Friday, 13 September 2019

Poetry Hallway - Talk

It's good to talk. That's what BT said. Talk on the phone. That's what they instructed. Talk to old friends. Talk to long-lost relatives. Talk to someone's therapist. Talk to the call centre. Talk to everyone. Just keep talking. And they should know. You could say they've made it something of a raison d'etre. I'll go further, I've noticed they're obsessed less with actual talking, than with the phones themselves. It's a little bit peculiar, like an equipment fetish. Always the telephones. Not just, "have a nice chat in person". No - pick up the phone, tap in the number and talk into the piece of plastic, ideally whilst ignoring the clock. They're not worried about the conversations. They're not worried about the germs. If I didn't know better I'd assume they'd found some crafty way to make money out of people using their phone lines. We all know that can't be true though, because they'd actually improve the service. Friends and Family discount? Pah! Besides, BT is basically a sports provider now. Technicolor sport, manly sport, widescreen sport, sweaty, dirty sport. Dripping, oozing, festering, spurting sport. Don't talk, just watch sport. Keep your damned fidgety eyes open and stop talking. You hear me? Don't talk! Stop talking at the back! You do that once more... right. Detention for the lot of you. Some time to reflect on the consequences of your actions. In silence.

Talk by Andy Brain

I want to talk with you, seriously - 
Uh huh, it's pretty cold here too - yeah, so
Not the usual rushed pleasantries;
Take it slowly. I want to talk with you,
Listen to the you that's hunkered down low - 
So much curled tight within, locked deep and dark
Admitting none - site under construction;
Enquiries shunned with worn misdirection.
I want to hear what you feel you cannot
Risk to put words to; the hidden ideas,
Dangerous smoke rings of hope; with kindling,
This fire grows hot; now see the uncaged bird,
Exulting in flight; the impish, gleeful sprite,
Binning wrongdoers; basking in sunlight.
A train ticket to the world. Our great world.
Share your fears. Share your hopes. I'm on your side.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Ofcom Upholds Prehistoric Animal Cruelty Complaints In Bizarre Case

Record Complaints

The BBC has confirmed that naturalist and wildlife presenter, Nigel Marven, was investigated after wrestling a Tanystropheus during the filming of the Walking With Dinosaurs spin-off, Sea Monsters.

The regulator, Ofcom, said that it had received a record number of complaints after the episode was first aired in 2003, which showed the presenter grabbing hold of the reptile's tail as part of an underwater sequence. When the animal failed to shake him off, it performed caudal autotomy, severing its tail at the base and swimming away in a cloud of blood.

Nigel Marven grabs Tanystropheus's tail. (©BBC)

In the original narration, the presenter who was 42 at the time, told viewers that the animal would recover and regenerate its tail, and that he was familiar with lizards losing their tails when he had handled them as a boy. However, in unaired footage, the unit comes across the mauled body of the same animal whilst filming filler footage during their final few hours on temporal location. Director Jasper James can be heard off-camera, speculating that bite wounds might match the Cymbospondylus with which Marven previously had a tense encounter.

Cymbospondylus considers the nutritional value of Nigel Marven. (©BBC)

A Question of Timing

Ofcom has itself come under criticism for taking fifteen years to come to a decision, but said in a statement that the lack of precedent had made things difficult:
"There are no rules governing 'Temporal Location Filming', with Sea Monsters being the first documentary series ever to use it. Mr Marven's actions would ordinarily have fallen under contemporary animal cruelty laws, namely the Animal Welfare Act 2006, but since the filming took place in the Triassic period, it predated that law by approximately 230 million years."

Devolved Responsibility

When viewers brought up Marven's previous experience of lizards dropping their tails and pressed him on why he had repeated his actions on camera, Marven responded:
"Well, technically, although those actions were in my past, my past was still in the future, therefore none of those lizards had even been born, nor had they evolved. I hadn't even evolved, so none of those lizards had dropped their tails yet. How was I to know that Tany–... Tannis–... thing would drop its tail in my hands? I'm not a flippin' expert!"

Happier times: Nigel Marven tripping on spider venom.

Marine conservation group, ConSEAvation, which is monitoring the case, said that whilst Ofcom's statement raised some important points about when a crime is committed versus when the law is written, these are minor technicalities, and that Marven, and indeed the production companies BBC Natural History Unit and Impossible Pictures, were in breach of the spirit of the law, if not the law itself.

In an email to Beware!, ConSEAvation's press officer Andy Kentish said, "I honestly thought those things were digital."

(For those who can't tell the difference between satire and the other thing, this isn't the other thing.)

Thursday, 30 August 2018

Let Nature Take Its Course

Humans just can't let nature got on with it. If it's a hedgehog hoovering up beetles, RIGHT ON! If the predator has cooler blood than that its prey, OH MY FLIPPIN' GAWD, GET IT AWAY! There's a shed-load of reasons for it, and a certain book must share some of the responsibility for how various societies perceive, for example, snakes. But that's another blog post. For now, here's some doodling.

