Monday, 22 June 2009


According to my wife, Rev. Thomas is something of an I.T. whiz. She’s going to speak to him later and ask him to give me a call about my spell checker. He’s a lovely man. It’s such a shame about his very pronounced stutter. And yet he’s always cheerful. An inspiration for all of us.

 Most people who own cats are used to them bringing home little presents of mice and birds. Frogs and toads appear to be Autonomous Ed’s specialty. I’ve spent many an hour on my knees coaxing a petrified amphibian from under the sideboard. On one memorable occasion the stupid creature even brought a grass snake in. However, even this did not prepare me for the sight that met my eyes in the kitchen this morning. 

“You boy! What have you got there?” 

Autonomous Ed lowered his head and stared sullenly at me. The terrified animal clamped in his jaws struggled frantically and plopped onto the quarry tiles. It skittered across the floor in a desperate escape bid. The cat was after it in a flash, batting it with a paw and sending it flying. It landed upside down at my feet and I quickly scooped it up, getting my hand quite badly clawed by Autonomous Ed in the process (after all I’ve done for that animal!) 

A few moments later I carried the victim into the sitting room. It seemed unaware that it was safe and continued to wriggle madly. In the process it was becoming quite sticky with the blood from my wound. 

My wife looked up from her crossword puzzle. 

“Good grief, Badders! What are you doing?” 

“It’s a guinea pig,” I explained. 

“Oh my God, it’s covered in blood! What the devil are you doing to it?” 

“I think it belongs to that home-ed lot next door.” 

“Well, surely that’s no reason to kill it. Good grief, there are laws, Badders. I don’t care what you feel about home education, that’s not right!” 

“I’m not trying to kill it, you silly woman! That’s my blood I’m covering it in!” 

“Whatever for, they’re vegetarian aren’t they?” 

She really can be very obtuse sometimes. I spoke slowly and in measured tones. 

“When I picked it up, I got badly scratched…” she opened her mouth but I held up my hand for silence. “NOT by the guinea pig, by the cat. I need you to get me a plaster, but first I need something to put the guinea pig in.” 

She rushed into the kitchen and I could hear cupboard doors banging frantically. She hurried back clutching a large saucepan. I raised an eyebrow in question, but she merely shrugged. 

“What do you want me to do, Badders? I’m all out of guinea pig cages!” 

I carefully placed the guinea pig in the pan and it started to scrabble at the sides. I didn’t think it would be able to get out, but to be safe I put the lid on and went off to get a plaster. 

On the way back from the bathroom the phone rang. 

“Hello, is that Mr Bedpan?” 

“Look, will you please stop calling this number. I am not amused by your childish nonsense and quite frankly I’m starting to get very irritated.” 

“Calm down, Mr Bedpan. Don’t get flushed!” 

“There – you see! You aren’t even consistent. A toilet flushes, a bedpan does NOT. If you’d paid more attention in school you might at least have been able to construct a well thought out prank that built to a logical conclusion.” 

“Yeah, I see what you’re saying. That’s the trouble with a bedpan. It’s not much to go on, is it? Ha ha ha!” *CLICK* 

That’s it! I swear if I get one more of these calls there will be repercussions. I was quite flustered. What with this spell checker business, the guinea pig incident and having to put up with home-edders lowering house prices in the Avenue (we’ll never be able to sell) my head ached. 

“I’m going for a walk,” I announced as I breezed through the sitting room. “I need some fresh air…” 

I only got as far as the front gate. I could smell smoke. Looking back at the house I realised the smell was coming from next door. Tentatively, I opened their gate. I started to walk up the path, sniffing as I took each step, then pausing a moment. It was an elusive smell and I found that by moving my head one way or the other it was either stronger or fainter. Sometimes it was barely noticeable and I had to sniff quite loudly to detect it at all. If I took a big stride sideways it also seemed stronger and a couple of quick sniffs confirmed my suspicions. A big stride backwards and a long, drawn-out sniff confirmed it was fainter again. A movement caught my eye and I turned to find Old Mrs Mort on her way back from the postbox staring at me in alarm. 

Panic and a desire not to draw any attention seemed to deny me the power of coherent speech. 

“Home education…..” I hissed, waving a finger at Smith’s front door. “Smell that!” I sniffed loudly a few times to encourage her to do the same. Her mouth made a small “o” shape and she started to edge backwards. 

“No, don’t scream!” I squeaked and rushed to her, but she hurried off surprisingly quickly for someone in support stockings. 

This was clearly a ridiculous way to proceed. After all, I have nothing to hide. Any right-thinking individual can see it is Smith who is suspect, so I strode confidently to his front door and rang the bell. The smell of smoke was very much stronger this close to the house. 

The door opened and Smith gazed at me with that infuriatingly open expression. No-one should look that approachable. Just what is he trying to conceal? 

