EuroFiles (Final Issue). The Angel of Mercy – Leader of Germolena and prospective Head of Planet Earth

Unfortunately, no pictures were available for the actor playing The Angel of Mercy in The Yellow Box. Not to worry – a photographic look-alike agency came to the rescue.

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The Angel’s ordinary looks and self-professed lack of humour belie tremendous drive. In fact, such is her zeal for expansion she might eventually drive the entire world into the Eurocratic stockade. She does, after all, spend considerable time roaming the planet for fresh acquisitions, much like 19th Century empire builders did.

‘We want you!’

Senior Grey is in awe of The Angel. And other Greys, like Dim and Cleverclogs, relish her visits to the Bristles basement.

But Rebel Grey, who has a nose for these things, thinks there’s more to The Senior’s relationship with The Angel than meets the eye. She clearly pooh pooh’s the idea – as you can see.

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Expect to feel inspired by the Angel of Mercy’s personal appearance at Ledbury Market Theatre on Friday 15th and Saturday 16th September. Her pep talks are commanding.

But watch out! You too might become driven – to move permanently to Germolena under The Angel’s safe and sturdy wing for ever and ever …

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

The Yellow Box – written and directed by Paul Costello

Bookings:  www.themarkettheatre.com

 

Copyright © Paul Costello    August 2017

http://www.paulcostello.me

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EuroFiles (No.4) Senior Grey – Backbone of the Bristles Basement

Senior Grey. Affectionately known as The Senior. The backbone of the Bristles basement. A sound Eurocratican – yet still totally in love with his own country, The Duchy of Neverland.

At first glance he doesn’t look old enough to have been The Senior for decades.

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This picture was taken on his first day as a Grey all those years ago.

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… and this today as The Senior.

Spot the difference!

It’s down to careful management of time – always on his way to or from a meeting but rarely enough time to actually attend them or stick around for long, let alone make decisions. No stress, you see …

It’s also down to a sound relationship with the basement box shifters. The Senior nurtures loyal Greys like the reliably efficient and compliant Stickler Grey from Germolena, and Groveller Grey from The Shrek Republic, a past master at brown-nosing.

The Senior is simply all-round nice. Give him a yellow box and a counter bell to play with and he’s happy as a sandboy.

In fact, so idyllic is working life in the Eurocratic Union, that regardless of how long they’ve worked there, no Grey ever looks a day older than when they first started.  And they thrive on The Senior’s benevolence. One of his rare tickings-off feels as punitive as a pampering session in the Union’s onsite health spa.

All in all, The Senior and his team are perfect for promoting the Eurocratic Union’s role as – as – well, whatever it is …

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

In the next issue: Posh Grey – Quettex trod nerreh!

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

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 

 

Cool and Angry

Robert Louis Stevenson once wrote:

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. Travel for travel’s sake. And to write about it afterwards, if only the public will be so condescending as to read.”

I’m no Stevenson, but it’s true that escaping from daily routines into unfamiliar territory does create writing opportunities. I mean, if I were to write repeatedly along the lines of, “Today I vacuumed upstairs, and then cleaned the loo” – well, I know what it would do to my readership figures. If, on the other hand, I told people about a tearaway Tenby pensioner on a souped up mobility scooter, or a man chasing a chihuahua in Chichester – well, people might want to read more.

My earliest recollection of travel, from the 50s and 60s, is family holidays in the West Country. We often stayed in a Tintagel B&B – dear old Mrs Hooper, she made lovely jam tarts. I remember as much about the seven-hour journeys on minor roads, five of us hot and bothered in an Austin A40, as I do about the places we went.

At 17, self-determined escapism took over as I became cool and angry. I no longer wanted to be at school, and grabbed every opportunity not to be. In the space of a year I went from something of a ‘golden boy’ destined for Oxbridge to a pupil who “constantly refused to be roused, led or driven”.

For me, but not many others, this was great. Instead of attending 8.45 register, which I likened to a prisoner of war roll call, I’d be on my way to the Dyke Road Café to enjoy much-deserved thick tea and a Wills Woodbine fag (unfiltered) which the be-slippered Gladys sold singly at a penny a time. My accomplice, Pete Blanch, and I could be cool and angry together, and only repair to school when we felt ready.

The teacher taking the register was Mr Pratt. Today that name would make him a sitting duck, but the word prat as a put-down was not as commonly used then as it is now. Instead, he was known as Nolly, a play on the alcoholic beverage called Noilly Prat. This was intellectual grammar school humour at its finest. Bring back grammar schools, I say, so that more of us can be intellectually humorous. Yes – follow the lead of ex-grammar school Theresa May. She’s a bundle of laughs.