Copyright © 2018 Beware!/G Monger

Monday, 6 August 2018

Divine Dines - The Cock and Coxcomb, Consett

How many times have you heard some silly arse saying "this is the best restaurant" or even "this is the greatest meal"? Fools of the mouth, fools of the head. Beware! holds that before one can comment on whether this or that restaurant is the best, one has to have experienced all competitors. As William Hartnell opined, "in order to conquer the Earth, you must first consume all living matter!" Welcome to our new comprehensive consumables column, starting in the auspicious surroundings of ex-steel town and notorious shell company hub, Consett, with the ever agreeable tones of garrulous, gorse-chinned one-time politician Barclay Minster.

Barclay Minster. He can talk.
The little woman and I arrived at the Cock and Coxcomb, poorly signposted just past the prole purgatory of B&M, on the south side of town towards dreary Delves, in quite a fug due to the worst traffic. Fools of the road. One wonders what attracts them. That's a rhetorical device; don't write in! (Though if you must, at least address it to Annick and baffle the silly girl.)

Craving some culinary comfort, first our weary eyes were assaulted with the sluttishly attention-seeking faux-Jacobean decor, saturated dripping wallpaper and bulbous accentuated stuck-on synthetic "wood". Although we could perhaps have expected traditional 17th Century meals and a madrigal in the ear, here the menu (early broadsheet-style; bonus points) showcased instead a regrettably modern take on peasant food, a protein-heavy, planet-light entomophagy approach of which tree-huggers would no doubt heartily approve. The link between these disparate eras? Insects, which have evidently graduated from mere passengers, uncomfortable side-effects of sloppy storage and poor hygiene to becoming, unconscionably, the star attraction.

WEEKDAY MENU [abridged]:
Soupcon of soup served in a snail shell
~ * ~
Roast crickets nestling in woodlouse granola
~ * ~
Termite mound crumble

Canal Kombucha

Now, you know me, especially if you've paid attention to my wireless communications on LBC. I'm a rigorous traditionalist and firm believer in the upholding of solid British values. Like my ancestors in the proud Minster lineage, I should be happy if you gave me a 12-bore and pointed me in the direction of the nearest lion. Out of the strong came forth sweetness, et cetera. Grazing antelopes, rampaging wildebeest? Cannon fodder, dinnertime for Barclay. Insects? You get the servants to shoo them away. Insects, I ask you?! Why don't you just serve up socialists and have done with it?

I am nothing if not a man of my word, though, so insects it would be. We chose identical meals at my behest to ensure that neither of us wimped out for the easy option of recognisable food; and so garcon duly brought us the starters, tiny pools of unspecified consommé ladled into snail shells of the most inconvenient dimensions. Imported from the French perhaps? With no cutlery provided, I found this impossible to sip without making a dreadful mess - some went up my nose, some found its way through the dense slalom of my beard and down onto my tie where it remains despite furtive licking. (The little woman suggested this is the most tongue action they've witnessed from my part in a decade. Rank impertinence.)

Before our mains arrived, we knocked back a little of the house special, Canal Kombucha. This had apparently been fermenting for a fortnight and tasted akin to apple cider vinegar, if you're being charitable, with sweaty undertones. This mixture of sharp and sour blew any snail remnant clean away, which perhaps is the kindest compliment to pay it. I imagine it would work wonders on the local drains.

Onto the main course then. The late lamented myopic colonist Buddy Holly famously named his rock and roll band The Crickets after hearing the persistent chirruping noises the insects made around his garage. I am given to understand that our friends in the East Asian fringes regularly chomp heartily on roast crickets that sizzle rather than chirrup, served up by street vendors. This is what we ate, and you can fold your smug expression away and tuck it back into your breast pocket. Needless to say, these vaguely bacon-tasting insects did not roll my rocks, but the legs and antennae did provide a persistent presence around my molars. Remember to pack a toothpick. These crispy creepy-crawlies came on a toasted granola base which would be familiar to any health-freak hippie, but with the minor addition of pre-boiled oniscus asellus, or your common British woodlouse. These, I found, added a shrimp-like frisson that almost rescued the course. I daresay the next time I have escaped for an idle hour in the shed, I will regard my woodlice companions in quite a new light; and they'd do well to return the compliment.

Finally, garcon having brought us the house water (which apparently was just that, and not cat drool or badger bile), we moved wearily to the "dessert"; a traditional summer fruit crumble. What could go wrong? Only its utter defilement not only by the addition of bulbous boiled termites, but also by an architectural monstrosity, the crumble topping having been stacked up supposedly to resemble a miniature of a typical mound as found in North Africa, except of course that crumble mix doesn't stack up as well; and on tucking in it went everywhere, liberally dusting the knees of my slacks.

