Such Stuff


Such Stuff by Chris Green

When I read the news about traces of cannabis being found in clay pipes from William Shakespeare’s garden, I was surprised, but then again, not too surprised. After all, many literary figures have been known to use drugs, Wordsworth and Coleridge for instance. Shelley and Byron too had famously indulged, not to mention Arthur Conan Doyle and Robert Louis Stevenson. To bring the list up to date we could add William Burroughs, Philip K. Dick and Stephen King. Artists and musicians too have dipped into the medicine jar for inspiration. In recent times we have the likes of Charlie Parker, Miles Davis, John Lennon, Jimi Hendrix, Mark Rothko and Andy Warhol. You could easily come up with a very long list. While drugs have been frowned upon by respectable society, creative people seem to have been excused their indulgence, it seems almost expected of them.

I suppose the biggest surprise regarding the clay pipes revelation was that cannabis was available back in Shakespeare’s day. I imagine the drug was moved along established trade routes from the far-east in much the same way that it is today. Or perhaps it came back from South America with Sir Walter Raleigh, along with the tobacco. Perhaps Raleigh had meant to just bring back marijuana, but the natives had stipulated that he could only have this if he took back a few tons of tobacco too. Shakespeare being a stoner was probably surprising only because cannabis doesn’t get a mention in the history books, or for that matter, in the Bard’s plays.

Moving on from the revelation, I wondered what other discoveries I might make about the drug habits of famous literary figures on the internet. I was astonished by what I found. I would not have thought that Thomas Hardy took more than the odd infusion of laudanum and then purely to treat his ailments. Surely Thomas Hardy, the ultimate in realist writers was straight. Surely he had not written Tess of the D’Urbervilles or Jude the Obscure under the influence of psychoactive substances. I had to dig deep to find the information, but it transpired that recently a large sack of cocaine was discovered in Hardy’s old writing desk. It was of course past its best, but analysis confirmed that the contents of the sack were definitely cocaine. Hardy’s biographers, keen to paint the author in a good light had up until this point not alluded to his recreational drug use.

I always had the hunch that J. R. R. Tolkien was on something. He didn’t seem to know what day it was. And his stories are a bit weird to say the least. But who would have thought that he was on crack. Who knew crack was even around at the time he was writing? But, once you start looking, there are pictures of Tolkien with his crack pipe all over the internet. With so much evidence, it is difficult to argue. No wonder that Lord Of The Rings is so violent. This is a clear symptom of Tolkien smoking too much crack.

While one might have suspected that some children’s writers, Lewis Carroll, for instance, or Norton Juster who wrote The Phantom Tollbooth, had taken the odd substance to create their dreamlike worlds, who would have suspected that the Reverend Wilbert Awdry, the author of the Thomas the Tank Engine books was a drug fiend. The web page I landed on explained that Reverend Awdry had a voracious appetite for drugs. He took everything that was going, from angel dust to ecstasy. He was out of his head twenty-four seven. The bio went on to say that in the original manuscript of Thomas the Tank Engine all the engines’ puffing was a reference to their smoking dope and The Fat Controller character was a drug dealer and, but at the publisher’s insistence all this was edited out. Nevertheless, Reverend Awdry’s collection of bongs and chillums recently sold at auction for a four-figure sum.

So there you have it. I’m now wondering what Franz Kafka was on. It’s a shame that he has been deleted from the internet.

© Chris Green 2021: All rights reserved

Ceci n’est pas Une Batte

Ceçi n’est pas une batte by Chris Green

Not many people realise that the surrealist painter, René Magritte was a big fan of English cricket. He discovered cricket by accident in a newspaper article in the 1930s. Although he had a reasonable command of English, the unfamiliar language baffled him. Innings, runs, overs, wickets, stumps, and bails. There were no equivalents to these in his native Belgium. The game was not played here. He was amused too by the names of the fielding positions, short leg, silly mid-on, gulley, backward point, first and second slip, etc. And the rules of the game were not only complicated but surreal.

