Wednesday, 31 December 2008


Peering into the murky depths of looming 2009, Mystic Anticant ventures to predict that the following won’t happen:

World ‘leaders’ start behaving morally and responsibly.

Barak Obama ushers in a New Golden Age.

Gordon Brown saves the universe.

Boom and Bust are officially abolished [again].

Crowds throng the streets chanting “Things Can Only Get Better”.

The Pope makes a pilgrimage to Mecca.

The Archbishop of Canterbury says something sensible.

Osama bin Laden makes a State Visit to Buckingham Palace.

The Taliban sets up a womens’ university.

The Israeli lion lies down with the Palestinian jackall.

The Nanny State admits it doesn’t know best, and dismantles itself.

Zola votes Conservative.

Merkin sobers up.

Wook becomes Mayor of Mankato.

Anticant suffers fools gladly.

Friday, 26 December 2008


Ben gave Anticant a tee shirt inscribed with the words of Benjamin Disraeli:


Needless to say, Anticant always finds Ben very agreeable.

Lavenderblue sent some scrumptious chocolate truffles.

A kind cousin also sent some lovely chocolates and a bottle of very special champagne.

A friend in the country sent some home-made membrillo [quince paste], which we had never tasted before, and which is delicious.

Mrs Malaprop gave Anticant and Ben each a very smart shirt. Evidently she thinks they should get out more.

So although the Burrow Christmas celebrations this year were cancelled because of the ghastly 'flu that still hangs around, we weren't forgotten, and hope to be in better shape for the New Year.

Thursday, 18 December 2008


Scraping the barrel for uncostly prezzies, BEN TROVATO came up with this.

Here in the Burrow, the festive season will thankfully be more traditional - mince pies galore by Mrs Malaprop, free drinks on the house in the Snug, a carol concert by Dame Barbara's Heavenly Choir of Virtuous Virgins [ guitar backing by Cliff and the Shadows], while Anticant will be giving readings from selected portions of his newly published Memoirs Low Life at the Top.

The Beadle will ensure propriety and due decorum.

By Order

Monday, 8 December 2008


Ben Trovato says 'I don't care. I think it's very funny.

The train was quite crowded, and a U.S. Marine walked the entire length looking for a seat, but the only seat left was taken by a well dressed, middle-aged, French woman's poodle.

The war-weary Marine asked, 'Ma'am, may I have that seat?'
The French woman just sniffed, and said to no one in particular,
'Americans are so rude. My little Fifi is using that seat.'

The Marine walked the entire train again, but the only seat left was
under that dog.

'Please, ma'am. May I sit down? I'm very tired.'

She snorted, 'Not only are you Americans rude, you are also arrogant!'

This time the Marine didn't say a word; he just picked up the little
dog, tossed it out the train window, and sat down.

The woman shrieked, 'someone must defend my honour! This American should be put in his place!'

An English gentleman sitting nearby spoke up, 'Sir, you Americans seem to have a penchant for doing the wrong thing. You hold the fork in the wrong hand. You drive your cars on the wrong side of the road, and now, Sir, you seem to have thrown the wrong bitch out the window.’

Friday, 5 December 2008


Ben Trovato says:

Three little frogs arrived at the gates of Heaven, where St Peter conducted the usual cross-examination before admitting them.

"And how did you spend your life?" he asked the first little frog, who replied "Oh, I didn't do anything very much, really, except jump in and out of puddles."

"That sounds harmless enough, said St Peter. "In you go." Then he turned to the second little frog, who gave the same reply and was nodded through.

The third little frog was dressed up to the nines, with long curling eyelashes and a touch of makeup.

"Tell me", said St Peter, "what have you been doing all your life?"

The little creature simpered and said "Oh, I'm Puddles!"

Saturday, 15 November 2008



While Anticant and Dame Barbara are frolicking in warm thermal baths [or wish they were], I am minding the shop, with the invaluable assistance of the faithful Beadle and Mrs Malaprop, not to mention Wooffie [who says "why not?"].

Gleanings from the internet joke factory have been a bit sparse lately, but I thought the following might amuse - though the bad language at the end will doubtless shock Zola to the core:

WIFE: What would you do if I died? Would you get married again?

HUSBAND: Definitely not!

WIFE: Why not - don't you like being married?

HUSBAND: Of course I do.

WIFE: Then why wouldn't you remarry?

HUSBAND: Okay, I'd get married again.

WIFE: You would? (With a hurt look on her face).

HUSBAND: (Makes audible groan).

WIFE: Would you live in our house?

HUSBAND: Sure, it's a great house.

WIFE: Would you sleep with her in our bed?

