Utterly Undiscovered – On Yer Bikes

Extract from my comic Bed and Breakfast memoir Utterly Undiscovered

My Basil struggles to deal with teenage mountain bikers obsessed with fitness.

To keep themselves in tip-top racing condition, these lads have a strict eating regime, with carbohydrates the main component. I’m closely interrogated as to what I can offer. None of it is a problem for My Basil, but the way it’s demanded is.

‘Haven’t you got any brown rice?’ says Lee, a particularly stroppy adolescent.

‘Only baked beans?’ says his mate, Marvin. ‘I need pinto beans to maximise my energy level.’

‘I didn’t realise teenagers had an energy level,’ says My Basil. ‘By the way, I just went and scratched your bike.’

‘I’ll see what I can find,’ I say.

‘I’d like my porridge and yoghurt at 8.43, an hour and seven minutes before my first race, to yield maximum energy per unit of oxygen I consume,’ says Lee.

‘Will you be up by then? I thought all teenagers stayed in bed till lunchtime.’

‘I’ll see what I can do.’

I feel used and abused. But that’s not the end of it; the Reading Room has turned into a harem. While one lanky lad has his legs over the arm of a chair, presumably at the prescribed angle for perfect blood circulation, the other chair is being used as a massage couch. Leighton lounges in underpants while his girlfriend Jackie (his support team) lubricates his thighs with what smells like Ambre Solaire. Little grunts trip from his lips with each upward thrust, and his legs jig uncontrollably. I daren’t look too closely but he seems really happy. It’s a lot for a forty seven year old to have to deal with in his own home.

‘Take your hands off that boy! This is not a brothel.’

Paul Costello © January 2013

You can read more about the outrageous bikers in:

Utterly Undiscovered by Paul Costello. Illustrated by Emma Hames            

Out spring 2013    Fineleaf Editions  http://www.fineleaf.co.uk

ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2

Website: www.paulcostello.me   Twitter: @PaulCostello8

Illustrator: emjhames.wordpress.com


Mint Sauce – The Truth

‘Pint of Doom Bar, please,’ I said to the black-clad bar woman at The Snuff Pincher.

‘Anything else?’ she said, glancing up from her mobile.

‘No thanks,’ I said. ‘Just the pint, when you’re ready – no hurry.’

Slipping the phone into her flares, she began drawing the classic Cornish brew. The men at the bar rested their pints and, like corn in a breeze, swayed in unison to the opening and closing of the young woman’s cleavage as she eased the pump to and fro.

The wrinkled man next to me, in a kind of Zebedee posture, bent knees counterbalancing shoulders rounded from years at the bar, pushed a ripped-open packet of broken Cheddars towards me.

‘Ooshie woosh ooshie,’ he said, bouncing lightly and holding out half a biscuit. The mustard-coloured strip through the middle of his grey moustache matched a yellowing patch round the centre parting of a lank, Billy Connolly frizz. On the ceiling, like rings in a tree, the ochre circle told how many years he’d stood on that spot before smoking was banned.

‘No thanks,’ I said. ‘I’ll be wooshie-ing later.’

Sat at a corner table, surrounded by Coldplay’s Fix You and with a tasty 4% entering my bloodstream, I quickly mellowed. Nearby, a gathering of youngsters, several of whom had clearly forgotten to check their baseball caps were facing the right way, alternated between sips of Stowfords Cider and going out for a roll-up. My appetite was whetted by the Sharp’s beer and the large portion of chips I watched them sharing.

‘Lamb shank with boiled potatoes, please,’ I said to a different woman, her raised hair canopying out like frayed Shredded Wheat.

‘Table number?’ she said.

‘Hang on,’ I said, dashing back to check the little disc.

‘Anything else?’ she said.

‘A pint of Doom Bar, please.’

‘Anything else?’ she said, her hand still hovering over the till.

‘The pint would be nice – when you’re ready,’ I said.

‘Help yourself to cutlery, sauces – and anything else,’ she said, pointing vaguely across the large room.

What appeared to be a chef ran out from the swing doors at the end of the bar and started nuzzling the woman from behind, like he was trying to take her waist measurement. I wondered if his hair was shiny from the fatty atmosphere or might itself be a source for the fryers.

‘It’s Christmas! Yea-a-h! Get it on, babe!’ he said, for all to hear.

‘Anything else?’ she asked in a distracted way, as she handed me the pint.

‘No,’ I said, ‘but should I perhaps come round and prepare the meal myself?’

‘That’s all right, love. We’ll do it for you.’

‘Very kind,’ I said.

‘How sweet it all is,’ I thought, as I collected the essentials and raised myself back onto table 24.

Relaxing into my second pint, I took out the pocket razor strop I use to sharpen my front teeth for opening packs of peanuts and condiments. Then, idly checking the label on my sachet of mint sauce, this is what I found:

Mint sauce

May Contain:

Nuts, Peanuts, Sesame Seeds, Mustard, Celery, Wheat, Barley, Fish, Eggs, Soybeans, Milk, Sulphites and Cereals containing Gluten

Wait a minute! Fish? FISH? In my mint sauce? Call me old-fashioned, but I really don’t want fish in my mint sauce. Nor eggs. Nor milk. What’s going on?