He learned that there were two sides of eleven men, one in and one out in the field. Each man on the in side went out to bat and the fielding side tried to get him out. When he was out, he came in. Then the next man went in until he was out. When he was out, he too came in. When they were all out, the side that was out came in and the side that had been in went out and tried to get those coming in out. In addition, there were many ways in which the fielding side could get the batsmen, namely bowled, caught, stumped, run out and leg before wicket, whatever this was. When both sides had been in and out twice, the game finished. The team with the most runs won, unless they had not had enough time to finish because of bad light or rain, in which case it was a draw. Runs were made by the two batsmen that were in running between two sets of stumps after the one on strike had hit the ball and the ones in the field had not stopped it. Games lasted for three or five days.

René felt he had to experience this theatre of the absurd first hand. It sounded a lot more interesting than hockey or volleyball. He took a trip to England to watch a local weekend game at a village on the Kent coast. Although he had a little difficulty understanding everything that was going on, he felt it was an entertaining way to spend an afternoon. He was hooked. He began to make regular trips across the Channel to watch Kent play County Cricket at Canterbury. With his dark suit and signature bowler hat, René fitted in easily with the well-to-do spectators in the Members’ Enclosure and the hospitality tents. As he chatted away to his fellow fans, most did not realise they were in the presence of a famous artist.

He gradually got to know the Kent cricketers. As luck should have it, Kent’s captain, Bryan Valentine was a keen amateur artist and knew who René Magritte was. Bryan was aware that new art movements were springing up in Europe and eager to keep up with developments. René became a regular guest in his quarters, where they discussed the connections between art and cricket long into the night.

As cricket looked so much fun, it was only natural for René to want to have a crack at it. He bought all the kit and arranged for a few sessions in the nets. With a little coaching from the Kent players, he mastered some of the batting strokes, the cover drive, the hook, the sweep and the late cut. They told him he was a natural. Encouraged by this, René persuaded Bryan to let him play in a Sunday charity match.

The only reservation René had was in the game’s presentation. If, as he hoped, cricket was ever going to take off in Belgium, this needed a little tweaking. It would need to drop some of its formality. To add a little humour, instead of the standard cricketing cap, he wore his trademark bowler hat for the charity match. Although this was greeted with puzzlement at first, the boozy Sunday crowd soon caught on. It would not be appropriate for regular county fixtures, but once in a while, it was good to break with tradition.

With her husband disappearing regularly, Georgette Magritte began to suspect he was having an affair. The explanation for his absences that he was watching cricket was an unconvincing one. She insisted the next time he went on his travels, he took her along. René tried to put her off. He explained that the shopping opportunities in Canterbury might fall short of her expectations. It was not exactly London. She would be better off going to the department stores in Brussels for her frocks. But this did nothing to convince Georgette. She was going with him and that was that.

René was right. Georgette did not enjoy their wet week in Kent in early September one bit. Canterbury was something of a backwater. It was completely lacking in culture and had no dress shops. The weather made it worse. The sight of twenty-two men sitting around in white trousers and sweaters waiting for the rain to stop seemed to be the ultimate pointless activity. The rain was clearly not going to stop. What could it possibly be about cricket that so fascinated René?​ When she put her mind to it, Georgette could become the incredible sulk. A model of passive aggressive manipulation. René had no defence against this. He capitulated. They returned home early.

September marked the end of the cricket season, so to keep his enthusiasm for the game alive over the winter months, René embarked on a series of surreal cricket paintings. He felt these would help to promote the game in Belgium and who knows, perhaps even France. He used all of his signature themes, cricketers in bowler hats, cricketers with green apple faces, cricketers with bowler hats and green apple faces. Cricketers with fluffy clouds as faces. A picture of a cricket bat with the title, Ceçi n’est pas Une Batte. Sadly, few of these paintings have survived. The ones that have are in a private collection belonging to the reclusive Sebastian Bose-Harrington at Harrington Hall, where the public cannot view them. These were originally a gift to the less reclusive Colin Bose-Harrington, a senior Kent Cricket Club board member in the days leading up to World War 2.

With the outbreak of war, cricket in England came to an abrupt halt. Even had it continued, the Nazi occupation of Belgium would have made it difficult for René to travel. His last cricket painting is believed to have been completed in early September 1939, just days before Belgium fell. The Nazi occupying force considered his work to be degenerate art and destroyed this one along with many others.

