Thursday Interview: Grand Old Duke of York

Grand Old Duke of York Curtis Bausse blog

Now, you have 10,000 men, Grand Old Duke, and you’ve been marching them about a lot recently. Can you tell me about it?

Certainly. It was the hill behind the barracks that first drew my attention. An excellent place to march the men, I thought, make a change from the square-bashing. Up to the top and down again. Apart from a few minor incidents, it was a great success.

But a bit pointless, surely? Not much different from square-bashing.

Which itself isn’t pointless at all. Keeps ’em fit and disciplined, for a start. But going up the hill is even better – gives ’em a sense of achievement when they get to the top. And there was also a specific purpose behind it. You see, we knew very well that when they were down, they were down, and we had a strong suspicion that when they were up, they were up. But no one knew where they’d be when they were only half way up. Thanks to my expedition, we now know they were neither up nor down.

Well, that’s quite a discovery! Will it have any practical application?

Indeed it will. The nature of warfare is changing. We have good reason to believe that the enemy is neither here nor there, but until now we had no way to counter that. Being neither up nor down will give us a huge advantage.

I see. And what does that mean in concrete terms?

An intermediary position between lying down and standing up. In other words, we waddle. The enemy will be utterly confused.

Sounds… original, shall we say? And your men are with you on this?

There’s been a bit of insubordination. A few of them saying that if they waddle, they’ll be sitting ducks. But one has to expect any innovative idea to meet resistance at first. It’s nothing a decent flogging won’t sort out.

Hmm… Now, I don’t want to appear disrespectful, Old Duke – after all, you’re the second son of King George III – but it’s been whispered that your military tactics are totally up the chute. Your Flanders campaign was pretty disastrous and –

Why, you impudent little scallywag, how dare you? Lucky for you you’re not in the army! Out of my sight forthwith!

The interview thus came to a premature end as the Prince chased me round the room, sword drawn, before tripping over the carpet and skewering his butler as he fell. 

Thursday Interview: Rudolph Reindeer

Pleased to meet you, Rudolph. You know, you’re possibly the most popular reindeer ever. But that wasn’t always the case, was it?

No, I had an unhappy calfhood. I wasn’t exactly bullied, but I felt very unwanted. The others wouldn’t let me play their reindeer games.

And all because of your nose?

I was the laughing stock. And it made me terribly self-conscious. You know how teenagers feel when they have a zit on their nose? It was a thousand times worse!

How did you cope?

You develop a thick skin in the end. I said to myself I didn’t want to play their stupid games anyway. It was actually untrue – I was dying to play. But being a loner means you mature a lot quicker, I think. You know what their favourite game was? Sardines. So silly! Besides, reindeer are useless at sardines. I took up golf instead. But that was a bit of a disaster too. The very first day I crashed the buggy so I had to get off and hoof it. Then they accused me of wreaking havoc with the green and told me not to come back.

But it all changed one day. What happened?

I was out walking on my own one night, feeling sorry for myself, when a man came up and said, ‘That’s just what I need! A nose that glows!’ He was so excited I thought he was going to cut it off there and then. But he asked if I wanted to join his team to guide them. So instead of following their nose, they’d follow mine. Then he introduced himself – Santa Claus! Well, I thought I was dreaming. A miserable outcast one minute, Santa’s head reindeer the next!

A life-changing opportunity indeed. But you took it in your stride?

It was nerve-wracking to begin with. It’s a huge responsibility. I was terrified I’d screw up. I imagined children everywhere howling, ‘That’s not what I asked for!’ Smashing Barbie dolls to bits, stamping on Darth Vader. But it all went OK and now I’ve got used to it, I find it much less stressful.

And what advice would you give to other reindeer?

Remember it’s no big deal if they won’t let you play sardines. However hostile the world might seem, one day your fortunes will look up. So don’t cut off your nose to spite your face. And above all, join me now in wishing everyone a


A short while ago, my interviewee, Red Velvet Cake, so impressed me that I just had to try it myself. Unlike Lili’s original, mine wouldn’t win a beauty pageant but everyone agreed it was scrumptious. Putting on the topping reminded me why I never became a plasterer, and nor would I be much use with shop letters. As soon as the C went on, I realised I should have gone for Xmas instead. M complained vigorously in its best Judi Dench accent: ‘Call this a cake? More like the Piccadilly Line at rush hour.’ To which the second S retorted, ‘Consider yourself lucky! What about me, clinging on for dear life?’ In short, everyone got a bit irritable, but in the end the Christmas spirit prevailed, and the main thing is that you get the message, sincerely sent from Red Velvet Cake and me to all of you!


