I Ketchup With Food Blogger Jenny Lee to Talk Sauce

Since bringing my show about the the trials and tribulations of a boy who doesn't like tomato sauce to Perth, scores of brave souls have come forward to admit they too do not eat sauce. Admittedly, more people have come forward to ask, "You don't eat tomato sauce? What the hell is wrong with you?" The answer is plenty. But that's a side issue to my disdain for gross condiments. 

But I am not alone. Food blogger and adventurer Jenny Lee, has also felt the pain of growing up in Australia and not eating the national sauce. I caught up with Jenny to talk condiments. 

Thanks for joining me in this abandoned sauce factory. It’s a creepy setting, but I appreciate it.
I can’t believe you’re making me do this interview in an abandoned sauce factory, I’m scared.

What is your first memory of not liking tomato sauce? 
Probably in primary school, in prep, when I had my first class party and I was offered a party pie with a strange foul red substance on top. It was sour and clumpy and tasted like off-tomatoes.

Have you ever pretended to like sauce? 
Growing up in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, I had to spend most of my childhood pretending to like sauce. Meat-pies-and-sauce is the common food of AFL-loving bogan children. To fit in, I’d say yes to meat pies and sauce, though I really don’t like either of these foods. But what could I do? Survival was paramount at the time.

As a non-sauce eater, what are some of the difficulties you’ve faced?
Oh, god. Where do I begin? When you go out for dinner, the most common free condiment on the table is tomato sauce. If you ask for other condiments, expect some sort of extra charge. It’s almost like they discriminate against people who don’t like tomato sauce. It’s also difficult when you’re eating at a friend’s house. When you say you don’t like sauce, you feel a strong sense of guilt when your friend has go through their cupboards to find something else you can have with your sausage or other BBQ item. And then there’s the reactions you get from other people….everyone thinks you’re extremely strange and they ask what’s wrong with you. Nothing, really. I just don’t like tomato sauce.

Do you dislike any other condiments? 
I don’t like soy sauce unless it’s Japanese soy sauce in a little squeezy fish tube. The kind you get with your sushi. I hoard my little fish soy sauces so I can use them later instead of bottled soy sauce.

Do you prefer David Lee Roth era Van Halen or Sammy Hagar era Van Halen? 
….Who?

What was it like for you at sausage sizzles growing up? 
They were not fun…unless BBQ sauce was available. But when it wasn’t, you’d just have people gapping at your naked sausage and asking you again and again if you would like some sauce with that.

What advice do you have for youngsters who think sauce tastes like sugary, tomato shit? 
You can always say no. Don’t live a double life.

Anything else you’d like to add? Do you have a film or stage musical coming out that you’d like to plug? 
I actually have a food blog – The Hungry Traveller. It features all kinds of food and sauces, except tomato sauce.

Thanks for your time. No problems!

My Fringe World season of Simon Godfrey: Sauce finishes on the 20th of Feb. Come along and let's get saucy. BOOK NOW

 

And more of Jenny's thoughts on food and Melbourne can be read on The Hungry Traveller.

Mind the Gap, Please

First published The Melbourne Review, January 2014

Paul Keating often comments when lamenting Australia’s unwillingness to replace the monarchy that it’s not the behaviour of great States.

The same can be said of Melbourne’s reluctance to embrace a world-class rail network. This is not the behaviour of great cities.

Don’t get me wrong; Melbourne’s report card is not bad. The stadiums are top notch and its art scene gets a big tick, but a comprehensive rail network is a feature of every world-class city except the ‘most liveable’.

London, New York, Montreal, Washington and Paris all have one thing in common: You can get places if you a.) Don’t own a car, or b.) Have a car, but don’t want to be stuck in traffic watching your life be slowly whittled away.

Melbourne’s present train network resembles a bicycle wheel, with the City Loop at its centre and suburban lines feeding into it. The system is fine if your destination is the city and the city alone, or you find yourself in the 1950s and transit to work is your sole transportation concern.

It’s easier to lead an expedition to Mordor than it is to travel from the Northern Suburbs to the Western suburbs by public transport. Melbournians seems to prefer long, perilous journeys. No wonder there’s a Burke and Wills statue in the heart of the CBD.

Of the five City Loop stations, only three are underground. Opened in the early 80s, this first venture underground was like Melbourne’s ‘my first metro’. It’s cute and quaint, but the city has grown-up and big kids have proper subterranean rail systems.

Part of the problems is any proposed rail project, whether it’s a link to the airport, Doncaster, or the new Metro tunnel from the west, are proposed and promoted so feebly, whereas roads like the East West tunnel can apparently be knocked out as soon as they’re thought up. Melbourne trains must feel like the weedy kid at lunchtime that never gets picked first for sport.

If it’s a question of difficulty, we can look abroad for guidance. London’s Tube is efficient and user friendly. If we can borrow England’s monarch for our head of state, why not borrow their model for a successful train network?

New York’s subway system is not only a means of transportation, but also an attraction. Though it was decommissioned in 1945, City Hall Station is still used as a turning loop for the number 6 and tourists stay on the train while it turns just to see the station. New York’s subway is so successful; platforms that have been ghosts for sixty years still get visitors.

Why Melbourne is so hesitant to increase rail infrastructure is anyone’s guess. Metro’s inadequate services are universally complained about and anybody who has waited a maddening thirty minutes for a train, probably expecting a steam engine to roll in when it finally arrives, will tell you something needs to be done. 

Rail projects obviously cost money, as do roads, but rail’s benefits are numerous.

Decreasing car congestion is a major plus. I don’t know if you’ve heard, but cars emit dangerous gasses. It’s been in the news a bit; apparently the world is choking on carbon. Don’t worry; it’s easy to miss. Yet Melbourne continues indulging its freeway obsession. It stems from a concept of missing freeway links.

Victorian State Transport Minister Terry Mulder complained of the Eastern Freeway, ''There is a freeway that comes to an end; its bizarre.''

It’s a curious comment, as all freeways tend to end somewhere. Is Mr. Mulder’s vision for a never-ending freeway? Perhaps one around the globe, with feed ramps from every driveway? If you feel like a trip to Europe, just jump in your car and take the Melbourne to Geneva expressway.

But if we’re talking missing links, a Doncaster railway was first proposed in 1890 and so far has not come to fruition. Surely, that is unfinished business and the East West road tunnel can get in line.

Cities that take themselves seriously boast underground networks that not only take people from the suburbs to the city, but across the city, or places of cultural significance like a library, sporting ground, theatre district or park. They incorporate stops where you can easily transfer to another line and don’t have thirty-minute waiting times for trains.

We can keep patting ourselves on the back each time Melbourne is announced as the most liveable city or we can aspire to be a great city. The other option is to build the never-ending freeway. It’ll certainly put Melbourne on the world map, or at least help us very slowly traverse it.

 

I Ketchup With Virginia Mannering to Talk Sauce

Virginia contacted me by telegraph with a harrowing story to share. A fellow sauce disliker, Virginia's relationship to sauce deviates from other interviews in this series. Her story has anger, it has bakeries and it has Canberra. Many of you will be moved to tears. I met-up with Virginia at a truck depo and learned that even if you don't care for the taste of ketchup, it can be therapeutic.

Thanks for joining me in this stolen Master Foods Tomato Sauce truck. I know you’re not one to usually lend your name to acts of grand larceny, so I appreciate it.

Though I enjoy the novelty of it all, I believe I can already hear the traffic chopper circling. Hold on to your hats, kids, it’s going to be a bumpy ride…

What is your first memory of not liking tomato sauce?

Actually I think I used to be just ambivalent about it, but then when I stopped eating meat I realised the old ‘dead horse’ had no use in the vegetarian world. It’s like putting lipstick on a pig. No, wait… what does that mean? Does that even make sense

Have you ever pretended to like sauce?

Not really, but I kind of like partaking in sauce-related events. It’s really quite therapeutic to go into a bakery and squeeze those little saucy squeezy packs so it squeezes everywhere. I would definitely pay the 20c surcharge to do that.squeeze

As a non-sauce eater, what are some of the difficulties you’ve faced?

Personally, I don’t think it’s me who has the difficulty. Look at all the people in the world who cling to this condiment like it’s some kind of security blanket. Order a meal, and without even tasting it, the first thing they say is, “have you got some tomato sauce?”. Cut loose, people. Be free of the sauce that binds.

Do you dislike any other condiments?

Yes. All salad dressings, most type of gravy, relish, HP Sauce, BBQ sauce, mayonnaise, (and your mayonnaise sub-genres, dijonnaise, peri-naise etc) especially because it is difficult to spell.

Olivia Newton John and John Farnham are touring. Discuss.

Ummm… Why isn’t Anthony Warlow involved?

What was it like for you at sausage sizzles growing up?

Post-Saturday morning netball sausages sizzles were a fixture of my childhood. But I mixed memories of them. Bitterly cold Canberra mornings. Asphalt. Grazed knees. Jarred fingers. Lukewarm franks, soft, spongy buns, sticky vats of Black and Gold tomato sauce. Actually, I am still bitter about the time I had bought a sausage in a blanket and had not taken a single bite before our dictatorial head sports teacher said I had to stay longer and sub for another team. Before sending me off to play, she took my goddamned sausage away and fed it to her Labrador. I’d rather not discuss it any further.

What advice do you have for youngsters who think sauce tastes like sugary, tomato effluent?