HUSBAND: Where else would we sleep?

WIFE: Would you let her drive my car?

HUSBAND: Probably, it is almost new.

WIFE: Would you replace my pictures with hers?

HUSBAND: That would seem like the proper thing to do.

WIFE: Would she use my golf clubs?

HUSBAND: No, she's left-handed.

WIFE: - silence -

HUSBAND: Fuck....

Saturday, 30 August 2008


Ben has been browsing again and came up with this. which he is venturing to post as Dame Barbara is away:

An old but still ruggedly handsome Navy Chief Petty Officer found himself at a gala event hosted by a local liberal arts college. There was no shortage of extremely young, idealistic ladies in attendance, one of whom approached the Chief for conversation.

"Excuse me, Chief, but you seem to be a very serious man. Is something bothering you?"

"No, ma'am. Just serious by nature."

The young lady looked at his awards and decorations and said, "It looks like you have seen a lot of action."

"Yes, ma'am, a lot of action."

The young lady, tiring of trying to start up a conversation, said, "You know, you should lighten up a little. Relax and enjoy yourself."

The Chief just stared at her in his serious manner.

Finally, the young lady said, "You know, I hope you don't take this the wrong way, but when is the last time you've been with a woman?"

"1955, ma'am."

"Well, there you are. You really need to chill out and quit taking everything so seriously, I mean, 1955!"

Feeling charitable and a little bit drunk, she took his hand and led him to a private room where she proceeded to spend some time with him. Afterwards, panting for breath, she leaned against his chest and said, "Wow, you sure didn't forget much since 1955."

The Chief, glancing at his watch, said in his matter-of-fact voice, "I hope not, it's only 2130 now."

Wednesday, 9 July 2008


latest gleaning:

Last month the UN conducted a worldwide survey asking:

"Would you please give your honest opinion about solutions
to the food shortage in the rest of the world?"

The survey was a huge failure.

In Eastern Europe they didn't know what "honest" meant.

In Western Europe they didn't know what "shortage" meant.

In Africa they didn't know what "food" meant.

In China they didn't know what "opinion" meant.

In the Middle East they didn't know what "solution" meant.

In South America they didn't know what "please" meant.

In the US they didn't know what "rest of the world" meant.

Wednesday, 25 June 2008


This landed in Ben's inbox:

A driver is stuck in a traffic jam on the motorway. Nothing is moving. Suddenly a man knocks on the window.

The driver rolls down his window and asks, 'What's going on?'

'Terrorists down the road have kidnapped Gordon Brown, Alistair Darling, David Miliband and Jack Straw.

They're asking for a £10 million ransom.

Otherwise they're going to douse them with petrol and set them on fire.

We're going from car to car, taking up a collection.'

The driver asks, 'How much is everyone giving, on average?'

'Most people are giving about a gallon.'

Tuesday, 24 June 2008


During Anticant's absence in sunny Italy, Ben has been whiling away the time rummaging through Anticant's Archive, and has come up with the following offering by Rhoda Tuck Pook which will kindle nostalgic memories among mid-20th century cricket aficionados:

"An unfortunate thing about Arlott,
And his confrere E.W. Swanton,
Is that one will rhyme only to 'harlot'
And the other to nothing but 'wanton'.
Are they greatly annoyed
If disciples of Freud
Have these omens employed
And their honour destroyed?
For there's nothing whatever suggestive in Arlott,
Or, of course, in his opposite number - that's Swanton."

When reminded of this, Anticant commented sourly that in these lily-livered days, libel writs would already be flying in the direction of the hapless poetess and her publishers.

Thursday, 12 June 2008


One of the joys of blogging is that one every now and then comes across fascinating nuggets of totally useless recondite information that boggle the mind.

Thus, from a commentator on Ken Frost’s “Nanny Knows Best” blog we learn that the borough of Wigan and Leigh is privileged to possess an official who is styled the ‘Hate Crimes Co-ordinator’, and who has, according to his own testimony, been in post for the past five years. This gentleman – who shall be nameless here, although the poster who I am quoting is bolder than I am – recently delivered himself of the following priceless observation in the local press:

“Imbeciles was the old name for those children that are borne from incestuous relationships. It is a little known fact that a certain area within the borough of wigan and leigh had the highest rate of imbeciles in the UK. Its true to say that at one point in the history of the borough....some fathers thought on it as their priveledge to de-flower their daughters. Infact in some areas, it was the expectation. Thank goodness for new blood coming into the Borough. The aggression from some people on the issue of 'new blood coming into the area' is, the view of many,...that this is infact remnants of 'the good old days', it were.” [Spelling and punctuation as in original].