Thursday Interview: Wendy Wheelbarrow


Wendy, you’ve kindly accepted to – Wendy? Are you all right?

Yes, I’ll manage, thank you. I’m just a bit tired. I’m on my last wheel, you know.

Which is why I’m very grateful for this interview. Just how old are you exactly?

I’m afraid I lost my birth certificate a long time ago. But I was here when you arrived and I was with the previous owners for about 30 years, so that puts me over 50, which isn’t bad for a barrow. Of course, if I’d been born into the bourgeoisie, sleeping indoors, hardly ever doing an honest day’s work, I dare say I’d still be in my prime. But I was never pampered. Slept outside, made to lug stones and earth and branches all day, with nary a word of encouragement. A tough life, it was, but in those days you didn’t complain. You just got on with the job.

You never thought of going on strike? Demanding better conditions?

I was all on my own. I’d never even heard of NUBGI so it wasn’t –

I’m sorry? NUBGI?

National Union of Barrows and Garden Implements. But I don’t know if I’d have joined in any case. Bunch of troublemakers as far as I can see. I’m not saying everything in the garden’s lovely, but we have to make do with our lot. If I’d been born with another wheel, I’d have been a bicycle, wouldn’t I? But I wasn’t, so there’s no point worrying. I wouldn’t have wanted to be one anyway. All those fancy gears and what not. More trouble than it’s worth. Down to earth, that’s me. Never led anyone up the garden path.

Well, that’s admirable, Wendy. But I still think you could have been better looked after in your old age. We have no photos of you younger, but in my research for this interview I came across a portrait which a visitor did of you in 2003. You were in quite good shape back then.

barrow2Yes, I remember posing for that picture. The artist was rather irritable, as I recall. Kept saying my features were too wooden. Heaven knows what he expected. For me to put on a steely expression, perhaps.

And how do you see the future? I don’t want to be too blunt but there’s not a lot of you left.

Do you think I don’t know? I’m all wheel and no barrow. I feel pretty rotten, to be honest. But I’m not ready to throw in the trowel just yet. Where there’s a wheel, there’s a way.

Thursday Interview: Freddy Fatberg

Hello, Freddy. You know, my previous interview was with the sublime Red Velvet Cake. You’re not quite as beautiful. In fact quite the opposite, if I may say so.

Of course you may – you just have. And I’m sure you get to meet all sorts in your profession – the good, the bad and the ugly. But I don’t compete with anyone but myself, and other fatbergs of course. I’m certainly not jealous of any cake, red velvet or otherwise. They help to make me what I am.

Really? How so?

The butter smeared in the bowl after you’ve finished making the cake? That’s me. But of course it’s nothing compared to the grease in the pan when you fry your bacon. That’s me too. Everything you put down the drain is me.

And that’s what accumulates to make you so big?

Absolutely. You say I’m big, but as fatbergers go, I’m thin. However I’m very ambitious. I’d love to break the record. That was in 2013, Kingston upon Thames – fifteen tons and as long as a double-decker bus.

Wow! What’ll happen if you get that big?

I’ll be delighted. I’ll block the sewer completely so all the waste will flow out into the streets. And it’ll take a dozen men a fortnight to break me down using high-pressure hosepipes.

Why not stay as you are? No one would come and destroy you then.

I can’t. I’m too generous. Any fat that comes along wants to settle in, make itself at home, so I do all I can to make it welcome. Fats of a feather clog together, you know. There’s a wonderful sense of lipidarity here.

So if you do get really big, it’s basically our fault.

Mmm. The dust goes under the carpet, the fat down the drain. Somebody else’s problem. But I’m not complaining. If you didn’t do that, I’d be totally undernourished. I’m not too worried, though, with Christmas coming up – all that fat from the turkey soon to come my way. Delicious!

Perhaps people will be more careful this year.

I doubt it. There have been advertising campaigns to tell people to stop. Fat lot of good it does.