Well while I am with them all the way regarding the non-liking of tomato sauce, I’d have to say, harden up you little whingers. Back in my day you had to like it or lump it. Now we’re all about talking about our “feelings” and wrapping people up in cotton wool. Jeez, Simon… Next question!

Anything else you’d like to add? Do you have a video art exhibition or album coming out that you’d like to plug?

I’m looking at selling or giving away my Ikea MALM drawers. Generally poor condition, a l’il wobbly, early 2000’s faux-birch finish. Would suit a bachelor pad or Airbnb.

Thanks for your time. Ignore those police sirens.

I’m outta here.

My Melbourne International Comedy Festival show Sauce opens March 26, 6pm at the Portland Hotel. Come check it out, you saucy bastards. And I'll post a link when Virginia puts up an ad on gumtree.com or ebay.

I Ketchup With Podcaster Paul Anthony Nelson to Talk Sauce

sauce vat

Another brave soul has come forward to work through their memories of growing up with a dislike of tomato sauce. I spoke with podcaster and film maker Paul Anthony Nelson, who co-hosts the film podcast Hell is For Hyphenates. It's a program I've never been asked to be a guest on, despite knowing everything about the each of the Carry On films. I guess bawdy English comedy will continue to be grossly underrepresented in the media. I caught-up with Paul and was given a butter soaked view of the 80s.

Thanks for joining me in this vat of tomato sauce. I appreciate you bringing your own wetsuit.

Best I could do at short notice. The Hazmat Suit’s at the dry cleaners.

What is your first memory of not liking tomato sauce?

Primary school sausage sizzles, I think? Or a perhaps the kind of idyllic, balmy, use-a-rubbish-bin-as-stumps-backyard-cricket Sunday barbeque that was de rigueur for Aussies in the ‘80s. The accusatory looks from relatives at my sauce-disgust burn deep, even today. It may have been the first time I realised I was different from the rest of my brood.

Have you ever pretended to like sauce?

I only like it on burgers, probably because it’s smothered by so many other factors. Otherwise, can’t say I did. My ruthless lack of tolerance for food of many kinds is famous in my family. I’d just refuse to eat them. As a kid, I practically stared at a toasted sandwich for two hours because it had ham in it. There’s a reason I’m not six-foot-seven today.

As a non-sauce eater, what are some of the difficulties you’ve faced?

People would get flabbergasted at my refusal. The phrase “Whaddya MEAN?” would come up, a lot. But, even more so, the outwardly-caring but actually-patronising “Are you SURE?” would get a run. For my entire childhood, right to late high-school. I mean, Great Caesar’s Ghost, it wasn’t like I’d asked for Spaghetti Bolognese minus Bolognese sauce, right? THERE IS A TASTY SAUSAGE IN THERE, YOU KNOW. And bread. I’ve always loved bread.

Do you dislike any other condiments?

Now, here is where my prejudice shows its true face. I’m really not a condiment guy. You can throw ‘em all off the Westgate Bridge. Same goes for dips. I recently acquired a taste for salsa, which is awesome, as it’s both a condiment AND a dip. What a wonder! But, yeah, get all that other crap off my nachos.

I’ve had this pain in my shoulder for a couple of days. Should I get it checked out?

I’m sure it’s fine. It’s probably cancer.

What was it like for you at sausage sizzles growing up?

Doubly fraught – because not only do I hate tomato sauce, I loathe loathe loathe butter or margarine spread onto untoasted bread. Plain white bread, slathered in sickly, spew-inducing butter? One valiant sizzled sausage couldn’t POSSIBLY soak all that up. So they’d screw me over there, too. I recall often craning my head to the side of the barbecue, searching for the loaf of still-unbuttered bread that would be my salvation. Woe be to the volunteers who’d butter hundreds of slices in advance. But if they didn’t – if I could slip away into the sun with my bread and sausage unfettered – now that would be a day.

What advice do you have for youngsters who think sauce tastes like sugary, tomato poop?

It gets better. It really does. (Life, not sauce. Sauce remains terrible.) There will come a day when people will just hand you a pie with an unpoured packet of sauce… and you can hurl that garbage into the bin it deserves. Sure, you’ll be wasting plastic packets and doing some kind of catastrophic harm to the environment, but every disposal will feel like a notch of self-esteem you’re winning back.

Anything else you’d like to add? Do you have a coffee table book or operetta coming out that you’d like to plug?

My friend Lee Zachariah and I host a monthly podcast about movies and filmmakers called HELL IS FOR HYPHENATES, which can be found at www.hellisforhyphenates.com, as well as on iTunes and Stitcher, and has nothing to do with tomato sauce. Except when some filmmakers used tomato sauce as blood. And even then, chocolate sauce is better, especially when your film’s black and white. Or corn syrup with red food dye. So tomato sauce is still a shit option.

Thanks for your time.

I’ll bill you. This sauce is seeping into my flippers.

My Melbourne International Comedy Festival show Sauce opens March 26, 6pm at the Portland Hotel. Come check it out, you saucy bastards.

And in the next Hell is for Hyphenates, Paul and Lee will be joined by Pollyanna McIntosh to discus her filmmaker of the month - Nicole Holofcener

I Ketchup With Food Blogger Jenny Lee to Talk Sauce

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Firstly, I know you groaned at that pun. I make no apologies. Ahrem. Since announcing via town crier and this very blog that my 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival show will be about the trials and tribulations of a small boy who dislikes tomato sauce, scores of brave souls have come forward to admit they don't like it either. One such person is food blogger and adventurer, Jenny Lee. I caught up with Jenny to talk condiments.

Thanks for joining me in this abandoned sauce factory. It’s a creepy setting, but I appreciate it. I can’t believe you’re making me do this interview in an abandoned sauce factory, I’m scared.

What is your first memory of not liking tomato sauce? Probably in primary school, in prep, when I had my first class party and I was offered a party pie with a strange foul red substance on top. It was sour and clumpy and tasted like off-tomatoes.

Have you ever pretended to like sauce? Growing up in the outer suburbs of Melbourne, I had to spend most of my childhood pretending to like sauce. Meat-pies-and-sauce is the common food of AFL-loving bogan children. To fit in, I’d say yes to meat pies and sauce, though I really don’t like either of these foods. But what could I do? Survival was paramount at the time.

As a non-sauce eater, what are some of the difficulties you’ve faced? Oh, god. Where do I begin? When you go out for dinner, the most common free condiment on the table is tomato sauce. If you ask for other condiments, expect some sort of extra charge. It’s almost like they discriminate against people who don’t like tomato sauce. It’s also difficult when you’re eating at a friend’s house. When you say you don’t like sauce, you feel a strong sense of guilt when your friend has go through their cupboards to find something else you can have with your sausage or other BBQ item. And then there’s the reactions you get from other people….everyone thinks you’re extremely strange and they ask what’s wrong with you. Nothing, really. I just don’t like tomato sauce.

Do you dislike any other condiments? I don’t like soy sauce unless it’s Japanese soy sauce in a little squeezy fish tube. The kind you get with your sushi. I hoard my little fish soy sauces so I can use them later instead of bottled soy sauce.

Do you prefer David Lee Roth era Van Halen or Sammy Hagar era Van Halen? ….Who?

What was it like for you at sausage sizzles growing up? They were not fun…unless BBQ sauce was available. But when it wasn’t, you’d just have people gapping at your naked sausage and asking you again and again if you would like some sauce with that.

What advice do you have for youngsters who think sauce tastes like sugary, tomato shit? You can always say no. Don’t live a double life.

Anything else you’d like to add? Do you have a film or stage musical coming out that you’d like to plug? I actually have a food blog – The Hungry Traveller. It features all kinds of food and sauces, except tomato sauce.

Thanks for your time. No problems!

My Melbourne International Comedy Festival show Sauce opens March 26, come check it out, you saucy bastards.

And more of Jenny's thoughts on food and Melbourne can be read on The Hungry Traveller.

Folklore & Order - The Ghost Brigade Pt 10

rowers

Race day arrived. Pip had dubbed the event College Race II: The Race-en-ing. Time to Go Kayak to the Future. The rest of the town called it by its official title The Rowing Race Replay. Clifton took his seat on the VIP barge next to the Mayor, who sat closest to the lectern. Clifton had bought a new outfit, but decided to stick with his worn-out black jeans and a over-sized t-shirt on principle. Pip sat to Clifton's left wearing her full old timey diving suit. "Why are you wearing that?" asked Clifton.

"Sorry," said Pip, "I can't hear you through the helmet!"

Brigitte and Aldous were racing for the Red Team. Brigitte warmed-up by performing vocal exercises, while Aldous prepared by flattening the brim of his new boater. The crowd settled into their seats. The student rowers readied themselves.

The Mayor, chewing on a rolled-up Picasso, made her way to the lectern. "Welcome to the Xavier Brandon Rowing Race Replay!" cried the Mayor to rapturous applause. "It's good to see so many of your on this glorious, sunny day. Before official proceedings get underway, I'd like extend a welcome to my special guests Clifton and Pip Rogers."

Clifton waved, but nobody clapped. "He went to Destitute High," whispered the Mayor into the microphone in a fashion completely lacking subtlety.

The crowd collectively oh-ed and called out patronising things like, good on you and very clever and look at you up on a barge! Clifton grumbled.

"And now, please welcome to the stage Li Huang, who will tell the story of the events that made today's race possible in a speech called The Hope of Togethership."

"I don't think that's a word," mumbled Clifton.

"What?" shouted Pip.

