EuroFiles (No.3) Wisecrack Grey – The Joker in the Pack

You know those people who have to crack a joke every five minutes? Or twist everything you say to try and be funny?

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Wisecrack

Well, Wisecrack Grey is one of them. Irritating, a bit vulgar and idle to boot. And she doesn’t always know when to stop. I mean, there are only so many times you want to hear tai chi referred to as chai tea.

And yet – she is the bright spark every bureaucracy needs to help box shifters through those tedious hours of stamping documents. Some offices have piped music for entertainment; Bristles has Wisecrack.

Her partner in crime is Newdawn Grey. They make a formidable pair.

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Newdawn

If things are quiet, a not infrequent occurrence in the Bristles basement, Newdawn will provoke Wisecrack into some sort of naughtiness. Their party piece is a (sideways) crab-step waltz around the office. Don’t ask! More nutty than naughty! And as ‘head judge’ in the Greys’ mock Eurocratic Court, Wisecrack is a sight to behold. Boy, can she handle a gavel! Yes – while The Senior’s away the Greys certainly play.

Wisecrack is never afraid to challenge The Senior about the values of the Eurocratic Club – such as chucking dead haddock back in the ocean or dreaming up new rules about the thickness of marrow skins. The Senior quietly enjoys Wisecrack’s brazen attitude, and only intervenes to try and show who’s in charge. Even then, when asked why she needs to be quite so sarcastic all the time, Wisecrack simply replies:

‘It’s just another service I offer.’

The Yellow Box original draft poster (2) (282x400)

In the next issue: Senior Grey (‘The Senior’) – Backbone of the Basement

The Yellow Box – written and directed by Paul Costello

Bookings:  www.themarkettheatre.com

Copyright © Paul Costello    August 2017

http://www.paulcostello.me

 

EuroFiles (No.2) – Finsky Feelgood the Tai Chi Instructor

Life in the Eurocratic Club is pretty relaxed.

That Greys never age from the day they start working in Bristles is testimony to the gentle pace of life, the stress-free environment and the magnificent facilities on offer, such as the health spa, pampering pool and 5-Star restaurants for all nationalities.

To help keep it so, The Senior calls occasionally on the services of Finski Feelgood, a tai chi instructor from Scandy. The wellbeing and balance offered by tai chi leaves the Greys feeling ever more euphoric about life in the Bristles basement – if indeed that’s possible.

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Finski’s classes are compelling. If ever the Greys were at risk of over-pacing themselves, the smooth and graceful tai chi moves slow them to a more manageable work rate. They love Finski’s visits – although she does prove a distraction to Newday Grey, his loss of concentration making the moves not so much ‘smooth and graceful’ as ‘dad at the disco’.

And of course tai chi will serve as a great communication skill for The Angel of Mercy and her ‘troops’ when, having absorbed most of Eurocratica and Middle Easternness, she begins her advance into Far Eastern Regions. Fabulous being able to display such an understanding of what makes other cultures tick!

Finski Feelgood – the basement’s star attraction. Bringing a touch of glamour to an office that might otherwise be, well, rather too grey.

The Yellow Box original draft poster (2) (282x400)

In the next issue: Wisecrack Grey – the Joker in the Pack

The Yellow Box – written and directed by Paul Costello

Bookings:  www.themarkettheatre.com

Copyright © Paul Costello    August 2017

http://www.paulcostello.me

EuroFiles

Welcome to the first issue of EuroFiles.

Remember Terms and Conditions Apply, starring Dave Camshaft, Nick Clogg, Eddie Moribund, Nigella Garage et al? With many of the real-life politicians no longer in power, I often wonder if that play put a jinx on them!

Camshaft, Clogg and Moribund in my kitchen

(L to R) Camshaft, Moribund and Clogg at ease in my Herefordshire home

Public attention has now turned to Europe, leading me to a brand new satire – The Yellow Box. This doesn’t set out to mock our senior political envoys in Eurocratica who, after all, send themselves up far better than I ever could. Nor does it make fun of our Parliamentary representatives (MEPs) since you could only mock them if you knew who they were – and nobody does.

Instead The Yellow Box lays bare the workings of the Eurocratic Club. How are new rules dreamt up? Which countries are allowed membership? How did it all start, and where is it heading? That sort of thing …

Bristles HQ

The engine room of the Club is a basement office in the bowels of Bristles, where a burgeoning army of Greys meets from Monday to Thursday to bandy ideas around and shift grey boxes (plus one mysterious yellow one) to and fro in a semblance of efficiency. Vital matters are thrashed out, such as the curve of a cucumber, the minimum size for an Atlantic pollock, whether a swede can be called a turnip, and whether it’s okay to eat your pet pony.