It is not clear why René did not resume his passion for cricket after the war, but artists are restless souls. Change for them is a driving force. This versatility, in turn, adds kudos to their work. If, for instance, Picasso had had just one period, he would surely not have stood the test of time. We would no longer be talking about him in such elevated terms today. Similarly, through Magritte’s ability to re-invent himself, his paintings have increased in value logarithmically over the years. His Le Principe du Plaisir recently sold for 27 million dollars in New York. Because of their rarity, the six surviving cricket paintings in the Bose-Harrington collection might expect a similar return should they ever come onto the market. In the meantime, be comforted that the great Belgian painter was once a big fan of English cricket.

© Chris Green 2020: All rights reserved

The Startling Discovery of Phlogiston


The Startling Discovery Of Phlogiston by Chris Green

Things started getting weird around here some time ago, following the startling discovery of phlogiston. The previous belief, kept alive for many years by charlatans, was that everything was made up of 118 elements, all arranged neatly by the number of protons, electron configurations and recurring chemical properties, into something they called the Periodic Table. What nonsense this seems now! How on earth did they get away with such poppycock for so long? It is now accepted worldwide that phlogiston, a substance without colour, odour, taste, or weight, is present in all materials.

Certainly, chemists struggled against the facts at first, insisting on their complex explanations of matter. I suppose this was understandable. After all, they were trying to protect their lucrative research posts. But, they were finally forced to admit that they had made up all of the mumbo-jumbo. We now know there are just four elements.

Since the startling discovery of phlogiston, things tend to be much more random. Here’s a snapshot.

Chris Christ, my housemate is watching the brilliant blind surfer, Tom Crews in the final of the water-sports on his screen. Crews is going for Gold.

Oh My God.’ CC screams as with the help of his guide dog, Marvin, Crews manages to get himself upright on the board and ride the huge breakers of the Boogaloo Bay swell.

CC tends to be easily impressed so I ignore his outburst. I am more interested in the Octathlon which is playing on the other channel. I am rooting for Curt Tarver in the Quoits. He is already twenty points ahead after an heroic performance in the Shin Kicking but his close rival, Bud Register has his best events, the Moonwalking and the Cheese Rolling still to come. And you can never rule out Benito Pond. He is the World Bog Snorkelling champion.

It is hard to believe that just a few years ago people played mindless team games like football and cricket and bet money on horses running around a wet track, jumping over hedges. And that silly game where they hit a ball backwards and forwards over a net for a few hours.

Imagine now, driving forty miles in a slow moving queue of traffic to an out of town retail park to buy a car-load of stuff that you didn’t need. These days everything just arrives as you need it. You don’t even have to go on the Internet. The Internet. What a waste of time that was!

Look! Here’s a delivery now! It’s simply uncanny how they know I need forty pounds of kelp and a rusty mangle. I greet Bryn, the driver of the Scammell Scarab. Bryn and I chat about sandstorms and gravy and, of course, about the benefits brought about by the startling discovery of phlogiston. Quite thoughtful of Bryn to have brought the bucket of snakes too. CC will be able to cook them up later and make a nice stew.

Bryn says he’s off down the road to Tequila Hawks’ caravan next. Tequila has entered the Poison Your Neighbour’s Pet competition and she needs henna to lace the neighbour’s ferret’s coca cola with. If she wins she is going to use her prize money to take the hovercraft to Rangoon.

Enjoy the sunshine,’ Bryn says as he gets into the Scammell.

I wonder why we are still pretending that the earth orbits the sun. How stupid is that? It’s clear that the sun moves around the earth. You can see it every day crossing the sky. It’s amazing just how much we are duped.

Chris Green 2020: All rights reserved

Right On Dad Talks About Guns – a children’s story


RIGHT ON DAD TALKS ABOUT GUNS – a children’s story by Chris Green

‘Why do people have guns, Dad? I think guns are horrible,’ says Amelia. Amelia is five and a half. She has just started her second year at school.

‘People haven’t always had guns, you know, Amelia. For hundreds of years when they fell out, they just threw things at one another or hit each other with sticks to settle their arguments. Many of them went to the gym several times a week to develop their stone throwing muscles or tried to find ways of sharpening their sticks. This all changed in 1506, when Mr Gun, a blacksmith from Accrington, Lancashire discovered you could use the power of explosives to fire a projectile through a metal tube.’

‘So it is called a gun because that was Mr Gun’s name?’