Mayor Birch sat and tucked into a bag of diamonds. Li took to the lectern. "Mayor Birch, the people next to her, fellow students, townspeople and friends," she began. "Facing one's demons is never easy, especially when you, as an exceptionally capable member of the community, must carry extra weight. But myself, Brigitte and brave Aldous did exactly that, utilising our calmness of spirit, our sense of duty and"--she over emphasised--"our togethership. Our less fortunate friends to my left were wrought with terror."

"Hey!" said Clifton.

"As we rowed down river, into unknown territory, it became evident they were dead weight. But as spectres appeared all around us and we of Brandon College fearlessly faced the haunting apparitions, I realised that we should not judge dear Clifton and Pip. They, unlike us, did not have the same educational opportunities, the same supportive upbringing and the same access to fine clothing. So, I did what anyone in my position would"--she paused reflectively--"and should do. I extended a hand and said, 'Come, there's plenty of room for you on our together-ship.'"

Clifton held his face in his hands. The lectern creaked and Clifton shot it a hopeful look. "Break," he whispered, "come on, break!"

The Mayor chewed away on her diamonds blissfully engrossed in Li's speech.

"We were facing spirits," continued Li, "but our spirits never wavered. When it was safe, we hid Clifton and Pip on the riverbank away from danger."

The lectern creaked again, this time louder than before.

"Break," urged Clifton.

"And we faced the ghosts that had ended our beloved race. As they floated before us, I realised that a true victory did not lie in lowering ourselves to their level and fighting with gun and cannon. We fought the ghosts with what we must fight every one of life's battles: understanding."

"For the love of God, break!"

"Thank you and I hope our story, nay, our journey will serve as an inspiration for future generations," said Li. "And Clifton and Pip, the gangplank to my together ship will always be there for you. Thank you and have a great race!"

The crowd roared and Li stepped down from the lectern to be presented with flowers by Mayor Birch. "Pip!" exclaimed Clifton. "The lectern was meant to collapse so Li would fall forward and knock the diamonds out of Birch's hands!"

"What?" shouted Pip. "Lurching sands? I'm sorry, I don't know anything about beach erosion!"

Mayor Birch rang a bell and the rowers climbed into the boats and took their positions. The crowd cheered wildly.

Up stream Clifton noticed a dull, phosphorescent glow. He felt a deep sinking feeling, which was, admittedly, in part due to the the Mayor's robes weighing down the barge as she waddled back to her seat.

Brigitte stood-up in her boat and the crowd fell silent. She calmed herself and then performed a thundering rendition of the school's song, providing her own percussion by playing the spoons. “Qui Lono et un Cliftonus,” she sang.

Storm clouds darkened the sky and it was as though night had suddenly fallen.

"I hope the mosquitoes don't think it's dusk," said Pip.

A sweater tied around our shoulders

Protects our necks from the wind of our helicopter’s blades

We are born to rule!

Or live an idle life by the pool. Ah! Ah! Help! Ah!

The crowd applauded enthusiastically as lightning cracked across the sky. The rowers were poised awaiting the starting gun. Mayor Birch looked with concern at the sky and raised a questioning eyebrow at Clifton. He shrugged.

The starter pointed their gun skyward. The water glowed yellow-green and bubbled. Clifton swallowed hard and looked for a discreet exit. The crowd began to notice the glowing water and they murmured worriedly.

Before the starter could fire, there was a large crack and the lectern finally gave way. It spectacularly collapsed and fell across the air hose that was attached to Pip's diving helmet. Pip gasped for air. In a panic, she leaped from her chair and flailed her limbs wildly. Pip desperately pulled at the air house, but the wood was too heavy. Why did I use redwood? she thought. Pip dropped the hose and tried to reach her helmet with a dramatic upward swipe. Her arm knocked the diamonds out of Mayor Birch's hands. They flew from the barge and disappeared into the water.

"No!" cried Mayor Birch, who fell to her knees in a last ditch effort to catch the diamonds.

Clifton seized the opportunity and quickly yanked the ornate, mayoral chain from around her neck. He threw it in the river, but as he did so, the Mayor pulled a Faberge egg from her pocket and brought it to her mouth. Clifton grabbed the Mayor's arm and pulled it away from her jaws. The crowd had turned its attention to the commotion on the barge and gasped. Mayor Birch mustered her strength and brought the egg back toward her. Pip finally managed to remove the helmet. She took in a huge gulp of air and flung her helmet away. It hit the Mayor in the back and the egg flew from her clutches and into the river.

The Mayor screamed and dust exploded from her face and hands. "You!" she said, pointing at Clifton. "Give me gold, silver, rubies, Ming vases, rare comics, anything!"

Birch's hair greyed rapidly. Her skin aged, wrinkled and thinned, then it fell away until she was nothing but a skeleton. Her bones collapsed under the weight of her robes, leaving her decomposed head atop a pile of mayoral garb.

The river stopped bubbling and the glow dissipated. Pip surveyed the Mayor's remains. "Gives new meaning to rowing sculls, doesn't it?"

The crowd groaned.

"Thanks," said Pip, waving to the crowd and pretending to hold a microphone. "I'm here all week!"

Clifton fell to the floor in relief. "Good work," said Clifton.

"Thanks," said Pip.

Clifton shot to his feet. "Mayor Birch was a fraud," he announced.

"Hey dudes," cried Aldous, "can we row yet, or what?"

"Yes, sorry." shouted Clifton. "Go for it."

The starter held their finger on the trigger.

"Ready?" cried the starter.

The water bubbled again, with great intensity. The river and the surrounding vegetation glowed. The cannon emerged from the river and the Lieutenant shot out of the water laughing manically. "Fire!" she cried.

Soldiers materialised on the shore and the cannon fired at the boats, shattering them. The students dived into the water.

"Did we just kill the Mayor for no reason?" asked Pip.

"I don't know," said Clifton. "Run!"

TO BE CONTINUED…

Next instalment of Clifton and Pip’s folkloric adventures will be next Saturday. 

If anyone has any thoughts on the story, or jewel encrusted snack recipes, comment away!

Read previous Folklore & Order tales

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This story is also on Wattpad

Folklore & Order - The Ghost Brigade Pt 9

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"Thank you," said Clifton and he and Pip raced down the stairs. The receptionist studied the photo. "And the framing: superb!" he said to himself.

Clifton and Pip burst out of Town Hall's front doors and down the steps. Clifton looked for a private place where they could talk. The museum was next door and always empty, but closed because the Historical Society was bumping-in a new exhibition. It seemed to Clifton that the museum was always closed and their opening hours appeared to be whenever someone could be bothered. Millicent’s Tavern was down the road, but he knew Pip would order a black wine spritzer and the drink took fifteen minutes to make. Not only did the Guinness need time to settle, but it often explosively reacted with the other ingredients. Giving up he blurted out, "Did you see the photo?"

"Yes, it was like a real life Instagram," said Pip.

"It was a print; an actual photo."

"Oh! How quaint," said Pip.

Two stories up, the Mayor could be seen through the window to her office. Clifton could vaguely see that Mayor Birch was drinking an emerald milkshake.

"It was of the Mayor! She's a hundred and fifty years old."

"I thought it was a relation, like we saw in that episode of I Love Lucy?"

"That wasn't an episode of I Love Lucy and it wasn't a relation. It was the current Mayor. Mayor Birch is wearing so many mayoral robes because each time a new term starts, she throws on another one."

"But how does she stay alive and youthful?" asked Pip. "Oil of Olay? Snake oil? Snake Oil of Olay?"

"No. The same way Brother Milkwood manages. It started to become clear to me during the vision we saw."

"The episode of I Love Lucy?"

"Fine, the ghostly flashback, slash, 50s sitcom we witnessed. At the race, the food stalls on the Brandon College side were selling dishes of diamonds and foie gras. But on the the Military Academy side--"

"Delicious offal! God, I'm hungry."

"Brother Milkwood treats himself to luxury items every day. The finer things in life are keeping them alive!"

"Yes," said Pip "and the trophy room at the Academy was the only part of the building that wasn't falling down."

"When the Lieutenant was screaming, 'Where's our gold?' she wasn't just talking about a cup. The rich in the town were hogging the wealth to expand their life expectancy. And..." Clifton trailed off in thought.

"And what?"

"The statue kept calling me lower class. What if the quotation marks on the Xavier Brandon 'Military Academy' sign weren't incorrectly used for emphasis? They were for irony."

"Irony? Oo, big fancy university student word," said Pip.

"You have three PhDs!" snapped Clifton. "The Academy was a school where poor kids were sent to be straightened out and disciplined. The rebellion was an uprising of the poor!"

A passing street food vendor, wheeling a cart, stopped in front of Town Hall's steps.

"Offal! Get your offal!" said the vendor.

"We'll have three bags!" said Pip.

"No, we won't," said Clifton. "Are you even allowed to sell that?"

The vendor shrugged and continued on their way.

Clifton noticed Mayor Birch plodding toward the window.

"Come on, I'll buy you a black wine spritzer," said Clifton.

The pair settled into a table at Millicent's Tavern. Clifton gulped at a pint of Seagull Beak Ale, a local and popular beer. Most assumed the brew didn't actually contain seagull's beaks, but no one really knew. Their loyal fan base either didn't want to believe or were too afraid to ask, despite many drinkers dying of what doctors described as "beak poisoning". Pip had decided against a black wine spritzer and opted for a hemlock Martini.

"You know, those are bad for you," warned Clifton.