The Club doubles in size as most countries in Western Eurocratica rush to join, and doubles again when Eastern Eurocratica applies for membership en masse. The ponderous beast then spreads its hold through Middle Easternness and Far Eastern Regions, testing the commitment of the basement box shifters.

Over the next few weeks I’ll unveil some of the play’s characters – such as Wisecrack Grey, Finski Feelgood the tai chi instructor, and The Senior. Although they’re entirely fictional, you might feel that one character, the Angel of Mercy – Leader of Germolena and prospective Head of Planet Earth – seems rather familiar.

If you enjoyed Terms and Conditions Apply, and have a taste for sitcoms like Yes Minister, The Office or W1A, then The Yellow Box is made for you. It digs relentlessly at everything bureaucratic – or in this case Eurocratic – with office banter that sails close to the probable truth yet harms nobody.

Having been media-bombarded in recent years with political rhetoric about what is best for you, here’s a chance to explore an amusing alternative Euroscape – from the safety of your own theatre seat!

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In the next issue: Finski Feelgood – the tai chi instructor.

The Yellow Box – written and directed by Paul Costello

Bookings:  www.themarkettheatre.com

Copyright © Paul Costello    August 2017

http://www.paulcostello.me

Claim Madness

“THIS PLATFORM SLOPES TOWARDS THE TRACK. IF YOU HAVE A PRAM OR WHEELCHAIR PLEASE APPLY THE BRAKE FOR YOUR OWN SAFETY”

So says the latest tannoy announcement on Platform 3 at Hereford Railway Station. In the offing, I’m told, is:

“PLEASE BE AWARE THAT GUSTS OF SOU’ SOU’ WESTERLY WIND MORE THAN TWENTY MILES AN HOUR BETWEEN MARCH AND SEPTEMBER CAN CAUSE DISCARDED GREGGS BAGUETTE WRAPPERS TO WHIP UP AND BRUSH KNEECAPS AS THEY HEAD NOR’ NOR’ EAST, LEADING TO AGGRAVATED ARTHRITIC DAMAGE AND THE POTENTIAL FOR MAJOR KNEE SURGERY.”

I made up the second announcement. But the first is true, and verbatim.

Talk about pandering to the whims of Claims Companies. Do our daily lives really need to be determined and controlled by US-style paralegal touts intent on profiting from the most unlikely misfortunes?

I say: gather together all Claims Company cold callers, place them in a giant supermarket trolley at the top of Platform 3 – and release.

Paul Costello  July 2017

http://www.paulcostello.me

Euro Star
The Yellow Box  by Paul Costello. A wicked trip through Eurocracy. Ledbury Theatre 15/16 Sept. www.themarkettheatre.com 

 

You wouldn’t want that, would you?

Hell-o, hell-o – Mrs Costello?

My name’s Jake, and I’m here to make your life more secure,

For which I’ll take some of your money.

Any trouble with a domestic appliance

At ‘Great Big Insurance’ we’ll see you’re all right.

Imagine your Hoover packing up,

And the dust and grime getting thicker and thicker,

And the bugs in the grime make you sicker and sicker

Till you’re too ill to cope; it’s a slippery slope.

You wouldn’t want that, would you?

 

No.

 

Well for only seven ninety-nine, payable monthly for each appliance,

A total amount of a hundred and four,

The pleasure is mine. Can I take it that’s fine?

 

Yes please.

 

I’ll retail your details to friends in the business.

They’ll soon be in touch to see how you’re doing,

Make sure you’re not rueing a miserable life

With a faulty spin drier or a bulb that’s gone on the living room fire.

 

Thank you.

 

Hell-o, hell-o – Mrs Costello?

My name’s Davey-Boy; Jake retailed your details.

How are you today? Good, good – you can’t get away

From the need to insure anything that may go wrong when you least expect it.

Say, if you detected a leaking tap or an iron that wouldn’t press things flat.

You wouldn’t want that, would you?

 

No.

 

You need to know where you’re at, keep things safe,

And that’s where we at ‘Phenomenal Premiums’

Can help you out. Let’s have a chat.

A hundred a month is all you’ll pay to hold domestic risks at bay.

What do you say?

 

Yes please.

