I’m a huge fan of the Big Bang Theory but even after watching every episode I’m fairly sure there’s no loop quantum gravity, supersymmetry, or string theory explanation for why it is that the editing of the penultimate draft of a novel should take longer than the initial writing of it. Time simultaneously contracts and expands, dilates and condenses, the arduousness of the original creation being replaced by a dulling of the senses caused by repetition and familiarity, the spontaneous eruption of a forgotten joke encountered afresh distended into an asymptotic moan of diminishing returns each time it is reread and effort is made to improve on or sharpen it. The self-confidence that overtook any initial hesitation and thereby resulted in the completion of a work to be edited gives way in the review to an orgy of “What the hell was I thinking?” doubt, a form of self-abuse manifested by crossings-out, screeds in the margins, and long, languid waves of ink across full pages where not a word can be salvaged, waves that in brief moments condemn days of agonized wankery.
I get enough of editing in my day job, so this torture I inflict on myself is purely for your benefit, you understand. If you think this next book is shite, you should see what it was like before I edited it. But even now, I’m still laughing at the craziness of it. I’ve mentioned elsewhere that an anonymous reader at Hodder & Stoughton gave my agent feedback on it, saying “This is quite the funniest dystopian comedy I’ve read in a long time.” Well, let’s hope (s)he reads a lot of dystopian comedies, otherwise we’re fucked. Sometime soon, Fowl Play will be edging its way into your eyeline like one of those mythical beasts portending death and destruction but which, when you turn your head, looks like nothing more than a miniature schnauzer. But a miniature schnauzer with one eyebrow raised. He knows what you’ve been up to, and the day when he judges you is nigh.
Our usual panel of guests assembled for this year’s Christmas tasting within yards of the Law Courts on Fleet Street, a fitting and slightly ironic location, we thought: urbane, cosmopolitan, and convenient for litigation. It was a bitterly cold afternoon, but everyone was well wrapped up, at least to begin with; the more relaxed and convivial the company became, both conversation and clothing loosened up.
First up was a 1996 Sarvodaya. On most occasions, several of our panel would instinctively turn up their noses at anything purporting to come from India, but the enthusiasm of our younger and more adventurous members induced them to overcome this particular prejudice, albeit for just the afternoon. A near-translucent, vaguely oily liquid, with hints of amber when turned to the sun, the Sarvodaya had an underlying sweetness that was easy to miss but still too much for one or two even jaded palates. Peregrine thought that he detected a hint of peach and perhaps raspberry or printer’s ink, but this could have been his mind playing tricks on him, because few of the other tasters could discern those particular scents in the bouquet. “Are you sure you washed your hands before coming here?” asked Sebastian playfully.
The consensus was that the Sarvodaya constituted a solid start but was nothing to write home about. Six stars.
Sarvodaya Liquid Paraffin 1996 (£3.99 500 ml)
Next up was the 1997 Klenasol White Spirit, an offering that drew further sneers from one or two of the panel members averse to anything that has New World about it. “You might as well give us industrial cleaning fluid,” Auberon said, although this did not stop him from consuming more than his fair share of this delicate little number. “Reputations can be deceptive,” he conceded afterwards. “I didn’t think this would have the complexity of some of the older, more established, European spirits, but they’ve clearly done their homework and learned from our mistakes.” Hints of cherries on the nose and a hit at the rear of the palate redolent of lighter fluid made this a popular selection with the panel. Eight stars.
Klenasol White Spirit 1997 (£1.99 250 ml)
In retrospect, it may have been too early in the tasting to have at this point introduced the Old Spice. I had decanted it beforehand in order to conceal its identity and to allow it to breathe, but all the panel members over 70 recognized it immediately, and the younger members barely got a look in, causing a rift in the proceedings and souring the atmosphere in what was meant, after all, to be a festive occasion. “Reminds me of my rugby playing days,” said Jeffrey, snatching the bottle from my grip before anyone else could get near it and taking a hearty swig that brought gasps of dismay from one or two members distraught at this breach of etiquette. They were mollified only by the intervention of the panel chairman, who tried to ensure a more equitable distribution of the beverage.
Old Spice remains an enigma. An overpowering bouquet soon gives way in the mouth to a not unpleasant heat reminiscent of Fisherman’s Friends or Victory Vs. Opinion was nonetheless divided on this drink. Older members appreciated the selection, possibly out of sentiment, whereas younger members thought it a little vulgar. Five stars.
Old Spice After Shave 1994 (£4.99 250 ml)
Events took a slight turn for the worse with the next selection, a 1996 Liberon Beeswax Liquid Antique Pine Polish. The Liberon is marketed as “rich in beeswax and turpentine,” which I anticipated would make it a guaranteed winner with our panel, but some of the animosity from the argument over the previous sample could only be dissipated, it seemed, by rounding on me, even though I couldn’t help but notice that they finished off, or I should say, polished off, this drink much quicker than any of the others. “You’re a cunt of the first order,” said Jeffrey as he coaxed the dregs of the Liberon from the flask. “I bet he’s a fucking Jew,” said Richard. “Now, now,” said Boris. “You can’t be seen to be anti-Semitic in this day and age.” Richard’s head drooped. “Fuck off, blondie,” he said under his breath.
