The further Adventures of Dr. Burlap


The prequel: Malaga

We flew out of Belfast bound for Malaga sometime mid-November. A party of five, three golfers with an all-in-deal in Marbella, and the Doctor and me on a cultural road trip, well maybe. The Doctor had been suffering the ravages of a dank, dull Belfast winter and his chest was making the sort of noises that demanded medicine and sunshine. We emerged from Malaga airport the golfers going south and we north to the city.

No prior arrangements for a hotel been made. We were reliant on the time honoured tradition of ‘spot the hotel’ from the city bound bus. Not a great plan but effective in it’s simplicity.


Ding ding. Bus pulled over. We stepped off, a little too hastily as it turned out. We climbed the steps to the hotel lobby, approached the desk.

“Una habitacion doble, por favor”

“Si senior, los pasaportes.”

Availability excellent, central location excellent. Ah, big problem. In our haste the Doctor had left an essential bit of kit on the bus; passport, medication, money. Shit! With a zero option the Doctor set off to find that bus while I sorted the room. Then I waited. I’m not good at waiting so set off in search of the Doctor, the bag, and the bus. The bus station seemed the best option except for it’s locked offices, abandoned quays, and total lack of people to include Dr.Burlap. A deep despair coated me inch by centimeter. I had no idea where the hotel was, nor had Burlap, nor I him, nor he me. The litany of missing things was multiplying.

There were no epiphanies just a homing pigeon determination that all roads led to the unnamed hotel. As I climbed the stairs the desk clerk smiled and pointed to the room. Thank you oh god of the homing pigeon. And there he was, Burlap in all his smugness, feet up, prodding an ear with a matchstick, watching television.

“ Where have you been?”

“ Seeking the seeker of the bag, Herr Doktor.”

A tragedy averted. Burlap’s own city drama, closed kiosks and deserted bus station, was resolved by a solitary in coming bus and an honest driver but not the way he told it.

“ A bright light filled my vision as I stood in the emptiness such that I had to shade my eyes. When I looked again an angelic figure was descending to the ground and approaching. It held out to me a small bag. One small bag, one giant piece of luggage. As he approached he held it in the air and smiled. No I didn’t kiss the concrete but I may have given him a double embrace, no tongues, just short of indecency. Thank you God, thank you senior.”

The Cultural Tour could now begin. Tapas, wine and Spanish brandy hailed from somewhere close to the hotel. That seemed a good idea. A surfeit of alcohol could disorientate the already demonstrably challenged.

“Be careful, be very careful senior”

The image was taken in the house that Walt Disney was purported to have been born in Mojaca. According to the guide Walt was the bastard child of the Master and a servant girl. The child was adopted by an American couple and grew to fame and fortune.


The Adventures of Dr.Burlap


Granada: A sequel

With an itinerary set not to overtax Dr.Burlap, we took in the Alhambra, which, even with a cocktail of pharma on board, overtaxed the Doctor. Sitting in a regal chair against a backdrop of exquisite geometric tiles in an ornate courtyard by a pool bathed in evening sunshine was a cure, plus the promise of a fine Spanish brandy. The cultural visits continued: austere and gold clad church interiors, modern art galleries, the university, street market, tapas bars and that Spanish brandy. Of that trip to Granada two events are note worthy and set the scene for what follows.

As we strolled back of a late evening to our garret in the Pension, in danger of collapse from the weight of icons and students, a figure slipped form a doorway at some distance. He descended the steps looking furtively in both directions while clutching a rectangular object wrapped in a bin bag, crossed to the street-side dumpster, dropped the bin bag in and hastily retraced his steps. The door closed.

“That was a bit suspect, no?”

“Ho Ho. Do we have an artwork in the bag?”

“Might just check this out Doc, what do you think?”

Maybe it was the fine Spanish brandy or an over active thyroid, whatever, we’d created an international art thief dropping priceless works for an accomplice to retrieve before the cleansing department arrived. We sidestepped into the alternative reality with the greatest of ease, brandy included, and rescued the cleverly concealed art and took the bootie back to the garret, as Holmes and Watson would, to inspect content,

“We were not wrong, Doctor, this is pure gold.”

“ And there are two canvases, excellent one each.”