Gentlemen, I need not regale you at this juncture with the tortured process this meal made through my shuddering system as I got back behind the wheel of my Jaguar. God knows what the little woman thought of it. I leave you with this warning. At last I can say I have experienced true decadence. A restaurant - an English restaurant! - with the ability to serve up the finest venison and foie gras, yet it chooses to offer insects, in the 21st Century. I have visions of the morally-crumbling Roman Empire, too addled to save itself from the gathering savages. Surely we are tumbling gut-first into the end times and Consett is on the front line. Luckily I have a stoutly-provisioned shed. Woodlice and all.

Barclay Minster is on 'Question Time' every week.

Saturday, 14 July 2018

Station Of Critical Review By Kennedy Hiscox-Wormegay: Bryan Stamford's 'So Big, They Swim'

(A note to regular Beware! readers: Hiscox-Wormegay is currently suspended from duties, pending disciplinary action. Relief reviewer Dex Diabolo is keeping his seat warm. Enjoy!)

From deep within 2018's left field comes Bryan Stamford's So Big, They Swim, a 500-page opus which, when still only a rumour, threatened to turn establishment palaeontology on its head. It was claimed that the BBC was so concerned by its imminent release that it cancelled production on David Attenborough's twelve-part Giants Of The Past series and deleted everything in their back catalogue which referenced sauropod dinosaurs. The specialist blog, Sauropod Humeri - Photo Of The Month (or 'SH-POM!'), was inundated with interview requests from numerous journalists, all of them asking how they could have been so wrong.

So what's the deal?

For years, palaeontologists have been in agreement that dinosaurs went about their day-to-day lives doing the do on solid ground. This model is in stark contrast to a proposed nineteenth century idea, which suggested that some of the larger animals were simply too heavy to exist on dry ground, and must have used water to support their mass. However, decades of actual, real-life, no-nonsense scientific research, by real scientists—and not weirdo jack-of-all-trade university-of-life types—has demonstrated repeatedly that sauropods were well-adapted to an entirely terrestrial existence. In fact, if taken as aquatic animals, sauropods were utterly, utterly awful animals, destined to die out during the testing phase.

New (Old) Kid On The Block

Stamford in his days as a rock 'n' roll
violinist, before he became a rock 'n' roll
flautist for Dr. Eam. (Public Domain)
Enter onto the stage Bryan Stamford, a fringe theory science writer who lists amongst his skills "rock 'n' roll flautist for D Ream tribute band, Dr. Eam" and "Butlins Debating Society under 11s coach, 1976." He also founded seventeen popular(-)science radio programmes (all of which were only pitched; none were picked up) and lists numerous television appearances on his online CV. However, most of these seem to comprise Stamford's presence in the audience only, and are the source of much disagreement on his Wikipedia entry's 'Talk' section.

And then, something mindbogglingly crazy happened. We presume that someone from the publisher, HarpistCollier, about to retire and with nothing to lose, was getting sozzled at the bar on some cruises ship (where Stamford was either lecturing or playing his rock 'n' roll flute) and overheard one of Stamford's self-aggrandising conversations about how he—and he alone—knew the truth about dinosaurs, and that Big Palaeo was suppressing the truth.

The transcript would probably look something like this:
Collin Harper, a commissioning editor from the well-known publisher HarpistCollier, is due to retire and is thinking about how his dream of 'going out with a bang' remains unfulfilled. About to call it a night, he overhears the arse-send of a conversation between a dapper septuagenarian with an impressively full head of white hair, and a couple of bored middle-aged cruise-goers getting pissed the night before a medical conference.
Stamford: ...and that's when I realised that palaeontologists had got it wrong for nearly seventy years! And I thought, "I can't believe how ridiculous those ivory tower palaeontologists are! Stupid, simple, small-minded! I mean… I mean... *chortle* They're fucking ridiculous!"
The two guests seem taken aback by a well-spoken senior citizen dropping an F bomb so casually. Their journey is linked to a medical conference, so they are broadly familiar with science journals.
Cruiser 1: So, have you published your studies?

Stamford: *Snorts* Of course not! THEY don't want this stuff out there!

Cruiser 2: Who are they?

Stamford: And that's not to say I didn't try! I contacted all of the top journals: Country Life, The Watchtower, Take A Break... They wanted to see my supplementary data! Can you believe that? Take A Break wanted to see my data! The nerve of those stupid, small-minded bastards! The woman at Watchtower said she had debated enough palaeontologist types to know that "long-necked dinosaurs" didn't need to live in lakes. Can you believe that? Big Palaeo got to the johoes!

Cruiser 2: That's a big tick in my book.

Cruiser 1: Haven't you contacted Nature? Or New Scientist? Surely those are more relevant to your cause. I mean work.