Thursday Interview: Red Velvet Cake

Pomegranate red velvet cake

I must say you look delicious, Red Velvet Cake, it’s a pleasure to have you with me. First of all, can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Certainly. My full name, actually, is Pomegranate Red Velvet Cake. I come from Lili’s Cakes, and I’m delighted to have been chosen to represent her site. There was an awful lot of competition.

And what did the selection process involve?

A beauty pageant, basically. I’m not much into them myself – I’m more than just pretty icing. But obviously, looks are important, so we had to parade on the sideboard and look sweet. After a while, it was whittled down to me and Jamaican Ginger Cupcake. She’s so beautiful, I thought I didn’t stand a chance.

So what clinched it for you?

I think the jury was dazzled by the pomegranate seeds. As I said, it’s a bit annoying to be judged on appearances alone, but that’s how it is. They do ask us a few questions, but we don’t get a chance to show them how much we know. You’d be surprised how cultured many cakes are. We absorb so much. Like sponges.

You’ve been described as the Lady Gaga of cakes. What do you think of that?

Well, it’s the other way round, isn’t it? She’s the Red Velvet Cake of singers, or tries to be. Lili says I have “a delightful colour that isn’t too garish, a beautifully satisfying spongy texture and a wonderful combination of tastes with a balance between sweet and salty.” I’ll leave you to reach your own conclusion.

And what can you say about Lili herself?

Oh, she’s a goddess. And I’m not just buttering her up. But to create such delights out of a few basic ingredients – that’s my definition of divinity.

Don’t you get depressed, though? I mean, you were only made to be eaten. You don’t last more than a few days. If you were in my house, I doubt it would even be that.

Well, it’s longer than a milkshake. No sooner shaken than drunk, poor things. Besides, what counts isn’t me, I’m just the outward result. My true identity’s in the recipe. Once you’ve got that, you can have your cake and eat it – you’ve got the DNA to make clones.

That’s wonderful. Our thanks go to Lili for providing it, and of course to you, Red Velvet Cake, for coming along to talk to us. There are many other delicious cakes on Lili’s site, but I must say you take the biscuit.

Oh, I don’t know what to say. You can’t really see because I’m red already, but you’re making me blush. Crumbs!


Thursday Interview: Peter Piper

Now, Peter, you’ve probably been told that this is an interview, but in fact it’s more of an interrogation. You’re in a spot of bother, I’m afraid.

Why? I ain’t done nothing.

Well, that’s for the police to decide. Because the fact is, you picked a peck of pickled peppers and nobody knows where it is. If you can provide a satisfactory explanation, you’ll be fine. Now, where have those peppers gone?


You don’t know? A whole peck of peppers? Let me remind you, Peter, that’s 554 cubic inches we’re talking about. You can fit a lot of peppers into that. Now, would you like to tell me exactly what happened?

I was just… Me and this bloke George, we were going into town, see, and there was this field of peppers and, well, me and pickled peppers – I can’t resist ’em, know what I mean? So I started to pick a few, just what would go in my pocket, enough for a jar, like, no more than that, honest. But then George said if we picked a whole peck, we could sell it.

Right. Well, it so happens that those peppers belonged to Farmer Giles and he’s hopping mad. So I’d like to know a bit more. This George fellow – friend of yours, is he?

No. Only just met him.

Got a surname for us?


Right. Thought as much. We’ve had our eye on him for a while. He’s been making the girls cry.  And now you’re saying he’s a pepper thief too.

Yeah. Nothing to do with me. I told you.

Well, thank you for being so cooperative, Peter, but there are just a couple of problems. Firstly, Georgie Porgie ran away last week when some boys came out to play – before the peppers were picked. Secondly, we have a witness, Tommy Tucker, who was singing in Market Street when he saw you walk past lugging a peck of peppers. Now it won’t take me long to get a search warrant, but I’m thinking you’ll want to spare me the bother and tell me where those pickled peppers are.

Yeah, well, I, uh… I swapped them.


I met this girl, see. She was selling sea shells on the sea shore, so I –

Peter, that’s not going to work, I’m afraid. We’ve spoken to her already…

Thursday Interview: Infinity

Universe Space Time Infinity

“Glazed-Donut” by Evan-Amos. Public Domain

Hello, Infinity. I’m delighted to meet you but I’ll be honest – I can’t get my mind around you. To me you’re even more baffling than the National Rifle Association, and that’s saying a lot. Can you explain yourself in a few well-chosen words?