"Pfft, there's hardly any hemlock in it," said Pip, shaking as she brought the glass to her mouth.

An ember from one of the Tavern's seven fireplaces jumped from a burning log and landed in Pip's drink. The Martini burst in to flames and Pip solemnly put it down.

"Why did the ghosts appear this year?" asked Pip.

"I don't know, but I think if we expose the Mayor, it'll be the last time they do."

"Clifton, Pip," said Mayor Birch, who had snuck-up behind them. "I thought I saw you rushing in here."

Clifton swallowed hard and nearly choked on a beak fragment.

"Mayor Birch. Can we offer you a Martini? Or a pint of opium?" said Clifton.

"No. Thank you," said Mayor Birch, biting into a binder of rare stamps. "I wanted to catch you, while you're still in town, to invite you to be my special guest at the race."

"Love to," said Clifton.

"Excellent! It's going to be quite the event. Li will be giving a stirring account of your harrowing journey to the Academy."

"But she left her lectern on their boat," said Clifton. "Pip could build her a new one?"

"Yes!" said Pip. "I've been experimenting with--"

"Safe and stable building practices," interrupted Clifton.

"Sounds splendid," said Mayor Birch. "I will see you both there. Oh and Clifton, try to wear something, eh, not terrible."

"Of course," seethed Clifton.

The Mayor turned sharply and the girth of her robes tipped over several glasses and knocked a painting off the wall.

When Mayor Birch was out of sight, Clifton leaned forward. "I have a plan," he whispered.

"Me too," said Pip, unrolling a set of blueprints.

"I have a useful plan," said Clifton.

"Oh," said Pip and she tossed the blueprints into the fireplace.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Next installment of Clifton and Pip’s folkloric adventures will be next Saturday. 

If anyone has any thoughts on the story, or jewel encrusted snack recipes, comment away!

Read previous Folklore & Order tales

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Look out for @SimonGodfrey on twitter

This story is also on Wattpad

Another Saucy Update

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heinz_ketchup_2To be fair, the ad to the left isn't lying: no one grows ketchup like Heinz. It's largely due to the fact you can't grow ketchup, but technically they're not being dishonest. Perhaps they do grow ketchup? For all I know there could be fields of Heinz trees growing sauce bottles, sachets and tins of baked beans. There have been huge advancements in genetically modified crops and one day we'll possibly be able to grow mustard, mayonnaise or small bowls of olive oil with balsamic vinegar at the bottom. Since posting about my Melbourne International Comedy Festival show Sauce, many brave souls have come forward to declare they too don't like tomato sauce. The show is progressing well. Last week I performed a read-through for my director. I was encouraged because, unlike the first reading of last year's show The Earth is Flat, the show wasn't twelve hours long. You always want more material than you need so you can cut, but I found having so much last time was a hindrance. I was a bit too tangential and found myself having to ask absurd questions like, "Does the Old Prospector really need an offsider who is a disgruntled microwave?" Maybe they can have their own spin-off show? So, while Sauce has a few holes to fix, some impressions to work on and some jokes to improve, it's in good shape and there's more fun to be had. Reading out loud is immensely helpful. When you hear yourself, every line or plot development whose quality you'd questioned becomes clear and your reactions range from oo, I like that to what the hell was I thinking? That's the last time anyone hears that gag, if you could even call it that. Hmm, I'm liking the idea of a sitcom starring an old prospector and an angry microwave. I'm going to go launch a Pozible campaign... Sauce at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival is on sale! Gobble-up your tix here! 26th of March - 5th April

Folklore & Order - The Ghost Brigade Pt 8

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Clifton and Pip hurried out of the Military Academy. "What did you make of that?" asked Clifton. "It left me wanting to play charades. What am I now?" said Pip, striking-up a mime.

"An idiot in four fifths of a diving suit?"

Pip laughed normally, Clifton noted.

"What's your plan?" asked Pip. "Do we give them a gold cup?"

Clifton thought for a moment. "I don't know. I have no idea," he said, despondently. Let's go see the Mayor and we'll take it from there."

Clifton attempted to step forward, but felt something gripping his ankle. With all his strength, Clifton struggled to kick free, but whatever was clamping his ankle was too strong.

"Clifton!" exclaimed Pip.

Clifton fell and gazed back at the horror clutching his leg. With a large, outstretched arm, the overturned statue of Xavier Brandon squeezed his leg.

"Miscreants!" cried the statue. "Dirty, filthy wretches!"

The statue's legs were crumbled from the knee down and its free arm was chipped, cracked and immobile.

"Let me go!" Clifton shouted.

"Ok," said the statue. "No! Wait! I'm not doing that!"

Clifton pulled back and managed to drag the statue a few inches. The torso of the statue slightly crumbled.

"Stop that!" ordered the statue. "I know your type; you should be marching. We'll soon sort you out. Look at you, with your ragged clothes. Not like her; she's clearly educated. I can tell she's from better stock."

"Pip is my sister," said Clifton.

"Extra-marital birth, were you? Typical of the lower classes."

Clifton shuffled backward again, dragging the statue. Pieces of its sides fell away and the statue's ear split off completely.

"Oh, wonderful," said the statue. "you'll have to speak-up now."

"Stand clear, Clifton," cried Pip.

Pip launched at the statue with her power saw. The blade struck just above the ghostly sculpture's elbow. It ground to a halt, lodged in the stone. The statue of Xavier Brandon clasped Clifton's ankle tighter and Clifton writhed in pain.

"Pip, do something!"

Pip desperately pulled at the power saw, but could not pry it free.

"Discipline is what you need, you beggarly urchin!" the statue bellowed, squeezing tighter and tighter.

"Pip!"

With a final heave, Pip prised the saw from the statue like King Arthur drawing Excalibur from the stone. She held it aloft triumphantly. The blade spun back to life and then suddenly the frog Pip had seen earlier hopped onto the statue's back. With a pained cry, the statue crumbled into dust under the frog's weight.

"No!" moaned the statue.

"Nice work," said Clifton.

"He's right, you know?" said Pip. "You do look like an urchin."

"Let's find the bath. I've had enough of this place."

The following morning Clifton and Pip arrived at Town Hall and wearily climbed the stairs to reception. They had stayed up the entire night debating a plan of attack. Taking a leaf out of Li's book, Pip had built a lectern to stand behind while she argued. She had also, unfortunately, mimicked Li's debate style and the pair had argued in circles all night. Clifton felt a piece of the puzzle was missing and pushed for an approach that gave them more time. Pip, on the other hand, kept making meaningless points such as the future lies beyond the future and together we can forge a new era of togetherness, if we forge from our inner forge of together. The debate ended abruptly when Pip's shonkily constructed lectern collapsed on her. With Pip on her back under a pile of Masonite and realising it was 11:30 am, Clifton decided to ignore Pip and act unilaterally.

Clifton groggily leaned on the receptionist's desk.

"Hi," said Clifton.

"Hi? Oh yes, hi! Hello. Howdy. Greetings. All acceptable salutations," said the receptionist. "Now, it's--"

"Clifton."

"Yes, that's right. Great name."

"And this is my sister, Pip."

"Pip, less taken with that."

"Nice to meet you," said Pip, not realising she had a piece of pressure molded wood stuck to her back.

"How did you go? Can we stage the race again?" asked the receptionist.

"Not yet," said Clifton. "Not until we can guarantee the event can be held safely."

"Oh," said the receptionist.

There was an awkward silence. The receptionist grinned at Clifton, expecting him to continue the chitchat.

"So," said Clifton after a time, "we're here to see the Mayor."

"Of course!" said the receptionist. "Sorry, just to clarify, did you want to see a photo of the Mayor or were you planning to see her in person."

Clifton sighed. "In person, please."

"Shame," said the receptionist. "It's a really splendid photo, this one. It's of the Mayor at a ribbon cutting. It's quite simple but the exposure is perfect."

The receptionist pulled the photo from under his desk and held it in front of Clifton. "It really captures something, doesn't it?" he said.

Clifton's eyes widened. The photo was of Mayor Birch, but it was old and decayed. Clifton guessed it must have been at least a hundred years old. The sepia toned picture showed Mayor Birch opening the town's railway station. She was wearing less mayoral robes, but more than one. In the background was a steam locomotive.

"Oh my God," said Clifton.

"I think next time I'll use nails and glue instead of play dough," said Pip.

"Should I let the Mayor know you're here?" asked the receptionist.

"No," said Clifton with urgency. "We'll come back another time."

Before they could rush away, the door swung open and Mayor Birch strode out.

"Clifton!" she said. "Good to see you. I was getting worried."

Mayor Birch turned to Pip. "You have a piece of wood stuck to your back."

"I know," lied Pip.

"What news do you have for me?" asked the Mayor. "Can we rerun the race?"

"Yes," said Clifton, with over eagerness. "All good. Tell the students to ready their oars. You can race whenever you like."

Pip was surprised by Clifton's sudden change of mind, but was distracted planning how she could lean backward in a way that would seamlessly drop the Masonite into the bin behind her.

"Excellent!" exclaimed the Mayor. "And the soldiers won't attack?"

"No, it's all sorted."

"That is great news! What did you do? You found the Academy?"

"Oh, it's just boring ghost stuff. It was all pretty easy and I didn't have to destroy any piers this time."

The Mayor laughed heartily. Pip also laughed with gusto in an attempt to mask the sound of the wood dropping into the bin.

"Good work!" said the Mayor. "We will hold the race this Saturday! On behalf of the town, thank you."