Stamford: Pfft! Those fascists? Have you met the tiny-minded, moronic reviewers you have to get past to get published?! If you don't have friends reviewing your work, you're... you're basically fucked! *guffaw*

Cruiser 1: Well, listen... It's been great chatting, but things start early tomorrow so we better get some kip.
The three shake hands and the two conference goers depart, presumably to find a bar on another deck. Stamford watches the two exit, and looks pretty pleased with himself. Collin Harper makes his move.
Harper: Excuse me! Oh, hi, yes, um, I couldn't help but overhear a good deal of your conversation. Would I be right in thinking you're a dinosaur expert?

Stamford: Well, no, not as such. My area is ectoplasm viscosity and its effects on the emotional state of manifestations... So no, not dinosaurs... But yes, I have studied them. Quite intensively, actually! So yes, yes. I am an expert. In dinosaurs. Yes.

Harper: Ah, excellent. Becau——

Stamford: And I'm rock 'n' roll flautist!

Harper: Right... That's great. But it's the dinosaurs I'm more intere——

Stamford: Did you hear that bit about my appearance on Question Time?

Harper: "Hear about..."?

Stamford: When I was talking with those other two. Were you there for that bit?

Harper: I... don't think I——

Stamford: Ah, excellent! Yes, I was on Question Time in 1997. I argued with Philip Hammond, against the use of DNA to convict criminals. The cytoplasmic media of cells is susceptible to paranormal corruption.

Harper: What?

Stamford: Yes, it was a seminal moment in British politics.

Harper: Er... They got you on to talk about that?

Stamford: Yes. Well, no. I was in the audience. But it was still a key moment for the series. I believe it changed that way they took questions from the audience. 

Harper: I bet it did. But listen, I really need to——

Stamford: Did you see my appearance on Trisha?

Harper: *Sigh* I'm from a publishing house!

Stamford: *Splutter* Let me get you a drink!

And that's how we think Stamford got his book deal: a chance encounter with someone who didn't give a shit. We reached out to CollierHarpist for an interview, but they were initially reluctant to comment. In an email, they said, "...Mr Stamford has requested that until the book is officially launched next week, we do not breathe a word of any of this to anyone. As you might understand, our marketing team is frustrated."

Luckily, Stamford had accidentally leaked his own book by posting a DropBox link to a PDF version at his own Facebook page, straining his already fraught relationship with CollierHarpist. Although this was bad news (financially speaking) for the author and publisher, it was great for people hoping to witness the train wreck without having to pay for it. We bagged our download and then sat down to trawl through its general awfulness. Here is our take:

Throughout So Big, They Swim, Stamford describes thousands of minor personal achievements, none of which really relate to the book's premise. For example, in 2001 Stamford attended an event at the American Museum of Natural History, and "successfully" reduced a 7-year-old boy to tears when he told the child that "palaeontologists know fuck all about dinosaurs" and that he could learn more about them from his baby sister. In 2012, whilst driving home from a talk on how cells work together to create cosmic forcefields, he prevented a carjacking by absent-mindedly driving into the back the car being jacked. And it goes on like this for hundreds of pages. When it does manage to stay on topic, the arguments against a terrestrial lifestyle in large dinosaurs rarely make it beyond "I can't believe palaeontologists think this!"

We thought about writing a more-considered review of Stamford's book, but it really wasn't worth the effort to write more than a paragraph. We would say buy it yourself, but save your money and buy something else. Like this. Or this. Or this. Or this.

Wednesday, 27 June 2018

Mystery Sea Serpent Washes Up On Beach, Experts Hopelessly Baffled

'Beaked Serpent'

A mystery sea creature with a beak and long, serpentine body, has baffled marine biologists the world over after it washed up on a Norfolk beach earlier this week. 

The Hunstanton Times said that the unidentified sea creature was discovered by dog walkers near Holme-Next-The-Sea on the North Norfolk Coast. Eviscerated, emaciated, and with protruding bones, scientists say they have no idea what the strange prehistoric-like "monster" might be.

Stuart Suiter from King's Lynn, one of several people who claimed to have discovered the creature, said it was “the size of a whale” with “an enormous beak, lined with sharp teeth.”

Genia Brown of Hunstanton said that the creature snarled at her dog, and "would have killed him, but writhed around before dying."

A hole in the side of the sea serpent, possibly caused by a mine, showing probable insides. The long white objects are thought to be ribs, similar to ribs found in other, non-monster animals. (Photo: © Norfolk Press)

It's not the first time that unidentified creatures have been discovered on Norfolk beaches. In 2004 a rotting corpse was washed up during a storm, which was thought by experts from London Zoo to be a basking shark. However, former councillor, Jennie Ashbury, said it was like nothing she'd ever seen.
Terry Sanders from English Nature, one of several experts who came to study the most recent remains, said "It's almost certainly the remains of a small cetacean, such as a porpoise. The creature is badly decomposed and you're interviewing me before I've even got down to the beach – but the Twitter photos suggest porpoise."