A few? Huh! I don’t know where to begin. In fact there is no beginning. And I certainly don’t know where to stop. Are you sure you want to continue with this?

Well, we’re here now so… I’d like to know if you really exist, to start with. Because quite a few scientists say the universe is finite. The Big Bang kicked it off and it’ll end in a Big Freeze. Or a Big Crunch. No one seems very sure but a Big Something will be the end of Everything. I mean, I could suppose that if I’m speaking to you, then you must exist. But can you actually offer me any proof?

Well, if the universe is shaped liked a doughnut, then the proof of the pudding is in the eating. Or to put it another way, if you’re in a bit of the Universe that has a delayed future infinity, then you could look back and see the end of the Universe happening in other places.

Ah, thank you very much, everything’s clear now. Would that be a jam doughnut or cream?

I wouldn’t worry if you have trouble grasping it. After all, you only have 100 trillion connections in your measly brain. Just about enough to handle a basic concept like, I don’t know, a cheeseburger or Donald Trump.

Well, you could say his capacity to astound is boundless. But to get back to our point – are you related to God in any way? Because you’re both quite unfathomable.

Absolutely. In that respect, you could say I am God.

And you’ve granted me an interview? OMG! I thought you only spoke to Tony Blair!

Oh, no, God speaks to lots of people. Or rather lots of people hear God, which isn’t quite the same thing perhaps. But I wouldn’t get so excited. God’s just a name for what you don’t understand, like the origin of the universe. If you did figure it out, you wouldn’t call it God any more. Or at least, you wouldn’t go round quite so much using God as an excuse to kill each other. Not that it would make much difference. You seem pretty good at finding other excuses too.

Right. Well, one last question then, since I have you with me – can you reveal the true nature of everything? Just as a favour, you know? I mean, the biggest scoop I’ve had up to now was Miss Muffet explaining arachnophobia.

Only too happy to oblige. And since your limited brain power won’t allow you to understand much, I’ll put it in simple terms. Now, it all started a very long time ago. A very, very long time. A very, very, very long time. A very, very, very, very long time. A  very, very, very, very –

Ah, OK, thank you, Infinity, you’ve enlightened me enormously. I’m infinitely grateful to you, but really I must be off.

A very, very, very, very….

Thursday Interview: Carol Calorie

Hi, Carol. Just to clear up something straightaway, when I asked your agent for a picture of you, she said she didn’t have any. Why’s that? Are you shy? Don’t like the way you look? Or you just want to cultivate the mystery?

None of those. I’m an abstract entity, that’s why. I’m just an amount of energy. Specifically the amount it takes to raise the temperature of a gram of water by one degree Celsius.

Oh. So you don’t actually look like this?  carol

Not at all. That’s just how you imagine me because you think I’m responsible for making you fat.

Well, you are, aren’t you? If I didn’t have so many of you, my abs would be more like abs.

So it’s my fault if they aren’t? Don’t forget I’m also responsible for keeping you alive. You can’t manage without me, you know. Just not quite so many of me, I’d say. Especially if all you do is sit in front of a computer. But whether you go for a chocolate diet or an apple is entirely up to you. I’m neutral in all this. I’m not even restricted to food – I’m everywhere. There are 7,004,684,512 of me in a ton of coal.

Wow! Explains why I felt so bloated after eating that sack of anthracite.

Ha, ha! The good news is that even a sedentary writer gets rid of about 70% of me just by breathing and thinking. Assuming you do think, that is.

Oh, yes, never stop. That’s cool. But what do I do about the other 30%?

Exercise. A lot of it. Eat a banana  and you’ll need to walk a mile. As for a big mac, I suggest you start training for the triathlon.

Mmm, think I’d rather forego the burger, thank you. Or maybe go on a diet?

Waste of time. Just eat a bit less and move a bit more. 90% of people who go on a diet put their weight back on within three months. Plus some, in fact, so it’s fair to say a diet makes you fatter. Still, that doesn’t stop people in the UK spending £2 billion a year on diet books, pills and magazines.

We’re not all equal, though – it’s easier for some than for others. Hardly very fair, is it?

Life’s not fair, I’m afraid. But whining burns up even less calories than writing.

Very true. I’d better get back to my novel. Thanks for sharing!