This, as “Nanny’s” poster points out, amounts to a hate crime in itself, and one would imagine that there are now districts of Wigan and Leigh which the Hate Crimes Co-ordinator would be prudent to regard as personal no-go areas. I doubt whether this was the scenario George Orwell had in mind when he set out on the road to Wigan pier all those years ago.

Since reading this juicy item, Ben Trovato has been wandering around the Burrow composing a saucy limerick about the Incestuous Fathers of Wigan, muttering suitably vulgar rhymes to himself. He has been sternly forbidden by Dame Barbara to publish it here, on pain of her instant departure with her fictional flock of unravished virgins.

Saturday, 7 June 2008


The inimitable Wook has just produced this gem, for which we hereby nominate him an Honorary Life Member of the Burrow Snug.


Ben Trovato found this in the Burrow bookshop. And it wasn't even on the top shelf!

Wednesday, 14 May 2008


From Ben Trovato, Burrow Bucolic Independent candidate:

While on his morning walk, Prime Minister Gordon Brown falls over, has a heart attack and dies, because the Accident and Emergency Dept at his nearest hospital is too understaffed to treat him in time. So his soul arrives in Heaven and he is met by Saint Peter at the Pearly Gates. "Welcome to Heaven," says Saint Peter, "Before you settle in, there is a problem. We seldom see a Socialist around these parts, so we're not sure what to do with you." "No problem, just let me in; I'm a good Christian; I'm a believer," says the PM. "I'd like to just let you in, but I have orders from God Himself. He says that since the implementation of his new HEAVEN CHOICES policy, you have to spend one day in Hell and one day in Heaven. Then you must choose where you'll live for eternity." "But I've already made up my mind. I want to be in Heaven," replies Brown. "I'm sorry, But we have our rules," Peter interjects; and, with that, he escorts Brown to an elevator which takes him down, down, down ...all the way to Hell.

The doors open and he finds himself in the middle of a lush golf course. The sun is shining in a cloudless sky. The temperature is a perfect 22C degrees. In the distance is a beautiful club-house. Standing in front of it is Harold Wilson and many other Socialist luminaries who had helped him out over the years: John Smith, Michael Foot, Jim Callaghan, etc. All the former Labour Party leaders are there. Everyone is laughing, happy, and casually but expensively dressed. They run to greet him, to hug him and to reminisce about the good times they had getting rich at the expense of 'suckers and peasants'. They play a friendly game of golf and then dine on lobster and caviar. The Devil himself comes up to Brown with a frosty drink,"Have a tequila and relax, Gord!"

"Uh, I can't drink anymore, I took a pledge," says Brown, dejectedly. "This is Hell, son. You can drink and eat all you want and not worry and it just gets better from there!" Brown takes the drink and finds himself liking the Devil, who he thinks is a really very friendly bloke resembling George Bush who tells funny jokes like himself and pulls hilarious nasty pranks, kind of like the ones the Labour Party pulled with the European Constitution and the Education, Immigration, Tough on Crime ... promises. They are having such a great time that, before he realises it, it's time to go. Everyone gives him a big hug and waves as Brown steps on the elevator and heads upward.

When the elevator door reopens, he is in Heaven again and Saint Peter is waiting for him. "Now it's time to visit Heaven," the old man says, opening the gate. So for 24 hours Brown is made to hang out with a bunch of honest,good-natured people who enjoy each other's company, talk about things other than money and treat each other decently. Not a nasty prank or short-arse joke among them. No fancy country clubs here and, while the food tastes great, it's not caviar or lobster. And these people are all poor. He doesn't see anybody he knows and he isn't even treated like someone special! "Whoa," he says uncomfortably to himself. "Harold Wilson never prepared me for this!" The day done, Saint Peter returns and says, "Well, you've spent a day in Hell and a day in Heaven. Now choose where you want to live for Eternity."

With the 'Deal or No Deal' theme playing softly in the background, Brown reflects for a minute ... Then answers: "Well, I would never have thought I'd say this; I mean, Heaven has been delightful and all, but I really think I belong in Hell with my friends." So Saint Peter escorts him to the elevator and he goes down, down, down, all the way to Hell. The doors of the elevator open and he is in the middle of barren scorched earth covered with garbage and toxic industrial wasteland, looking a bit like the eroded, rabbit and fox affected Australian Outback, but worse and more desolate. He is horrified to see all of his friends, dressed in rags and chained together, picking up the roadside rubbish and putting it into black plastic bags. They are groaning and moaning in pain, faces and hands black with grime.

