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How to Catch a ‘Noo-noo’

Noo Noo How to Catch a ‘Noo noo’

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want a real fairy!” says Jess, stamping her foot. A small piece of Lego pings away.

Her father, Jonathan, is not at all keen on this tone of voice. It is what – as far as he is concerned – leads to a ‘stramash.’

“Claire, you deal with her,” he says. “I’m off to the club.”

“Great,” says Claire.

An hour later, and Jess is sneaking along behind the sofa. She has prepared a Little Miss Sparkle Barbie outfit stuffed on a dolly made of sticks, and to this she has attached a noose with a long, trailing string. The ‘decoy fairy’ is now looking disconsolate at the top of the family Christmas tree – one of those expensive ones, from Fortnums.

In a plump hand, Jess has the string end. She is ready to pull this really, really, really, fast. Fast like a silly kitty when you pull its tail and you laugh a lot! That’s how fast!

“Come on, noo-noo,” she mutters, gap-teeth whistling – the ‘terrible twos’ and the elusive tooth fairy have not been kind.

Five minutes of patient waiting later – which is about five hundred years as far as Jess is concerned – and nothing has stuck its head in the tempting noose, even though the dolly has a smile drawn on it in red crayon, and clearly wants to be friends.

“Dickilus, noo-noo. Dickilus!” She stomps off and returns to add a tiara. This requires an interesting trick, balancing on an antique steamer trunk, a box of toys, and the flatscreen TV. Dickilus! – how many sparkles does she have to add? Stupid noo-noo!

This is much harder than last year.

Finally, there is a flutter of wings; a rustle in amongst the chocolate, tree-decorations (followed by a disgraceful tinkle of foil slipping from branch to branch); and then a snarling fury at the very top of the tree.

Whatever is up there is clearly territorial, and isn’t about to allow some other ‘Jumped up be-atch troll queen spend another second at the top of her tree, thank you very much’.

When the fairy dust is really flying, there is a tempting tug on the string.

Too soon. Jess has made this mistake before and only ended up with a tiny nut-shoe and a smear of butterfly dust.

Another tug.

Steady…

Tug, tug.

Now! Jess gives the string a vicious pull. Yoink! There is a puff of fake snow at the top of the tree and then the snarling begins.

The other end of the string clatters through the fairy lights, blunders around the lampshade, dislodges cobwebs, patters – yowling – along the tops of the curtains, but now Jess is reeling it in; her musical fishing rod playing ‘half a pound of tuppeny rice,’ plink by plonk.

Time to fire up the plastic stove and find Mr Bear.

Jess has the noo-noo sellotaped to a Cindy chair, next to the disappointingly crunchy remains of last year’s noo-noo. She is ecstatic.

“Noo-noo want coffee or tea? Noo-noo is Jessica’s best friend! Silly Noo-noo. Okay, mummy will pour.”

The ‘noo-noo’ says nothing – it’s too busy trying to gnaw its way out of a sarcophagus of sellotape. There is only terror in its eyes.

December 17, 2010   13 Comments

The Mushroom Culture

MushroomCulture e1287612487595 The Mushroom Culture

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he trouble with bloody fairies is the look that comes into people’s eyes when you tell them, that, not only have they been discoing down the bottom of your garden in Costa Del Toadstool-os, next to Barry the broken garden gnome, but they’ve been in your home too. There it is, that look of shiny eyed disinterest and an, “Oh, you have?” expressed in one tone removed from the ‘koochie koo’ noises designed for babies and the clinically insane. “Fairies? You’ve seen fairies?”

Yeah, I’ve seen the little bastards – they’re so goddamn cute, I want to pound them with a mallet. You get me? Strap ‘em into a Black and Decker Workmate and go to town with a hacksaw. You ever peel the wings off a blue bottle as a kid? Peeling a fairy is just like that, only more satisfying.

I almost appreciate the disbelief, rather than the koochie koo fairy eyes. At least disbelievers have some kind of informed opinion: they thought about it carefully, went through the pros-and-cons and, ‘we’re so sorry Brenda, but believing in fairies means you’re whacko, pure and simple.’ It’s as if it were an infallible test for the ‘fringe community’ exams.

Well, for my money, crop circles are tornadoes, UFO’s are marsh gas, crystals are rocks, psychic powers are wishful thinking, and bloody fairies are really, fucking good at avoiding fairy cake in mouse traps.

The cat got a couple yesterday, but I’ve already had to rescue him twice from the fairy ring next to the compost heap – you know what they say, ‘step in a ring and stay forever’. Now I’m trying to train him to avoid pouncing while the little buggers are dancing in amongst the polka dot, red-and-white toadstools, but unfortunately the cat has real instincts involving small, twitchy things, and I did spend quite a few hours bobbing a ‘My Little Fairy Friend’ toy in front of his nose, splutched all over in ‘Go Cat.’ At least I’m generally on hand in the middle of the night – you know, kicking in small toadstool housing estates with a stout pair of steel-toe-capped Doc Martin boots, and brushing down spider web picket fences with the aid of a flashlight – to rescue Mackerel prior to an extended knees-up with the Seeley Court at sunrise.

