Category Archives: Humour

Some comprehension deficiency

Just a short, flippant post for you today.

I sometimes write down quotes and thoughts, intending to use them for something. Occasionally I forget what I had in mind. This was one such time. But it fits in well with how my brain is working – i.e. not really working – right now.

I am ‘experiencing comprehension deficiency.’ That sounds so much better than ‘I am stupid.’

Thank goodness for the internet and its search functions. Sitting there as I was, with my quote and not a clue, I discovered it came from Doctor Who. I know this because someone blogged about it, here.

But, yeah, my deficiency has more to do with being surrounded by intelligent and clever people. I am intelligent too, of course, but not quite like this. I’ll never help send anyone to the moon, or anything like that.

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Martin Brown’s Lesser Spotted Animals 2

This is the most sarcastic book about animals I’ve ever come across. It’s also the funniest. (Unless the first book was. I don’t know, as I didn’t read it.) But yes, as it says on the cover, ‘more brilliant beasts you never knew you needed to know about.’

Martin Brown, Lesser Spotted Animals 2

Though, I don’t know. Yes, actually that would seem to be the problem. I don’t know. They don’t know. The text freely mentions that the specialists don’t know. That’s how unknown these animals are. Phrases like ‘biologists think’ (of course they do. They have to do something…) and ‘even the people who know about them don’t know a lot’ don’t give you much hope.

I had never heard of any of these creatures, and I dearly hope I don’t meet many of them either. (As for the 280 types of squirrel, I hope Barry Hutchison isn’t reading this.)

Do you know of a one-year-old toddler with a long tail? No, neither do I. Anyway, that’s the size of the Dingiso. Oh… Maybe they mean it’s the size of a toddler, plus it has a long tail?

Hm, that makes sense.

This book should appeal to any child with a sense of humour. Possibly also to ones without, as a plain guide to unusual animals. But it’s the writing you want, accompanied by the illustrations. If any adults were to read aloud to their long-tailed children, they’d probably find it hard. They might laugh too much. (Luckily I don’t have that problem.)

And yes – or do I mean no? – you should not kill musk deer. That, as he points out, is a job for the Yellow-Throated Marten. That one with all the teeth, grinning…

Well, all I can say is that this book wasn’t another boring and worthy book about animals. And while there is a lion in there, like in every single animal book, it’s only there to illustrate the fact that it isn’t in the book. You know.

Tommy Donbavand

Tommy Donbavand died on Tuesday this week.

He had three years of truly awful battles against cancer, and he shared them with us on his blog, while also having the strength to joke a bit and to tell us about his family. And when things got too bad, his very good friend Barry Hutchison took over; writing blog posts for him, and even finishing his books.

But I think we had all worried about this moment, knowing it was likely to come soon and none of us wanting it to happen.

Tony Higginson, David Gatward, Barry Hutchison, Tommy Donbavand, Jon Mayhew, Philip Caveney and Joseph Delaney at Scarefest 3 - photo by Sean Steele

I first met Tommy in a pub in Sefton. He was just like me, short and round. Also, he was kind and funny, and good at writing books that got little boys reading. And to think that he might still be with us had it not been for his GP who felt there was nothing really wrong with Tommy.

My thoughts are with Mrs Donbavand and their two young sons. Tommy was so proud of them.

McTavish Takes the Biscuit

Oh McTavish, how wise you are! And how I love you!

We all need a McTavish in our lives, but especially the Peachey family. True, their dog has sorted them out pretty good by now, but then it would seem that there is no stopping Pa Peachey when he gets a silly idea.

Meg Rosoff, McTavish Takes the Biscuit

Meg Rosoff’s fictional dog is really exceptionally wise. Actually, now that I think of them, they all are.

So, anyway, Pa Peachey wants to win the town’s bake-off competiton, despite him not being any good at baking. What could be more exciting than a ginger biscuit version of the Palace of Versailles?

The healthy food McTavish taught his humans to eat is no more, as Pa bakes and serves up his failures to dog and people. But according to Ma Peachey one should support people’s dreams. Even if it’s going to end in disaster.

What can McTavish do?

Well, anything, really. Sit back and enjoy another Peachey family story.

Double Whammy

When I remembered I had a few unread novels by Carl Hiaasen, I knew I had to pick one of them to come with me on my recent travels. I knew it’d be good, and unlike children’s books that can be too short, Double Whammy is just over 400 pages so I could be sure it would last a while.