Although the breezy ethanol opening promises a vibrant, youthful drink, the Liberon was slow and mushy on the tongue, indicating perhaps that too much beeswax had been used in its manufacture and not enough turpentine. It was still regarded as “quite filling,” and a couple of the younger panel members at this point noticed that they could no longer feel their arms. Five Stars.
Liberon Beeswax Liquid Antique Pine Polish 1996 (£10.12 500 ml)
A brown, opaque liquid with low notes of ammonia, horseshit, and chrysanthemum, Reckitt’s Silvo All-Purpose Metal Polish doesn’t jump to mind as an intoxicant of choice among the swinish multitudes. Among those of some discernment and imagination, however, it proffers an opportunity to get completely out of it on very little outlay while simultaneously lending itself to mockery of the usual pretentious shite that the nouveaux riches and wretchedly obnoxious social climbers spout whenever they congregate for tastings such as this. “Definite suggestion of new-mown grass with apples. Do you get that?” asked Sebastian, both sarcastically and loudly enough to be heard from the other side of the street, with the consequence that we were moved on by the constabulary, even though most of us were by now contentedly slumped in the doorway of the Cock Tavern. “You’re a cunt, officer,” said Jeffrey. “Ask him if he’s a fucking Jew,” said Richard. “My apologies, officer, “ said Boris. “They haven’t been well.”
The Silvo was declared by all to be “fucking splendid,” and although my companions wanted me to disport myself to an ironmongery in order to purchase further supplies while they repaired to a nearby hostelry, I insisted that we finish the tasting first. At this point, Sebastian vomited copiously over his own and Boris’s laps. Ten stars.
Reckitt Silvo All Purpose Metal Polish 1999 (£1.89 150 ml)
Next up was an adventurous choice, a 1992 Polycell Heavy Duty Brush Cleaner. I say “adventurous” because at 10 pounds a litre, you really expect this one to be something special. The panel was not disappointed. “Sweet, sweet paint thinners,” said Auberon accurately, crawling across the pavement in my direction and flailing his hand at where he imagined the bottle to be before falling soundly asleep, his feet hanging over the kerb. I judged that it was probably as well that he slept. There was blood at the corner of his mouth, and one of the well-known side-effects of paint thinners is renal failure and death. On the bright side, it works as an anticonvulsant for canine epilepsy.
Sebastian had perked up after vomiting and was keen to try this little number. Still able to raise his little finger as he lifted the bottle to his lips, he gazed into the distance and gently swirled the rasping liquid around his gums. Rather than spit or swallow, he elected to do both, his head lolling to one side with his mouth open so that half the drink went down his throat, the other half over his lips and onto his shoulder. “Enchanting,” he animadverted, before passing out.
Other panel members concurred. “You know what this would be good for?” said Toby. “Performing operations. For the surgeon, I mean. Instead of performing operations.” I took his lack of lucidity to be an endorsement of this selection. Nine stars.
Polycell Heavy Duty Brush Cleaner 1992 (£10.12 1l)
The tasting was drawing to a close as rush hour advanced and panel members declined further refreshment. Next on the agenda was a 1998 Cutex Quick & Gentle Nourishing nail polish remover. I had deliberately placed the more potent beverages toward the end of the day’s list, aware that, even though not all the panel members’ palates are as discerning as they once were, early exposure to such overpowering intoxicants could have reduced the afternoon to a raucous free-for-all and a waste of time for everyone concerned. As it transpired, I had gauged things well: Only two of the panel members remained unconscious as I poured the Cutex into their mouths, and one of those bestirred himself enough to try to stand and punch me. The other merely lay comatose across the pavement, surreptitiously shitting himself, we later learned.
Cutex hasn’t produced a beverage this complex and intriguing since 1993. That, of course, was a very good year for nail polish remover because of the withdrawal on restrictions in the amount of acetone used in its manufacture. Peregrine thought it gave off “hints of airplanes.” “There. Look,” he said, pointing at a zebra crossing. “Airplanes. Can’t you hear them? Tiny slimy bastards. Watch out!!!” at which point he shielded his eyes from the pedestrians passing by and curled up into a trembling ball before leaping up and barking at me.
Personally, I detected plums and blackcurrant, albeit very faintly, scents that disappear on the tongue to be replaced by cabbage leaves, saffron, and cotton. This was by far my favourite selection of the afternoon, but I was unable to coax agreement from my fellow panel members, only one of whom was at that point capable of coherent English, namely Boris. Nine and a half stars.
Cutex Quick & Gentle Nourishing nail polish 1998 (£2.75 25 ml)
As a digestif, I offered the panel a wee dram of 1997 Kiwi Instant Wax Shoe Polish, opting for the white, an unusual choice, I know you’ll agree, but the black can be so messy at the end of a meal, and the white, in my experience, comes off the skin and clothing more easily. None of my fellow panel members was able to get the top off their individually crafted bottles, each of which I had had monogrammed for the occasion, so it was down to me to act as the Admirable Crichton and take care of them. Happily, assistance was not long in coming, in the form of a white van with the word “Police” on the side. The gentlemen passengers within were most understanding and my panel members almost universally compliant, except for Richard, naturally, and Sebastian, who I understand died in police custody. Never mind. It’s what he would have wanted. Five stars.