I’d like mint though – but there’s no mention of that! I’d be happy with mint, water, vinegar, a touch of sugar, flavouring perhaps (I might even buy into the mustard and celery for that), and even the ubiquitous xanthan gum, popular since first allowed by the scriptures:

And these you shall regard as an abomination … they shall not be eaten, they are an abomination: the ostrich, the short-eared owl, the sea gull, and the hawk after its kind; the little owl, the fisher owl, and the screech owl; the white owl, the jackdaw, and the carrion vulture; the stork, the heron after its kind, the hoopoe, and the bat. But, yeah, xanthan gum would be all right. (Leviticus. 11. 13-18)

I was less surprised seeing “nuts and peanuts” on the label. Ever since the causal link between nuts and anaphylactic shock, all food manufacturers protect against litigation by stating nuts as a possible content. Bread – may contain nuts. Minced beef – may contain nuts. Lettuce – may contain nuts. Even a pack of KP Salted Nuts says: “This product may contain nuts”. Great!

But what about the other ingredients? Well, I’ve since found out they’re all down to cottage industry at a commune in Canon Frome, a mint sauce production plant in idyllic Herefordshire farmland; where the air is thick with wheat and barley pollen that settles in the mixing tank; and trout that frequent the nearby brook sometimes land in the vat when they mistime a mosquito jump; and chicken that roost in the rafters are heard yelling: ‘Couldn’t hold it any longer – think I just fired a double yolker into the mix!’; and where staff aren’t careful enough with their elevenses of tofu and milk (garnished with sesame seeds) – and to make it worse, high on the tofu, forget to add any mint.

The lamb shank was good, though I skipped the mint sauce. But the next day, curious about what I’d missed, I liquidised a small pack of Co-op mixed nuts, half a herring, a teaspoon of sesame seeds, a pinch of mustard powder, two Weetabix, a stick of celery, a barley sugar,  three medium eggs, a pint of semi-skimmed and a dash of soy sauce. It was a bit on the fishy side and not quite as green as essential Waitrose Mint Sauce, but I froze some in my ice cube tray for “Guess what’s in it?” games when friends call.

Now to tomato ketchup.

My favourite brand contains: peanuts, grapefruit, Licorice Allsorts, Waldorf salad, raw prawns, McDonald’s nuggets, goat’s milk, tripe, xanthan gum and Fry’s Turkish Delight.

But maybe someone has a better recipe …

Paul Costello © January 2013

Utterly Undiscovered by Paul Costello. Comical Bed and Breakfast memoir.  

Out spring 2013. Publisher: Fineleaf Editions.  www.fineleaf.co.uk

ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2



Utterly Undiscovered – Murder on the Dance Floor

Extract from my forthcoming book Utterly Undiscovered.

Rebuilding my life, I arrive at the Friday Night Club ready to tap into the ‘singles’ scene:

Nonchalantly joining the check-in queue, as if I had a lifetime’s experience of this sort of thing, I gave my name and address and one pound fifty to a brittle-looking woman with upright hair sat in a cubicle with rows of coat racks and hangers, beyond which was a dark cavernous room normally used for conferences and training. Desperately needing a pint of anything, and another, but knowing my security for the evening was the option to drive away if I didn’t like it, I settled for an orange juice and lemonade, and shuffled off towards the round, twelve-seater tables. If this had been a conference, and the room brightly lit with water jugs and tumblers, and everyone had tidy name badges and an agenda, I’d have felt at home, ready to trigger conversation with the delegate lucky enough to sit next to me. Right now, I sensed it was going to be a long, dry evening.

On the opposite side of my sparsely occupied table, too far away to speak, were two people of indeterminate sex – not hermaphrodites as such, just it was too dark to tell. I sat alone, rehearsing the opening gambit I might use once someone was close enough.

‘Do you come here often?’ No – they might have heard that before.

‘Is this your first time?’ No – they might think it a bit forward, or pervy.

‘Hello-oo – is there anybody there?’ No – they might think I’m taking the piss, or ill.

I feel more alone than before I arrived. There’s something end-of-wedding about the place – a handbag and a couple of half-pint tumblers looking lost on the white table cloths, and a scattering of folk who’ve run out of conversation and aren’t sure when to leave. From what I’ve seen, there are four women to every man. That perks me up but it also feels unnatural, even threatening. At least the apparent age range of thirty five to fifty appeals, and there are plenty arriving.

‘If I come again, I must get here later,’ I think.

After a few conversational skirmishes, I’m escorted to the dance floor by a posse of women, thankfully more gentle than Downy and her mates all those years ago. The group dancing seems very jolly. The ageing DJ works the crowd, emptying the floor with progressively undanceable stuff then fostering a surge from the tables with a winning song. Since you can’t see or hear properly, conversation between dances is fraught. I come away from the club with Dance the Night Away by the Mavericks ringing through my head, to which we’d all joined in the chorus. By golly, I had a darn good time.

Paul Costello © January 2013

You can read more of my ‘singular’ experiences in:

Utterly Undiscovered          Out spring 2013  

Fineleaf Editions  www.fineleaf.co.uk

ISBN 978-1-907741-30-2