Thursday Interview: E = MC²

You’re quite a phenomenon, E=MC². Everyone’s heard of you, but very few people could describe you very well. How do you explain that?

Well, I have a rather complex personality, I must admit. Hidden depths, you might say. So it takes quite an effort to get to know me. And I’m a bit of an introvert. Not very big on social media, so people would actually have to want to come looking for me.

Doesn’t it bother you?

Not at all. You could say I’m the Howard Hughes of physics. Influential behind the scenes but no wish to hog the limelight. Besides, as a profession, we’re intrinsically not very sexy. Much as some of us refuse to admit it – I was speaking to pithe other day, and she was in her usual huff. ‘You’d think by now they’d get beyond the first two decimal points’, she said. ‘After all, I’ve been around since Archimedes.’ Well, frankly, in my opinion, she has only herself to blame. I said to her, ‘Look, if you want to be in the Daily Mail sidebar, you need an hourglass figure, not some higgledy-piggledy thing that goes on forever.’ But that’s pifor you – struts around on those pins of hers as if she was Taylor Swift.

All the same, perhaps she has a point. Don’t you think you ought to be better known to the general public?

There’s little chance of that though, is there? Only yesterday, I was asking the-fourier-transform if I ought to open a Twitter account, and he said it wasn’t worth it. No one reads equations these days. According to the-navier-stokes-equations, most people don’t even know she exists. So I consider myself lucky in that respect.

Coming back to that point you made – you are indeed quite young. Do you remember when you first appeared?

Oh, yes. It was wonderful! There I was in this dormant state thinking, ‘I could be here forever at this rate’, then suddenly, pop! I’m out in the open. Like going from a chrysalis to a butterfly. All thanks to Albert, of course. If he hadn’t come along, I might never have been discovered.

You got on very well with him, I believe.

Naturally. He was great fun. He took me a lot more seriously than he did himself. Of course it was tough on newtons-universal-law-of-gravitation, who’d been ruling the roost pretty much till then, but Albert knew his onions all right. I was here to stay.

You mean forever? Won’t you be replaced one day yourself?

Well, never say never, of course. I don’t know what’ll happen to me if string theory really takes off. Although, to be honest, I’m not that worried. I can’t see Picture-6 upstaging me for a while. But I won’t be too upset if he does. It’s nice to be seen as influential, but I don’t let it go to my head. Everything’s relative, after all.

Thursday Interview: Left Foot Sandal


Thank you for receiving me, Left Foot Sandal. And I must say, I’m sorry to see you in that condition. What happened?

Oh, the usual wear and tear. I’m not getting any younger, you know. In fact, I’d say it’s the end of the road for me now. It would only require a few stitches, but when a sandal’s over the hill, cobblers just don’t operate. So it’s curtains for us, I’m afraid. The bin. Euthanasia.

Oh, that’s terrible, Left Foot Sandal! Don’t worry, I won’t throw you away. I’ll keep you as a souvenir. After all, we have all those memories to look back on. Ten years you’ve been my sturdy companion – no other sandals have come close. Why, I remember our very first outing together. The path to Santiago de Compostela. Oh, the blisters you gave me!

Well, yes, but it wasn’t very sensible to walk 200 kms the first time you took me out. And it was bad enough for you, but what about me? Positively sole-destroying. Still, we became very comfortable with each other in the end.

All those countries we’ve visited. Jungles in Malaysia, mountains in Kyrgyzstan… Not to mention the streets, the monuments, the museums.

Well, you can keep your museums. I’m sure you saw some wonderful stuff, but to me it was just skirting boards. Not that I minded much – I’m not that big on culture.

Where’s Right Foot, by the way? I was expecting to see you both.

I’m afraid we’ve fallen out. He thinks it’s my fault we’re being replaced. He says he could carry on for years if it wasn’t for me.

That’s not very nice. I thought you were inseparable.

We are, but it doesn’t stop us fighting. Politically we’re just too different. He’s so far to the right I don’t know you managed to walk straight. And quite snobbish with it. He’s got this chip on his strap about being ordinary. At times he goes off into this fantasy world and pretends he’s some sort of Louboutin. He needs to get a grip, in my opinion.

Well, give him my regards in any case. It was a pleasure to have you with me all these years.

You’re welcome. Good luck with your future travels. Up hill or down dale, just put your best foot forward.