We removed the oiled canvases of distinctly Spanish origin from the School of Twentieth Century Naïve Art. T.Corovetto you are a true master of the hobbyist movement, or was that caginess to conceal your abhorrence for the work of Senora Corovetto as you trashed it?

The fast moving drama was followed by the fast removal of our rental car. Was it the revenge of the International art theft syndicate? No. In the clear light of a piercing morning hangover the realisation dawned that the car had been scooped by the clampers. The evidence: a curbside sticker with details of a fine and a location for recovering. Arguing with the urban authorities about injustice and damage to tourism is stressful with a hangover and a language deficit, that raised finger and raised voice were as naïve as the art. The fine was paid and we fucked off in the rental for a hangover cure and breakfast.

But revenge was ours. We kept the canvases in the bin bag. We put them through the scanner at Malaga Airport. We carried them through security at Belfast International. We’re discussing a visit to the Prada in Madrid with a couple of bin bags.


To Nathan

Shadow of the future past

shadow I’ve been absent of late. Was convinced I was being stalked by His Grimness. You get strange looks when you dart behind a tree as a long shadow is cast across your path. Fortunately ‘The Seventh Seal’ scenario is not on my chequerboard as I’m crap at chess but I know for sure the fucker is out there.

Why am I telling you all this? That’s a fair question and one that leads me into my story of the dark past of this small sod we call Northern Ireland when the work of the Grim Reaper was carried out by armed and masked men. A shadow cast on a door pane or window was enough to put the fear of god into many a soul out for a casual nights drinking with friends or simply for the comradeship of the local bar.

My partner and I were in the heart of the countryside in a small village of a Friday evening when we stopped for a drink. As we entered the bar a tide of silence swept through every corner of the bar as the clientele took in the strangers. Like a murmur from another room the conversation resumed in an uneasy truce when we sat with our backs to the window and ordered a drink. We shared the bench seat with one other not unduly fazed by our presence, nodding in unspoken greeting.

The drink continued to flow, the atmosphere lost some of it’s tension as he began a conversation, not unfriendly, which sought to identify the stranger with the Belfast accent. “What has you up around these parts, boy?”

“My partner here she’s a local and we’re up visiting.”

We introduced ourselves and the volume went up a further notch. When the lineage was unraveled he stared at her and with something resembling recognition he declared I think for the benefit of all,

“Jesus, sure don’t I know yer brother well. We’ve worked together many’s the time. What are ye drinking?”

The bar seemed to breathe easy and resumed it’s pre-stranger volume. As I passed through the bar seeking the toilet people nodded, we were home. The toilets perplexed me though. I stepped into a gravelled yard with no obvious facilities.

“Where do you take a pee round here?” I asked

“Anywhere.” came the reply.

For a staggering drunk a perfect arrangement, and for the landlord a convenient solution, everybody’s happy I thought to myself as I re-entered the bar. But it got better. When I took my seat last orders were called, more protocol than fact. The barmaid came from behind the counter pulling blinds, closing doors, and dimming lights, then took orders from each table for the chip shop across the road. On return each table was delivered fish suppers, pasty suppers, sausage suppers, onion rings and chips as ordered, while the landlord landed pints and shorts amidst the unwrapped newsprint. By this time the atmosphere was of a family sharing a banquet.

That Solar Eclipse

lunar dara

Stargazing Live is an offering from our very own BBC. The event of a Solar Eclipse on 20 March resulted in excited studio performances from presenters Dara O Briain and Brian Cox, aka the Professor. Information was offered of best locations, weather conditions, and health warnings on the event. They both sported eclipspecs for safe viewing.

“These special glasses are not widely available, so you may have some difficulty in acquiring them,” they informed

“Oh thanks for that lads, guess I’ll just wear my Da’s welding goggles or go blind”

Billed as a unique event though most of Britain would only experience a 98% eclipse, it was still worth the watch. A bit like a rare Royal visit to some remote neck of the woods, the Royal personage requiring a visit to the throne room after a hearty breakfast with the resulting loss of 2% body weight.

Dara O Briain has the benevolent face of a full moon on a summers evening which tips you a wink while transiting the sky. He explained the geometry of the earth-sun-moon relationship from which an eclipse occurs. Using a clever device, a Kojak lollipop by any other name, he moved it ever closer to the camera lens to obscure the solar graphic behind. A eureka moment? Far better had he used his own face and comedic genius to add some levity to the ‘astronomy for all’ lesson.

