Bad Pennies

…the return of Peregrine Spode.

Oh, how awfully nice it is to be back with you all again, rolling up like a bad stotinka. I know, using the word ‘nice’ is meaningless, non-comparative and the last refuge of the linguistically challenged, but there you go. Old Perry has put on a few ounces of avoirdupois since our last meeting, trouser waistbands have rolled inexorably southward and hair, once luxuriant and Adonis-like, has lengthened, thinned out and now looks, well, a bit on the mangy side. This, in addition to the fact that his being – as we all know, a little bit challenged dentally – breath still curdles goats’ milk and so forth – Spode is still sans partenaire and as time goes on, the probability of finding a woman olfactorily challenged, half-blind and with a decent upper superstructure seems, like a long straight American road, to be vanishing into the wide blue yonder.

Nevertheless, what with the Internet and a vast and constantly changing panorama of images (I should never have signed up to Big Black Mamas) life is if not altogether unbearable, is at least tolerable.

Why then this resurfacing, like a long-dead marmoset? Perhaps because the world has seen a few huge paradigm shifts in the last little while (stoppit now. Using words you don’t know the meaning of. Ed) I do apologise for my editor’s frequent, ungrammatical and unnecessary interruptions, he wouldn’t know a past participle if struck on the head by one. So back to looking down the wrong end of the telescope. Since we last met – I’ll make this as brief as possible – there’s been a hiatus; the sandwich of Old Etonians at the Great British Helm was briefly interrupted by a geography graduate who wore expensive shoes and didn’t have a sense of humour. The latter, or most recent incumbent of the tumbling Georgian pile, the rather roly-poly Boris, or, as I and other friends call him, Al, got himself hauled off to Tommy’s, wheezing a bit, and was befriended by both a Commonwealth nurse and another from the EU, thus satisfactorily ticking all the political boxes. I do quite enjoy reading old Boris – he used to be a journalist before becoming Prime Minister, a career path which, I have to say, I quite envy. I might send him some of my stuff. He might pick up a few tips.

Astute readers will have perceived that old P, despite being in the ‘at risk’ category, is bravely trying to get round to the subject of tiny crowns. No, not the dental kind, the kind which would have to navigate my own natural lizard-breath defences in order to set up shop in the Spode alveoli. On the whole, I think a mask is essential for me, not because I am in danger of infection – it’d be a virus with the bravery of an Achilles that would dare to breach my personal defences – but, indeed for the sake of the rest of the population. Socially distancing myself in the pharmacy queue for Listerine is no defence for the innocent populace in front of me in the queue who can’t wait for their Cialis prescription so they can return to bed with their inamorata. All I have is a forlorn blue hippo for company.

It’s been so long, hasn’t it? Our friends over the water have invited a certifiable, near drooling Quasimodo to waddle about over the South Lawn, leaving Big Mac packaging everywhere for the Secret Service to pick up and tidily dispose of. In some ways, he’s a bit like me – that instant sense of revulsion by normal human beings when passing him is a bit like me at Ladies Night at the dance school. He’s trying to make friends with his alter ego in North Korea which does have a certain grim logic about it, except for the fact that the little fat guy in the tight suit keeps letting off fireworks in his back garden, to the delight of all the other fat guys who’ve learned to clap and sometimes smile in unison. Ah, yes, two Dear Leaders. How fortunate we all are to have at least one of them as the leader of the free world.

The last time we all gathered for a little fireside chat like this, I was, er, elsewhere. You’ll all instantly recall that there was talk of swimming pools and wild boar. These days, it’s a little different. Having shaken the dust of Paris from my sandals, I did, I have to say, get a little festive with some pilots in the bar at Charles de Gaulle. After the sixth G&T (or seventh, I can’t quite recall) they rather sportingly invited me to go to Greenland with them. I almost agreed, then remembered that Thule Airport plus environs was either cold, unrelentingly rain-sodden or both, full of hairy cattle, smelly sheep and they didn’t have a duty free. So, two hours in the air brought me to Eastern Europe, where women don’t smile, and men have no neck. There will be more about this alien, savage place in the fullness, but, for now, I shall huddle a bit with my baby hippo – fortunately it doesn’t speak much – and try to remember where I hid the last bottle of Glenlivet.

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