Kiwi Instant Wax Shoe Polish (White) 1997
Account by an unknown author of the 2009 Spectator/Oldie Christmas party.
Every year, the Société des Spectacles, France’s premier organization for stage performers, hoofers, actors, and thesps in general, presents its Estomac D’Or award to the individual or team nominated by their peers as the nation’s leading exponent of on-stage ventriloquism. We considered it to be in everybody’s interest to find out what has happened to those illustrious honorees over the years.
2016. Samira Guérin et Les Flics Monstrueux: Touring the provinces to nearly sold-out audiences.
2015. Yoann Bossis et “Flash”: Junior scriptwriters on Les Guignols.
2014. Franck Blanck et Macks Planck: Playing Obélix on Radio Canal Sud.
2013. Thierry Douis et Sonny: Dubbing Sunny Delight ads. Poorly.
2012. Zinedine Artelesa et Les Liaisons Onctueuses: PR advisers to Nicolas Sarkozy.
2011. Patrick Gondet et Phattseau: Presenters of the French version of The Antiques Roadsheau.
2010. Sylvain Bosquier et Tante Claudine: Timetable announcers at Gare de Lyon.
2009. Lilian Revelli et ses poupées extraordinaires: Now performing as Liliane Revelli et ses poupées ordinaires.
2008. Vincent Trésor et Paul le Doux: Successful career on French inland cruise ships and high-end canal barge holidays.
2007. Didier Carnus et Didier le Bois: On the run.
2006. Bernard Bereta avec son fils bavard: Police informer.
2005. David Guillou et Didier le Bois: Dead.
2004. Alain Platini et Kevin MacPherson: Self-employed Paris bus guides.
2003. Jean-Pierre Petit et Petit Jean-Pierre: The many voices of Garmin Français satellite navigation aids.
2002. Laurence Larios et Boule de Suif: Publicists for France’s Meat Marketing Board.
2001. Stéphane Tigana et Killer: Aisle Four, Carrefour Boulogne.
2000. Manuel Ribéry et Pipi: “Humorous” football commentators on Marseilles Radio Libre.
1999. Louise Zidane et Marie-Claire: Novelty Avon Ladies.
1998. Jean-François Nasri et son Mec en Colère: Psychotic Offenders Wing, Saint Barthélemy’s Home for the Indigent and Murderous, Rennes.
1997. Jean-Marc Vieira et Héloise: Happily married.
1996. Hervé Henry et Suzi Wong: Offensive jugglers.
1995. Emmanuel Gourcuff et Le Grand Oiseau Jaune: Sued by children’s TV show 5, Rue Sésame in 2002. Suicide.
1994. Marius Wiltord et Chocko: Retired carpenters. Living in the Ardennes.
1993. Philippe Ginola et Darkie: Touring the colonies.
1992. Marcel Des Champs et Charles de Gueule: Organizers of far-right underground paramilitary group. Occasionally perform benefit gigs in locations unknown.
1991. Yvette Thuram et Foulou: Still deceiving the blind.
The March 2016 issue of Esquire Magazine features a list of “55 Things That Every Man Should Know How to Do.” For your edification, he should know how to
1. Put a Windsor knot in his tie.
2. Milk a cow.
3. Change a car’s tires, oil, and spark plugs.
4. Hide a stain.
5. Play Texas Three-Card Hold ‘Em.
6. Lose gracefully.
7. Know the quickest route out of a department store.
8. Tie a tourniquet.
9. Mix a mean Bloody Mary.
10. Negotiate with kidnappers.
11. Find the channel with the gymnastics on during the Olympics.
12. Not take offense if accused of homosexuality.
13. Fake sincerity when apologizing.
14. Fake his doctor’s signature.
15. Judge bra size using only his hands.
16. Spot dogshit at 30 yards.
17. Cheat at darts.
18. Suck it up and take it like a man.
19. Use a bike pump as a lethal weapon.
20. Dodge library fines.
21. Steal a car radio.
22. Steal someone’s identity.
23. Make it look like suicide.
24. Dispose of a body.
25. Kick a dog without it barking.
26. Knock one out without the wife knowing.
27. Grass up a friend to Customs and Excise.
28. Find the touts on match day.
29. Stay out of a fight he started.
30. Urinate in a packed Wimbledon Centre Court End and blame someone else.
31. Avoid the speed cameras while doing a ton.
32. Goose a waitress so she’ll be flattered.
33. Locate bodily fluids on a pizza.
34. Lie in a foreign language.
35. Throw a party for an undeserving friend and make sure he knows it while everyone else thinks you’re a great guy.
36. Raze a house to the ground during the night.
37. Soil a bed beyond repair.
38. Sneak a peek.
39. Stalk someone using only the Internet.
40. Amputate a digit without grimacing (someone else’s).
41. Spike a child’s drink.
42. Tell his mother she has a pube stuck in her teeth.
43. Remove a vacuum attachment from his rectum without the need for a hospital visit.
44. Win disgracefully.
45. Expectorate on the ref without him knowing.
46. Make a nun weep.
47. Stash drugs in his luggage and not get caught.
48. Fart (1) silently (2) humorously (3) during sex, incorporating it into the lovemaking.
49. Suck off a prison guard.
50. Inject heroin into someone’s arm without leaving telltale signs.
51. Surreptitiously destroy a work colleague’s career.
52. Persuade a first date to swallow.
53. Kill, skin, gut, fillet and cook a Kardashian.
54. Play “London’s Burning” on the recorder (The Clash version).
55. Break a swan’s wing.
Only then will you be a man, my son.