The Mayor turned abruptly and returned to her office.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Next installment of Clifton and Pip’s folkloric adventures will be next Saturday. 

If anyone has any thoughts on the story, or rowing tips, comment away!

Read previous Folklore & Order tales

Subscribe to my author newsletter

Look out for @SimonGodfrey on twitter

This story is also on Wattpad

Folklore & Order - The Ghost Brigade Pt 7

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READ PREVIOUS INSTALLMENT 

The Ghost Brigade Part 7

“Pip, look at this!” said Clifton.

Pip ran over to the statue. “Woh,” she said. “And look at this!”

“That’s a frog,” said Clifton.

“I know; I love nature.”

Clifton led the pair to the school’s entrance. Behind them, the statues glowed. He pushed the doors open and they moved into a grand entry hall, untouched by the decay that had claimed the rest of the building. Pristine, golden first place cups stood on thin columns throughout the room. Trophy cabinets lined the walls, filled with medals, awards and pendents. At first, Clifton assumed they were military prizes, but each award was a rowing trophy; except one, which was a prize for "Thinnest Trophy Column."

At the rear of the hall stood a dusty, cobwebbed door. Cautiously, Clifton and Pip edged their way through the trophy plinths. Pip knocked over ever single one, including ones she didn't even touch.

"Keep your elbows in," scolded Clifton.

"It's not my fault they didn't leave enough egress! This place is a fire safety nightmare."

They reached the door. Pip readied her power saw, but Clifton insisted she use the handle. Pip slowly clasped the doorknob and the door crumbled to the floor. Pip pointed the doorknob at Clifton. "I'd offer you this if you had a door," she said.

With a wide step over the rubble, they entered the room. It was lit by the glow of a group of soldiers who sat in a semi-circle playing a game of charades.

“I got it! I got it! It’s the table of contents of our second year, third edition mathematics text book,” said a soldier.

“You got it,” said the miming soldier.

The ghosts groaned. “We’ve already had that one,” complained a soldier.

"If we'd completed our studies, we'd know more stuff to mime about," said another.

“That's a very specific and detailed charade. Can we play?” Clifton called out.

The soldiers turned to face Clifton. They glowed angrily and prepared their muskets. Two artillerymen wheeled in a cannon and aimed it at Clifton and Pip. The cannon fired and smoke enveloped them.

“We have been playing charades for one hundred and fifty years,” echoed the voice of the Lieutenant who’d haunted the boat race. “Do you know how difficult it is to find new things to mime after that length of time?”

The smoke cleared and Clifton and Pip found themselves outside the building. The world around them was monochrome. The statues were upstanding and the building returned to its former glory. Students of the Military Academy marched on the parade grounds, while others rushed to class. A rowing team, carrying a boat on their shoulders ran past Clifton and Pip.

The scene disintegrated and the pair found themselves behind Town Hall. Two shadowy figures argued in the dark. "We can't be running out. Find more!" one said.

Lightning crashed and Clifton and Pip shielded their eyes from the flashing light. They opened their eyes and were suddenly in an episode of I Love Lucy, but it was probably just interference from the people in the town who still watched black and white television.

Lucy and Ricky Ricardo disappeared and Clifton and Pip found themselves at the Brandon College Rowing Spectacular one hundred and fifty years ago. The scene remained monochrome briefly, then slowly the colour red became visible. It was a festive atmosphere, with music filling the air and concession stands lining the riverbank. Over the band stand hung a large banner reading: The Brandon College vs Brandon "Military Academy" Boat Race!

"I hate when people use inverted commas for emphasis!" complained Pip.

Pip was so annoyed by the incorrect use of inverted commas that she had written an angry email to her local "fish" & chippery every day for the last four years. She was yet to receive a reply owing largely to the fact the business had closed down three years ago.

On one side of the river sat the parents and families of the Brandon College students. They were immaculately dressed and proudly waved pointy, triangular, red flags. On the other side of the river were the parents and families of the Military Academy's students. Clifton noted the difference between the two camps. The families of the Military Academy students were more modestly dressed and they stood, whereas the Brandon College supporters sat in a purpose built grandstand. The concession stands were different as well. The vendors on the Brandon College side sold foie gras and salted gemstones; the vendors on the Military Academy side sold salted offal.

"Do you think we could have some offal?" asked Pip.

"This is just a vision," said Clifton, " and we don't have any pre-decimal currency."

"I eat too much salt anyway," said Pip.

The Mayor readied a starting pistol. She looked exactly like the current Mayor, but wore only one robe instead of an obscene and cumbersome amount of mayoral attire.

"Do you think they're related?" asked Pip.

"It'd make sense; no one achieves anything through merit in this town."

"Two semesters at university and all of a sudden you're an anti-plutocrat," said Pip.

The Mayor fired the starting gun and the boat race cross-faded to a podium. The victorious Military Academy team waved to the crowd. The Mayor, clearly not happy with the result, begrudgingly gestured for the team's coach to accept the trophy.

The Lieutenant made her way through the crowd and onto the podium.

"Ok, on behalf of the city, blah blah, I present the Rowing Spectacular Trophy to Helen Doyle, the Military Academy's Physical Education Master and rowing coach, whose team won again. Clap, clap. Here's your damn trophy," said the Mayor.

Into Helen's hands, the Mayor shoved a sickly looking, wooden trophy that appeared as though it'd been carved out of a rotting tree stump.

"Where's our gold cup? We won; where's our gold trophy?!" said Helen, angrily.

"i don't know," said the Mayor. "Cut backs. You understand?"

"No! That is it! Students, take-up arms! We shall take our gold!"

Muskets glinted in the sun and a volley of fire blasted overhead. Gun smoke clouded Clifton and Pip.

"Where's our gold?" Helen shouted.

The smoke cleared and colour returned. The vision had ended and Clifton and Pip were back in the room behind the Military Academy's trophy hall. But through the remaining wafts of smoke Helen's ghost cried, "Where was our gold?"

The ghost screamed a haunting shriek and disappeared.

"Woh," said Pip, "I hope Ricky doesn't find out that Lucy has agreed to do a commercial for a medicine with an unlikely name behind his back!"

"Let's get back to town," ignored Clifton.

TO BE CONTINUED…

The plot thickens again... Dah-dum-dah! Next installment of Clifton and Pip’s folkloric adventures will be next Saturday. 

If anyone has any thoughts on the story, or rowing tips, comment away!

Read previous Folklore & Order tales

Subscribe to my author newsletter

Look out for @SimonGodfrey on twitter

This story is also on Wattpad

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Folklore & Order - The Ghost Brigade Pt 6

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“It feels like we've been rowing for hours,” complained Pip. Clifton shot back at her with a few points about the nature of time, but Pip was unamused. The argument engrossed the pair so much that neither noticed the dinghy had sank and they were standing waist deep in water.

“Pointing a torch at a pendulum, does not make time travel at the speed of light,” concluded Clifton as he paddled obliviously.

“Clifton,” said Pip, “where’s our boat?”

Rusted scraps of metal floated around them. "Ah, crap-it." said Clifton.

“Are you putting up a fence in the water?” said an elderly, high pitched voice.

Clifton threw away the fence pale. In a tree branch jutting out over the river sat a plump, old man in a dark brown robe.

“Who are you?” asked Pip.d6dccad6a96a4325808201da20316199

“I am Brother Milkwood.”

“You must be over three hundred years old?” said Pip, madly pushing the buttons of an adding machine.

“Yes, I suppose so,” said Brother Milkwood.

“How have you managed to live for three centuries?” Clifton skeptically asked.

“The love of God,” said Brother Milkwood, cheerily. “Plus, every day I have an ounce of tobacco and a pint of opium.”

“I am a student of inverse canoeing,” said Clifton.

“How do you find it?” asked Brother Milkwood.

“Terrible.”

Brother Milkwood laughed and downed a pint of opium. “It sold a lot of paddles,” he admitted.

“We are in need of a boat,” said Clifton.

“I have one for you, my son.”

“We can’t pay you,” said Pip, mashing the adding machine violently.

“When I became a monk, I took a vow of poverty. The boat is a gift.”

Clifton studied Brother Milkwood’s robes. They were pure silk with a golden trim. A large, ornate crucifix hung from his neck and he wore several ruby rings.

“Vow of poverty?” said Clifton.

“These jewels and fineries are not for me. When representing the church, one must adequately display the glory of God. My vow of poverty is of a personal nature and very dear to me, as is my vow of chastity and my vow of silence.”

“You’re talking now,” said Clifton.

“I’m on a tea break.”

“U-huh. Where’s your tea?”

“In West Africa; I own a small plantation in Nigeria.”

“How does that fit with your vow of poverty?”

“Oh very well, my workers are quite impoverished.”

Pip broke the adding machine.

“Can we have the boat now?” asked Clifton.

“Why, of course!”

Brother Milkwood tugged on a vine and a bathtub slid from the tree and splashed into the water. Clifton and Pip climbed in.

“Farewell!” cried Brother Milkwood, tossing them each a paddle. “Forget your inverse canoe training!”

Clifton and Pip paddled into the distance. “I hope they bring me back some jewels,” Brother Milkwood whispered to himself.

From under his robe, Brother Milkwood pulled a small grandfather clock and a flashlight. He pointed the torch at the pendulum. “Now, to ensure my immortality. Thank you, science!” he said.

Clifton and Pip powered downstream. They plunged through a thick cloud of smoke.

