source for that particular claim, but I quite like it so I’m going to choose to believe it. I couldn’t find much to do with aardvarks though, so instead here are some pictures of some well known anthropomorphic aardvarks who might well be vegans (although the blue one is only so because he consistently fails to catch the anthropomorphic ant that he wants to eat) and who probably understand Pythagoras’ theorem quite well. Take your pick:

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Next up, first time contributor Suze asks:

If electricity comes from electrons…does morality come from morons?

At first glance the answer would seem to be a definitive yes. But that, alas, is not how language works. Although it is fair to say that both electricity and morality are dangerous things in the hands of the wrong people.

I’m not sure morality is solely the purview of morons, it’s probably not a bad idea for all of us to live by some kind of moral compass. However, where morality and moronity often cross paths is when someone insists on inflexibly imposing their own moral code on others, without any acknowledgement of the subjective nature of morality.

So in a way, yes, morality does often come from morons and like electricity morality can sometimes be shocking and unpleasant. But equally, used in the right way, like electricity, morality can also be illuminating.

Another regular contributor of questions, Haylee asks:

How do you keep finding such interesting flavours for biscuits? You must live in the centre of the biscuit universe!

Now to be fair, Haylee was not asking this question in the context of requiring an answer on ‘James Explains’ but merely asking a rhetorical question in light of the fact that I have mentioned various biscuits on these pages that she hasn’t come across despite living in the same country as me. However, in the absence of any other questions this week I am going to answer Haylee’s question.

Alas I don’t live in the centre of the biscuit universe, although that does remain a lifelong ambition, but I feel my my consumption of interesting biscuits has a disappointingly simple explanation. While it’s possible that the disparity of our biscuit experiences could possibly be explained by the fact that Haylee lives in the north of these fair isles and I live in the south, when it comes to groceries, regional differences are increasingly a thing of the past. Mostly I buy my biscuits in major supermarket chains which exist throughout the UK. But it is fair to say that I am a fan of novelty and whenever a limited edition or seasonal product is made available, I will often purchase it in lieu of more regularly available items and in the field of biscuits I employ this strategy almost exclusively. This can pay dividends and I have enjoyed some delightful cookies, wafers and shortbreads over the years. It can also go awry however – for example my biscuit tin currently contains some banoffee caramel digestives which are nowhere near as nice as I thought they’d be. I’m going to have to go back to the tried and tested realm of the chocolate hobnob for a week or so just to get over them. But once I’ve recovered I’ll be back in search of more avant-garde garibaldis.

And that’s it for this week’s questions, but before I go and while we’re on the subject of biscuits, I must just address one linguistic point that was brought to my attention by a friend of mine in relation to last week’s ‘James Explains’.

Last week, I made reference to the greatest of all the biscuits, the noble Jammie Dodger, and claimed that they are manufactured in Wales. My friend took umbrage with my use of the word ‘manufacture’ in relation to biscuits, claiming that the word ‘manufacture’ should really only be used in relation to the production of cars and the like, and I should have said that Jammie Dodgers are ‘produced’ or simply ‘made’ in Wales. And he may have a point. But I would argue that while convention might dictate that ‘manufacture’ is implicitly linked to larger mass produced items such as cars, biscuits too are made on a large scale using machinery so my use of the word ‘manufacture’ was not technically incorrect and only a true pedant would pick me up for it. That said, I’ve always felt that pedantry was an admirable quality in anyone so I apologise to my friend if my linguistic choices offended him but as I am also quite the pedant, I will also insist that I was absolutely correct in my use of the word ‘manufacture’.

So I hope that settles that.

And if you’d like me to ‘manufacture’ some answers to your unanswerable questions for next week, then please leave them in the comments below.