Pain-killing antibacterial endorphin-producing peppers! (see No. 29)
In magazines as diverse as Health, Time, Razzle, Michael Brindsley’s Nutritional Weekly, The People’s Friend, and Model Railroader, experts have been raving about the discovery of live-giving “Superfoods,” yet none of these so-called fucking experts can seem to agree on how much of these foods you need and when you should have them. Consequently, we felt it our duty to present this handy guide, which we recommend you print out and carry with you at all times. It could save your life!
1. Packed with vitamins and fiber, carrots will help you see in the dark so that you can defend yourself against the myriad species of lethal snake that live in the trees of the Amazon rainforest.
2. Nutritious and full of fruit, a medium-sized Christmas Pudding in a stocking makes a handy improvised cosh that can fell a reindeer with a single blow.
3. Edam. Large wheels of this gorgeous Dutch cheese are perfect for rolling across minefields.
4. Carry a jar of English mustard with you whenever you’re abroad in Europe or America, otherwise you’ll starve to death.
5. French bread. A baguette cut lengthways makes a handy splint for a broken arm or leg.
6. Milder and more delicately flavored than its English counterpart, delicious French mustard smeared on the blade of your knife will guarantee infection when you stab an assailant.
7. A packet of fruit gums can keep an alligator’s jaws busy for up to 45 minutes. Just don’t make the same hilarious mistake as the late Anthony Hempel of Stroud, who tried to use fruit pastilles. Alligators wolf them down, and when Anthony ran out, they suffered a sense of humor failure.
8. Garlic bread can be used to fend off vampire capitalists.
9. Grizzly bears can be confused by your waving tins of kidney beans at them.
10. Lean Beef. Strips of sirloin attached to the hull of a sinking boat will attract turtles, whom you can then snare and use to ride to safety.
11. Spray Lucozade into the eyes of an advancing tiger and it will stick its eyelids shut, giving you ample time to open another bottle and drink it for the added energy you’ll require to run away.
12. Margarine (with Plant Sterols). Smeared across the floor of a shopping mall, will provide an impassable barrier against flesh-eating zombies.
13. Margarine (Trans-fat-Free). Smear this on the inside of your coffin when you’ve been buried alive and the slight translucent glow it gives off as a result of a chemical reaction with the wood in a low-oxygen environment should give you enough light to locate your mobile phone. It’s a long shot, but it won’t work with any other kind of margarine or butter.
14. Keep a bag of dry Penne pasta around your neck at all times for emergency tracheotomies.
15. Shake a tin of peanuts at random intervals to convince short-sighted predators that you’re a rattlesnake.
16. Avoid hypothermia by covering your body in Piccalilli.
17. Attacked by a troop of monkeys? The pomegranate is nature’s hand grenade. If you usually eat yours with a pin, don’t forget to take the pin out before throwing it.
18. Pork Scratchings. Also known as pork rinds to Americans, the shape and strength of organic farmhouse scratchings make them ideal replacements for crampons when you’re stuck half-way up a mountainside with nothing but a 300,000-foot drop between you and your maker, Geppetto.
19. Potatoes. Pitbull’s jaw clamped around your forearm? Shove a spud up its arse!
20. Aqualung low? No worries. Extra air can be found inside ravioli.
21. Coalminers always carry wedges of Red Leicester when they’re beneath the surface. It turns blue in the presence of carbon monoxide.
22. Use a stick of rhubarb to poke an attacking shark in the eye. Asparagus is too short.
23. Everyone knows that rice swells up in contact with water and that this can be used to plug a hole in a car radiator. Fewer know that it also works for a gaping stomach wound. Most surgeons prefer long-grained rice all the way from America.
24. If you break the rowlocks on your boat while sailing single-handedly across the Atlantic, stale ring donuts will suffice for the first 300 miles, enough to get you to Iceland. Or away from Iceland.
25. Make holes for your eyes, nose, and mouth in a large Romaine lettuce leaf to avoid being recognized at border posts.
26. An oily meat that is good for the complexion, hair, and nails, large slices of salmon can be fashioned into a parasol to shade you from the sun when you’re in the middle of the desert and there’s nobody in the vicinity who minds the smell of fish.
27. Everyone loves sherbet lemons, but resist the temptation to eat them all. When you’re stuck under an avalanche, you’ll be grateful that you saved one to make into a whistle.