The Professor toyed with a model of NASA’s moon lander, the Eagle, more high tech than Dara’s lollipop, but what caused me concern was his propensity for exuberant gestures could have had Dara’s eye out with that thing. Considering he had crashed the lander in a flight simulation this was a real worry. He went on to number crunch earth-moon-sun distances and explain why the moons disc can eclipse the sun though 400 times smaller. This will not always be the case, he continued, as the moon is retreating from earth at 3.78cm per annum with the consequence that in 5 million years a total solar eclipse will not be a happener. Fuck it! I’m going to miss that.

However on the upside some future enterprising youth of the Cox mould will be able to demonstrate the phenomena with a Kojak lollipop. They will be available, unlike the eclipspecs, and sell by the shedload allowing that future generation to have their eclipse and eat it.


The Highwayman


“Hear me people. We have now to deal with another race – small and feeble when our fathers first met them, but now great and overbearing. Strangely enough they have a mind to till the soil and the love of possession is a disease with them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break and the poor may not. They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule”

Chief Sitting Bull speaking at the Powder River conference in 1877

A Highwayman has taken to our streets, highways and wallpaper. A horse tied to the railings at No.11 Downing Street reveals the identity of the criminal as the incumbent, Mr.George Osborne, Chancellor (and chancer) of the Exchequer. I expect he will be phoning his barrister or arranging for my transportation to a penal colony for such an accusation.

Below I present the case for the prosecution.

Under the new rules, dating back to October 2014, DVLA no longer issue the Tax Disc, which was first introduced in 1921. The new system employs the wonders of digital tech, a ”move into the modern age’ according to the Treasury, to inform, issue and collect road tax. This seems imminently sensible, whilst also removing paper waste, approx.72 tons per annum, from the system and the DVLA’s contribution to a green revolution. Well maybe. I suspect there may be a Jeremy Clarkson Design added to the Autumn Collection at Osborne and Little.

Buying a second hand car previously had sometimes the bonus of a prepaid tax disc with some months to run before having to be renewed by the new ‘keeper’. That has now gone meaning the new ‘keeper’ is immediately responsible for updating the road tax while the previous owner receives a refund. Stay with me as the devious manoeuvres of the Treasury and said Minister are yet to come.

The flip side of the new system is more Gutenberg Press than high end digital. If a vehicle sold on carries a valid tax disc with some months to run the DVLA will reimburse the owner for full calendar months as with the old system. So a vehicle sold mid month is refunded from the beginning of the following month. However the new ‘keeper’ will pay from the beginning of the month in which the vehicle is purchased. In simple terms the car is taxed twice for the same month. With 42% of motorists unaware of the implications of the changes that’s a big lump of free money to the Treasury.

When I queried the DVLA on this their pat response was ” That is the rule”. So we have a 21st Century vehicle taxing system that leans heavily on the exploits of Dick Turpin, the 18th century highwayman, or a clever wheeze the Chancellor picked up from his banking cronies.

Application of “Modern Age” technologies provide us with the ability to make measurements to the Nth decimal point, discover exo- planets in solar systems light years from our own, yet DVLA cannot divide months up into days, hours and minutes. If this ‘new’ system is to be accepted as new then someone needs their knuckles rapped Mr.Osbourne.

p.s. will it be back to wallpaper salesman after the election?

The life of the finger


Fingers, fingers, fingers and fingers.

Not fish fingers or chocolate fingers or sticky fingers, but the fingers of the hand. Those digits that we use daily for signing, lifting, licking, pointing, poking, scratching, and picking, without a second thought. As kids we used them to investigate, to eat, to paint, counted on them, got them caught in doors, bitten by dogs, and waved hello goodbye.

We’ve even given them names:

the thumb or opposing digit allows for amazing dexterity in collaboration with it’s neighbours;

the index finger for doing just that, useful when pointing and as a substitute to language;

the middle finger mostly used to insult it seems, SWIVEL! ;

the ring finger, banded in gold. “ I do”, the longest sentence in any language;

and finally the pinky?

Answers on a postcard please.