 

Hell-o, hell-o – Mrs Costello?

My name’s Mikey from ‘Crikey Full Cover’.

Are you insured for each household appliance?

They often go wrong, you must be prepared; it’s not rocket science.

Imagine a faulty fridge thermostat stops keeping your cheese at the proper degree.

The rotting camembert starts to waft up through the house and into the loft,

A volatile mix building up to the point where the roof blows off.

You wouldn’t want that, would you?

 

No.

 

If you’re happy to pay ten pounds a day, the risk of explosion will soon go away.

What do you say?

 

Yes please.

 

Hell-o, hell-o – Mrs Costello?

It’s Terry here, but call me Tel. Jake said to call; I trust you’re well?

But it might not always be like that.

Can you imagine a faulty TV,

Nothing to watch, sitting alone with a cup of tea, a silent room and a stale old scone.

No stimulation, nobody calling, life becoming quite appalling

Till you wonder if it’s worth carrying on.

You wouldn’t want that, would you?

 

No.

 

Through ‘Warranty Wonders’ you overcome this.

We’ll make sure you don’t miss the TV programmes that keep you alive,

For a monthly nineteen ninety-five you’d have total reliance on every appliance.

I could sign you up now.

 

Yes please.

 

And to show that we mean it, you’ll receive in the post

A dustpan and brush, a gift from us to a customer we trust.

 

Thank you.

 

Hell-o, hell-o – Mrs Costello?

It’s Tel here again.

Regarding the gift of a dustpan and brush,

I forgot to mention at ‘Warranty Wonders’ we recognise

The risk of bending to gather up crumbs can put undue pressure on people’s thumbs,

Causing poor circulation, enhanced vegetation and everyday problems with inhalation.

You wouldn’t want that, would you?

 

No.

 

So shall we say fifty-nine ninety-nine payable monthly, to help you feel fine

And lower the risk of thumb amputation and perhaps suffocation?

 

Yes please.

 

On and on drove the hundreds, round and round they passed her name.

Railroading, frightening, charming, bamboozling,

Ducking and diving and dodging morality, skirting close to gross illegality.

The frail old lady was not respected, in spite of the comfort of feeling protected.

 

Until, until,

 

Hell-o, hell-o – Mrs Costello?

 

Who’s calling? Are you one of those appalling people who blighted the lady every day?

Well she died last night, possibly of fright,

I wonder you can sleep at night after what you made her pay.

 

Ah, condolences, condolences, most sincere.

(Thinks)

But while you’re here –

Did you realise the phone to your ear might cause radiation, degradation,

Even lead to your last exhalation?

You wouldn’t want that, would you?

Hell-o, hell-o,

Hell-o, hell-o,

Hell-o, hell-o,

Oh.

 

Copyright © Paul Costello  April 2017

http://www.paulcostello.me

YB Poster Main Proof5 030417

 

 

Above The Call

A waiter slops asparagus soup over my mum’s posh top, spits on my steak tartare and asks my dad if that’s a wig he’s wearing – which it isn’t. He now presents the bill for around £80 and asks dad if everything has been to his liking.

‘Splendid, thank you,’ says dad, making out a cheque for £90.

I witnessed this scenario hundreds of times during dad’s life. A routine addition of about ten per cent, rounded up, regardless of the experience.

‘It’s for the service,’ he would explain.

‘But what if that’s not very good?’ I’d say, trying to fathom it out. ‘And isn’t cooking the food and bringing it to the table what you’re already paying for?’

waiterThere seemed a touch of master-servant about the whole thing, a leftover from Victorian times – doffing the hat and placing a penny in the palm.

Dad’s benevolence especially showed at Christmas. People you never normally saw would knock at the door. The dustman (as he was then affectionately known) touched his forelock and dad handed him a small brown envelope; the milkman would find something similar in an empty milk bottle; and it was the only time the postman actually took an envelope away with him.

Tipping in taxis was also de rigueur. Failure to do so might mean the driver retracing his route a mile before letting dad out. Ten per cent to the hairdresser prevented an unwanted bald patch. And generosity towards chambermaids and bar staff during a hotel stay guaranteed clean beds and proper whisky measures.

While all this was going on, the doctor’s receptionist, sales assistant, bus conductor, deck chair attendant, train driver, signalman, street sweeper, telesales operator, left luggage handler, airline pilot, local government officer, hospital porter, travelling salesman, car mechanic, farmer, footballer, formula one driver, lifeguard, gardener, soldier, gravedigger and balloonist, and many, many others simply had to get by on basic wages, since their services were clearly of less importance.