Despite baffling experts, the unidentified sea serpent still managed to draw a crowd. Happily, marine biologists from along the coast at the Great Yarmouth Marine Institute were on hand to take questions from the crowd.

Tooth marks likely made by an even larger marine predator, possibly a Megalodon. (Photo: © Norfolk Press)

Danger To The Public

Some experts took to social media to attempt to dispel suggestions that the animal represented a danger to the public, saying that although they couldn't be sure whether it was a porpoise, or perhaps a dolphin, it was definitely not some hitherto unknown animal. They tried to reassure the crowd by pointing out that animals this dead don't generally exhibit aggressive behaviour.

Earlier that day, Wells-Nest-The-Sea mayor, Sally Ellison, had issued a warning via her Facebook page asking people to stay indoors. It was reported that she had asked Norfolk Police to close the beaches, but they had refused, stating that it was really hard to close something like a coastline.

Angry residents hit out at police. Resident Michael Lofting said: "I think it's disgusting! What if I just accidentally walked into the sea? I could be killed! The beaches should be shut. We saw what happened with that shark attack in America in the '70s. What if I just put my kids in the sea right now? The police must close the beaches!"

University of East Anglia biology researcher, Dr. Terry Watkins, said: "It's obviously a porpoise. The caudal flukes have been eaten away by scavengers resulting in a long, thin tail. We see this kind of thing all the time. It's the second one I've seen this week."

Experts, however, remain baffled.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Poetry Hallway - Croyland Otter's Jealous Reaction to Hiscox-Wormegay's Well-Received Ramblings

Poetry Hallway - An Hour Past Twelve

It seems that Beware! The Zine landed itself a trilogy, of sorts. It wasn't our intention, of course – we're contractually obliged to publish the crap we're sent. But after our reviewer, Kennedy Hiscox-Wormegay, wove his wordy wobbliness and opined incoherently about the 13 O'Clock Podcast, it seems one of our two regular poetry contributors flew into a jealous verse spiral, and brain-dumped the following 'poetry' onto crumpled notepaper, which eventually found its way onto Poetry Hallway's doormat.

And damn, it's bad. Who are we kidding? All of Otter's poetry is bad. Like we said, contractual obligations... Plus, we're hoping his consistently awful poetry will earn itself cult status, and we can cash in. Until then, we're sticking with the day jobs. (The way we see it is, if he's sending rubbish to us, he isn't hassling anybody else.)

The cerebrally-fine-tuned amongst you will be thinking, "Didn't you say "trilogy"?" That's right. Otter's poem is no. 3 in this unofficial series. The second is a sneaky reference, hiding in the transcript of part 1 of our The Beware! Dead (Local) Celebrity Séance. Go look for it yourselves; this ain't no hotel!

An Hour Past Twelve by Croyland Otter

When I listen to this cast of pod,
'Tis like listening to a ghastly god,
Who fills my sleep time with fearful bits,
Of demonic fright and sweary shod.

The two who do it, a romantic pair,
Weigh up the evidence and are fair.
She's a goth with mathematical fringe,
And so is he, but with a lot less hair.

They take on stories, new and old,
Of awful crim'nals, shy and bold,
Who messed up folk with guns and blades,
Just for money, sex and gold.

Every other week they tell,
Stories that frighten me like hell,
And stop my sleep from being had,
And leave me like an empty shell.

I should stop, it should be said,
From hearing tales of the murdered dead;
And ghosts and ghouls and devils that,
Keep my recesses well fed.

(Okay, enough with 13 O'Clock! Their lawyers have us on speed dial! – Ed.)

Tuesday, 5 June 2018

The other World Cup in London

Humanoids everywhere - I bring news from Earth! Whether flicking through TV channels, strolling along your high street, popping open a pack of potato shards, or shoplifting from the supermarket, you can scarcely have failed to notice - FIFA's World Cup is coming. With a scary global media juggernaut gearing up for a month-long sensory battering of over-packaged slickly-edited action, analysed from all angles and branded from bonce to butt, you'd be forgiven for feeling a tad queasy at the candy corporate confection that passes for the beautiful game in the mainstream media.

"Mmm, is there money to be made from this?"
Sepp Blatter ponders.
Luckily, puny carbon-based unit, there is an alternative. For those disillusioned by the FIFA corruption and corporate love-in, a different tournament is taking place - an alternative World Football Cup contested by teams outside the FIFA system. This competition is happening in London right now until Saturday 9th June, and is organised by CONIFA. Who, you ask?

CONIFA stands for the Confederation of Independent Football Associations. It's a non-profit organisation aiming to support "representatives of international football teams from nations, de-facto nations, regions, minority peoples and sports isolated territories". For many, the experience of organising their own team is important for a shared sense of national identity, and community bonding, in regions denied their voice for generations.