“… cocktails have exotic names like Shag on the Beach …”

Noilly Prat was one of those drinks like Martini and Dubonnet in vogue at the time. Nowadays it’s shots or cocktails. Shots come in tiny glasses I’d happily buy as egg cups in my local kitchen shop. The suspiciously-coloured contents, with names like Raspberry Ripple or Choc Mint, presumably taste like medicine, going by the speed at which young people knock them back and their screwed-up faces afterwards.

Cocktails are much more sophisticated. They come with exotic names like Three Times a Night, A Good Shag and Shag on the Beach. Or at least that’s what I heard young people offering each other when I inadvertently stumbled into a music bar the last time I was in Torremolinos, believing from the giant neon sign THROB and the rhythmic pulse from within that’d I’d finally found the heart clinic I’d been reading about in a magazine on the flight over.

About the same time as the Tintagel trips I’d had my first drinking encounter. One Saturday night when my parents were ensconced in the living room with Grandma and Grandpa watching the Billy Cotton Band Show (“Wakey Wakey!” for the initiated) I conducted an experiment in the dining room next door, taking great swigs from each bottle in the sideboard to see what this drinking thing was all about. After all, they were always at it and seemed very happy in consequence.

I remember becoming very flu-like and unable to stand properly, and braved interrupting Billy Cotton to tell mum I felt poorly. She soon spotted the cause, and like any good mum helped me through a dreadful few hours.

Another favourite escape from the tedium of education was nearby Seven Dials, a busy roundabout with seven exits. To me this exuded life in a way that school didn’t. Where exactly was the Corona Drinks truck going? What number bus would arrive next, where would it stop and what was its destination?

One of the seven roads led to Brighton Railway Station, a place of great bustle and excitement where, with steam hanging on alongside electric trains, I’d once spent many an hour with my Ian Allan book of Southern Locomotives.

A second road led past the wonderful but now-defunct Royal Alexandra Children’s Hospital, where I’d had a kidney operation as a young boy. My consultant, Mr Laust, was a household name for years, such had been my parents’ understandable concern for me at the time.

“Mr Laust – what a wonderful man. We owe him so much.”

This was true, though I suppose that ten years later, as a cool and angry young man, it didn’t cut quite the same ice rolled out time after time in front of visiting uncles and aunts.

Another road led to the intellectual school for girls, Brighton and Hove High School. Swapping my Brighton, Hove and Sussex Grammar School scarf for Pauline Dove’s High School one was to prove one of many factors that in themselves didn’t amount to much but strung together made a watertight case for my expulsion – in the school’s eyes anyway.

“… Blanch never got caught, the little shit …”

Here’s the thing – Blanch never got caught. It was always me. Blanch boxed clever, sometimes registering with Nolly Pratt before joining me for a cuppa, and sometimes getting his amenable mum to phone him in sick before handing him the cash for a bus direct to the café. He wanted to tag along all right, and reap the kudos. And don’t get me wrong, he was okay as an accomplice. But apart from one memorable bike ride he never really initiated anything. And never got caught, the little shit.

Late one evening Blanch pointed at a dirty old motorbike and said:

“Look – it’s a Triumph Bonneville! Let’s ’ave it!”

After glancing round furtively, we hopped on and headed away from his dark and dead Rottingdean estate towards the bright lights. Whenever Blanch accelerated I hurtled backwards on pillion, trying to hang on to something, anything.  A cool and angry young man would never grasp the boy in front, and there was no frame to grab at the rear, so my poor legs were left to do all the gripping. We roared along the seafront road, and before reaching Brighton, reckoning that word of the bike’s disappearance might soon get round, parked it neatly kerbside in Marine Drive before sauntering into the town centre for a late coffee. That was the only time I’ve ridden pillion; somehow it held no further appeal.

The summer after I was given permanent school leave, Blanch and I hitch-hiked to Malmö in Sweden. Hitching was popular in those days, and relatively safe. I thumbed lifts for almost a decade, and apart from a cleric in West Germany whose conversation turned quickly to small boys, and a dapper old man in a Jag near Reigate who wasn’t entirely sure where to find the gear lever, I was never troubled. You’d see queues of young people at every roundabout and slip-road, and though there’d be long periods of waiting you’d eventually get to your destination. It might not be the place you first planned – but that’s the unpredictability of travelling!