28. Bitten by a snake? Drink 10 pints of snakebite, and you’ll find that the cider will knock you unconscious long before paralysis sets in.
29. Tabasco sauce in the Jap’s eye of a flasher is no better than the fucker deserves.
30. Tuna always know where the guns are kept.
31. Two bars of Twix can be used to bribe a small child to steal the keys to his father’s Lamborghini, which you can then spray-paint and fence in order to pay off your gambling debts to Machete Mike.
32. Vinegar. An astringent, which can be used to accelerate the healing of open wounds in the side and also to hydrate a messiah during his crucifixion. He will still die, though.
33. Vitamin C Sharp travels through your body’s organs, mopping up all the oxygen free musicals.
34. Rustle a bag of Walkers Cheese and Onion crisps to attract the attention of an usher in the cinema if the person next to you is having a cardiac arrest or has a knife at your throat or his hand inside your bra. If that fails, eat the crisps and breathe on him.
35. You can disarm a suicide bomber by sneaking into his room the night before an attack and replacing all his explosives with watercress.
36. Strap a giant Yorkshire Pudding to your chest when driving in case your airbag fails.
37. Two zucchini strapped to your feet will support your weight in the snow, giving you a fighting chance of reaching neutral Switzerland.
38 to 101. 64 omega-3-fortified eggs will provide you with 64 days’ worth of revitalizing omega-3 fatty acids. Just don’t eat them all in one sitting. They’ll kill you.
Advertising agency Whittington, Burgher + Leveque was founded by three soixante-huitards in 1974, in the aftermath of the failure of the European social revolution. Disappointed by the turn of history, the company’s founders nevertheless put their experiences to good use, courting controversy (and in the process getting great publicity!) by taking the Situationist slogans of the late 60s and using them, much as Malcolm McLaren did, to sell commodities to the public. The agency is now one of the largest in the world, with an annual turnover of €345 million. Some of their best-known and most successful ad campaigns will be oddly familiar to connoisseurs of the revolutionary left:
Be Realistic! Demand the Mission Impossible Soundtrack.
Viagra: Take Your Desires for Reality.
The Boss Needs You, You Don’t Need Him.
Bruce Springsteen on tour this autumn.
How Can One Drink Freely in the Shadow of a Chapel? Why, Buckfast, of course!
(J. Chandler & Co.)
The Prospect of Finding Pleasure Tomorrow Will Never Compensate for Today’s Boredom.
Buckingham Palace, open 1–5 p.m., Wed–Fri.
(House of Windsor Inc.)
In a Society That Has Abolished All Adventures, the Only Adventure Left Is to Abolish Luxury.
Read Less, Live More!
Your Super Soaraway Sun, Now Just 40p!
The Liberation of Humanity Will Be Total or It Will Be Not at All.
(Total S.A. Petroleum)
I Find My Orgasms Among the Paving Stones. Dispose of Your Condoms Responsibly.
All That is Sacred: There is the NME.
It is Forbidden to Forbid: Just Do It!
Neither God nor Master!
(Church of England plc)
A Cop Sleeps in Every One of Us: Keep It That Way with Night Nurse.
Let’s Be Cruel!
Poetry is in the Street: Smoke Pall Mall.
(R. J. Reynolds Tobacco Co.)
Arise, You Wretched of the University! Supermarket Sweep is Back!
The Bourgeoisie Has No Other Pleasure But to Biodegrade All Pleasures. What’s Your Carbon Footprint?
Under the Pavement, the Métro!
Live Without Dead Time: New Sky Plus Digital.
McAlpine Construction: Because the Hacienda Must Be Built.
Club 18–30: Cheap Holidays in Other People’s Misery.
Run, Comrade! The Old World is Behind You!
It’s Painful to Suffer the Bosses. It’s Even Stupider to Pick Them.
The Apprentice, weeknights on BBC 1.
(talkback Thames Productions)
All Power to the Imagination!
And of course
People Who Talk About Revolution and Class Struggle Without Referring Explicitly to Everyday Life, Without Understanding What is Subversive About Love and What is Positive in the Refusal of Constraints, Such People Have Coco Pops in Their Mouth.
From the February 2015 issue of Amateur Hiker magazine.
Treating injuries miles from the ER is an essential skill, but you don’t need to be a doctor, surgeon, nurse, paediatrician, obstetric gynaecologist, or even a plain old voyeur to learn what it takes to survive in the wild. Brad Chilterns is the founder of Outdoor Medicine, which specializes in teaching underedumacated back-country folk and overeducated city types how to cope with a medical emergency. Usually his courses cost more than a couple of grand, but he’s distilled a lifetime’s experience (he’s now 109) into the tips we present here as all you need to know. Read it, memorize it, swallow it, and shit it out later.
We’ll start with the easy stuff.
Blisters: Everyone gets blisters, but not everyone knows how to deal with them. What you have to do is clean the blister first with an antiseptic wipe. Then get a long, sharp pin or needle. A Swiss Army knife is too blunt. Heat your needle over a log fire or a candle until it’s sterile. Then pierce the skin and massage the fluid till it’s all come out or until you want to puke with the pain. Then get hold of a thick book and press it down hard on the skin until you’re totally sure there’s no fluid left. Once you’ve done that, drive the pin further into the skin, until the blood is running freely. Wrap a sock round the wound and wait for a scab to form. After a couple of days, rip off the sock, taking the scab with it, and the blister will be healed underneath. Magic!