The 16 participating teams are drawn from across the globe, and each has a unique situation - take the Tibetan team, who were recently barred from playing an exhibition match in Germany against local side FV Lörrach-Brombach by their regional FA, fearful of appearing to take a political stance. Chinese pressure is often applied to deny the Tibet team any airtime or playing time.

We're used to seeing the elation of a team who have won promotion or a knockout tournament. Imagine the feelings of many of the participants in CONIFA's cup, living in situations where just to play might require a huge physical effort, or be dangerous to life and limb. Barawa FC represents a port town on the edge of Somalia, which recently suffered a bomb attack at a football match. Their team here has been drawn from the diaspora based in the UK, and as such they count as one of the host teams. Meanwhile, a team representing Northern Cyprus has faced opposition from the UK Greek Cypriot community.

The travel costs and logistical problems inherent in ferrying a squad of players across the globe mean that many teams, as with Barawa above, have drawn players where possible from within the massive league system in England. Spare a thought for the Oceania representatives, Tuvalu, literally half a world away. They're actually filling in, as that continent's berth was due to be filled by Kiribati, but due to the obvious financial pressures, they had to drop out.

Further local interest this time around is provided by Ellan Vannin, the Isle of Man squad. Their head honcho Malcolm Blackburn relates the tale of how he fought the FIFA lawyers to even be able to put an island team together in the first place here.

There is the opportunity to see a few bona fide stars amongst the squads. Szekely Land's captain Csaba Csizmadia has 14 international caps for Hungary to his name. The Matabeleland team from Zimbabwe are being coached by Liverpool's legendary goalkeeper Bruce Grobbelaar, who has been drafted into the squad at the age of 60.

You can get into the mood musically with two anthems - "Bring The House Down" by 90s throwbacks Right Said Fred, and "Play For Your People" by cult wobblers Keshco.

So, when you next see adverts with star footballers like, say, Eden Hazard, kicking a ball through a wall of cups and saucers to earn a Lotus Caramelised Biscuit - think of the CONIFA tournament, and the pioneers of independent football, fighting to play the game they love.

Watch the exciting knockout stages of the CONIFA World Cup online, and catch up with highlights so far, here.

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

The Beware! Dead (Local) Celebrity Séance - part 1: Willy E. Wilkonson

Some months ago, Beware! had a chance encounter with members of the Blackpool Society of Psychical Investigation (BSPI), whilst attempting to avoid an angry car park attendant (That's a long, boring story which you can read about in the local press. - Ed). By chance, we had stumbled upon their attempt to contact the spirit of a long-dead local celebrity, Willy E. Wilkonson.

Hypno The Rapy, Scourge Of The Northwest, Killed By Fridge

A fridge. (Photo: Magi
Media. CC BY-SA 3.0)
Wilkonson had spent several years in the town performing as a magician, but when variety acts fell out of fashion in the mid '80s he reinvented himself as a hypnotherapist. However, a series of sexual assault allegations led to the town's main newspaper, The Blackpool Standard, coining the nickname 'Hypno the Rapy'. Wilkonson's career never recovered. Not long after, Wilkonson was killed whilst walking through Blackpool, when he was struck by a fridge pushed from the top of a town centre carpark. Although never charged, a rival hypnotherapist, Benjamin Shortpike, was popularly thought to have murdered Wilkonson in retaliation for bringing Lancashire hypnotherapy into disrepute. Shortpike died not long after, in equally suspicious circumstances, when he fell from the same carpark onto the fridge which was being delivered to replace the one which had killed Wilkonson.

séance. (Public domain.)
The BSPI's séance was a relatively quiet affair. No other media were present, and our being there was unobtrusive. The séance was being conducted in the function room of Blackpool's Adelaide Grande Hotel which the BSPI had rented for next to nothing in return for promising to run up a healthy bar bill. The Adelaide had been the venue for Wilkonson's final public appearance, the final night of his ill-fated 'I Can Feel You Feel' Lancashire Tour in 1986, and the investigators had hoped to exploit that connection in order to bring about Wilkonson's ghostly attendance at the séance.

Blackpool, England's New Ghost Convention Centre

Although the séance was pitched as "a bit of local colour" with which the local press could fill a half-page article, the reality was viewed rather more cynically. The Adelaide was performing badly and closure seemed imminent. Furthermore, the town council was considering compulsory purchases to redevelop vast swathes of Blackpool's centre but the Adelaide's owners had sentimental ties to the property and they were keen to prove its value to organisations viewing Blackpool as an important conference location. Around this time, a Northwest events organiser was considering Blackpool for the International Symposium of Paranormal Research, and they wanted a venue with 'history', so the Adelaide's owners put in a formal bid.

Séance Of The Century

BSPI's Chris Morris in front of a photo
of Hypno The Rapy – though it might be
Terry Jones and Michael Palin.
(© BBC. Used without permission.)