I might have chosen Double Whammy anyway, for being the first of the Hiaasens on my shelf, but having looked through all the books, I couldn’t help noticing this one had Skink in it, and that rather clinched the deal. I like Skink. Well, within reason, and it is easier to like him in a book than it might be in real life. If he was real.

Carl Hiaasen, Double Whammy

Double Whammy turned out to be the first Skink novel, so that was an added bonus. (If you don’t know Skink, you can read about him here.) He used to be that totally unlikely creature; a Florida Governor who was honest and decent and couldn’t be bribed. So that’s obviously fiction.

Double Whammy is about the fishy stuff that goes on in the world of bass fishing in Florida. If you think it’s weird that men sit for hours in silence, fishing, it’s even weirder that people will watch these men fishing on television, but there you have it. And if you read Double Whammy you are reading about people watching people fishing…

Some fishermen are cheating, because there is much money at stake in bass fishing competitions. And then they start dying, and someone needs to find out about both the cheating and the murders. Private Eye R J Decker gets the job, and he soon teams up with Skink, despite being slightly scared of this wild man who lives off roadkill.

It’s funny. It’s quite disgusting at times. But it’s also reassuring to read about people who want to do the right thing, both for the environment and against cheating. And say what you want about Carl Hiaasen’s usually very attractive and often scantily clad women characters, but they are feisty and brave.

And all this without any mobile phones or decent clothes, since this was 1987. It’s amazing how far we haven’t come in some respects.

(It’s probably for the best if you are not a dog lover.)

Arnica, the Duck Princess

This newly translated fairy tale by Hungarian Ervin Lázár didn’t, in all honesty, attract me with its title (the princess sounded more like a homeopathic remedy) nor with the illustrations (which grew on me rather when I read the book), but that brief dip into the text that I like to do, made it look both fun and intelligent. And that’s how it turned out to be.

Ervin Lázár and Jacqueline Molnár, Arnica, the Duck Princess

The style of writing is refreshingly modern and amusing, and the plot does have a poor young man for the Princess Arnica, but there are no three* brothers, nor any stupid or unkind parents. The King is lovely, in fact. Very sensible and kind and fair. Arnica herself is apparently not all that beautiful, or at least not until Poor Johnny, as the hero is called, sees her and falls instantly in love, and that makes her beautiful. Poor Johnny is poor, but the King does not mind this.

All would be just great were it not for the wicked Witch,** who casts a spell making the young couple into ducks. But being so very much in love, they decide to take turns being a duck.

And eventually, after many charmingly different little adventures, the two leave their duck-ness behind and everyone lives happily ever after.

What’s so attractive, apart from the fun story, is the language. I have no way of knowing if this is the style of Ervin Lázár, capably translated by Anna Bentley, or if there is some magic happening in the translation. There is an unusual plot device in that in every chapter the author appears to be chatting to a child about how to proceed and what certain things mean, sometimes having new ideas or names introduced into the story, the way a child might come up with odd little things. It’s really very charming.

And as I said, the illustrations by Jacqueline Molnár turn out to be exactly what the book needs.

*You do get twelve of them at one point…

**The Witch, well, she’s really bad. Mostly.

Adventure Duck vs Power Pug

Did I really want to read about a duck struck by a meteorite? It promised to be quite a silly book. But then, Adventure Duck vs Power Pug is by Steve Cole, and we like Steve Cole.

Steve Cole and Aleksei Bitskoff, Adventure Duck vs Power Pug

So they all came with me to the GP’s waiting room yesterday, and luckily the nurse was distracted by her friends over lunch and was late, allowing me to read on. By page 39 we’d just got to the cool secret camp the meteorite-stricken egg (yes, really) had organised for himself and Adventure Duck – who, between you and me is a silly duck – and I didn’t particularly want to get up from my reading.

As you will have gathered I have yet again fallen under the super-powers of Steve Cole, and you wouldn’t know I am really an adult.

It’s a good sign when even old people can enjoy rather silly books intended for much younger readers. I suspect that 6-8 year-olds will really really like Adventure Duck, and Yoki the egg and Ziggy the not-sidekick. As for Apocalypse Cow, well…

Steve Cole and Aleksei Bitskoff, Adventure Duck vs Power Pug

There will be more instalments of the meteorite-induced adventures, and knowing the speed with which Steve writes, I would imagine the second book will be here weeks ago. (I don’t mean that. Even this one is only out next week. But we are talking meteorite time.)

The illustrations by Aleksei Bitskoff are suitably crazy too.