Abrasions: Scrub the wound with soap and a gauze pad or bandanna, making sure to remove all debris. This will hurt. Add salt. It’ll hurt some more. Rinse off all the soap and then pour bleach liberally into the wound. Put a plaster on it. Take a swig of the bleach as well, just to be on the safe side.
Burns: Jump into the nearest lake, river, stream, bath, shower, waterfall, cascade, or cataract. If none of these are available, have all your colleagues urinate on the burn. The colder their urine, the better. Failing that, put some soothing 100% aloe vera gel with tea tree oil and camomile on a silk or satin scarf and gently inhale. Do not be tempted to spread peanut butter, Marmite, Nutella, or Activia on the burn. These will achieve nothing. If blisters form, see above for treatment.
ANIMAL AND INSECT BITES
Bees and wasps: If the stinger remains in the skin, take a sharp hunting knife and cut deep into the flesh so that you cut right underneath the stinger, thereby preventing it from taking root. Bury the excised flesh so that the stinger doesn’t try to come back again. Then suck the poison from the knife wound. Be careful to use a clean knife and a clean mouth so as not to give the patient tetanus/rabies/gonorrhea. If the patient has an allergic reaction, give them an antihistamine or let them run it off.
Ticks: These bloodsuckers can transmit disease if allowed inside you, and it only takes them a few minutes to scale your legs, clambering up the hairs, and sneak their way into your most intimate nooks and crannies. So make sure you shave your legs before every hiking and camping trip. Yes, all the way up. Get a back, sack and crack wax to be extra safe. And don’t grow a moustache; they’ll swing off it up your nose while you sleep.
If you’re fortunate enough to find a tick before it makes your innards its home, torture it to find out where its mates are. Then squish it with that book you’ve got.
Venomous spiders: Although they’re called venomous, these spiders aren’t really poisonous. I mean, they won’t kill you. A coma is the worst you’ll experience, and then only if you’ve eaten a bowl of the fuckers. Look for vomiting, diarrhoea, and a sore throat as signs that you have indeed eaten a bowl of the fuckers. Take a dispirin or two and some laxatives. You may not need the laxatives.
Venomous Snakes are another thing entirely. They can dissolve your hand just by breathing on it. It’s like snogging an Australian call girl. If one of your group does get bitten by a snake, keep the victim calm, then take off all their jewelry, watches, and anything else of value or which might offer clues as to their identity. Back away from them slowly and pretend you’re going to get help. Put the bitten limb in a splint if they need further convincing
Mammals: The old wives’ tale about the hair of the dog that bit you applies to all mammals. Catch the animal responsible, skin it, and wrap its fur around the wound until the bleeding stops. The natural antiseptic action of the animal pelt and the fact that animals are immune to their own saliva will render any further treatment unnecessary.
Diarrhea: Keep the patient away from your clothes, from the tent, and from all cooking utensils. Giving the patient fluids just encourages the diarrhea, so avoid giving the patient any liquids or food for several days, until his asshole dries up. Then you might consider giving him a banana or some nuts. Providing he behaves.
Vomiting: See Diarrhea, above.
Toothache: Use a toothpaste for sensitive teeth from the age of 5 up. If you notice any pain or bleeding in the gums, rush to a hospital. It could be cancer. Bring your dentist on hikes with you in future.
Broken Tooth: Rinse the tooth thoroughly with drinking water, then wrap it in a handkerchief, take it home, and put it under your pillow before you go to sleep. You may not get the full value of the tooth, since it’s broken, but there’s no arbitration board you can appeal to. That’s monopolies for you.
If the blood is gushing, make a tourniquet using a stout stick, a pair of children’s trousers, and your muscles. Keep pressure on the wound until the bleeding stops or the patient passes out. Do not apply tourniquets to neck wounds. Once bleeding has stopped, pack the wound with mud and cloth. If blood continues to seep through, keep packing on the mud until you can’t tell blood from mud. For a gaping wound, press the edges together and stick them in place with sellotape or brown paper and spittle. If you have string and a tent peg handy, you may be able to stitch the wound temporarily. Then apply Germolene or Sudocrem, sit quietly, and wait for the patient to die. Check all wounds regularly for signs of infection, such as coughing.
Snowblindness: Redness, teary eyes, and a rough, sandpapery pain when opening or moving the eyes are all signs of sunburned corneas. Put the patient immediately in a dark tent and get them to think of dark things, such as cellars, Darth Vader, sealions, dark tents, and broken traffic lights. Don’t let them rub their eyes because they’ll discover they’re blind, and the discovery could lead to flailing panic, jeopardizing the safety of the whole group, especially if the mountain is particularly slippery or inhabited by venomous snakes or Serbian death squads. Give the patient strong opiates, then try hitting him across the eyes with a wet fish, the way Jesus did, and see what happens. If nothing else, you’ll get a laugh out of it.