‘That’s right. At the time there were no PR firms in Accrington to guide Mr Gun through the process of marketing his new invention, so he called it simply a gun. Without realising it, he had hit upon a winner. The gun was to become the most successful commodity of all time. People saw the gun as an easy way to get rid of someone they did not like. People who had never considered harming another were seduced by its potential. Countries which had been at peace for hundreds of years suddenly came up with reasons to hate their neighbours. The neighbouring countries grew bigger turnips, or sang the wrong songs. They were smelly, or they saw a different man in the sky.’

‘Mr Gun was a bad man, wasn’t he, Dad?’ says Amelia.

‘He was, Amelia. But nothing compared to Mr War. In 1900, Mr War of Dundee, Scotland realised that these scuffles were very popular so he began to organise competitions. Dundee also did not have any marketing firms, so he called these competitions, wars. So successful was the idea that, a few years later in 1914, he managed to involve every country in the world in a big five-year long competition. He advertised it as The Great War. Although people seemed to like it at the time, afterwards they started to go off the idea of wars. So many people were killed they thought that they didn’t want to fight another one. They called it the war to end all wars.’

‘But it didn’t end all wars, did it, Dad? When you and mummy watch the news they are always talking about wars.’

‘The thing is that lots of people make money out of making guns and if they stopped having wars they wouldn’t be able to sell their guns. Then lots of people would not have jobs and their families would starve.’

‘I still don’t think that people should have guns.’

‘Then what would happen to all the people who didn’t have jobs and the starving families, Amelia?’

‘They could give them jobs making Moshi Monsters instead.’

© Chris Green 2015: All right reserved


The Real History Of The Internet


The Real History Of The Internet by Chris Green

The Internet was invented by Pablo Gonzales in 1492. There are competing claims to the technology behind it, but Pablo was the one who established the Internet protocol suite (IPS). You may have seen pictures of the early personal computers but in case you have not, they were the size of the average drawing room. The prohibitive cost of them, not to mention the expense of early MODEMs meant that few could afford the technology. As a result of this, the internet spread slowly.

Internet connections too were slow. Using the original Columbus browser, it could take two to three hours to bring up the Catholic Church’s home page and up to four and a half weeks to download a full sized pdf document with pictures. Power cuts were frequent back then and this meant you would often lose your work and have to start again from scratch. Booting the computer alone could take several hours. By 1520, there were only about thirty internet users worldwide.

Bit by bit, new technology was put in place. Faster processors came on to the market, some delivering speeds as fast as a kilohertz. Email named after its pioneer, Viscount E was introduced in 1532. Henry the Eighth’s Chief Minister, Thomas Cromwell sent the very first email: to The Pope. In this, he said that unless His Holiness granted Henry a divorce from Catherine of Aragon, the English Church would sever its links with the Church of Rome. Unfortunately, Pope Clement did not get to see it, as it went into Trash.

Around this time, Donald Face came up with the idea of online internet chat and social media and by the end of Henry’s reign, everyone who had a computer was posting on Facebook and putting their idle thoughts down on twitter. The Columbus browser was by now a little clunky but with timely intervention, the celebrated mathematician, Max Google came up with a new faster web browser.

The shortcomings of dial-up were also becoming apparent. The rise in pornography in Shakespearean times brought with it a demand for a faster service, something that could handle multiple images and video streaming. Miles and miles of fibre optic cables were put in the ground of the streets of towns and cities to facilitate a new service, which became known as broadband. A race ensued between rival entrepreneurs, John Virgin and Grayson Sky to roll out broadband to the masses. In the first half of the seventeenth century about half the western world’s labour force were employed as diggers or cablers. Armies of vans with the increasingly familiar Virgin and Sky logos emblazoned on them roamed the streets and persistent salespeople knocked on doors to sell their product.

Users became more and more dependant on the new technology. As they began to see new uses for it and to develop new tastes, they became dissatisfied with the service they were getting, especially in rural areas. People wanted to stream television programmes and watch music videos. Gaming, in particular, needed higher specification PCs and faster broadband to deliver the high definition 3D graphics. Virgin and Sky began to see competition as other providers entered the market to satisfy the need for speed.

The English Civil War was the first war to actually be fought as a computer game. As the reader will know, wars ever since have been fought using CGI. Thanks to continued developments, the French Revolution and The American Civil War were spectacles enjoyed by millions. As CGI technology improved so did the scale of the conflict, with creators becoming ever more ambitious. Dozens of books have been written on how realistic The Second World War was, and the CGI used to stage the second Iraq war was so elaborate that it cost a figure with nineteen zeros on the end. The current race is to see which company will win the prestigious end of the world franchise.