Class distinctions are increasingly blurred. Christmas door-knocking is no longer fashionable. But tipping in the traditional trades continues, more under the guise of mock friendship than master-servant, but with scant regard for what it really means. Clearly, it’s not in the interest of those sectors to disavow people of the custom.

When I was younger I found myself following dad’s ‘easy route’, expressing gratitude and adding percentages regardless of the circumstances – a comfortable way out, making me feel kind of important and stupid at the same time. Annual Christmas cards from the Indian Restaurant (address written at their request on an Excel sheet during a November visit) reassured me that a lasting friendship had indeed been forged.

But as social rebellion kicked in I steeled myself to experiment with paying the asking price only. I was terrified that abandoning tips would mean losing these friendships. I expected the chef to come running from the kitchen with a machete, or the manager to ban me from his establishment. I waited for the taxi man to warn other drivers by radio. I feared a Sweeney Todd incident at the barbers.

barber Instead I was offered a loyalty card by the barber, placed on the priority list by the taxi firm and welcomed back to the curry house with open arms. I realised it was my continuing custom and that of my entourage they wanted, not the small change in my pocket. We remained friends.So, although tipping is still widely practised, in my world the random and pointless custom ended years ago. But I still feel bad about all those who remain tipless while the same old people cream off the ten-percentages. And I’m trying to do something about it.

At Greggs yesterday a woman passed me my 85p sausage roll, asking if I wanted anything else and wishing me a nice rest of the day.

‘Thank you,’ I said. ‘I must say this is the most exquisitely wrapped sausage roll I’ve ever had. You presented it with utter professionalism and a beautiful smile – more than I could possibly have asked for. Here’s a pound, and I want you to keep the change.’

As I left the bakers, trying not to catch the eye of the homeless people blocking my exit, it was ample reward hearing the woman enthusiastically recount our conversation to the girl on doughnuts.

Back at home, concluding a telephone conversation with the MakerMint Water Company, I said to the assistant, Trudy:

‘Frankly, I’ve never known someone handle a direct debit application with such grace and aplomb, offering me all the information I could possibly want, and making the experience so enjoyable. Trudy, you have performed over and above the call of duty. Please give me your BACS details immediately and I shall place £5 in your bank account.’

And on the London train today, when I’d felt compelled to mention the state of the toilet to the train manager, and he’d apologised profusely before single-handedly restoring the cubicle to its pristine condition, I said as he called me to inspect his work:

‘Young man. I know you didn’t make this mess yourself, but you stepped up to the bowl and took full responsibility. Watching you don those Marigolds and plunge wholeheartedly into the matter of the moment has restored my faith in young people and in the entire railway industry. I paid £29 for this journey. Here – take this additional £2.90 to spend as you wish.’

So far, so good. And three new friends already!

Next week: Part 2. Fly Tipping – What To Give Bluebottles.

Copyright © Paul Costello January 2017

http://www.paulcostello.me

In The Best Possible Taste

All around, the audience goes silent as a tender drama unfolds on stage. Shoulders are shaking, tissues handed round. Here are 10 great ways you can liven up those pin-drop moments at the theatre.

  1. Test the call sounds on your phone.
  2. Rustle deep in the plastic bag containing all you need on a theatre visit (see below).
  3. Slowly open a Werther’s Original wrapper (other brands okay), or the tightly sealed top of a packet of digestives.
  4. Crunch, not suck, the Werther’s or digestives.
  5. Develop a tickly cough – frog-at-back-of-throat style.audience-silhouette
  6. Pretend to answer your phone, loudly, with: Sorry, the signal’s bad – I’m in the theatre. Hello … hello …
  7. Very slowly open the top of a well-shaken bottle of Coca Cola. Repeat frequently. For a more instant effect, try a can or two.
  8. Tell the hard-of-hearing people next to you what’s happening up on stage.
  9. Play solitaire with a wooden board and marbles. Drop marbles in a metal tin when spent. If you prefer Scrabble, the tin can be used for shaking the letters.
  10. Deal with any tutting from audience or actors with: Oh, get a life! It’s a free world, isn’t it?

Then, why not review your experience on www.maverickmonsters.com? All reviews will be entered into a random draw, with the winning entry published in the next edition of Trump’s Tasteless Titbits.

 

Copyright © Paul Costello December 2016

www.paulcostello.me