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 

 

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

Daresay

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Chilly this morning, they give rain later

They’m usually wrong, don’t know why they bother

No point sayin’ something that turns out another

Overpaid’s what they are them weather forecasters

They should be ashamed, payin’ all that money

To them as should know if it’s rainin’ or sunny

While we all get wet, it’s usually pourin’

Then get on the bus sittin’ an’ drippin’

Still – ha ha – they’m trying their hardest, daresay

’Ee’m late today, held up in traffic

I expect, that’s the trouble, them roads full of potholes

The Council won’t fix ’em, no money they say

Austerity they say, not like in my day

It’s them politicians, that one like a weasel

Wears builders’ helmets to get in the papers

Tighten our belts he says, bloomin’ cheek

I’ll tighten ’is belt and then watch ’im squeak

Disgraceful it is in this day and age

Still – ha ha – they know what they’m doing, daresay

My appointment’s ten thirty, ’ee’d better come soon

You know what they’m like in them hospital rooms

Waitin’ an age to get in in the first place

Then sittin’ five hours with all them strange faces

Not knowin’ who’s next, doors openin’ and closin’

Trolleys and scurryin’, no sense to it all

Until your name’s called

More and more people and most of ’em foreigners

Not enough money for nurses and doctors

It was never like this before

Still – ha ha – least we’ve got a Health Service, daresay

The doctor’s surgery, that’s another thing

Whenever I ring it rings and rings

And then when it answers I’m told to ring back

In the morning, didn’t used to be like that

I could see my doctor whenever I wanted

It’s all them foreigners that’s what it is

There’s too many now, they come over here

Take up all the places, and schools it’s the same

They should stay where they come from

That’s what I think

Still – ha ha – most of ’em’s decent, daresay

Where’m ’ee got to, ’ee’m never this late

Bet it’s a crash, someone goin’ too fast

Them young lads is worst, my neighbour ’ee says

They’m doin’ a hundred along the bypass

They’m too young to drive, they don’t care you know

They’m just showin’ off to the girls in the back

It’s all very well but think what they do

To their families and friends when the the car hits a tree

They should stop ’em before they get killed or maimed

I dunna remember it being the same

When we were first startin’

Still – ha ha – that terry-ostrone, daresay

I sees in the paper they’m gettin’ a new Aldi

Comin’ next summer, cheap they are too

We’ll be better off, mind you foreign stuff

You just don’t know where things come from do you

Africa ’n that, don’t matter really

Long as it’s fresh and don’t cost too much

We need a new one, there isn’t enough

What with them foreigners

And all them new houses they’m buildin’

I dunna know where it’s all leadin’

Still – ha ha – we’ll always get by, daresay

Ah ’ere’s the bus now, not before time

Was startin’ to worry and I’m runnin’ out

Of things we all like talkin’ about

Someone point out that we was ’ere

Before them people over there

Don’t let them on first, it isn’t fair

Foreigners an’ all, they’m pushin’ in,

They dunna use the bus like us

We’m here every day, if they makes a fuss

Someone should tell ’em it’s our bus

And they can wait their turn

Still – ha ha – they’m polite enough, daresay

Copyright © Paul Costello June 2016

 www.paulcostello.me

 

Fashionista

There – I’ve done it!  I now have a rip in each knee of my Marks and Spencer black jeans!

It took a while to twig on that torn trousers aren’t the outcome of an unfortunate scrape with an ill-fitted screwhead or the perishing of cheap cotton, but are actually designed like that. And I’m not one to miss out on a fashion!

Admittedly, the tear is not as neat as some. The left knee in particular has a hanging flap of material rather than a slit; admirers would be entitled to wonder if the jeans were torn or part-cut to shorts. But they draw the eye – and that’s the point!

And the knees that now protrude are not, I suppose, my most endearing feature. Bulbous and veiny, they don’t quite replicate the smoothness of younger people’s. More like a barnacled whale surfacing. But I’ve not overheard anyone saying, ‘Take a look at that – what does he think he looks like?’ And in the grand scheme of living a life, would I care anyway?

In fact, I’ve gone as far as cutting a tinier slit at the top of the right thigh. One of those that gets passers-by thinking, ‘Was that a tear, or was it my imagination?’ More discreet than the knees and right up there with the trend, methinks.

The top slit also offers a teasing taste of the dragon tattoo I had installed a few weeks back. Designed by yours truly and pretty damn original, the dragon circles the entire thigh – fiery nose-to-tail  so to speak! I’m getting some great looks down the gym, although that could just be curiosity about the set of hoop earrings along my left ear. Individually they’d be nothing, but fitted as they are like the Olympic symbol they look great! Only the lucky ones get to see the matching navel stud!

The only thing with an earring set is keeping the ear clear to view. No point otherwise. My hair’s quite long, and I’ve been using a man bun for the last year or so. But I’m now seriously thinking of getting a one sided shave style and keeping it long and pointy on the right side only. I bet the bouncers at ‘Hard’ (my all-time favourite club) will love it! They still won’t let me in wearing my green Doc Martens or furry parka though. I’m working on it! Incidentally, the parka is identical to the one I wore on my Lambretta in the mid-60s. What goes round, eh?

Anyway, must dash. I’m well ready for a vape. Photos to follow; there’s only a couple of pictures left in my Box Brownie, then I’ll pop the film into Boots for developing.

 

Copyright © Paul Costello May 2016