The Devil comes over to Brown and puts an arm around his shoulder." I don't understand," stammers a shocked Brown, "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a club-house and we ate lobster and caviar and drank tequila. We lazed around and had a great time! Now there's just a wasteland full of garbage and everybody looks miserable!" The Devil looks at him, smiles slyly, and purrs, "Ah, but yesterday we were campaigning; today you voted for us!"

Friday, 9 May 2008


The Beadle has just returned from attending a weekend study conference to learn more about the history and practice of his ancient office. He was mortified to learn that in their medieval incarnation, beadles were a forerunner of modern sanitary inspectors, and brought back the following report from John Kelly's The Great Mortality: An intimate history of the Black Death, the most devastating plague of all time [pages 70-71]:
London supplemented its sewer system with municipal
sanitation workers. Every ward in the city had a cadre of
inspectors, the Dickensian-named "beadles" and
"under-beadles," who probed, peered, sniffed, and
questioned their way along the medieval street. Was waste
being cleared from housefronts? Were alleys being kept
clean? Better-off Londoners often built indoor privies,
or garderobes, over alleyways, suspending them "on two
beams laid from one house to the other."  For the
garderobe’s owner, the privy meant liberation - no more
chamber pots on cold nights - but for his neighbours, it
meant piles of dung in the alley, a medley of frightful
odours, and swarms of flies (rats do not usually feed on
human waste). Beadles and under-beadles also investigated
acts of sanitary piracy. The year before the plague
arrived in England, two malefactors were arrested for
piping their waste into the cellar of an unsuspecting
Under the beadles were the rakers, the people who did the
actual cleaning up.  Rakers swept out gutters, disposed of
dead animal carcasses, shovelled refuse from the streets
and alleys, and hauled it to the Thames or other dumping
points, like the Fleet River.
The beadles and rakers not only had the dirtiest job in
medieval London, but the most thankless as well. In 1332
a beadle in Cripplegate Ward was attacked by an
assailant who, to add insult to injury, stole the
beadle's cart; a few years later, two women in
Billingsgate heaped such abuse on a team of rakers,
municipal authorities ordered the women arrested. Indeed,
judging from contemporary accounts, medieval London seems
to have been engaged in a low-level civil war sanitation.
On one side were miscreants, like the foul-mouthed
Billingsgate ladies and William E. Cosner, the garbage
king of Farringdon Without.  On the other side, the king,
Edward III, who thundered, "Filth [is] being thrown from
houses by day and night"; the nervous mayor, who tried
to assuage these royal outbursts with a flurry of widely
ignored sanitation ordinances; the much-abused beadles,
under-beadles, and rakers; and irate private citizens
like the murderous shop owner.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008


Another of Ben's gleanings:

Morris and his wife Esther went to the Yorkshire Show every year and every year Morris would say "Esther, I'd like to ride in that helicopter."

Esther always replied "I know Morris; but that helicopter ride is fifty quid, and fifty quid is fifty quid."

One year Esther and Morris went to the fair and Morris said "Esther, I'm 85 years old. If I don't ride that helicopter I might never get another chance."

To this Esther replied "Morris, that helicopter is fifty quid, and fifty quid is fifty quid."

The pilot overheard the couple and said "Listen folks I'll make you a deal. I'll take the both of you for a ride. If you can stay quiet for the entire ride and not say a word I won't charge you! But if you say one word it's fifty quid."

Morris and Esther agreed and up they went. The pilot did all kinds of fancy manoeuvres, but not a word was heard. He did his daredevil tricks over and over again, but still not a word. When they landed, the pilot turned to Morris and said "By golly! I did everything I could to get you to yell out but you didn't. I'm really impressed!'

Morris replied "Well, to tell you the truth, I almost said something when Esther fell out; but, you know, fifty quid is fifty quid."

The Beadle wishes to make it quite clear that he and Mrs Malaprop never visit the Yorkshire Show, and do not like riding in helicopters.

Dame Barbara is currently concocting her latest airy romance Up Up and Away - a tall tale of thrills and spills.

Ben is kept busy supplying her with copious pink gins.

Anticant impatiently awaits the approaching pageant of summer.

Wooffie is wearing his second-best pearls.


Ben has been buying some new pictures for the Snug. Here's one of them:

"Having finished installing the anti-parking bollards, it's time to clear up before driving back to the depot...",%20bollards.jpg

Wednesday, 9 April 2008


In Anticant’s absence, Ben Trovato has been diligently scouring cyberspace for titbits worthy of reproduction in the Burrow. Here is his latest find: 

An elderly gentleman who is less potent than he was in his youth consults his doctor, who after trying many unsuccessful remedies refers him to an African Witch Doctor.