“It’s gun smoke,” coughed Clifton.

Pip savoured the aroma. “It’s so pleasant,” she said. “I wonder if there are air fresheners with that scent?”

They broke through the cloud and immediately stopped paddling. Surrounded by mud and muck stood the Military Academy. The building had been ravaged by time, weather and Brother Milkwood breaking his vow of chastity. The windows were broken, most of the roofing was missing and rats nested throughout the building. Cannons and statues of Academy alumni lay overturned, covered in moss. It was one of the most run down, dilapidated buildings Clifton had ever seen, but was still in better condition than his old high school.

“Lucky bastards,” Clifton muttered to himself.

Clifton and Pip climbed out of the bathtub and trudged to the front courtyard of the school. Clifton leaned down and wiped the grime from a plaque on the largest of the statues. It bore the name Xavier Brandon, founder of Brandon College.

TO BE CONTINUED…

The plot thickens... Dah-dum-dah! Next installment of Clifton and Pip’s folkloric adventures will be on Jan 17th, after a week break. 

If anyone has any thoughts on the story, or rowing tips, comment away!

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Folklore & Order - The Ghost Brigade Pt 5

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Cannon_Fotor“Duck!” cried Clifton. A strong breeze had blown a page of the local paper in his face containing the opinion piece his rubber duck had written about him. He couldn’t understand most of it, but there were enough uppercase QUACKs for him to know the article was scathing. Clifton spied the cannon.“Get your head down, Li!” cried Clifton. “No, keep going! I want to know what the future of tomorrow’s future will be,” said Pip. The cannon fired and the ball flew past Li, knocking Aldous’ boater off his head. Ghostly troops appeared on either side of the river. On one side were the soldiers who stopped the boat race, on the other were a strange militia in red robes. The militia’s opacity faded in and out, but their robes remained solid. The two forces raised their guns and fired. Clifton and Pip dived to the bottom of their dinghy and the students screamed. The water’s glow dissipated and the troops disappeared. Li threw her lectern into the water. “The hell with this!” she yelled. “I hate public service!” Li dived into the water and swam ferociously back to town. “Li! Come back!” called Pip. “Can I read the rest of your speech online?” “Li,” said Clifton, “can I have your oars?” “Oh no… Li, come back, blah-blah,” said Aldous, pretending to care as he restrung the old wooden tennis racket he carried with him. Brigitte was shivering in terror, but took a deep breath and repressed it with the rest of her emotions. “I guess I’m school captain now,” she said, “and vice captain and a member of the SRC.” “That sounds like a big conflict of interest,” said Pip, checking the twelve volumes of law books she’d brought with her. “Let’s move out, people,” said Clifton, grimacing as he realised he sounded like a character in an action movie. “So lame,” muttered Aldous. They paddled on. Brigitte was having trouble containing her fright and began humming nervously. “Aldous,” she said, “are you rowing?” “Dunno. Probably,” he replied. Brigitte hummed again, this time slightly louder. “Shall I sing the school song to keep our spirits up?” Brigitte suggested. Pip excitedly readied her mandolin. “A cappella,” Brigitte insisted. Pip disappointedly threw her mandolin overboard. “Qui Lono et un Cliftonus,” sang Brigitte. Clifton rolled his eyes. “A sweater tied around our shoulders,” Brigitte continued. There was a blood curdling scream from behind the reeds. It was so curdling, it turned Aldous’ chocolate milk sour. Brigitte sang louder. “Protects our necks from the wind of our helicopter’s blades.” There was another scream and a pained voice cried, “Please, no more cutting!” A torn sleeve flew out from the reeds and landed on Brigitte’s head. She let out a half-scream, but contained it by continuing the song even louder. “We are born to rule!” The wind blew the reeds over until they were lying flat. Behind them surgeons sawed at the bodies of wailing, wounded soldiers. “Stop! Those are new trousers! Don’t cut them open,” pleaded a soldier. “Unpick the stitches! Don’t slice my new uniform, I only got it yesterday,” cried the ghost of a young private. “I don’t care about my leg, those boots are imported leather, you bastard!” shouted another. “It’s so horrible,” said Pip. “As soon as I get home, I’m going to hug my tailor. What do we do?” “Don’t worry, it’ll pass,” assured Clifton. Brigitte, now shaking so violently that she was rocking the boat and turning Aldous’ sour milk into a milkshake, sang even louder. “Or live an idle life by the pool. Ah! Ah! Help! Ah!” Brigitte’s sudden cry for help was actually part of the school’s song and not related to the haunting scenario playing out in front of her. The song’s author had written the final verse as he was travelling in a light aircraft that crashed into a mountain. The surgeons and their patients faded into the swamp. There was a moment of calm. The leaves of the trees rustled gently in the breeze. “Another verse?” offered Brigitte. “Any requests?” The breeze quickly became a gale and as though carried by a tornado, shreds of fabric flew in the faces of Brigitte, Aldous, Clifton and Pip. They swatted at the fabric like they were shooing insects. The cloth whipped their bodies with increasing intensity and then vanished without a trace. Brigitte snapped. “That’s it!” she cried. “I hate the school song! Someone died writing it and I’m not dying singing it!” Brigitte dove off the boat, but misjudged the dive and landed face first into Clifton’s dingy. She picked herself up and launched off the dinghy, but landed on a log. Groggily, Brigitte stood and leapt from the log but face-planted onto an iceberg. “Ok, I’ll just walk,” said Brigitte. “Climate change,” said Pip, shaking her head. They continued downstream. The band had not travelled twenty-five metres when the water glowed again. Moaning echoed through the trees, the wind howled and the water bubbled. Clifton and Pip braced themselves. “Oh no,” whispered Pip. Aldous checked his phone to see if his father had replied. His face turned white with terror. “There’s no phone coverage!” he cried. “The horror! Ah! The horror!” Aldous somersaulted out of the boat, taking a selfie mid-air. He splashed into the water and swam hastily away. “Let’s take their boat,” said Clifton. The ghost cannon rose from the water and fired into the students' boat, sinking it in seconds. “Oh, come on!” said Clifton.

TO BE CONTINUED…

What a song... More of Clifton and Pip’s folkloric adventures next Saturday. 

If anyone has any thoughts on the story, or rowing tips, comment away!

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Folklore & Order - The Ghost Brigade Pt 4

47adb2014fc14687a8612cddeabd5eeaClifton arrived to the river early. First light was breaking over the water and Clifton admired the beauty of the blue-green algae. The surface bubbled and Pip emerged from the water in a 19th century diving suit. “Pip? What are you doing?” asked Clifton.

“Early morning swim,” said Pip, unscrewing the helmet.

“Isn’t that suit a bit restrictive for swimming?”

“Not comparatively,” said Pip. “I usually take my submarine.”

Clifton helped Pip onto the shore and out of her diving suit. “Have you come to see me off?” he asked.

“No, I’m coming with you,” Pip announced.

“But what about the post? Who will deliver the mail?”

Pip explained she had quit the post office. After being in the game for 57 million years, it was time to move on. Plus she had been stealing rubber bands and was worried management was starting to become suspicious. If they ever saw the duck she gave Clifton, she’d be prosecuted for certain.

The Mayor’s barge pulled into the dock and she slowly descended the gangplank.

“Clifton! Good to see you,” said Mayor Birch, eating a popcorn bag full of diamonds.

“Aren’t they bad for your teeth?” asked Clifton.

“Not as bad as sugar,” countered Mayor Birch.

“2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10,” counted Pip.

“I wish you well,” said Mayor Birch in between sickening, teeth shattering crunches. “The town thanks you. But you will not be alone. The students of Brandon College were so inspired by your brave offer that several have been forced to volunteer for the mission.”

From the school’s boat shed emerged the prefects of Brandon College. They were Li Huang, who was so respected she was both the school captain and vice school captain; Brigitte Rae who was a member of the Student Representative Council, appointed for no other reason than she could sing the school song with the right amount of gusto; and Aldous Malone, whose father bought a bunch of stuff for the school.

“We don’t need accompaniment,” Clifton protested.

“I do,” said Pip, tuning her mandolin.

“I insist,” said the Mayor, forcefully.

Li, who had brought her own lectern, gave a forty-five minute speech on the importance of public service, Brigitte performed a stirring rendition of Brandon College Born to Greatness and Aldous texted his father to tell him he’d crashed his Mercedes into an orphanage. Mayor Birch could see that Clifton was still not convinced. She took him aside and placed her arm around his shoulder. Mayor Birch’s arm was so heavy from the robes that it pushed Clifton down through the soft Earth up to his knees. “They’re the best and brightest of their generation,” Mayor Birch assured. “Plus, they lobbied for you to be given a new boat for the journey.”

“I didn’t expect them to be so selfless,” said Clifton.

“I know you had a different educational experience, but these kids may just surprise you,” promised the Mayor.

“Ok,” said Clifton.

The Mayor clapped twice in quick succession and called for everyone’s attention. “For the best results, you need the best,” she began, “and it is my privilege to present you a gift from the town to assist you on your journey. Li, Brigitte and Aldous, please make fine use of your new boat.”

Two footmen presented the students with a brand new, professional racing rowboat. It was a sleek and beautiful design: light weigh, carbon fibre and with oars that gently massage your palms as you row.

“And to Clifton,” said Mayor Birch, “um, here, have this.”

The footmen lobbed a rusty dinghy into the water. The boat was leaky and had exposed wires protruding from its sides even though it had no motor or electric components.