It’s all that other stuff that would get any self-respecting digit a bad name. All that posturing that people do with their hands and fingers, an esoteric language perhaps learnt at the cost of an arm and a leg. Symbols or signs that identify an allegiance to a sect or a movement, to a victory over adversity, a pressing need to scratch ones bum in public, and of course the successful extraction of that irritating bogie that had eluded the probing finger.

And let’s not forget the religious finger pointers whose index finger points skyward for some god unknown reason. The sinister jihadis known as IS are handy with that finger. Are they indexing the real culprit behind their inhuman behaviour or is that what they would have us believe?

Answers on the same postcard.

Apropos to nothing…. Well Fingers:

In Bertrand Russell’s 1954 short story “THE MATHEMATICIAN’S NIGHTMARE: The Vision of Professor Squarepunt,” the number 5 said: “I am the number of fingers on a hand. I make pentagons and pentagrams. And but for me dodecahedra could not exist; and, as everyone knows, the universe is a dodecahedron. So, but for me, there could be no universe.”

I have a bit of a thing about polyhedra, more specifically the Platonic Solids, which have been the focus of a body of 3D works that still occupy my creative endeavours.




Moses heard a voice. He had gone up Mount Sinai for a bit of R&R after leading his people out of Egypt. I think they may have been doing his head in. The guy is taking a breather, after the events previously alluded to, when a voice calls to him from a burning bush. So who needs this I ask you? Now if old Moses was unsettled before, this must have completely unhinged him.

You think this would be a learner for the rest of us mere mortals since most people know that story. But no, no think again. People out there are attributing the voice of God or the Prophet to the atrocities they inflict on their fellow man. But, of course, that would be Holy War. Either that or a common case of insanity, for which I blame this government’s policy of placing the clinically insane back in the community. See where that’s got us!

The reason I mention this is, believe it or not, I heard a voice. I was minding my own business while taking a casual stroll though a local park on a sharp winters day. Well actually it was more of a ‘psstt’ than an actual voice.

“Is that you, Lord?” I asked. Not an unreasonable question.

“It is I.” came the response.

“Praise the Lord !”

“Not so quick with the assumptions, my good fellow.”

Not a very God-like response I thought.

“I am not the lord, I am the Prince.”

Wow, now I was impressed expecting a heavenly chorus of Purple Rain. Intrigued. The Prince. Wow again.

“Where art thou oh Prince?” Why I thought a Shakespearean flavour appropriate remains a mystery.

A loud cracking of branches but no flames put an end to the Biblical expectation as a harnessed figure hit the ground.

“Agh shit”

Definitely not a Divine descent or of Divine descent. But there again maybe I’ was being judgmental without due process. I approached to offer assistance and was immediately struck by the likeness to HRH Prince Andrew whose visage has fed a media frenzy this past while. Hubble bubble sex and trouble.

“Prince Andrew I presume? ”

“Shhhsh! This is an unscheduled visit to the loyal citizens of this outpost of the Empire”

“A bit of bother, Sir?”

“Accusations of impropriety with young ladies have resulted in this unusual course of action, at least until the flames die down you might say”.

I did not say and therefore seized the opportunity to address these wilful rumours as a loyal citizen of this great country and our cherished Royal Family.

“You been kiddy fiddling, Andy boy? It’s not like the lineage is pearly white and above reproach, now is it? Uncle Battenberg may have had unusual tastes and big brother, 1st in line, had been parker bowling away from home for years. Association with a convicted pedo and his purchased retinue of jailbait may have put the tin crown on it, and would tend to benefit the mud-slingers, don’t you think? Mr. Epstein’s hedge fund fortune permitted him lots of time to play with his dick, and his associates to play with theirs, in the company of children. Puts a new slant on being ‘upstanding’ your Highness!”

War and Peace


The Balaclava, was a knitted woollen helmet produced by the good ladies of the Empire for British soldiers during the Crimean War. Sent during the winter of 1854 to provide warmth and the comfort of knowing they were still remembered back home, while they laid siege to the strategic port of Balaklava on the Black Sea.

In later years it became the headgear of adventurers, walkers, climbers, and of course school children during a brisk British winter. My own kids, in their days of innocence, wore bright red balaclavas to keep their little heads warm during the cold, dark winter months. Their little faces and rosy cheeks framed in an oval of wool provided a familiar snapshot of childhood.