Saying 'I can cure this', the Witch Doctor throws a white powder into a flame, and there is a flash followed by billowing blue smoke. ‘This is powerful healing, but you can only use it once a year’, the African explains. ‘All you have to do is say '123,' and it shall rise for as long as you wish!'

The patient asks, 'What happens when it's over, and I don't want to continue?' The Witch Doctor replies, 'When your partner can take no more sex and is completely satisfied, all she has to say is '1234', and it will then go down. But be warned, your potency will not return again for another year…'

The old gent rushes home, anxious to try out his new powers. That night he showers, shaves, and smothers himself in expensive perfumes. He slides into bed, cuddles up to his wife, says '123', and suddenly he has the most gigantic erection, just as the Witch Doctor promised. His wife turns over and asks, 'What did you say '123' for?'

The Beadle and Mrs Malaprop have asked Ben to confirm that this tale bears no relation to any denizens of the Burrow.

Sunday, 23 March 2008


As we peer out of the Burrow windows this Easter Sunday morning, snowflakes as large as gooseberries are fluttering down, and the grass outside is already covered with a white blanket. The Seasons are indeed a'changing.

This Easter Day [23rd March] is the earliest we shall experience in our lifetimes. The earliest day on which Easter can fall is 22nd March; the last time this occurred was in 1818, and the next will not be until 2285. The latest Easter date is 25th April, which some of us saw in 1943 and some [but not the Burrow denizens] will see in 2038.

Although the League of Nations in 1926 endorsed the keeping of Easter on the Sunday after the second Saturday in April, and this became British law when Parliament passed the Easter Act in 1928, the Act has never been brought into force because it requires the agreement of all the Christian churches, which is still not forthcoming. But then, when did the Christian churches all agree about anything? That would indeed be a miracle.

Be that as it may, we are now enjoying [?] a White Easter. And, as always, Easter marks a turning-point from the death of Winter and old age to the new life of Spring and youthful hope. This week, we have heard the sad news of the passing of Merkin's mother, and the glad news of the arrival of a new great-great nephew: Welcome, Oliver James Harper! Many years ago a dear cat, Pico [short for Piccolo, but he was so large we thought he should have been called Trombone!], died in our arms on Good Friday. So Easter memories accumulate.

By the end of this week Anticant - flying conditions permitting! - will be sitting on his favourite Italian lakeside terrace, with the prospect of ten even lazier days than usual ahead, plus scrumptious local food and lovely warm thermal baths. So the Burrow will be on vacation until mid-April. Meanwhile, we wish all our 'Snug Regulars' and others a Happy Easter, and - if you are hardy enough - good Spring gardening.

Monday, 10 March 2008


We hear on today's broadcast news that our devoted Supreme Leader is in constant contact with the emergency services to ensure that everything possible is done to minimise storm and flood damage.

Why Gordibroon - or BroodyGord as he is known in the Burrow - imagines that his personal involvement will make a ha'porth of difference to the performance of our professional coastguards, lifeboatmen, fire services and police, except to distract them from more urgent tasks to take a superfluous phone call from No 10, we cannot imagine.

However, the government spin machine obviously sees a benefit in assuring the witless sheeples that their trusty shepherd is on watch day and night, hence his increasingly haggard and hunted look on Prime Minister's Question Time [which could aptly be re-named "Twenty Questions - No Answers".]

It seems that we have an even more mediocre megalomaniac premier than his self-obsessed predecessor. Whereas T Blair would doubtless have aspired to subdue the agitated waters with a lofty wave of the hand and an exhortation to "Be Still", Gordo rings everybody up and says "Here I am! Let me know if you have a problem."

The biggest problem would be if he actually set out to do anything more. The apparition of Broody turning up at the Burrow with a ladder to replace our drifting slates has got the Beadle worried. We are thinking of putting up a notice saying "Prime Ministers not welcome here", along the lines of those canny folk who used to carry cards saying "If I am admitted to hospital, I do not wish to be visited by Mrs Thatcher".

Armed with a large tray of pink gins, Dame Barbara is already at work on her latest blockbuster: Don't Leave it to Gordon".

Sunday, 2 March 2008


Ben Trovato found this on the internet, and thinks it's one hell of a story!

George Bush has a heart attack and dies. He goes to hell where the Devil is waiting for him.

"Hi George", says the Devil. "Good to see you at last! We’re a bit crowded here at the moment, but you definitely have to stay, so I'll tell you what I'm going to do. I've got three people here who weren't quite as bad as you. I'll let one of them go, but you have to take their place. I'll even let YOU decide who leaves."

George thought that sounded pretty good, so he agreed.