© Chris Green 2015: All rights reserved

The Feelgood Calendar


The Feelgood Calendar by Chris Green

Bill Feelgood awoke from a dream in which he was lost in a dark area on the outskirts of an unfamiliar town with tall shadowy buildings and cathedrals with gothic towers. He was driving a stolen car that he could not control properly. The brake and accelerator pedals had been switched and the steering wheel was loose. He was being chased by a gang, made up of years and months and days. The scene shifted. He was driving another car now and the stolen car was heading towards him. The gang, whose identities kept changing, had split up and were spread out around the two cars awaiting the impact. The days kept changing into months and the months into years.

It took a little while to realise that he was awake as the details of the dream slowly brought themselves into consciousness. He rubbed his eyes and looked blearily out of the bedroom window. It was raining again. There had been high winds in the night, he remembered, and a few of the potted plants in the garden had blown over. He needed to go and tidy the mess up before setting off for work. The radio alarm clock broke into its 7.30 call. He went to put the kettle on for his first cuppa. He looked at the kitchen calendar. It was April 43rd. He had a meeting at 3pm with Brighter Future. Tuesday was not usually a busy day at the kaleidoscope repair shop so Ben could easily manage without him: he would just take the afternoon off to be at Brighter Future’s Serendipity Street office.

With the acceleration of climate change, there were less sunny days each year, the increase in particulate matter having surreptitiously cancelled out the temperature rises threatened by the build up of carbon dioxide. Particles emitted into the air from cars, trucks, buses, factories, construction sites, tilled fields, unpaved roads, stone crushing, wood burning and other particles formed in the air from the chemical change of gases were all working together to add to cloud cover. Now it seemed it was hardly ever sunny. If there was not actually direct cloud cover, a low level haze hung in the air. There were perhaps twenty sunny days in the whole year. Bill was 56 years old. He calculated that if he lived to be 70, this would mean just another two hundred and eighty sunny days, even fewer if the build up of particulate matter continued to accelerate. Bill worked five days a week. Taking into account holidays this meant Bill worked 235 days a year. This would give him just one hundred more days to enjoy sitting around outside in the sun. He would only see the magnolia tree outside his window, that was presently in blossom, flower another thirteen times, perhaps for a shorter period each cloudy season.

Periodically prone to such crepuscular meditations Bill had set about redesigning the structure of the year to help combat the gloom of the English climate. The Feelgood calendar was the result. In the Feelgood calendar January had 9 days, February had 16, March, 25, April, 49, May, 49, June, 64, and July, 64. Thereafter months were shorter. August had 36 days, September, 25, and October, 16. There were 9 days in November and 2 in December (3 in a leap year). Bill’s calendar aimed to give the illusion that at any given time it was not winter, or that it would not be winter for long. One might not be able to do much about reversing climate change, without a complete collapse of capitalism, and this seemed unlikely to occur in Bill’s lifetime, but one could live in a fantasy world where these things mattered less. The Feelgood Calendar represented a tentative first step towards the virtual celebration of a mythic golden age.

Using desktop publishing skills picked up on a rehabilitation programme, Bill had produced several prototypes of the calendar, which he had hung on doors around the house. He acknowledged that although pleasing to the eye, his efforts were the works of an amateur. Bill perused the kitchen calendar. April was looking a bit of a mess with his jottings and it was only the 43rd. April and May needed double fold down sections for the extra days of the month to fit comfortably, with perhaps a triple for June and July. And the month-by-month pictures should all reflect summer, no ambiguity, no autumn leaves or footprints in the snow. His design did need some refinement if it were to be effectively marketed. Marketed. Bill shuddered. What a horrible term ‘marketed’ had become. Nothing was ever marketed for the common good. The term implied exploitation. Profiteering was the sole motive. Bill preferred to view this venture as the sharing of an idea; the calendar might in itself be of benefit to others. It wasn’t so much that Bill was an environmental campaigner, more of a reckless supporter of the underdog, in this case climate change, or to be more specific, the recognition that particulate matter was an issue. In the debate about climate change, the build up of particulate matter was barely mentioned; the prevailing attitude was that perhaps if no one acknowledged the fact, it would go away, and the skies would become clear again.

