Monday, 5 January 2009

Anal Probes, Cow Mutilations, Cilla Black

Strange lights lit up the sky over our undisclosed part of South East England last night. The first I knew of them was when Judy shouted me from our indoor swimming pool where she’d been partially submerged for about an hour before she was due to have her nightly trombone practice. Abandoning the research notes for my new book, ‘Pirates & Stumps’ (which I've decided will be next year's 'Richard&Judy Book of the Yaarrgh'), I went rushing from the living room to find Judy dripping on the veranda and staring out into the garden.

‘What are those strange lights?’ she asked, pointing a wrinkled finger westwards.
I handed her a towel before I went out to investigate. I wasn’t happy that she proceeded to follow me out into the cold night air but that’s Judy. She’s got the thermal resilience of an arctic vole. To be honest, I was also less concerned about my wife’s wellbeing than the meaning of the lights she’d pointed out. They were strangely coloured discs of radiant energy flashing in some odd yet non-random sequence. Clearly, there was only one explanation.

‘It’s the alien invasion!’ I said, believing it. ‘Thank God for that! This can only be good for us, Jude. Perhaps it will take an extra-terrestrial to see that our place is on terrestrial. With some higher intelligences in charge of the world, we’ll see out stars rise.’


‘Mark my words, Jude. Unless, of course, they’re the other sort of alien...’

‘The other sort?’

‘You know... The sort that go in for anal probing and mutilating cows.’

‘Ah,’ she replied. ‘Channel 4 viewers.’

‘That sort of thing, yes,’ I answered. ‘Probably enjoy Polish animation and the films of Jean Luc Goddard.’

Judy looked worried as she watched the lights. ‘I’m not happy about this, Richard. What if they are the other sort of aliens with their probes?’

‘Then Paul O’Grady will be quids in, as they say. He’s get another series. No doubt about it.’

‘But shouldn’t we do something?’

I shrugged. ‘What can we do, Jude? If this is, as I suspect, the alien invasion, then we can only sit here and wait until they want to speak with us. Perhaps they’ll make us their spokespeople.’

‘I don’t like the sound of that,’ said Judy. ‘Richard&Judy’s Anal Probing and Cow Mutilation Club is not something I’d want to put my name to.’ With that pronouncement, she wrapped the towel tightly around and turned back towards the house.

‘Where are you going?’ I asked.

‘I’m ringing Cilla,’ she said.

I shook my head, baffled by the faith that Judy puts in Cilla Black. I turned my attention back to the lights and walked deeper into the garden, away from the house and the illuminated carp pond, solar lit shrubberies, and the halogen lights that Judy set into the path when she laid it last summer. At the bottom of the garden, I sat down beside our ornamental Ainsely Harriot statue that Judy cast in concrete last year. Judy spends many happy hours on that bench but this was one of the rare times I had gone and sat there. I averted my gaze from Ainseley’s haricots, as I’ve taken to describing his beans, and I watched the light show. I had no doubt that Cilla Black could hold back an alien invasion for an hour or two but, unlike Judy, I knew that Cilla’s voice would eventually pack in and the invasion would go ahead.

After about five minutes sitting there, I began to have my doubts about the whole alien invasion scenario. It wasn’t so much that the lights seemed to be less dramatic than I’d originally thought but I had detected a low level noise to which they seemed to be moving in rhythm. It was if some bad music was being played in a house on the other side of the Madeley pond/lake.

I rushed back into the house to find Judy on the phone with Cilla. I didn’t have time to get involved so I grabbed my coat and headed out the house and began to walk down the street in the direction of the music.

Before I reached the end of the road, a head popped up over a hedge. It gave me quite the start, given that it was wearing a Arabian turban with non-matching Kenyan tribal gown and Manchurian dragon slippers.

‘Michael!’ I cried to Michael Palin. ‘What you doing there?’

‘Observing the lights,’ he said.

‘You’ve seen them, then? What do you make of them?’