“Can I at least have a paddle?” asked Clifton.

“Sure,” said Mayor Birch and she tossed him a rotting fence pale.

“I don’t think the distribution of boats here is very fair,” Clifton objected.

“You may be risking your life to help this town, but you’re still from Destitute High, so get in the damn boat.”

Clifton begrudgingly rolled-up his pant legs and climbed into the dinghy. Pip put back on her diving suit, minus the helmet and joined Clifton. The footmen pushed down handle of a TNT plunger and a mound of dirt exploded into the air, revealing a wooden barricade. The footmen lobbed two grenades at the barricade, completely obliterated the obstruction. A vine fell across the new clearing and one of the footmen aimed a tactical nuclear weapon at it. Mayor Birch gestured for the footman to stop. “I think they can just push past the vine,” she said.

The defences had been hiding an entrance to an offshoot of the river that winded through the hills. Mayor Birch pointed. “Through there,” she said. “Five kilometres and you shall find the Military Academy.”

Mayor Birch fired a starting gun and Li, Brigitte and Aldous sped away. Clifton dipped his fence pale into the water and rowed, but the water resistance caused it to snap. “We should have asked for a tow,” said Clifton.

Using the remaining wooden stump, Clifton paddled through the clearing.

 

The area of the river Clifton and the crew found themselves was dank and swampy. The surrounding hills and thick canopy blocked the sun light, as did Brigitte’s SPF 1,000,000+ sunscreen, which she applied liberally to avoid a “worker’s tan.” Clifton shakily stood, the dinghy rocking and bobbing. “Excuse me,” he called out. “Students? Hey, kids? Excuse me, youths? May I please have your attention?”

The students ceased rowing and grumbled.

“Yes?” said Li, impatiently.

“Thank you. I thought we’d better run through a plan of attack. It could get dangerous and we need to stick together,” instructed Clifton.

“You’re so lame,” whined Aldous.

Li, who had managed to bring her lectern aboard, adjusted the microphone and leant in. “I think we know what we’re doing,” she said. “We have the better boat and our generation is forty per cent more likely to actively engage the paranormal than previous generations.”

“Where did you get that statistic?” asked Clifton, suspiciously.

Li ignored the question and instead read a section from her Brandon College Awards Night opening address entitled The Promise of Tomorrow: The Internet Etc. As Li orated the final sentence, which contained the word “future” at least seven times, the water began to glow. A gleaming cannon broke the surface and aimed at the students.

TO BE CONTINUED…

A cannon! Gasp! More of Clifton and Pip’s folkloric adventures next Saturday. 

If anyone has any thoughts on the story, or rowing tips, comment away!

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Folklore & Order - The Ghost Brigade Pt 3

ca669d7ab7a043e18fea9b7c01fc8224 “I’m here to see the Mayor,” announced Clifton.

“Right,” began the Mayor’s receptionist, “did you want to see her in person, or are you wanting to see a photo of her?”

“In person. Mayor Birch has asked to see me,” said Clifton.

“Ok, but are you sure? It’s quite a nice photo. It’s just a quick holiday snap, but it really is top notch.”

“We have a meeting.”

“Not a problem. Do you mind if I have a look at it? The composition is absolutely perfect.”

“I do mind, yes.”

“Oh, well, that’s fine; it’s your call. Just head through the large wooden door.”

Clifton pushed through the door, jealous that it was in tact.

“Welcome, Clifton. Thank you for seeing me,” said Mayor Birch. “I hope you don’t mind, I’m just a bit peckish.”

The Mayor was snacking on a Faberge egg and Clifton noted that her gums were severely cut. Mayor Birch believed elected officials must portray a degree of splendour and pageantry. Not only did Mayor Birch wear her mayoral robes everywhere, but she also wore the robes of every mayor the town had ever had. It made her outfit thick and heavy; so thick that she constantly sweated. Clifton wondered why his actions were considered an attack on heritage, when excreting all over a centuries worth of mayoral robes seemed far worse.

“I saw you at the race,” said Mayor Birch, wiping her brow. “What did you make of it?”

“Don’t know. I’m not really into rowing.”

“I meant the ghosts. Rumours are flying around everywhere.”

The haunting of the rowing race was all over the local papers, as were snails thanks to the delivery person leaving the papers in the rain.

“I really have no idea,” said Clifton. “Have they attacked before?”

Mayor Birch took a deep breath while she chose her words. “They haven’t attacked the race before,” she said. “I need your help as the town’s preeminent paranormalist.”

“I’m not a paranormalist,” insisted Clifton.

“Well, whatever the technical term is,” said Mayor Birch.

“No, I’m not squabbling over the name.”

“Fine, paranormologist.”

“You’re missing the point. I have no interest in poltergeist.”

“Paranormographer. Happy? You pseudo-scientists are so picky.”

“I don’t like ghosts and I don’t like rowing.”

“You don’t like rowing? Where is your Brandon College spirit?”

“I didn’t go to Brandon College,” admitted Clifton.

“Where did you go?”

“Destitute High School For Boys And The Clinically Poor.”

“Oh, you poor thing.”

Mayor Birch stuffed a handful of money into Clifton’s pocked. “Try to eat something,” she said. “I’m re-running the race, Clifton and I want you to make sure no more spirits disrupt proceedings.”

“You said the soldiers had not interrupted the race before. What did you mean?” asked Clifton.

“There was a time when this town had more than two schools. Come, it is time for you to learn the story of a dark chapter in our history.”

Struggling against the weight of her robes, Mayor Birch slowly walked to a water font in the middle of the room. Clifton followed close behind. Ceremoniously, Mayor Birch raised her index finger and plunged it into the water. She slowly stirred in a wide circular motion. Clifton leaned in and gazed deep into the whirling pool.

“What are you doing?” Mayor Birch asked.

“I was waiting for the story to materialise in the water.”

“What? This is a finger bowl. I was washing my hands. I had crayfish for lunch.”

Mayor Birch flicked the water from her hand. “Much better,” she said. “Now you shall hear the story. Two hundred years ago, a military academy, known as the Military Academy, lay in the swampy hills to the town's west. Accessible only by boat and with a letter of recommendation, the school trained young cadets in the art of quashing rioting peasants and rebuffing attacks on the mayoral bread and Faberge egg stocks. But one day, the students rebelled and attacked the town. It was a bloody battle, but the townspeople bravely drove the students back to the Academy and sunk the students' only boat, marooning the rebels. With no food and no entertainment, the cadets were left to starve and amuse themselves with endless games of charades."

Mayor Birch shuddered.

"Why have I not heard of the insurrection before?"

"The town was eager to forget this regrettable chapter in their history, so the Council decreed that no one mention the Military Academy ever again. But it is said that on some nights, you can still hear the distant sound of marching and the students wailing, 'A book. Two words. First word…'"

a857a9fec52845d9b172a58ab86e6284"Aren't you breaking the town's law by telling me?"

"There is a subsection that allows the story to be told in the event of needing to explain why a person has not heard the story," said Mayor Birch. “The town needs you. Will you help us?”

“I’m sorry, but I have to go shopping for a new door,” said Clifton.

“I understand. Thank you for your time.”

“No problem.”

“The accounts department is downstairs.”

“Sorry?”

“To pay your $250,000 fine. Best settle it before you’re charged a late fee.”

Clifton sighed. “Is there a way to have the fine waived?” he asked, anticipating the answer.

“No,” replied Mayor Birch.

“Oh, I thought you were suggesting the fine could be forgiven if I were to help the town?”

“No, I didn’t think of that. We are out of Faberge eggs and we need the dosh. But your proposal sounds fair.”

“Ok, I will help you.”

“Two words,” said Mayor Birch, elated. “Sounds like: spank shoe.”

“You’re not meant to talk in charades,” said Clifton.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Clifton and Pip’s folkloric adventures will continue with a new entry every week. 

If anyone has any thoughts on the story, please feel free to comment. Feedback is always appreciated!

Read previous Folklore & Order tales

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AAA Report Card? Meh

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We have a new Government in Victoria. The Libs have been run out of town on their own freeway. The end of a one term Government came with a degree of lamenting and eulogising from the conservative side of politics. James Patterson from the Institute of Public Affairs (or SPECTRE as they are known in the James Bond franchise), said in The Age the Baillieu/Napthine Government was not without achievement and "its budget management is the envy of the federation, with a prized AAA credit rating and budget surpluses forecast for the foreseeable future." Really? That's one for the history books is it?

This country has an irritating obsession with budget surpluses. Don't get me wrong, the economy is important; people's livelihoods depend on it. But I wouldn't want to be hanging my legacy on running a surplus. If that's your ultimate goal in politics, you severely lack imagination. Structural changes to the economy, like floating the dollar or tackling income inequality, are worth being remembered for. But no civilisation is going to be considered great because they spent less than they received in revenue a few years running.

Like I said, economic management shouldn't be dismissed as unimportant, but we should think of it as back-of-house; what is done with the money is the show.

But the conservatives have convinced everyone that surpluses are a must, no matter the economic circumstances of the day. And they remind us of it in any postmortem of their time in government. I sure as hell wouldn't want it as the centrepiece of my eulogy.

"So many memories of Gramps, but the main thing I remember about him was that he always made his mortgage repayments on time. One day, three utility bills arrived on the same day and I'll never forget what happened next: he went down to the post office and paid them.