 

Winter Wonderland

James Proclaims (4)

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I don’t much understand the Winter Olympics – we didn’t get to do much skiing, snowboarding or speed-skating when I was growing up in South Wales. Then again we didn’t do a huge amount of rowing, dressage or modern pentathlon round my way either and I like the Summer Olympics quite a lot, so maybe my disinterest is less that the winter games are full of sports I’ve never played and don’t understand and more the fact that not many of my compatriots are very good at them either.

Time was, of course, that British medal hopes in both the Summer and Winter Olympics were minimal, but thanks to a ruthless funding campaign, abusive and bullying coaching strategies, and questionable interpretations of the Therapeutic Use Exemptions (TUEs) to legitimise the use of performance enhancing drugs, we Brits have become serious medal contenders at the Summer Olympics. Alas those same strategies aren’t going to make the UK more snowy and mountainous so success in the Winter Games will always be more elusive.

Norway seem to be pretty good at winter sports. Maybe as part of our Brexit deal we could join forces with the Norwegians, who already find themselves outside of the EU, and then I could enjoy the Winter Olympics a bit more.

Although a Norwegian style deal seems to be off the table and instead we’re hoping for ‘Canada +++’. I don’t actually know what that means, but the Canadians are also good at winter sports, so I’m OK with forming an alliance there too.

Then again, it’s not like we’ve never had any success at the Winter Olympics. We seem to be alright at curling, which is perhaps not the most exciting of the ice-based sports but it does make for strangely compelling TV, and there’s been some success in the skeleton, which seems to involve going really fast downhill on an ice-track supported by what is essentially a tea-tray. Which is madness really.

Historically, there is even a history of British success in figure-skating. After all, who can forget national treasures Jayne Torvill and Christopher Dean? Well no-one can, because every Winter Olympics the BBC appears to be obliged to show footage of their gold medal performance from 1984. And obviously they’re involved in ITV’s Dancing On Ice, which is like a less popular and more hazardous version of the BBC’s flagship show Strictly Come Dancing.

We did have an ice-rink nearby when I was growing up. I remember ice-skating being a ‘thing’ people did for their birthdays during my teenage years. I went once with a group of  friends and, for the hour or so we were on the ice, I was utterly petrified. I never went again and so died that Olympic dream.

I fared better on my one skiing holiday as a teenager, in that I did actually enjoy that. Sadly though, in my one week of skiing I didn’t quite manage to hit Olympic qualifying standards.

Which seems like a missed opportunity on reflection.

Magic Penguin And The Melancholy Tomato

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One day, after a competitive game of squash, Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe decided to pop into the Shoe and Phone for a few drinks. As Magic Penguin had narrowly won the match, Fat Giraffe had to get the first round in. He went to the bar to order the drinks while Magic Penguin went to see if there was a pool table free. As luck would have it there was, so Magic Penguin inserted some change into the slot and proceeded to set up the table. When Fat Giraffe returned from the bar with the drinks he was accompanied by Edward the Ostrich.

“Alright Ed!” said Magic Penguin, “Haven’t seen you in ages.”

“No, I was hoping to be in the last story, but the writer went with Stupid Donkey instead” replied Ed.

Yeah, that was a strange choice,” acknowledged Fat Giraffe, “but that Donkey can certainly hold a tune.”

“Yes, I heard he was good,” muttered Magic Penguin, “shame I missed it.”

“Well it’s good you’ve turned up for this story,” said Ed, “after all, what would the Magic Penguin stories be without you?”

“I think I kept things ticking along nicely last week,” protested Fat Giraffe.

“I mean it was alright,” acknowledged Ed, “but it’s just not the same without Magic Penguin.”

“Cheers mate,” said Magic Penguin as Fat Giraffe bristled slightly, “hey what’s that?”

He was referring to the red drink that Edward was holding.

“It’s a  Bloody Mary,” replied Ed, “I’m nursing a bit of a hangover. I had a few too many with Happy Rhino last night.”

“Fair enough,” said Magic Penguin as he picked up his pool cue to break, “Fancy playing the winner Ed?”

“Don’t be stupid,” replied Ed, “Ostriches can’t play pool. That’s just silly!”

