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19 March 2020 | Diary

I haven’t seen a moth in here for a while.

I wonder if Covid-19 has…


There’s one.

The Sex Life of H. G. Wells

27 October 2019 | Diary

H. G. Wells was a very sexual being. He wanted you to know this.

“Let’s get it on,” he would say, “and this time let’s put some stank on it.”

Yes, H. G. Wells–professorial chubbychops, writer of Mr. Britling Sees It Through, and all-round Proper Old Chap–secretly wrote a book, which I am reading, about his career as “the Don Juan of the intelligentsia,” or, to update the parlance, his life as an absolute shagger.

Wells sealed the manuscript into a box, using goodness knows what adhesive, leaving stern instructions for it to be published only after his death, when he could be fairly sure they couldn’t catch him.

Don’t worry, I’m not here to gleefully reveal H. G. Wells as problemattic–“Not Wells!”–but rather the contrary. I’m actually a bit miffed at the book’s lack of sauce. I’m afraid I made up the line about putting some stank on it.

I’d been hoping for descriptions of a frisky H. G. Wells squirming among the velour cushions of his ornate and brass-knobbed time machine, plucking a candlestick telephone receiver from the gilded dash and bellowing into it, “get the poppers out, Maura, IT’S NAUGHTY TIME,” before zipping promptly home to put some hot breath on a butt plug.

“Maura, I have returned and I’m partial for it!” I hoped he’d call up the stairs, before compressing an unlikely wall panel to reveal a hidden doorway, a golden glow cast upon him from the brassy domes of The Latest Devices within.

“The steam-driven rump padeller,” I wanted him to say, his eyes twinkling over a cityscape of potential intrusions, “the gentleman’s personal gentleman… and, ah yes… Mrs. Beaton’s Christmas Special.”

And then Maura would appear, dressed as an Eloi.

And then an Eloi would appear, dressed as Maura.

But no.

I am, I should say, only half way through the book, so there’s still hope we’ll be treated to such beautiful scenes, but there’s been an unexpected lack of imaginative rumpy-pumpy so far.

He never propositioned a chimneysweep, never asked for time alone with the Mechanical Turk, never ordered a zoo animal to his rooms under the pretense of science, never telegraphed Houdini in a state of panic (“MY DEAR DISCRETE ERIC. STOP. REQUIRE KEY FOR A SCOTLAND YARD STANDARD ISSUE BRACELET No. 12. STOP. ASKING FOR A FRIEND. STOP.”), and never bored a hole in a melon.

“I have never,” Wells implies with his silence on the matter, “taken a neckful of hot Victorian chod.”

Look. I’m not saying people should try such things if they’re not completely into them, but he describes himself over and over in this here book as a libertine. It’s libertine this and libertine that, but so far as I’m able to tell, he only has about six notches in his bedpost and it never once crossed his mind that he could lower himself onto it.

And that’s fine! But it’s normal, not libertine. It’s like saying, “I’m mad for ice-cream, me” and confessing you’ve only ever tried strawberry. One word, H. G.: Choconut.

One might almost say his life was chaste when you remember he was a celebrity, loved by all. In fact, it was probably the law in 1910 that anyone crossing paths with “The Marvellous Mr. Wells” must take their trousers off and await his instructions.

“Tell us a story about your day, Grandpapa.”

“Ee, well, it were a right honor to be asked to serve as an on-street toast rack to the great futurist, Mr. H. G. Wells…”

I realise it’s a bit strange that I’m getting bent out of shape about things that didn’t happen a hundred years ago. I just think it’s a shame is all. Entering that mouth, I’m sure you’ll agree, would have been like going through a car wash, sudsy bristles rubbing along the roof. And all the while, you’d be thinking, “I can’t believe it. The tip of my dingus is but inches from the brain that gave us Kipps!. Two inches, now three inches, two inches, three inches…”

Still, despite his dissapointing lack of imagination in the bonking department, he was no stuffed shirt and it’s nice to think of an elderly H. G. Wells finishing a bowl of soup and then harumphing off to write his sex memoir.

Fine. I accept it. H. G. Wells was a sexual fellow. Vanilla perhaps, but sexual.

And now at least we know where the inspiration came from for those tripods.

This short piece of writing is called a feuilleton. You can read about my adoption of the format here.