‘It’s the alien invasion, isn’t it?’ His turban bobbed about with excitement. ‘It’s what you’ve always talked about. Or I do hope it is,’ he said. ‘I’m desperately in need of a new long distance journey I can film for the BBC. Michael Palin’s Earth to Centuri has a ring to it, don’t you think?’

‘I’m afraid I don’t think it is the invasion,’ I told my excitable friend. ‘It seems to be coming from a house down the road. You fancy coming along as I investigate.’

Michael thought for a moment and then his face broke into a huge grim. ‘Michael Palin’s Journey From Some Undisclosed Location in South East England to Some Other Undisclosed Location in South East England. Quite the catchy title. Haven’t got my camera team but I could quite easily get a book out of it. Count me in.’
And so we set off, me in still in my slippers and Michael dressed like a third-rate stage magician. The music led us on and grew louder once we turned the end of the road.

In the next street, the lights were at their brightest. I could sense Michael’s disappointment as he saw the beams of light coming from a nearby back garden and lighting up the low cloud base. The was also the unmistakable throb of music accompanied by some high pitch shrieking that was a frightening as it was familiar. The house itself stood higher than the rest and was decorated in white plastic facia with a few pink flamingo illuminated in their plastic glory stuck around the front lawn, which had been spray painted a green turquoise.

‘Rather a tacky end of another exciting Palin adventure,’ said Michael.

‘I agree,’ I replied, looking at the windows painted in a garish shade of yellow with pink curtains beyond.

I began to walk up the path, determined to find a reason why Cilla Black had been put on the alert for alien invasion when there was a yell from the side of the house and a figure came running towards us.

‘Hell,’ said I as I recognised the figure. Although he was more tanned that me, with brighter teeth too, and darker hair, he was still the embodiment of everything that the name Madeley doesn’t stand for. In a way, you might say he is my direct opposite; the negation to everything that’s positive and wholesome about me. You might even say that he was the Anti-Madeley.

‘How the hell did you get in?’ asked Simon Cowell, not at all breathless and with his high pectorals perked with adrenaline and stimulated to the point of twitching. ‘This street has restricted access. How did you get past the gates?’

‘We’re celebrities too,’ said Michael, adjusting his sagging turban so he stood a bit taller.

‘Yes,’ I added. ‘No doubt about it. The gates recognised us and swung open.’

‘A likely story,’ laughed Cowell. ‘I’ll give you thirty seconds to get out before I call my bodyguards, who happen to be a very talented close harmony boy band called “Knuckles Inc.”. Look out for their single next Christmas, their techniques for breaking kneecaps in about twenty seconds.’

‘Pah, idle threats,’ spat Palin as he turned on his dragon heels and began to run.

I watched him retreat before I turned back to Cowell. ‘How the hell did you manage to buy a house in this area? I thought we had rules about your sort moving in.’

‘Oh, you can do what you like down there on millionaires’ row,’ he said. ‘This is billionaire’s row.’

‘And the lights?’

‘I’m having a small barbeque and outdoor disco for friends,’ he said.

‘Bit chilly for that, isn’t it?’

He looked at me, his lopsided grin even more lopsided and full of grin. ‘You don’t have your back garden fully centrally heated, Richard?’

The point was cruelly made. I didn’t wait around for the debut performance of Knuckles Inc.’s hit, so I trudged back down to millionaire’s row, feeling my pockets pinched by the desire to have my own back garden centrally heated.

I got back to the house to find Judy dressed in fatigues and ready for combat. Cilla Black was apparently on her way and would be parachuting in within the hour. I didn’t have the energy to explain. I did contemplate mentioning to Judy about centrally heating the garden. She’s a dab hand at plumbing and electronics and could do it on the cheap. However, that would involve my explaining about Cowell and that would mean another call to have Cilla Black stood down for the evening. Planes were already in the air. It would be easier to have her land and explain it all then. As Judy went out to prepare the landing strip with flares, I headed for the kitchen and something to settle my stomach. Even without any anal probing, I was still in for a long and painful night.

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