“Yeah I suppose it is really!” laughed Magic Penguin as he took his shot.

Sometime later, after Fat Giraffe had managed to exact his revenge on Magic Penguin for squash by beating him at pool, the three friends sat down in a corner of the bar and whiled away the afternoon drinking and catching up on all the latest news from each other. Fat Giraffe was in the middle of telling a racially insensitive joke when they heard a loud sobbing. They looked up and saw a young tomato crying her heart out at the next table while drinking a large vodka.

“Hey there little tomato, what’s up?” asked Magic Penguin

“Nothing.” replied the tomato before bursting into a flood of tears.

“It doesn’t look like nothing to me,” said Magic Penguin kindly, “why don’t you tell me what’s troubling you? I might be able to help.”

“You wouldn’t understand,” wailed the tomato “you’ve got friends.”

“I’m sure you must have some friends too,” said Magic Penguin “things can’t be that bad.”

“None of the other fruit will hang around with me” cried the tomato, “Angry Banana says that I’m not a proper fruit like the others because you can’t put me in a fruit salad but you can put me in a proper salad. He says that I must be a vegetable but I’m not a vegetable I’m a fruit!”

Magic Penguin shook his head sadly, he had been a key figure in bringing about peace between the vegetable and fruit communities and it made him sad to see this kind of petty prejudice still existed.(Younger readers probably won’t remember the fruit and vegetable wars of the 70s.)

“I think it’s time we taught Angry Banana a lesson,” he said, “but how I wonder…”

“I’ll punch him if you want,” said Fat Giraffe.

Magic Penguin smiled, it would be a very unlucky person to be on the receiving end of Fat Giraffe’s wrath but violence wasn’t the answer. Angry Banana was well respected in the fruit community and assaulting him would just make the tomato’s exclusion permanent.

“There’s nothing you can do,” cried the tomato, “All the other fruit look up to Angry Banana.”

“I’m sure we’ll think of something,” said Magic Penguin, “in the meantime I think we should have another drink. It’s my round I believe, Ed do you fancy a pint?”

“No thanks,” said Ed,”I wouldn’t say no to another Bloody Mary though.”

“No problem mate,” said Magic Penguin, “Wait a minute that gives me an idea!”

Later that day, Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe knocked on Angry Banana’s front door. It was opened by Jolly Apple, Angry Banana’s good friend and housemate.

“Hello Magic Penguin, hello Fat Giraffe, what brings you two here?” asked the apple.

“We’d like a word with Angry Banana if we may?” said Magic Penguin.

“Certainly,” said Jolly Apple, “I think he’s taking a shower at the moment but you’re welcome to come in and wait.”

So the two friends entered Angry Banana’s house and awaited him.

After about ten minutes, during which time Fat Giraffe entertained them with his humorous impersonations of minor celebrities, Angry Banana entered the room.

“Hello!” he exclaimed “I wasn’t expecting guests!”

“Hello Angry Banana,” said Magic Penguin, “I’m afraid we’ve come to talk to you about a rather sensitive matter.”

“Oh yes?” said Angry Banana looking interested.

“Yes it’s about young Melancholy Tomato.” said Magic Penguin, “She feels that you’ve excluded her from the other fruit.”

“I see…” began Angry Banana but Magic Penguin interrupted him.

“I know she’s not like other fruits and I agree that she does belong in a normal salad and not a fruit salad, but that doesn’t make her a vegetable. Essentially, she does match all the other credentials of a fruit including one that, if I may say so, you lack yourself.”

Angry Banana arched one eyebrow, “And might I ask what that is?”

“Well you can have orange juice, apple juice, pineapple juice, “observed Magic Penguin, “and as my good friend Edward the Ostrich reminded me with his choice of drink in the pub earlier, you can have tomato juice, but I’ve never, in all my experience, come across banana juice!”

Angry Banana looked slightly sad at this remark and Jolly Apple leapt to his defence.