“Mr Smith – I’d like to know exactly what you’re doing in there. I have grave concerns for the safety and well-being of your children and strongly suspect you are engaged in activity that is contradictory to their welfare.” 

Would you believe it? He raised an eyebrow as though I was the deviant! 

“I would like you to allow me access to your house so that I may address directly the issues that concern me.” 

He continued to regard me silently for a moment before he answered, “No.” 

“What do you mean, ‘No’?” 

“No, I won’t allow you access to my house.” 

“Are you ‘home-edding’ now? Is that what the smell is?” 

“We are currently engaged in an opportunity for learning that was prompted by the children themselves, yes.” 

“Wha….by the children?! What sort of education system is it that allows the children to decide what they should learn? It takes experts to decide a curriculum, not children. What is they want to study? Scooby-Doo?” 

He shrugged, apparently unconcerned. 

“They aren’t studying. Though actually your suggestion about Scooby-Doo is quite inspired. My eldest is a brilliant young artist, way beyond the capabilities of the teacher at his last school. He’s very keen to learn about animation. The Scooby-Doo cartoon began as simple cell frame animation in the 1960s and has progressed to a largely CGI based graphics production. Along the way it encompassed live action, green screen integration allowing the producer to realise a convincing three dimensional interpretation of the original two dimensional medium. It would make an extremely interesting topic that he’ll find fascinating. Thank you very much, Mr Badman.” 

“But….but….but it’s a cartoon. You can’t study cartoons! It’s not a school subject!” 

“Ah ha and I think you’re beginning to see our point.” 

“No I am NOT!” I was deeply insulted. 

“And what are you teaching the children today, Smith? How to build an atom bomb? Is that what the smoke is? Or perhaps it’s a history lesson and you’re re-enacting Joan of Arc!” 

One up to me, I think. 

“Actually, Mr Badman, there’s nothing in the process of uranium enrichment that would produce the type of smoke you are concerned about. Atom bombs don’t explode by lighting the blue touch paper! Also, my children aren’t interested in history, so we don’t bother with it in the formal sense.” 

“Not learn history? Have you any idea of the damage you are doing to your children?” 

“When I was at school I studied the rise of communist China, the history of Greek medicine and the decline of the cotton weaving industry,” Smith said.

“Exactly. Good sensible school curriculum subjects.” I nodded in approval. 

“I can’t remember a single fact about any one of them. Not once have I needed to use any of that knowledge since leaving school. I have an O’Level in History yet I couldn’t put the Kings and Queens of England in chronological order. What exactly was the point of what I learned, Mr Badman?” 

“It was the school curriculum.” I proudly explained, but he was shaking his head slowly and sadly at me. 

An attractive young woman of about thirty appeared behind him in the hallway. She was wearing a blue and white striped apron and held a spatula. 

“Are you ready, darling?” she asked. “The barbecue is at the right temperature and the children want to put the sausages on…” 

“Barbecue…? The smoke!” I nodded as the penny dropped. 

“The smoke,” said Smith nodding back. “Goodbye, Mr Badman.” 

I was left staring at the door which closed in my face. To my horror I could hear Smith calling to his children, “Mr Badman from next door has come up with a splendid suggestion for a project……” 

I returned home feeling a little disappointed. It could have gone better, but at least I feel he is starting to take my concerns on board. 


  1. Mr Badman, sir, when are you going to encounter your friend, Ms Carol Sarler, Daily Mail's Expert-at-Large? Perhaps you should contact her by telephone? Or meet for a civilized cup of tea? It would be most delightful to read your account. Keep up the righteous work, sir! "(Home)Work Shall Set You Free"!

  2. I dont know about anyone else but I have grave concerns for the Guinea pig. There was no mention of its release Mr Badman. You wouldnt be trying to claim a free second lunch would you?

  3. I do hope they were vegetarian sausages going on the bbq ;-].I agree with Martha .I think you should arrange an interview with Carol Sarler

  4. hey badders, maybe you could send litle sally round to next door to try and get info out of those arrogant HEers.

  5. Yes she is so persuasive and efficient maybe MI5 should take her on.

  6. Have you heard from your lovely daughter Sally today, lovely to meet her on facebook. You must have a post in you about her.

  7. Hello.
    I'm from the RSPCA. Again.

    As I previously pointed out, some people have been saying that experts are statistically more likely to abuse their pets.

    I would like to look in your saucepan, if you don't mind, Mr Madman.

    We take a very dim view of guinea pig boiling.

    It appears to me, that the guinea pig (who cannot be named, for legal reasons) was perfectly safe and well with his family next door. It is only since he has fallen into the hands of the 'authority' that appears to be injured, imprisoned, and at risk of harm.

    I will be back, Mr Madman, but I will, as you know, need to bring a police officer with me ...