"Gramps never had a credit card because he didn't want to be in deficit. It meant that he often missed out going to concerts and events because the ticketing was done online and required a credit card payment. But it didn't matter to Gramps. He may have traveled nowhere and done nothing, but the man's ledger books are a work of art."

Achievement is where you make a difference to people's lives, or change the country/state for the better. This should be the focus, because the list of history's greatest economic managers is, well, nonexistent.

Folklore & Order - The Ghost Brigade Pt 2

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The entire town lined the riverbank, waiting for the race. “Except pat,” said Pip, breaking the established convention of an omnipotent narrator.

The town’s grand Rowing Club building was situated on the riverbank, as was the River Bank: a financial institution where people could deposit large bodies of water. The local basketball stadium was also on the shoreline and each year the wall facing the river was knocked down so people could access the bleachers to watch the race. Rebuilding and demolishing the same wall each year did strike many as unnecessarily extravagant, but it kept the town’s corrupt construction industry employed.

A pontoon stage had been erected on the river for the Mayor, town dignitaries and displaced members of the basketball association. Clifton and Pip had a clear view of the stage and stood between a large screen and a small black and white television, which had been installed to appease a small number of the community who refused to acknowledge the existence of colour TV.

With a $250,000 fine hanging over his head, thanks to Pip who held it there with a stick and a piece of string, Clifton seethed at the opulence of the event. He fantasised sinking the pontoon, but decided against it fearing it may cost him another $250,000.

The final pre-race event was reaching its conclusion. It was the celebrity boat race. As the town had no celebrities, two empty boats bobbed listlessly in the water, occasionally bumping into each other. Boat 2 was declared the winner, but after the Boat 1 team contested the outcome the stewards declared the celebrity race was “stupid” and decreed it never be run or mentioned again.

Trumpets sounded and the Mayor leapt to the microphone. “Welcome, citizens, to the annual Brandon College Rowing Spectacular!” she cried.

The crowd roared, as did the lions at the Brandon College private zoo. The rowers emerged from the Rowing Club, waving to the crowd. Pip made a swooshing sound and Clifton knew she was pretending the students were flying. The school’s colours were two identical shades of red and the two teams wore one of each of the colours. “Will red or red win today?” asked Pip.

sweater“I don’t know,” said Clifton.

The girls and boys lowered themselves into the boats. The crowd fell silent and Pip fell over, as she’d become too animated pretending the school kids were flying. The starting gun fired and both teams were away. Red took an early lead, but red rallied quickly and closed the gap. Red continued strongly, but started to tire, allowing Red to catch Red and come out in front. As the finishing line approached, Red fought back and Red and Red were neck and neck! Red edged in front of Red, then Red edged back in front of Red. With the finishing line only metres away a huge plume of water shot skywards in front of the boats, turning them 180 degrees. A cannon emerged from the water, covered in reeds and glowing an unearthly glow. It fired at the Rowing Club. The building collapsed like the wall of a basketball stadium and the crowd screamed. The rowers paddled desperately, but were unable to move. Six soldiers in 19th century uniforms materialised on the riverbank and the river turned red.

“The river has turned to blood!” cried Pip.

This was not true. One of the rower’s scarfs had fallen into the water and the dye had run.3bf97b91ba604aa4829adbdd58e25aad

Clifton studied the soldiers. Their uniforms were dishevelled and covered in mud. They emitted a yellow-green phosphorescence and each had a piece of yarn tied around their shoulders. “I like what they’ve done with the yarn,” said Pip. “Way to accessorise!”

The soldiers aimed their muskets at the rowing teams. The students jumped from their boats into the river as the soldiers opened fire. Bullets carved through the boats, sinking them in a matter of seconds. Desperately, the students swam to the shore and Pip hung her head disappointedly. “They didn’t fly,” she whispered. “They’re not upper class superheroes after all.”

The soldiers disappeared and from the rubble of the Rowing Club, a young lieutenant in a tatty uniform arose and hovered over to the cannon. “Fire!” she commanded and lowered a linstock to the cannon. The gun remained silent. The ghost tried again.

“Fire! Fire? Bloody thing!” she said.

The ghost whipped the cannon with the linstock. “Fire! Come on, I lit this before in practice. Sorry, does anyone have a match? No? Anyone? Anyone at all? Could use a little help here. Fine, never mind,” she said.

The cannon fired.

“Ah! Oh, now you fire,” complained the ghost.

Smoke billowed from the cannon, enveloping the ghost. When the smoke had dissipated, she had vanished.

Most of the crowd ran, while some helped the students from the river.

“Is my sweater ok?” asked one student.

“Their uniforms were, like, totes gross,” said another.

“I was on my phone, what did I miss?” asked another.

“Please flee in an orderly manner,” the Mayor bellowed over the public address system.

“Let’s get out of here,” said Clifton.

“OK,” said Pip. “But can we swing by the River Bank? I’ve got some H2O I need to deposit to earn compound interest.”

“No,” said Clifton.

The cannon slowly submerged back into the river.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Clifton and Pip’s folkloric adventures will continue with a new entry every week. 

If anyone has any thoughts on the story, please feel free to comment. Feedback is always appreciated!

Read previous Folklore & Order tales

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This story is also on Wattpad

Sauce - MICF

Web Edit

Registrations for the 2015 Melbourne International Comedy Festival opened on the 1st of October and closed on the 21st of November, giving artists plenty of time to leave their registration 'til the last minute. The main elements of the registration are finding a venue, uploading images for the show and writing the blurbs.

The blurbs can be tough. It's often the case you will end-up writing a sixty word description of a show that isn't written or fully developed. Being vague, but appealing is usually the order of the day, but fortunately this year my show was reasonably developed, with the story and characters in place. Even so, the sixty word blurb for the guide is what I tend to spend the most time on. Of course, that doesn't guarantee the synopsis will be any good, (I'll post it below), but hopefully I've communicated the idea and it doesn't only make sense to me. You are also required to write a blurb for the website of up to 150 words. The extended word count gives you more breathing room and it's tempting to use it up, but as Jeff Goldblum in Jurassic Park says, just because you can doesn't mean you should.

Anyhoo, it's a one man show in a similar vein to my 2014 show The Earth is Flat. It's called...

sauce

SAUCE

Simon plays a host of characters in a show with more sauce than is recommended by the Heart Foundation. When schoolboy Max refuses ketchup at a sausage sizzle, all hell breaks loose and the world is brought to the brink of WW3. Will Max surrender to sauce or make a final stand?

This show is dedicated to all the brave souls out there who don’t like ketchup.

With my venue locked-in and the show registered, next thing is to finish writing the show. As a non-sauce eater, it'll be a therapeutic process.

meat-pie11

Meat?

Pink-Floyd-Atom-Heart-Mother

I've been eating less meat; far less. I wasn't eating more than most: medieval style banquets weren't the norm. But now I'm consuming much less than the average. It was a conscious decision. Don't worry, I didn't accidentally lock myself into a greenhouse, leaving me nothing to eat but azaleas and I haven't been blacklisted by my butcher. Though I always found it creepy that as a kid butchers would try and give me cold cuts when my mother brought me into the store. Giving slices of meat to children just seems way too weird for me.

"You don't have any lollies? No? Ok, a slice of chicken loaf is just as good."

But I've had a growing unease about factory farming and the impact of increased meat consumption. As it was bothering me, I chose to approach the decision not from the angle of why to stop, but why to continue. When I thought of it like that, I couldn't justify it. Morally, ethically and environmentally I just couldn't do it. I tried; I wracked my brain but there's not one argument as to why I shouldn't eat less meat.

And I mean there are no plausible arguments. For example, insisting everyone must eat as much meat as they can because industrial farming is the only thing stopping chickens, pigs and cows forming a coalition that will destroy humanity and blow-up the moon, is technically an argument, just not a very rational one. Although...

30% of the Earth's surface is dedicated to growing plant life that is fed to livestock, which we then eat. Call me crazy, but couldn't we cut out the middleman and eat the plants instead? Us humans are essentially locked in a greenhouse and livestock emit more greenhouse gasses than the oil and gas industry. Do we really want to go down as the species that was obliterated by burps? Hang on a second, the animals have formed a coalition to destroy us, but we were the ones who put it together. Watch the moon, people...

Totes OCD?

thesaurus

It could be that I'm just sensitive to it, but I've noticed an increased use of "OCD" as an inaccurate and frivolous description of finicky behaviour. I hear people claiming they're "a bit OCD" because they like their desk arranged a certain way. At the very least this is a massive overstatement. Are they fussy? Yes. Annoying? Probably. But to be obsessive compulsive is to be beholden to a set of ritual behaviours that must be performed repetitively in order to alleviate anxiety. If you are physically and mentally unable to, for example, enter a room without flicking the light switch a set number of times, you are obsessive compulsive. If you are moderately miffed when your pen has been moved, or you like your photo library ordered a specific way, you are not "totes OCD about it." What you are is anal retentive.

Going around saying that you're anal may make juvenile members of society snicker, (I'm snickering now), but I think we can find a different adjective to describe when someone is particular. Hang on, there's one: particular!

What does it matter? Well, there are always the usual counters to a request to alter language, like I don't mean it like that, or I know someone who has OCD and he/she doesn't mind, or it's taken on a different meaning. But simply, it's hurtful and disrespectful to be flippant about debilitating conditions. It might be said self-deprecatingly, but you're making light of yourself by mocking others.

OCD can be completely impairing. Find a different adjective and don't devalue the condition by equating OCD with a desire to alphabatise your Blu-ray collection.