“How could you say something so hurtful?” the apple snapped, “Angry Banana’s very sensitive the juice situation, and anyway, it is entirely possible to get banana juice, but it’s very difficult to separate the pulp from the juice, so it tends to be sold as a ‘juice drink’ with the pulp supplemented by additional water and sometimes other fruit juices, but ideally with no added sugar. Also bananas make the basis for many a smoothie !”

“It’s not quite the same though is it?” observed Magic Penguin, “ I didn’t wish to upset Angry Banana but perhaps now he understands how Melancholy Tomato feels.”

“But I didn’t exclude Melancholy Tomato at all!” protested Angry Banana. “It’s just that there is still a lot of tension between the fruit and vegetable communities, as you of all people should know. I merely pointed out to Melancholy Tomato that her involvement in normal salad might be a conflict of interests at this sensitive time”

“Well I think the sooner this issue is resolved the better,” said Magic Penguin, “as it happens, Melancholy Tomato is waiting outside, and perhaps if I bring her in we can discuss this properly.”

“Of course,” said Angry Banana, “bring her in.”

So Fat Giraffe went to fetch Melancholy Tomato and Magic Penguin smiled to himself. He enjoyed being a diplomat again, and if only it hadn’t been for the unfortunate Kipper Scandal perhaps he’d still be doing it for a living.

Melancholy Tomato entered with Fat Giraffe. Angry Banana rose to greet her but before he even had time to speak Melancholy Tomato pulled out a dagger and stabbed him.

“Die fruit scum!” she cried, “Long live vegetable-kind!”

And she ran out laughing. Fat Giraffe ran after her but she was too fast and managed to escape.

Jolly Apple rushed over to Angry Banana.

“Oh no!” he cried “hang in there old friend.”

“It’s too late,” gasped Angry Banana “the wound is fatal.”

“No!” cried Jolly Apple

“Avenge me,” sighed Angry Banana and with that he died.

“See what your meddling has done?” growled Jolly Apple at Magic Penguin, “Fruit-kind will not allow this insult to pass without retaliation. Those vegetables will pay!”

Later that same day Magic Penguin and Fat Giraffe were back in the pub discussing the day’s events.

“So there’s going to be another war then?” asked Fat Giraffe.

“Looks like it, yeah,” replied Magic Penguin.

“I suppose it’s our fault really.” said Fat Giraffe.

“No arguments there.” said Magic Penguin.

“Not really our problem though.” said Fat Giraffe.

“Nope, not really.” said Magic Penguin.

“Fancy another drink?” asked Fat Giraffe

“Yeah go on then mate,” said Magic Penguin with a grin, “I’ll have a Bloody Mary!”

And the two friends laughed.

It’s The Taking Part That Counts

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Mike wiped the sweat from his brow, and looked at his crestfallen team-mates who were gathered round him for his half-time talk. It was not going well, they were being out-thought, outplayed and simply outclassed by their opponents.  As team captain, it was his job to re-motivate the boys, lift their spirits and get them pumped for the second half.

“Come on guys,” he said, “we’re still in this. We just need to tighten up at the back and get the ball to Darryl.”

Darryl, who was by far and away the team’s best player, and was more than gratified by his captain’s faith in him, still felt a reality check was in order.

“Mike mate, we’re 10-0 down,” he said, “I don’t think we’re still in this at all.”

“Come on Darryl, we need to be more positive,” chided Mike sternly.

“No, I mean obviously, I want to be positive,” acknowledged Darryl, “but I mean, I think we’ve misjudged this a bit – they are quite a lot better than us.”