Changes to the Christian calendar were a rarity. Two versions have existed in recent times: The Julian calendar and the Gregorian calendar. Julius Caesar introduced the Julian calendar in 45 B.C. It established January 1st as New Year. But in order to synchronize the calendar with the sun, Caesar had to let the previous year drag on for 445 days. However, in AD 567 the Council of Tours abolished January 1st in favour of March as the start of a new year, varying the actual day to coincide with the Vernal Equinox. The Julian calendar was in common use until 1582, when countries started changing to the Gregorian calendar because the Julian calendar had become out of step with the seasonal cycle by 10 days. The Gregorian calendar moved New Year back to January 1st. The Feelgood calendar would keep this. With just two days in December, you could incorporate Christmas and New Year.

Despite Bill’s reservations about marketing, he had followed the advice of Sol Solomon, a solicitor friend and had patented the idea for the calendar. He had contacted two companies, Brighter Future and Flying Colours about production. The meeting on April 35th with Flying Colours had suggested to Bill that they wanted to make changes to his idea. He was concerned that this would affect the terms of the patent and that they would have effectively stolen his idea. As he drove to his 3pm appointment, listening to Tardelli’s Trio for Violin, Saxophone and Strimmer on Radio 3, he felt a little apprehensive that Brighter Future might want to do the same.

He need not have worried. Brighter Future’s post-modern sunburst yellow office complex in Serendipity Street with its neo-eclectic juxtaposition of styles and its dramatic fractal dome suggested immediately to Bill that this was a company at the cutting edge of change. Brighter Future would surely be open to fresh ideas. The curvilinear geometry of the reception area in the form of a Mobius Strip also inspired confidence. This was definitely a company that embraced the unusual. He felt at home in the surroundings. This feeling of comfort was strengthened when the startlingly attractive receptionist realised straightaway who Bill was. She chatted about the weather and congratulated him on his idea as she took him past the Tides of Eternity water feature through to the Dolphin Suite.

The meeting with Bradley Bright and the design team went exceptionally well. Bill’s truly terrible mnemonic rhyme: –

June and July have sixty-four days,

April forty nine and so does May.

August has thirty-six – that’s plenty,

March and September five and twenty.

Feb and October have sixteen – fine,

Jan and November only nine.

December has just two days, so,

An extra day in a leap year – yo!

which he now felt confident enough to share, was well received.

Fantastic! You’re a genius,’ beamed Bradley.

Although Bill felt he did have some very good ideas, he was unused to being described in these terms. The meeting progressed positively and one by one, a variety of summer themes for illustrations (beaches, gardens, flowers, sunrises and sunsets, village cricket, lawn tennis, etc.) was explored for a broad range of Feelgood Calendars, along with a number of fine art and decorative arts options. Matisse, Kandinsky, Patrick Heron and Klimt were given the thumbs up because of their sense of colour and optimism. Monet (too blurry – this could be interpreted as haze from pollution), and Van Gogh (too suicidal – could promote self harm) were rejected, along with Dali (too apocalyptic), and Picasso (too enigmatic).

After several hours of debate and dozens of cups of latte and cappuccino, a working range of calendars was on the table. Cost projections were analysed and the all-important figures were agreed. Brighter Future offered Bill a considerably more attractive financial package than that offered by Flying ColoursThe Feelgood calendar was on its way. Bill took the opportunity to celebrate with his girlfriend, Sloggi, with a slap up meal at a local Chechnyan brasserie that had just opened,korta-kogish (mutton head and legs) and zhizhig-galnash (meat ravioli) among the delicacies they enjoyed, along with the very best chilled Chechnyan champagne (non alcoholic as Chechens are strict Muslims).

Over the months that followed, Bill found that interest in the Feelgood calendar was surprisingly high. By the end of July (Feelgood July that is), Brighter Future had them in hundreds of shops around the country, along with a range of suitably upbeat Feelgood diaries. By October the Feelgood Calendar advertising campaign was well under way. Brighter Future had a prime-time slot in the middle of Celebrity Brain Surgery, a show featuring a live operation from a private London hospital on a C-list television personality, has been pop star or washed-up golfer in a desperate attempt to resurrect their flagging career. Celebrity Brain Surgery was ITV’s Saturday night attempt to win viewers back from BBC1’s popular World Famous for 15 Minutes. Typical of the latter was ‘world’s most obese man is hoisted out of a specially built window because he cannot get through his door and is taken to the studio to appear on the show to break the world record for eating the world’s largest pizza (25 kilos). Bill would have liked the product only to be advertised during informative programmes or ethical shows.