The following is our transcript of the séance. We have indicated instances which we believe were staged or faked, ad-lib-style, and those which actually did seem to be genuinely unexplained, phenomena. Personnel are as follow:

B!: Adrian Darvell and Gwilliam Mêlée lumped together for ease of reading, but occasionally initialled.

JB: Jeremy Brooke, BSPI
CM: Chris Morris, BSPI
RC: Rebecca Cully, BSPI

SK: Sarah Kettering, Adelaide Grand Hotel
MK: Mike Kettering, Adelaide Grand Hotel

B! reps enter lounge area of the Adelaide, and take a seat in a booth at the edge of the room. In the booth immediately to our left, BSPI personnel are already set up. Extra chairs and tables have been pulled over to their booth to support various electronic paraphernalia connected with their ghost-hunting exploits. GM of Beware! heads to bar for one bottle of Magners (the only cider they serve) and one orange juice. Blackpool is a quiet town; he is served swiftly and returns to the B! booth.

[A brief conversation occurs involving both parties. B! is introduced to the digital audio recorder by JB, and we agree some ground rules, namely that we will not engage with any paranormal entities encountered during the séance, unless requested to do so by JB, CM or RC of BSPI. B! would witness the séance but would act for the most part as impartial observers.]

CM: Okay, let's get going. Mike, can we get the offerings?

SK appears with a mug of soup and some disappointing-looking bread on a mismatched side plate, and places it on the séance table. CM throws a condescending look and points to the next table. SK picks up the items and places them unceremoniously on the other table.

CM: I guess there's nothing wrong with a false start. [Leans into mic] Becks has the specific offerings for our target spirit. Becks, if you would.

RC places an odd assortment of objects on the soup table.

CM: [To mic] Let the record show that Becks has placed objects connected with our target spirit, William Wilkonson, on the offering table. We have a pair of unlaundered trousers, retrieved from a charity shop bag left at the front of Sue Ryder following a house clearance, a TV remote from the same bag and a tank from the fridge which was responsible for his death.

JB: It's a compressor.

CM: What?

JB: It's not a tank, it's a compressor.

CM: Okay, compressor... Right, the offerings are, er, offered, and we'll start with an opening prayer of protection to get things off in the right direction. In the name of God, Jesus Christ, The Great Brotherhood of Light, the angels Michael and Gabriel, please protect us from the forces of evil during this spiritual connection. Let there be nothing but light surrounding us and let us only communicate with powers and entities of light. Protect us, protect this hotel, the people in this hotel, Blackpool in general, and let there only be light and nothing but light. Peace and love! [Makes embarrassing peace sign] AMEN!

JB: [Whispers] We're supposed to be holding hands.

CM: [Places hand over mic; whispers] Look, spirits aren't going to give a fuck if we're holding hands or not and the microphone can't see it. Okay? Okay!

RC: [Cutting in] We reach out to any spirits in the vicinity and ask them to offer a sign of their presence.

JB: Lights are supposed to be off.

CM: Doesn't matter. SPIRITS!?

Lights flicker. AD notes absence of bar staff during this. Inaudible muttering.

CM: Thank you. Can you do that again?

Lights flicker, as if on demand. Again AD notes absence of staff. MK peers from behind bar area.

CM: Thank you again. We're now gonna try to ascertain which spirit, or spirits, are currently present. We extend a hand of warmth to those spirits and appreciate them giving their energies to this séance. Spirits! Please indicate the method by which you would like to communicate.

A loud bang is heard, seemingly from the direction of the bar. At the same time, the sound of a table of chair leg scraping on the ground is heard. Confused expressions from the BSPI guys.

CM: [Whispering] Did one of you kick the table?

JB: [Baffled expression] Er, no. I, er, heard the knocks, though.

CM: [Whispering] I thought we weren't doing table tipping?

JB: [Whispering; signalling with agitated nods and angry eye-staring] It's whatever the ghost wants, right?

CM: [Shrugs] Well, whatever. Spirit, you have indicated you will communicate using 'spirit knocks'. We ask you to use one knock for 'yes', two knocks for 'no', and three knocks for 'don't know'. We also ask you to use a series of knocks to specify a number. Do you agree?

There are a few seconds of silence, towards the end of which the BSPI guys look slightly uncomfortable. Eventually, there is a single knock. Not surprisingly, it comes from the direction of the bar.

CM: Er, thank you. Will you confirm that you answered 'yes'?

Less waiting, now. There is a single knock. CM looks relieved, but then the table they're sat at slides about a quarter inch towards him.

CM: Thank you, spirit. [Whispering angrily] Seriously, Jeremy, are you kicking the fucking table?

JB: [Raises eyebrows and widens eyes, then looks at mic. Whispers.] We. Are. Re. Cording.

CM looks unsatisfied by this response. RC shoots sympathetic look to JB and then an embarrassed smile to B!. B! react with professional indifference, because, well, we're professionals!