My reputation as ‘Brenda the madwoman spiritualist type’ has been made all the more infuriating by the fact that the winged vermin can choose who gets to see them. They quickly figured out I wasn’t going to take any of the ‘twee dancing around in tights,’ bullshit, or ‘bathing in moonbeams,’ malarkey and set up camp.

When my friends come to visit, somewhat unwillingly these days, it must be said, they see only the wild, sleep-haunted look in my eyes, teeth bared, white-knuckles gripping the armrest in rigid indignation, rather then the Tiller-Girl-style dancing rings amongst the Digestive Biscuits or, even worse, the synchronized swimming routines in the toilet. The only nightmare that most people have to put up with in there is the cat taking an occasional drink…

Trying to deny the fairy madness in hand, I once – up to my arse in kicked-in shroom houses –  tried a piece of a particularly striking, yellow toadstool with a small outdoor pool attached. I recognised it from my Collins Guide to Fungi under the Shamanic Culture in Northern Siberia section (apparently, the pool was an optional extra). For three or four blissful hours, wild hallucinations ensued. I didn’t see a single, maniacally dancing figure in the fridge, bread bin or washing machine – it was amazing. Of course, they came back in droves when the fungus wore off…

After that, the only thing that kept me from a midnight run with the rotovator was the shop assistant in the Tool Pigeon who caught me browsing the poisons and animal-maiming devices…

What are ‘mole bombs?’ Sound promising…

“Want some help?”

Sure I have fucking fairies – yup, the morris-dancing, twice-round-a-hill-top, don’t-eat-the-cheese-dip-in-fairyland, kind. Can I have a No 6 Brownie trap, please?

“Yeah… I’m looking for a steel-sprung trap, one of those heavy ones for… mice…maybe… a rat?”

“Have you thought about humane traps? You catch one, you can release it after.”

People want to release them after? I just call the cat…

He held up a brown, cardboard box for me to look at. Printed on the outside was a picture of a housewife with a big smile, arm-in-arm with her benevolent, moustachioed husband, as their kid happily released a mouse into the grass. Even the mouse had a little smile. Behind them was the happy family home with a revolving wash-line; this was the ‘Mouse Master’ from Humanitek.

Damn. I felt guilty about the Paraquat…

He made the mistake of asking me if I wanted some bait.

“Let me see: given the shortage of virgin school girls, a small saucer of Carlsberg Special Brew usually does the trick – especially the draught stuff – or a couple of spoons of Pillsbury Vindaloo mix on a poppadom, freshly prepared at around 3:00 am. That does it every time. Everybody has an opinion about bait. But I know what works.”

For the next few weeks I laid humane traps for the local fairy population. I even tried to keep Mackerel in my room at nights, cutting down on the number of dismembered corpses he usually left under his favourite chair in the kitchen. Apparently, fairies can talk to animals, but this is probably limited to: ‘Hey, did you see a bloody big – arrrgh!’ when chatting with Mackerel, and predominantly this would be said to his lower intestine.

Mackerel had also mastered the art of bringing them back alive, but was definitely getting suspicious of my now ‘benevolent’ motives for calling him over to show me what he’d got, then pouncing on his jaws as the cat yowled and struggled, clawing my hands and arms, while the fairy swore blue-bloody murder and cursed the TV remote again. Ever channel, sporting bloody highlights…

The other night, I spotted a nixie running along the skirting-board while I was watching Casualty, and another – which I’d already rescued from Mackerel’s jaws by levering open his teeth, much to the cats disgust – made an unfortunate and extremely slim reappearance the next morning under the sheepskin rug in the lounge.

Traps or no traps, this was going to have to stop.

Each day I’d come downstairs to find twenty or thirty so-called ‘fair folk’ in each Mouse Master penitentiary, hands on bars, unwashed and reeking of booze. Most of them had the look of terminal alcoholics, or were out of their minds on Moonbeams and Duneberry Dew. Hangovers and vomit stains were in profusion.

I tossed them into the back of the car – followed by a persistent Mackerel – and drove the twenty or thirty miles out of town to a very nice country copse. There were plenty of toadstool rings, one or two outstanding oaks to bond with – even the local spider population was fairy friendly (I checked with a library book and a bit of hands-and-knees work in the hedgerow). So I let them out there, shaking out the cans on a log or a mossy stone. Mostly, the fairies just tumble out in a groaning heap, far too hung-over from dancing and drinking the night before. A couple might have looked around, wondering where the fuck I’d brought them, but mostly they just wanted to throw up in the nearest patch of ground elder, or blink at the bright light through tortured eyeballs, like little red rowan berries.

Three months of this, and the catch wasn’t going down. Repeat offences were becoming the norm and my band of fantastical delinquents was actually increasing in number.

I should have gotten suspicious when I found two of them trying to get into a trap one morning and had to pop them inside as Mackerel tried to pick off stragglers. By that point, I was getting a lot less bothered about trying to restrain his killer instinct.