So would I,’ said Bradley. ‘But there are none on the main channels at prime-time and for a new idea like this we have to reach the maximum audience at its most indolent.’

Brighter Future also launched a major billboard campaign, which aimed to force Bill’s truly terrible rhyme into people’s consciousness. Every day on the ring road on his way to the kaleidescope repair shop, Bill passed two billboards featuring the rhyme. Passed them figuratively that is, situated as they were at two new sets of traffic lights that had been put in between the speed bumps and the chicanes for no apparent reason but to slow the traffic, which had moved at a crawl in the first place. The resulting gridlock had the effect of pumping larger amounts of exhaust gases into the atmosphere. To use fuel efficiently, the driver of a vehicle needed to store the energy contained in the vehicle. Traffic calming of any kind was the perfect way to waste fuel and add to pollution, not to mention the waste of time. Bill found himself with up to twenty minutes each day to study the billboards, which were printed in primary colours using a child’s handwriting typeface, complete with backwards s’s. It would be easy for anyone using the ring road regularly to learn the rhyme within a day or two, Bill imagined. While this may have been good for business, Bill could not help feel that planners were entirely missing the point over traffic policy. The cycle lane that had been put in an environmental ticket reducing the dual carriageway to a single carriageway was not used at all. In six months, Bill had not seen one single cyclist using it. And the traffic was always backed up to the ring road, propelling tonnes of noxious fumes into the atmosphere daily.

The Feelgood Calendar became the must-have novelty Christmas item, and for two or three years its popularity grew with each passing day. Sales were spectacular, generating a range of spin-off electronic merchandise, some sanctioned by Brighter Futures, some not. Riding on the wave of success, Bill became a (reluctant) celebrity. He found himself on a whirlwind schedule of personal appearances and TV chat shows.

What about the rumour I’ve heard about a 20 hour clock. Another moneymaker? asked Guy Princess on It’s a Guy Thing.

Absolutely not true,’ replied Bill. ‘what about the rumour I’ve heard that you are homosexual?’ Bill was not homophobic, he was just exasperated at endlessly being asked stupid questions. Unfortunately the show went out live. ‘Is Guy Gay Asks Bonkers Bill,’ read the headline in The Tabloid next day. He did not seem to have the support of the press. When in an earlier interview he had expressed concern about the lack of attention the world was giving to the issue of the build up of particulate matter in the debate about climate change, The Lark reported it ‘Barmy Bill Says We’re Not Going To Fry After All.’ But there is no such thing as bad publicity. Each outburst only served to help sell the Feelgood calendar.

The calendar went worldwide. It quickly became accepted as standard in Scandinavia, with its long winters, this despite the obvious difficulties in translating the mnemonic rhyme into Swedish or Norwegian so that it scanned well. It did not fare so well in Australia and South America as it was felt it made winter seem interminable. In Britain, and the rest of Europe, it sat happily alongside the Gregorian calendar rather than replace it. It was fine to have one in the home but it did not catch on in the workplace. The business world stood doggedly by the schedule that it was familiar with. Primary schools, while they liked the idea were never sure if they could teach it, as it did not feature on the curriculum. Despite repeated calls to adopt the calendar and begin the school year in January, the conservative culture of the education establishment prevailed. All of the main Churches regarded the Feelgood calendar as heresy and fiercely opposed its take up. Astrologers too were less than welcoming, and therein lay the largest obstacle. People were very reluctant to adopt a different birthday. Bill was not. Bill’s birthday was September 11th in the Gregorian calendar. All his family had died that day. They were driving back from the coast and had become lost in the outskirts of an unfamiliar town. They had been killed by a young driver in a stolen car that he could not control properly. The driver was being chased by a gang of small time criminals. Bill was the only survivor of the head-on collision.

He felt that July 42nd, the new date for his birthday, was a big improvement on September 11th, free as it was from baggage. Most years July 42nd was just as cloudy as September 11th had been. Bill was undeterred. He continued to use the calendar well into old age and long after it was fashionable. By this time sunny days were down to single figures.

© Chris Green 2014: All rights reserved