Mike siged. He knew what Darryl was getting at. When they’d first contemplated entering a five-a-side league, a few weeks back in the pub, there had been some concerns expressed that the sum talent of the team didn’t really amount to much. Darryl was fine, Pete was not without skill, although a little out of shape, and Roger was certainly keen, if not entirely what you’d describe as gifted. Eddie, Pete’s brother-in-law, was a reluctant recruit who’d only agreed to turn up because he ‘owed Pete a favour’ and there was certainly no guarantee he’d be back for future fixtures. As for Mike himself, well he was definitely the least able player out of the five. But he was enthusiastic and a natural leader. Or, at least, he was the only one who could actually be bothered to sign them up to a league.

Unfortunately Mike had rather misjudged the standard of the competition he had committed them to. Their current opponents ‘The Kingsmen’ (so named because they all drank at the Kings Arms) were clearly superior in every department. They also had a contingent of more than five players, meaning they were able to use substitutes, which was a luxury Mike and his team could only dream of. Nonetheless, ‘The Kingsmen’ had only managed to finish tenth out of fourteen teams last season. It was unlikely that future fixtures were going to get any easier for ‘Mike’s Machines’.

“To be honest guys, I don’t think this is really for me,” said Eddie, to the surprise of no-one, “I’ll see out the second half, but you might want to look at getting someone else for the next match.”

There were a few half-hearted efforts to change Eddie’s mind, but no-one realistically believed that there would be any need to recruit an additional player for future games.

Mike though, was not going to walk away without an attempt to rescue some pride in what was almost certainly going to be his team’s only fixture.

“Come on guys,” said Mike, “we’ve got to give it our all for another twenty minutes!”

There were non-committal grunts of unenthusiastic assent.

“And the first round of drinks is on me after the match,” continued Mike.

There were slightly louder, more enthusiastic murmurs.

“Now let’s get out there and give Eddie the send-off he deserves!” exclaimed the captain, loud enough to draw amused glances from their opposition.

“For Eddie!” bellowed Darryl as he charged onto the pitch.

“For Eddie!” came the slightly muted chorus from the others as they followed, with the exception of Eddie himself, who looked less than comfortable with the battlecry.

The second half followed a similar pattern to the first, albeit the goals did not come quite as thick and fast as they had done. ‘The Kingsmen’ had rather taken their foot off the gas, what with victory being so completely assured, and were using the remaining minutes as a training exercise, trying audacious passes and shots that they would never have contemplated in a closer fixture.

Perhaps it was this complacency that permitted Darryl to steal the ball of a rather cocky sub in the dying moments and smash what was the first strike on target for ‘The Machines’ all game. It was easily parried away by the goalkeeper, but, in the most unlikely of flukes, the rebounding ball was caught by an unintentional knee belonging to Mike as he bounded up the pitch with his unwavering enthusiasm. As the ball crossed the goal-line in what was the final act of the game, changing the final score from an embarrassing 15-0 to a much more credible 15-1, Mike was swamped by his team-mates.

The Kingsmen, for whom winning was nothing of note given the ease of their victory, were more than a little perplexed by the resulting celebrations from their opponents.

Mike, for his part, was in a reflective mood as he was carried out off the pitch on the shoulders of his friends. There may be no future outings for his ‘Machines’ but he would never forget his brief tenure as captain of this fine group of players.

La Senda De La Virtud Es Muy Estrecha Y El Camino Del Vicio, Ancho Y Espacioso

cervantes

Another Friday, another doodle and, as per the last two weeks here is yet another depiction of a great literary figure. And it’s none other than the great Spanish writer and one of the world’s first novelists, Miguel de Cervantes.

He’s probably best known for writing Don Quixote, which to be honest I’ve never read. I don’t even know what it’s about. But more educated people seem to think it’s quite good.

For ages I thought it was called Donkey Hotay and wondered why one of the first novels ever written would be about a donkey called Hotay. I realise the stupidity of that particular thought process, not least the fact that if it was actually written about a donkey, the title would have the Spanish word for donkey and it would’ve been called El Burro Hotay.

I might one day write a book called Donkey Hotay and, with any luck, it’ll be just as seminal as Cervantes’ novel. And then I won’t seem so stupid after all.