JB: Maybe we should, y' know, go after an identity?

CM: Yes! Yes. Okay. [Adjusts the desktop mic] Yes. Identity. I... den... tit... teee.

JB: [Whispering] Chris? You okay?

CM: Hm? Yusss... Right, identity. Spirit! Are you male?

One knock.

CM: Thank you... Sir. Are you... local?

One knock.

CM: Thank you. Are you recently departed? [CM places hand over mic] What? Who wrote these? They're awful. Jez, is this your handwriting?

JB: No, it was that intern you were fu—— [JB is cut off by a loud knock]

CM: Well, I suppose if this is all I've got... [Clears throat] Did you die peacefully?

Two knocks.

CM: [Leaning into mic] Let the record show that the spirit responded with two knocks. Two knocks for 'no'. Two knocks for dead, unpeaceful.

The table jerks a half inch away from the group. The legs screech on the floor.

CM: Fucking hell, who's doing that?

AD to GM: [Whispering] This guy's losing the plot!

RC: Shitting hell, Chris, tone it down. No one's doing this – unless you've got your foot on the table!

CM: Don't be ridiculous.

JB: Christ, guys, can we take five? I'll cut the interruptions later and make it sound like one hit. Chris, why are you so fucking uptight? I can fix the audio.

CM: If it's not convincing, the online community will roast us. I don't want those 13 O'Clock bastards getting any mileage out of this. They'll screw us bad. Scepticism is back in, remember.

JB looks awkwardly towards AB and GM.

JB: This is normal for audio. All the best ghost shows do it. Zak Bagans practically admits to it!

AD googles Zak Bagans on phone, realises he's a hack. At this point AD suggests to GM that he get a couple of extra drinks from the bar.

AD: I've got an idea. Back in a sec.

AD takes the Beware! dictaphone – well, a dictaphone app on an iPhone – to the bar with him. Barman (MK) takes a little while to reappear.

AD: Missed your cue, there, mate! Can you tighten it up? It'll take us ages to edit.

MK: It's not easy from over here. I can barely hear what you're saying over the extractor, even with this prompt list.

CM appears at the bar as MK hands AD his change. AD overhears CM as he carries drinks back to GM...

CM: (To MK) What was he talking about?

AD: (To GM) Leave the drinks! We've gotta go!

To be continued [insert spooky music]...

Merchandise Roundworm - Beware! floral design by Circuitsnap

Alright, hop-skippers. There are a few questions that regularly get asked of your friendly Beware! editorial team - often when we're out and about, bouncing and bopping at a local free jazz gig; squatting and grunting behind the car park; or wobbling and prodding at the top of a ladder defacing Tory billboards. It all gets a bit loud and pointy at times, but we welcome the attention, because we're filthy beasts.

One of your chief questions relates to merchandise, our merchandise. "Is there any?" you ask. Well! Today, faithful follower, you are in luck. Also tomorrow. But hey, slurp whilst the stew's hot.

Your editors and contributors have collectively and singularly got a whole houseful of purchasable products to show and tell. We're going to start this new merchandising infestation (Column, surely? Ed) with a wearable and shareable item that relates specifically to this blog:

Beware! T-shirt (/mug/miniskirt/duvet etc)

Beware! The Zine design, on a T-shirt (Circuitsnap)
It's true folks, you too can wear this exquisitely delicious neo-psychedelia-inspired floral design that features our name loud and proud. It's been released by Circuitsnap, the arty alter-ego of half our editors.

Find it here for worldwide purchases on frillions of different surfaces: Beware! Floral Collage Logo at Redbubble

Also on Amazon in the US, specifically as a T-shirt: Beware! The Zine floral collage T-shirt at Amazon

Buying this design is a pretty fab way of supporting our efforts in bringing high-quality investigative journalism to the masses (Check this. Ed) and helping us stave off the bailiffs for another month.

Star Test

We asked local anorak B. Pillock to review this very design, and they mumbled a bit and then sent the following missive by scrunched-up till receipt:
"They only ask me to annoy me. I couldn't eat my dinner off it as it wouldn't fit in the crisp packet. I mean it's an alright image I suppose, it's got six letters and one piece of punctuation (I favour the latter), and over a dozen flower shapes at disconcerting angles. No particular odour. How many words do I have left? Can I mention my new" (Sniiiip! Ed.)

Back of the Rack

Meanwhile you can follow the arty endeavours of the other editorial 50% at Redbubble: Gaffamondo ... Here are a couple of his highly-chucklesome books at Lulu: Dear Annick When Fandoms Collide ... MoMoJaJa is a family art project with more designs than you can shake your foot at, again via Redbubble ... Cult band Keshco have a ton of EPs to download (featuring all our contributors) at Bandcamp ... Poetry contributor Drew Walton has a couple of pithy and impassioned collections, also at Lulu. See you soon, folks!