The Devil opened the first room. In it was Ted Kennedy in a large pool of water. Kennedy kept resurfacing over and over and over, gasping for air. Such was his fate in hell.

"No!" George said. "I don't think so. I'm not a good swimmer and don't think I could do that all day long."

The Devil led him to the next room. In it was Tony Blair with a sledgehammer and a pile of rocks. All Blair did was swing that hammer, time after time after time, and more and more rocks appeared as he did so.

"No!" Bush said. "I've got this problem with my shoulder. I would be in constant agony if all I could do was break rocks all day!"

The Devil opened a third door. In it, George saw Bill Clinton lying naked on the floor with his arms staked over his head and his legs staked in spread eagle pose. Bent over him was Monica Lewinsky, doing what she does best. George Bush looked at this in disbelief for a while and finally said, "Yeah, I can handle this." The Devil smiled and said ... "Congratulations, Monica! You're free to go”.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008


Ben Trovato writes:

Fred was a single guy living at home with his father and working in the family business.

Knowing he was going to inherit a fortune when his sickly father died, he decided to seek a wife.

One evening at an investment meeting he spotted the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her natural beauty took his breath away.

"I may look like just an ordinary man," he said to her, "but in just a few years, my father will die, and I'll inherit 20 million dollars."

Impressed, the woman obtained his business card; and three days later she became his stepmother.

Women are so much better than men at estate planning.

Friday, 22 February 2008


Anticant has been whiling away these dismal dark cold days by sorting through some old family letters. Spurred on by trousers' recent visit to Matlock, he recalled the mystery of his grandfather's uncle who vanished from there and was never seen or heard of again.

My grandfather had a bachelor uncle who was his godfather, and after whom I believe he was named Thomas. My great-grandfather was an ironmonger and hardware merchant in Manchester, and his younger brother, Uncle Tom, was also a merchant in Ceylon [now Sri Lanka], from where he wrote some lively letters to my great-grandfather.
I still have the holograph originals, penned in neat copperplate and deftly illustrated with pen-and-ink drawings of local ‘characters’.

In March 1866 Tom [then aged 27] writes from Colombo and, after some enquiries after the family’s health and comments on the Irish Fenian outrages which were then traumatising the English, proceeds:

‘In reply to your query I have to state that I am a full blown Freemason Irish Constitution & expect soon to receive my certificate. Masons in Ceylon are as a rule very quiet fellows; in fact in this hot country men dare not indulge too freely in liquors altho’ some I will allow take a “fair whack” -

The coffee planters are the most noisy and obstrepolous [sic] - at the last banquet held at Kandy I hear that one of the “worthy masons” shied a whole boiled fowl at the Worshipful Master’s head. In fact the planters are not at all particular in attentions of this sort & the tales of havoc they commit in one anothers Bungalows sometimes, is scarcely to be believed. The Crockery and Glass ware on such occasions are the first to suffer, then the furniture comes in for its share - on such occasions it is the rule for the English and Scotch to take separate sides -

To recur again to Masonry, it is widespread over India and China and to any one visiting these places must be of advantage. We are very charitable and to a deserving brother in distress sometimes pay his passage home or send him on to another place where he may perhaps be more fortunate. Of course when he can afford it he returns the money. We also contribute handsomely to the local charities.’

He continues:

As you say, the time since I left home has passed away very quickly, and my 3 years will soon be up - whether or not I shall stay I don’t know - it all depends upon [RBC] and [JB], who will no doubt come to some arrangement & it will be for me to say whether or not I am agreeable to further risk my liver &c for a further term of years - If they do the handsome I may and most likely will, but if there is no proper inducement, what’s the good - Life is a great drag out here I can assure you, compared with Home, & the only balm for it is to know you are making money. If you know you are not making money and the future is dark, then you are miserable in spite of yourself - time is passing cheaply [?] - year by year, and I must look well about me - so far I consider I have not done much. I must however wait and see.’


‘Didn’t go to Church last Sunday, but my Companion [B] did - he told me he felt very sleepy under the Native parson & was only fairly aroused when the said Native parson spasmodically ejaculated a prayer that we might be preserved in this “Wicked World of Wailing Weeping Woe”. The Bishop seldom preaches and Europeans are often absent, and it’s very dreary work going to listen to some of the Black ministers, although they are good men I have no doubt. The above expression of the parson’s was however a Crasher -

I am glad to say that I continue in very good health, and take plenty of Horse Exercise - it is expensive £45 a year with the risk of your horse dying, but it is far better to spend your money than spoil your liver - it is very disgusting, but people out here are perpetually thinking about their livers -

Trade keeps exceedingly quiet in “Rags” - i.e. cotton goods - and unless a change takes place soon we shall have to pocket a loss instead of a profit .’