Every night till 7:00AM (sunrise) the sound of a succession of Hard-Ass Techno Trance Beats from the Mushroom Culture could be heard while they raved it up in the rhubarb patch. Another week of the ‘ooom cha, ooom cha, ooom cha, ooom cha …’ super-bass reverberating the foundations, and I was going to snap in a very folklore-unfriendly manner.

Straight after, on the next car run to the distant copse, I found a whole spread of holiday-condo ‘Wizard’s Knob’ bracket fungi and self-catering ‘Crete-os Agaric’ death-cap parasols with ‘river’ view, and a great many more under construction, with en-suit nutshell and candygrass plumbing.

So much for humanitarian traps – I was running a weekend break cum package tour to the countryside!

I began to retrain Mackerel to kill, kill, kill!

Now I’ve limbered up with a variety of kitchen implements they’d never let me use on Master Chef because they are far too well weighted for throwing – and the use I’ve found for a meat tenderizer definitely extends beyond whacking rump-steak.

I’ve got it in for the little bastards now, and the next coffee shop owner that offers me a chocolate brownie gets stabbed in the eye with an extremely in-humane melon-baller.

Mythology is hell – it’s fucking folklore out there…

October 14, 2010   2 Comments

Chickens of the Dead

Chickens Of The Dead Chickens of the Dead

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ammy sees as Sammy does; if he sees it, he does it. There ain’t no thinking involved. Like when he saw those spectral chickens running amok outside Chicken Ranch. He just went straight in and started an exorcism, right there in the queue.

Ghostly they were: pucking and kucking, skittering about – just like real chickens, but dead. Must’ve come from the latest batch of Chicken Ranch tenders, he thinks. Just look at ‘em. Nobody can see the poor bastards, and yet they’re running round all over. Running through children, running through dogs; a lady with a bag, all swarming with dead chooks. Figure I gotta sort this out. So he does. Two crossed sporks aught’a keep the dead at bay.

Inside the shop, folk have got the door open. It’s a hot-summer’s-every-day in Yuma – about 110 – and the aircon is on the blink. Should’ve gone down the road to Funky Chicken, but there you go. It’s a sea of chicken death – hundreds and hundreds of mutilated chickens scrapping about under tables.

A few must be manifesting poltergeist tendencies, as straws, coins and the odd grain of food, flick about, seemingly under their own control, or maybe it’s ‘just the wind’ – that old stalwart of horror movies. But it ain’t the wind. Never has he seen a meat joint in more need of a vegan exorcist. Bad enough when it’s bad meat. But worse when it’s comin’ back at ya.

He scatters a few packs of salt. Surreptitiously squirts round some ketchup. Shit, how do you do that surreptitiously? So he does it big, wide, and generous, squeezing the bottle out into a pentagram on a gingham table top. The last point ends with an empty tomato fart.

The seats are bolted down so he can’t clear much of a space for the necessary dancing – alas it’s the only exorcism he knows – so starts a squeaky trainer shuffle, right up on the table.

A dad and his kid are eating burgers. Dad is trying not to get the wrapper in along with the pattie, but it keeps springing up like a lick of hair. The little girl is pointing at Sammy and at the chickens which, it seems, like his dancing, and have started to gather round the table.

“Dad, dad, why’s that man dancing with chickens?”

“H’mmm, what hon?”

“He’s silly!”

Strange thing is, the staff in this joint have seen everything. Nothing phases them, not even a class five intervention with condiments – “That crazy is back on six,” they say, as they push round the dustpan on  a four foot stick, the closest they’re willing to get to their own product.

The rest of the customers are so starved or so sated on chicken flesh they couldn’t care less.

Sammy goes in for the final shimmy turn and finds there ain’t no table behind him no more. End of the road. He slips off and falls flat on his back.

Just what the chickens have been waiting for. They’re on him, swarming like sunshiny mirages in front of his face. Their attack is accompanied by a sinister hissing sound, hooked claws and red eyes. Of course they’re insubstantial and most just go on through, but it’s filling the room with a cold chill around knee height, and it doesn’t feel good. There’s a vibe; a bad vibe.

People stop eating the burgers and let them flop on the table. It’s just too depressing to eat this shit right now. And hey, who’s this crazy guy doing the horizontal rumba on the floor?

Wounds are opening on his hands and face. If the chickens are mean enough, and mean it enough, they sort of peck through the veil. He’s got numerous nicks on his legs. Jesus god, he thinks, I’m about to check out of this crazy farmyard.

One hand, two hands on the stack of trays, and they scatter like leaves. Finally gets a hold on the bin in the cabinet beneath. He staggers to his feet and hoists the thing through the window. Crash! That wakes everyone up.

Three minutes later and Sammy’s got the boys in blue to play with. He’s covered in blood and ketchup, and to be fair, he’s raving like a lunatic, so they don’t take him gentle. But he’s still trying to tell them about the fryers and what’s lifting itself out of there on cooked tendons and grilled bone, headless and determined – the chickens of the dead.

October 3, 2010   3 Comments