Hypothermia: The first sign of hypothermia is that the patient complains of being “bloody freezing.” After that, they say very little. More advanced hypothermia patients exhibit what are commonly referred to as “the umbles”: stumbling, fumbling, mumbling, tumbling, jumbling, bumbling, grumbling, and qumbling. Get the patient into warm, dry clothes and place him in a sheltered area, such as inside a tent. Don’t have a tent? You should have thought of that, shouldn’t you? To rapidly generate body heat, give the patient water and simple sugars, such as dark chocolate or hot rum butter cinnamon cocktails. For more advanced cases, mutual masturbation is a must. Then set fire to him so he won’t tell.
Altitude Sickness: Feeling hungover? Don’t climb mountains pissed then. But if you haven’t had a drink, and if you’ve got a headache, nausea, insomnia, lack of appetite, and fatigue, it could be Acute Mountain Sickness. The best thing to do under the circumstances is to take ibuprofen for the headache, drink lots of water, and do some light exercise around camp, such as sprints, jumping jacks, or naked wrestling. If these fail to work or if you get an erection while naked wrestling, head down the mountain immediately to avoid possible brain damage.
Attitude Problem: Tell them to shape up or ship out. It’s highly unlikely they’ll have a ship with them.
Frostbite: Cold, pale, numb, and rigid skin means that the tissue has frozen. Rapidly warm the area in a container of water heated up to between 99° and 102° Celsius, monitoring and adding more hot water as needed to make sure the temperature is constant. Give Ibuprofen for the pain. If blisters form, treat as above. Note: If you notice the tissue refreezing, scrub all of the above. Do NOT, I repeat, Do NOT warm the injury. Instead, keep it frozen until you can get the patient to a doctor. But it’ll probably be too late.
REMEMBER: WASH YOUR HANDS!
A 2013 Journal of Handwashing report found that 61 percent of six Adirondack Trail hikers who “rarely or never” washed their hands after a bathroom break got diarrhea, compared to just .000007 percent of those who did scrub. When you’re planning on doing any form of outdoor surgery, hygiene has to be your priority. Here’s how to do it right:
(a) Wet hands (water is best) and add a drop of nontoxic soap.
(b) Work up a lather and scrub for 30 minutes, paying particular attention to the between-the-fingers and the fingerprints, where the sneakiest germs try to hide.
(c) Rinse, repeat three times, then dry hands on leaves, trousers, dishcloth, whatever else you have to hand.
FINALLY: BE PREPARED
Here’s what you need to pack (suitable for four to six people on a weekend trip).
24 sterile, 3- by 3-inch or 2- by 2-inch gauze pads to clean and cover wounds
5 1- by 3-inch adhesive strips to cover cleaned wounds
1 roll of duct tape to silence sentries
1 pair tweezers for removing splinters and ticks
1 pair medical gloves, cleanroom protective suit, autonomous breathing apparatus, and portable isolation chamber to protect you and the patient from contamination
1 pair of pliers for recalcitrant locals
1 compass to locate the North Star
1 roll tape (1/2 inch by 5 yards) to hold dressings on wounds
1 ball of string one mile long to measure miles
36 200mg tablets ibuprofen for pain, inflammation, and fever
2 packets antibiotic ointment to cover wounds before dressings
1 set of jump leads in case of cardiac arrest
1 swab tincture of benzoin to make adhesive bandages stickier or hold wound closure strips in place
3 antimicrobial hand wipes to clean hands and around wounds
1 safety pin
1 bowling pin
1 table tennis table, 4 table tennis bats and 1 table tennis net. For morale. Better still, don’t go at all.
And he’s not sick. He’s just feeling a little hoarse.
Advice from the May 2014 issue of Wellness and Swellness.
A SHOT IN THE ARM
Yes, Your Kid Really Does Need All Those Shots She’s Scheduled for in Her First Year. We’ll Tell You What She’s Getting and Why Each One is Vital to Her Health
This past January, there was an outbreak of measles in San Diego. The culprit? An unvaccinated child who’d recently traveled to Switzerland. Why? We may never know. But the highly contagious respiratory disease, which can lead to pneumonia, encephalitis, and even death, quickly spread to 11 other children. In 2013, four states reported outbreaks of whooping cough, another highly infectious disease that’s potentially deadly for infants. It came from Norway. And around the same time, Maine and Eastern Canada were experiencing a sudden increase in mumps, a painful virus that can cause hearing loss and which originates in Moroccans and camels, hence the name.
What’s going on here? Didn’t we beat these diseases decades ago? Well yes, but these infections can be just one plane ride away, which is why we have to keep vaccinating our kids against illnesses that foreign countries haven’t been able to cure because they lack the expertise, the funding, or the basics of hygiene. And if you think that vaccinations don’t work or they’re just a scam invented by the very same pharmaceutical giants who invented the diseases in the first place, remind yourself that innovation is what made America great and is one of the main reasons why so few of us ever have to go abroad to begin with.