The next letter is undated, and is largely about trading matters. But there are some illustrations:

1. Ceylon Moorman (Trader, Full Dress). [From a sketch by M Hypolite Silvaf.] 2. Ceylon Moorman (Mason). [From a photograph by Slinn & Co.]

3. Ceylon Malay [From a sketch by M Hypolite Silvaf.]

Tom comments: Figures 1 & 2 represent the class of men to whom the shipment of nails would be sent. Do not despise the Old Buffer no 2 - when I came out first an honest old fellow in similar “get up” was worth £50000 ! Very few like him left.’

Reverting to family affairs, he says nostalgically ‘ In my reveries of home I think now & again of those little trips we used to take when lads with Father to the Taylors at Wilmslow & away through the breezes to Alderley Edge - Happy days those were!’

[I too remember trips to Wilmslow and Alderley Edge with my grandparents when I was a child.]

Uncle Tom’s third letter was written much later, in 1896, by which time my great-grandfather was dead. It is addressed to my grandfather, and dated three days before my grandparents’ marriage: Tom had stayed on in Ceylon, and was back in Britain on leave – furlough – at the time.

Smedley’s Hydropathic Establishment

Telegraphic Address, “SMEDLEYS” Matlock Bank. Railway Station, MATLOCK BRIDGE.

MATLOCK, 17th April 1896

My dear Nephew Tom,

This will I hope find you safely returned to Gransmoor after your, probably, stormy journey to and from Belfast.

Hebe [my grandfather’s eldest sister] has very kindly informed me fully with respect to matters that so nearly concern yourself, and which are now on the eve of accomplishment - I refer, of course, to your approaching marriage with Miss Gartside.

Altho’ I shall not be able to witness the ceremony at St. Peter’s, Ashton, next Monday, I shall be there in spirit you may be sure.

I am pleased to learn that it is to be a very quietly arranged function - Emblematic, in that respect, I trust of the tranquil life before you both when you get fairly settled in your own little nest at Heaton Chapel. I have seen the house and it has a pleasant outlook.

It is customary, I know, on occasions like this for Uncles to accompany their letters of congratulation & felicitation with something substantial in the form of a suitable presentation, and your being, moreover, my Godson naturally makes it all the more incumbent on me to conform to the ‘good old rule’. How gladly I would do this, were I able, it is needless for me to tell you. The opportunity can now only arise and be embraced and availed of “when my ship comes in”, and when that will be is known only to the Gods! -

I now send you and Miss Gartside my sincerest wishes for your present and future happiness, health, prosperity and long life,

and remain Your affectionate Uncle Thos. Wright.’

This is where the mystery begins and ends – because Uncle Tom was never seen or heard from again. He vanished from Smedley’s Hydro without trace, and no-one ever discovered what had become of him. As time went by, there were various theories: he had fallen down a pothole, either by accident or by committing suicide in a fit of depression. Or he had decided to return to Ceylon on an impulse, without telling anyone, and had been lost at sea. As I don’t know whether he checked out of Smedley’s with his luggage, or simply vanished from his room leaving his things behind, I don’t have a view on these alternatives. But a cousin of my grandfather’s who dabbled in spiritualism said that a medium had told him that she made contact with Uncle Tom, who spoke of “rushing waters”. This could have been either a subterranean pothole or a mishap at sea, so who knows?

What I do know is that I wish I could have met Uncle Tom and heard more of his stories about life in Ceylon at first hand. Maybe we would have had a drink too many, and flung some crockery, or even a boiled fowl or two, around the room!


Our inimitable Emmett, dear Bodwyn Wook, waxes lyrical here about the recent eclipse of the moon in a delightful piece which we are sure all Burrow visitors will enjoy.

Monday, 11 February 2008


Ben Trovato writes:

According to the BBC, religious police in Saudi Arabia are banning the sale of Valentine's Day gifts, including red roses. As a result, black market prices for roses are rising, and some florists will deliver bouquets in the middle of the night to avoid suspicion.

Valentine's Day is regarded by the Saudi authorities as unIslamic, because it encourages illicit sexual relationships out of wedlock, punishable by law in the desert kingdom.

But heigh-ho, we used to have our killjoy puritans too. After all, Cromwell's cronies went around cutting down maypoles when they weren't cutting cavaliers' heads off.

Thursday, 7 February 2008


ANTICANT is an accredited bigot. A “pseudo-liberal” one, to boot. We have this on no less an authority than that of a headmaster of an Islamic school, Ibrahim Lawson [see Anticant’s open letter to him on Anticant’s Arena].

