I feel I may owe you an explanation as to how my swashbuckling blogging style evolved. To do this I have to take you back to a long long time ago in a galaxy far far away.
When I lived in Bentfield Green, a small sub-village attached to the northwest corner of Stansted, I used to use the local, the Rose and Crown. If you wanted a quiet drink, it probably wasn’t the place for you. There was never any violence, but the conversations were firestorms of disagreement, quick fire hails of sarcasm, and streams of well meant insults. Nobody was safe.
It was mainly good natured. Rarely any malice, but you really needed to be quick on your toes to survive in there, particularly on a Sunday evening when some of the more rambunctious locals had been on the lash all day. Late on a Sunday, the left hand end of the pub was known as the Obnoxious Blokes Bar, though there were several women who could more then hold their own against the barracking. Habitués were hence referred to as the OBB. This is a fairly important piece of information for you.
There was one bloke, JK, I simply didn’t get on with. It was mutual, so we tended just to ignore each other, or at least I did till he poured a pint of beer over my head. Since he was built like a WWF star performer, I had to laugh this off, but I vowed revenge. I learned that, on a golfing holiday in Spain, JK had crashed a golf cart into a dry river bed while driving still pissed from the night before. I leapt into action, and The Stir was born.
The Stir was a spoof newspaper, whose masthead carried the blatantly untrue line ‘Because Integrity Still Matters on Bentfield Green.’ JK arrived home to find his exploits turned into a fictitious attempt to leap the Grand Canyon in a golfcart, and the story was on the pub notice board for all to see.
The idea was intended as a one off, but as with much of my writing it got a bit out of hand. People found the golfcart episode so funny (nobody really liked JK much) I was urged to continue. So I did, and the small landlocked principality of Corona della Rosa was created.
This had all the attributes of a real country, and some you wouldn’t find anywhere else. There was a Royal family, headed by Queen Janice, the landlady, and her loyal consort John, the landlord, and the princesses Julie and Sally.
It had its own political parties. There was the fiercely monarchist OBB, and their paramilitary splinter group, the Bentfield Freedom Fighters. The BFF made occasional forays to other pubs in the village and made nuisances of themselves. The opposition party consisted in its entirety of me, my wife, a teacher referred to as Lenin, and his wife, Wing Commander Thompson. We were know as the Lefties, since we carried Labour signs in our gardens during the run-up to elections.
The thriving economy was dominated by the shadowy military/industrial complex GrowLyCo. This was named after the landlord, who as well as being Prince Consort could be a major grouch. GrowLyCo’s interests ranged from oil refining (when they recycled the oil from the fryers in the kitchen) to deep sea fishing (odd for a landlocked principality, but there was a duckpond just up the road well stocked with semi feral goldfish that someone had dumped in there when they moved house.) Heavy engineering (there was a light industrial estate known as Silicon Valley). Trading in historical artefacts; it had an obscure finger in that pie as well.
Corona della Rosa was well defended. It had its own air force, widely and erroneously blamed for downing the Stealth bomber over Kosovo in the mid 90s. Two massive surveillance and listening centres, GCHQ North and GCHQ South. These were two houses that pretty much controlled the main approaches to the pub. One was run by Wing Commander Thompson, who with two children under the age of four had quite a lot of time to gaze wistfully out of the window. There was also an unknown vigilante who administered swift and summary justice to miscreants daring to nick ashtrays or umbrellas from the garden. I say unknown, but rumour had it it was our own dear Queen.
The country’s official language was English, but there were two widely used dialects. Fluent Gibberish, which was employed to make statements that were arrant bollocks, and Swahili, often employed by drunks just before they were advised to go home.
The cuisine of Corona della Rosa was highly distinctive. The national delicacy was mechanically recovered meat products pie with a hint of offal. Lobster on a stick with mud shrimp sauce was highly prized, and I’m not going to explain that joke; children may be reading this. Nor am I going to explain the country’s favourite pudding of Tennessee Mudslide Pie. If you get that joke, then shame on you.
As time went on, things got more and more complex. And I began to notice a strange phenomenon. I might get berated for featuring some ridiculous escapade that someone had been involved in, but then the same person would get upset at not being featured. Encouraged by this, I really went to town.
Soon Silicon Valley was home to a Formula 1 team, Mogadon Racing. This was named after the most boring person in the pub who paradoxically had a rather chequered career with speed cameras. Their star driver was someone who was notorious for being unable to negotiate a T junction without clipping a kerb and taking out a couple of tyres. The Romaine Grosjean of her day.
There was an Olympic equestrian team, captained by Queen Janice, who did a pretty fine job of getting on her high horse when the OBB was getting more than usually rowdy. We also had a strong three day event team, or Badminters, which was code for the weekend long bender people went on when their partners were away.
I wrote an occasional women’s health column, called somewhat tastelessly Feet up in the StirRups. Sporadic lonely hearts ads, which served as an early warning system for the adulterously inclined that their activities were both widely known and the subject of scrutiny. One of those, which was written in the usual ‘WLTM’ style, was so outrageous even I lost my nerve and pulled the issue off the news rack.
Horoscopes. I had a riot with them.
An announcements column was popular. Fall into a flower bed as you left the pub a bit sideways, next week you’d find you were advertising alfresco ikebana lessons.
The principality was thronged with the great and good, and the downright notorious, since there was a frightening number of lookalikes. Saddam Hussein was a regular, as was Roger Moore, the famous dancing couple Frank and Peggy Spencer, and my own particular favourite, Elmer Fudd. He really was a ringer for Bugs Bunny’s nemesis, even down to the earflapped cap in the winter. Harry Secombe popped in from time to time. Spookily the Roswell Alien was a lunchtime regular. I think he was on day release from Area 51, which isn’t in Nevada, as you may think, but just down the road from Corona della Rosa, and was often the place for late night sightings of fireballs and other unexplained phenomena. There was a tsunami there once, believe it or not.
Tourists could visit the theme park Brake Brothers World of Adventures, which was the kiddies playground in the pub’s back garden. There was a very scary ride, The Wrath of Growly, when the car park was iced over and it was hard not to clout John’s car. In the summer, when there was no ice, all you had to do to duplicate the thrills was leave your car in John’s parking spot and wait for a bollocking. For the culturally inclined there was the famous Shroud of Bentfield to see, or you could admire the sarcophagi masquerading as flower troughs.
It was fun while it lasted, I’ll tell you that. Nowadays I’d probably blog it, but back then print was king.