WHAT SHE’LL GET
The array of vaccinations your baby will receive may seem dizzying. Most parents don’t know what CFD even stands for, let alone why President Obama had to bomb it. And your baby requires several doses of some vaccines, which is why there are so many shots. Here’s what’s on the schedule:
Carboniferens Fibrodysplasia: In some parts of southern Spain, children’s bones and muscles are slowly turning to coal. This makes them popular with other kids in the playground because they can set light to their fingertips and exude a noxious oil that makes dogs vomit. But it is also highly contagious, and we don’t want our kids smelling like Spaniards. This inoculation comes in the form of a lump of sugar inserted rectally.
Hissy Fits: For a long time, doctors thought hissy fits were just a sign that a child was being spoiled at home. We now know that it comes from Italians and is passed onto humans by consuming the undercooked pasta illegally used as a bulking agent in some European baby formulas. While not lethal in themselves, hissy fits can lead to parents inadvertently throwing their children into the canal or under a bus, an unforeseaable but statistically significant outcome that renders this vaccination invaluable for those parents who quite like their offspring.
Second-Head Syndrome: Again, not in itself deadly, but liable to result in ostracism, which is appropriate, because it comes from Austria. The child does not actually grow a second head; rather, she becomes convinced that she has a second head, usually somewhere on her back. If you hear your daughter talking to herself, it’s a guaranteed sign that she has SHS. This is an inoperable condition, and pretending to remove her second head will likely result in trauma, resentment, and parricide. The vaccination takes the form of injections in both noses—real and imagined—for no other reason than badness.
Bigfoot: A highly contagious rumour from Canada. Not lethal, but it can lead to further complications such as Ufology, Ickeitis, and, in boys, Conspiracy Nuts. Vaccination takes the form of a kick up the arse.
Gehry’s Disease: Another one from Spain, this time from the north of the country. Symptoms include arching of the spine, skin turning silvery and scaly, and limbs pointing out at weird angles. Then people begin to stare and take photos and want to go inside. Cases of Gehry’s disease have already been spotted in California. Vaccinations take the form of a cerebral infusion of good taste.
Autism: The MMR vaccine is no guarantee your kid will get autism. You should have drunk mercury while you were pregnant.
Falling off Bikes: Like hissy fits, this was also thought to be a developmental problem and that kids would simply learn to ride their bike once they were able to find their centre of balance. It transpires that it was the Germans all the time. Vaccination takes the form of fire bombing their cities.
Obesity: We continue to vaccinate against obesity, but frankly the chances are that if you’re child is raised in America, she’s going to catch it. Vaccination takes the form of two Snickers bars and a packet of Oreo cookies per day for the next 15 years.
Paranoia: This originates in Russia, but it already has a foothold here. Not to be confused with Adolescent Insecurity, which is just a self-esteem issue, paranoia is caused by a germ that doctors secretly inject into your child while they’re giving her all the other vaccinations. You can ask your doctor not to give your child Paranoia, and he’ll say that he hasn’t, but he’s lying, the same way he lied to your parents. The best thing you can do is not to take your child anywhere near the doctor. Ever. And that applies to hospitals and the police too. All you need is your Bible. That will cure everything, I swear. Trust me. I’m a doctor.
“Backstage” at Animal Hospital
When we discovered that the theme tune to the TV quiz show Mastermind is called “Approaching Menace” (by Neil Richardson), we thought two things: (1) That’s no way to talk about John Humphrys, and (2) How many other theme tunes are selected on the basis of their title? As it turns out, quite a few:
The theme tune to Channel Four’s How Clean Is Your House? is Dvořák’s “March of the Fecal Matter.”
The theme tune to Coronation Street is “Grimm, Up North,” by Burt Bacharach
The theme tune to Blockbusters is “Suspekt Unkle,” by the Fall
The theme tune to University Challenge is Gustav Holst’s “Ode to Smugness”
The theme tune to Deal or No Deal is “Casino of Cardigans,” by Franz Ferdinand
The theme tune to The Apprentice is “(You’re Not) the Boss of Me,” by Lil’ Kim
The theme tune to The Antiques Roadshow is “Plunder!,” by the Brighouse and Rastrick Brass Band
The theme tune to Animal Hospital is “Misplaced Pity Boogie-Woogie,” by Jools Holland
The theme tune to How to Look Good Naked is “Sad Hand Shandy,” by Blur
The theme tune to Doctor Who is “Return of the Repressed,” by Captain Beefheart
The theme tune to Countdown is “Siesta,” by Moby
The theme tune to Top Gear is “Fat Lad Manifesto,” by the Nightingales
The theme tune to Property Ladder is “Brick Lust,” by Pulp
The theme tune to Fawlty Towers is “The Four Seasons Pathétique,” by Vivaldi
The theme tune to A Question of Sport is “Triumph of the Will,” by Skrewdriver
The theme tune to Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? is “Death by Questions,” by Ludovico Einaudi
The theme tune to Househunters in the Sun is “Escape from the NHS,” by Underworld
The theme tune to Autumnwatch is “Fanfare for the Common Shrew,” by The Future Sound of London
The theme tune to The O.C. is “California Reaming,” by Green Day
the theme tune to Question Time is “Empty Stage,” by Fleetwood Mac.