Good Morning

29 September 2019 | Diary

Oh my God, what a night.

I woke at 4:30 from a terrifying dream. It was just like in the films. I sat bolt upright, panting and confused, not entirely certain of where I was.

As I tried to shrug it off and go back to sleep, I found myself sliding into the clutches of the nightmare again (oh no!) so I decided to rinse my brain by putting a podcast on.

Adam Buxton was interviewing Charlotte Gainsbourg and, for several minutes, all was right with the world again.

Just I was drifting off, the podcast was interrupted by an unfamiliar twinkly-bleepy noise. I ignored it because, although I’d not heard such a thing before, we do have slightly spotty Internet that occasionally interrupts streaming videos and the likes. Besides, I was already falling asleep.

The podcast returned. And then failed again. Returned and failed again. I was in the process of sleepily concluding that I should pluck the bud from my ear and ignore whatever technological shenanigans were going on, but I’m extremely glad I didn’t because of what would happen next.

“I’m a comedy writer,” said Charlotte Gainsbourg, “but I don’t just go for the lols.”

What? Even in my state of half-sleep, I realised that the voice in my ear had ceased to be Charlotte Gainsbourg and that the phone must have inexplicably skipped to a different interview.

Then the the twinkly-bleepy noise happened again, followed by a robot voice saying “this selection is unavailable.”

But!, my sleepy brain struggled to object, I’m not trying to select anything. What is at work here? Did that Thing escape from my dream?

The twinkly-bleepy happened again and then the robot voice said, “Now Calling… Wentworth.”




Oh my God!

I scrambled for the handset and, sure enough, “WENTWORTH. CALLING….” was displayed on the screen and I was thankfully able to think quickly enough through the sleepfug to terminate the call before connection.

What the fuck was going on? Why was my phone trying to call my friend at 4:30 in the morning without my say-so?

It was a crazily narrow escape. It would have been embarrassing to have to explain to my older, wiser pal that I’d had a scary dream and that my phone was acting independently and I was not yet certain if the two things were related.

If I’d have plucked the ear bud–or already fallen fast asleep–and not heard the “Now calling…” warning, the call would have connected. And if the ghost in the machine hadn’t chosen Wentworth, it could even have dialled the number of, say, my agent or a publisher or a local news station.

I still don’t really know what happened but, short of paranormal phenomena, I’m guessing this has something to do with the pound-shop hands-free kit I’ve been using to listen to podcasts.

There’s a microphone on it, so perhaps it interpreted my senseless nocturnal mouth noises as “skip” and “call Wentworth.”

Which is crazy. I don’t, to my knowledge, have a voice activation system installed. Can this have happened? Is it possible? Am I a clueless grandpa now, completely alienated by technology? Are ghosts real? And if they are, why are they fucking with my smartphone? And who am I talking to right now? Are you real? Am I?

You know, I think I’ll go back to bed for a bit.

Apologies in advance if I call you.

Coin Slot

26 September 2019 | Diary

A cut passage (a murdered darling) from my manuscript:

I put my palm on the trepanned head of a plastic guide dog to steady myself. As I regarded its coin slot, it seemed to sing that I should pop my door key inside it.

It had to go because it required too much explanation. Not everyone, especially overseas, knows what these guide dogs are, and to explain it would kill it.

I’m also not sure how recognisable these mad thoughts are to normies the hinged.

Parasitic Wasps

25 September 2019 | Diary

Friend Kristin has read my moth diary and she’s keen to tell me about a “natural” solution involving parasitic wasps.

Apparently you release the wasps at home and then seek out any unhatched moth eggs, feasting on them as the world’s grossest caviar.

Unleashing some wasps is immensely appealing, but I can’t help wonder if the situation wouldn’t get out of control. What, prey tell, will eat the wasps? Before you know it, you’ve entered an “old woman who swallowed a fly” situation and you now have a rather impractical horse infestation and you’re spending your evenings filling out the import forms on various apex predators. Your little West End flat becomes known as the spot where passersby are routinely plucked off the street by tentacles. We’d never get post again.

As it happens, the pheromone trap is doing rather well, our ten-moths-a-day murder count now reduced to one or even fewer. The trap now resembles a luscious moth-wing carpet, which I now plan to use to repair the various holes they’ve made in an act of mortal irony.