The design has evolved and is now de rigeur kit for any self respecting terrorist. The many paramilitary groupings in N.Ireland donned the now familiar headgear to secure their anonymity while also achieving the sinister threat of their presumed status. Murals on gable walls portrayed these factions with redtop slogans: ‘Prepared for Peace, Ready for War’ showing armed and uniformed fighters wearing black balaclavas and gloves, obviating the need for the street artist to attempt faces and hands.

The anonymity the Balaclava provided was so successful that Police in many countries have adopted the fashion. Footage of Riot police in the Robocop Hollywood style adaptation of the uniform can be seen cracking skulls with impunity. This masking of identity is sinister since public servants are paid to uphold the law yet their transgressions are above the law; the MET’s actions during the G20 summit in London, 2011 for example: ID no’s removed, kettling, and manslaughter.

Islamic State is another proponent of the Balaclava. Their quasi-religious zeal and logic plucked from the medieval mind of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi lacks any empathy for human kind. Ubiquitous images of marching jihadi’s in black Spiderman uniforms further demonstrates this desire to be anonymous.

A question for the Balaclava wearer: If you are to represent the law you uphold, or the righteousness of the path you tread, of the necessity for the rest to follow, then why hide your face?

All of the above is an opinion, one of 7 billion. The issue of Arms Manufacture and distribution has to be high on the agenda of how we as human beings move forward. The world seems awash with ingenious methods of murdering our fellowmen, which begs the question: Who profits from this in real terms?

Bah humbug.

Bah humbug

For Christmas this year I received an unexpected and unwanted gift from my grandchild. I went to bed early Christmas eve with a storm brewing in my gut and a dread of farting, as with Russian Roulette the one bullet in the chamber could well deliver the coup de grace.

On Christmas morning I was wakened early, i.e. as the sun was getting out of bed. Never an advocate of the ‘early to bed early to rise’ aphorism the bah humbug moment was within easy reach. The rattle of plastic wheels on tarmac on the street accompanied by a child’s joyful strains of jingle bells almost pushed me over the edge. If words be needed refer to Yossarian’s diatribe on reasons not to be thankful on Thanksgiving in joseph Heller’s book ‘Catch 22’.*

I don’t want to paint a picture of a grumpy oul’ fart but I realise the base colour is already down. So from here on in I’ll try and unpaint myself out of a corner using the Yossarian Methodology.

The nub of this whole Christmas festival is, we are reliably informed, to celebrate the birth of Christ. Now I take issue with that right away for several reasons.

  1. The date coincides with several ancient festivals, Druidic celebration of the winter solstice, the Romans holiday of Saturnalia, so is a convenient hook on which to hang the Christian festival.
  2. Christians are wont to wear a cross as a sign of their guilt for crucifying the Christ. So why not wear a baby Jesus at Christmas to mark the event of his birth.
  3. The whole myth starts to unravel when the Christmas hat and jumper become the symbols of the season.

Bah Humbug. The hat and jumper. The Santa Hat. Oh the Christmas Spirit what a jolly jape. The myth perpetuated of a once saint who became a marketing ploy of many a corporation. Ever wonder where those Santa hats are made, what ill lit dungeon of low paid workers employed by Scrooge in some near or far flung corner of the world stitching red and white hats to enhance the Christmas Spirit.

Christmas Spirit and that jumper? A friend once told me that as a student he took to smoking a pipe as he thought it would instill a sophistication and savoir faire but concluded he was just a young man smoking a pipe.

The other staple of Christmas is the Queen’s speech at 3pm Christmas day before we all sit down to dinner feeling the world is a better a safer place for it. The speech’s theme of reconciliation mentioned N.Ireland, Scotland and sport, specifically the Commonwealth Games in Scotland. Bah Humbug. Common wealth now there’s a misnomer. Another myth given credibility by those it best suits. The ‘common wealth’ was created by a continued system of land and wealth grab that has now homogenised into an elite to include the notion of royality. As with all prevalent myths that our sophisticated, Santa hat and Christmas jumper-wearing society subscribes to the game is up. We are gauche and backward looking society caught in the headlights, in thrall to celebrity and corporations, that has lost sight of our humanity and the consequences of our greed.

Have a Happy New Year.

* exchange between Lieutenant Scheisskopf’s wife and Yossarian. P.179