This glad news set off a rash of bigotry confessions in the Burrow, with the following results:

ANTICANT is also a bigoted opponent of pseudo-religious twaddle.

BEN TROVATO is a bigoted topper-up of Snug regulars’ favourite tipples.

THE BEADLE is a bigoted turfer-out of knicker-waving naked kayakers.

MRS MALAPROP is a bigoted ribbed woollen stocking knitter.

WOOFFIE is a bigoted devotee of fine pearls and brandy.

DAME BARBARA is a bigoted champion of virginity in even the most bosom-heaving circumstances.

MISS MARPLE is a bigoted devotee of discreet sleuthing and demure omniscience.

THE CRAFTY CHAMBERMAID is a bigoted bedhopper and keyhole snooper.

So bring your bigotries to the Burrow, one and all, and let’s have a confessional orgy in the Snug. Free drinks all round.

Thursday, 31 January 2008


As the Burrow inmates groggily resurface from their prolonged New Year colds, Ben Trovato was heartened to find the following, which he relays for the benefit of Snug regulars and other friends:

I am passing this on to you because it definitely works, and we could all use a little more calmness in our lives.

By following simple advice, heard on the Dr. Phil show, you too can find inner peace. Dr Phil proclaimed: the way to achieve inner peace is to finish all the things you have started and have never finished.

So, I looked around my house to see all the things I started and hadn't finished and before leaving the house this morning...

I finished off a bottle of Merlot, a bottle of White Zinfandel, a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream, a bottle of Kahlua, a package of Oreos, the remainder of my old Prozac prescription, the rest of the cheesecake, some Doritos, and a box of chocolates.

You have no idea how freaking good I feel right now.

Please pass this on to those whom you think might be in need of inner peace.

Sunday, 20 January 2008


Tirelessly surfing the internet, the ever-vigilant Ben Trovato has unearthed the following gem, sent by His Majesty's Ambassador in Moscow to a colleague at the Foreign Office during WW2:

6th April 1943
Lord Pembroke
The Foreign Office

My Dear Reggie,

In these dark days man tends to look for little shafts of light that spill from Heaven. My days are probably darker than yours, and I need, my God I do, all the light I can get. But I am a decent fellow, and I do not want to be mean and selfish about what little brightness is shed upon me from time to time. So I propose to share with you a tiny flash that has illuminated my sombre life and tell you that God has given me a new Turkish colleague whose card tells me that he is called Mustapha Kunt.

We all feel like that, Reggie, now and then, especially when Spring is upon us, but few of us would care to put it on our cards. It takes a Turk to do that.

[sgd] Archie
Sir Archibald Clerk Kerr,
H.M. Ambassador.

Thursday, 17 January 2008



After anxious cogitation, we have commissioned Miss Marple to enquire and report back as to the whereabouts of a certain Ms Melancholy, who has been missing from her blog since the end of October.

According to evidence supplied by the lady herself prior to her disappearance, supplemented by subsequent rumour, our friendly neighbourhood therapist has taken herself off to a lesbian menage deep in the countryside where [she alleges] BT cannot provide her with broadband facilities and there is also apparently dial-up failure.

Despite mounting unease amongst her growing band of unhappy fans, Ms M has so far not resurfaced. Bearing in mind the famous episode when Miss Marple's creator, the great Dame Agatha Christie, vanished for some weeks and turned up in a genteel Harrogate hotel claiming amnesia, we thought that Miss Marple was the obvious sleuth to unravel the deepening Ms Melancholy mystery.

She will need all the help she can get, not least from all those now posting on Ms Melancholy's thread who may have even the faintest clues to her whereabouts.

Monday, 14 January 2008



New Year 2008 has not kicked off well in the Burrow. After a quiet Christmas - Anticant overcooked the turkey, of course, in my absence - and just one small neighbourhood gathering in the Snug, Ben Trovato succumbed to a nasty cold germ on New Year's Eve and though Anticant resolutely ignored it for as long as possible, he too is now sneezing, sniffling and coughing fit to scare off the foxes, squirrels, and birds who visit the garden. Even Wooffie has been sneezing.

The Beadle and I had to return hastily from our secret honeymoon location to nurse the sorry pair, and we are now busily engaged in keeping the home fires burning. Dame Barbara - thank goodness - elected to stay away until the Burrow is declared a Safe Zone, when she will doubtless return post-haste her head swimming in pink gin and teeming with new plots of chaste romance.

Meanwhile, Anticant and Ben wish all Snug regulars, and new friends, a Happy, Prosperous, and above all Healthy New Year and look forward to your company - even Zola's, if he can tear himself away from that lusty female production line he's waxing so lyrical about.