“… philately wasn’t cool and angry … losing virginity was…”

Ostensibly Blanch and I were in pursuit of two Swedish birds we’d befriended at the Starlight Rooms, a pleasantly gloomy basement club in a charmingly grubby Brighton back street. Still looking to lose my virginity, the only thing I actually lost was my stamp collection, which I’d taken Ingrid’s dad as a present after she told me he was a keen collector. I suppose I thought if I took him the stamps then I could take Ingrid. A small price, since philately was not for the cool and angry, whereas losing virginity was. It was of course a matter of days before Ingrid and I lost touch, leaving me feeling a little foolish.

When Blanch and I started arguing I hitched home separately, never to see him again. Some time afterwards I heard he’d got heavily into drugs. Serves him right, the little shit. I suppose I should be grateful he helped point me to the school exit, but it would’ve been nice if just once it had been him, not me, being hauled into the headmaster’s office.

After three terms of misdemeanour, on a day when I’d not only been spotted hanging around the Seven Dials again but was wearing an alien scarf, I received my ultimate summons. On this occasion, instead of heading for the cane rack Mr Brogden simply said:

“Costello, I don’t want you here any more. Goodbye.”

Understandably, my parents weren’t impressed, although they’d no doubt been kept informed of my wrongdoings and had witnessed their own share of ‘cool and angry’ at home.

“Look at it this way,” I said. “I can now go to the Dyke Road Café or the Seven Dials all day, and no-one will mind.”

Which for some considerable time I’m sure I did.

 

Copyright © Paul Costello October 2016

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

 

Free as an Old Bird

Perched on the plinth of the Captain Matthew Flinders bronze at Euston Station, he of fame for circumnavigating Australia and now offering a resting place for travellers’ bums and Burger King bags, I make light work of my Upper Crust ham baguette. I’ve picked one art installation from which to observe another – hundreds of upturned faces, all ages, colours and destinies, frozen, waiting for their platform numbers to appear on the electronic board above.

Young travellers and business people predominate. I wonder where the young people are off to, who they’re meeting and what life holds for them. I think: does their energy and fashion mean they’re having a better time than me? Do their smiles as they text and talk mean they have richer relationships? Are they totally worry-free as I must surely have been at their age?

Wouldn’t these young people and I have something in common? They’re probably itching to invite me into their social circles. Wouldn’t they be anxious to draw on my life to affirm their own – hear about the myriad experiences they’ll have before earning their entitlement to a gammy hip? I could even trade some of my warfarin tablets for whatever they were passing around.

My thoughts dwindle as Platform 14 flashes and the installation sparks to life in a full battle charge towards the Virgin train for Birmingham. We know we’ll all get a seat yet we all want to front the attack.

From B 48 I can see the full length of the carriage as its likely occupants tumble aboard. Unlike train companies whose ancient rolling stock uses printed cards for reservations, these Pendolinos have tiny electronic booking tabs above each pair of seats. You need a fine pair of eyes and a magnifier, which means a lot of bumping, grumping and general mayhem as people try to find their reserved seat, or anything available. Having spearheaded the platform assault I’m in situ to witness this volatile behaviour.

A pair of tight-pin-striped, middle-aged businessmen in shiny slip-ons sit opposite. Already on their phones as they bump themselves and their polyester computer cases along the aisle, they devote the first thirty minutes of the journey to reporting back to bosses, secretaries and wives.

With bosses it’s assertive and purposeful – distribution networks, pallet-loads and call frequencies. Serious stuff – laptops and iPads whirring, successful meetings, no weaknesses at all, apparently. With secretaries – Amanda and Amy respectively – it’s appointments and mild flirtation. With wives it’s luv, vets, kids and supper, softly tuned. With all of them it’s sorry for ‘just going through a tunnel’.

Symphonies in three movements, performed with panache and aplomb. Daily. Do they really like doing this, I wonder?

They unwittingly reaffirm my retirement – in which I don’t have to learn alien languages and follow grey paths, but indulge my time for intrinsic not monetary reward. I don’t gloat, except perhaps when lying in bed listening to icy windscreens being scraped and engines revved for work. Nor does the vibrancy of younger people make me feel the passing of time. I’m well aware that life for them too can often be hard, emotionally and materially.

I am simply keen to enjoy the time I’ve earned, and grateful for having the choice. For as long as my hip holds up, my heart keeps pumping and the resident weasel at 11 Downing Street leaves me enough cash, I’ll carry on soaking up life’s bright side. And hopefully my contentment will spill over to those around me – young or old, at work or retired.

Hm – I wonder if my pin-striped passengers will be talking so fondly of sales forecasts twenty years from now …

Copyright © Paul Costello January 2016

www.paulcostello.me