Sunday, December 24, 2006

Christmas Party Pooper (Part IV)

The final section of my staff Christmas Party report is given below. I'm writing this with brutal honesty as a warning to all other employers. Be very careful when allowing your employees to bring guests. You may wish, after reading my example, to draw up some guidelines with respect to vetting procedures.

Part III is here

Part II is here

Part I is here


Having made up my mind to leave I almost immediately doubled back on my own thoughts and decided to remain crouched under the desk in my studio. This reluctance to move forced me to listen to the sounds of McCavity and his girlfriend having an especially good time. It wasn't a pleasant experience, for neither of them bothered to be discrete or even euphemistic with instructions on what they wanted and how they wanted it. I covered my ears to block out the sound whilst I tried to work out what to do. All thoughts of finishing the Pictionary game had evaporated, along with any idea that this Christmas party was going to help with my rehabilitation into village life.

Try as I might, I couldn't think of an easy way out of my predicament. To disturb the rutting duo would lead to substantial embarrassment. But to retreat back to the main building ran the risk of something far more unedifying - the wrath of Dolores. You see, the camera that I saw turning in my direction had to have been operated manually, because the licence for the software that normally controls the camera expired last week, and Denise hadn't got round to renewing it. Whoever was controlling the camera had seen all. I could only pray it wasn't Dolores.

How much longer I stayed there, my mind swimming with dead-ended attempts at a solution, I do not know. Perhaps it was just a few minutes, perhaps longer. I cursed myself for not being stronger, but at the same time I couldn't but help feeling sorry for myself. It was as if all the unsettling events of the last nine months had come together to haunt me one last time before the year's end, with one final stab at demolishing my self-esteem.

'WHAT ARE YOU TWO DOING?'. The scream pierced my melancholoy like a cross-bow arrow, forcing me into a state of instant alert, heart pounding, mouth dry. It was the unmistakable voice of Dolores, my normally calm and fragrant wife, screaming like a banshee. Her pointed question was followed almost immediately by a reply from McCavity. It was the reply of someone taken completely by surprise whilst up to no good.

'Nothing!', he cried. A blatant lie.

'Get dressed and Get out!' shouted my wife. I couldn't see her from my position under the desk, but I knew she would be standing with her arms folded, legs together, head held high, eyes wide open. I knew this because it is her standard approach to scaring me into doing what she wants.

I didnb't hang around to listen to the rest of the conversation. If Dolores was here, it meant that she wasn't in the main building. I had the opportunity to return and confiscate/destroy the tape. If Dolores had been operating the camera, I would at least be able to deny everything and claim the tape had been stolen by a guest. Or something like that. No time to think clearly now. Must run!

I opened the back door to my studio as quietly as possible before legging it back towards the main building. I don't think I've ever run so fast in my life. The emergency door was still open, and I sprinted inside, only slowing down once I was sure that I was no longer visible to anyone looking outwards. Having forgotten to breathe during my fifty metre dash, I was immediately forced to gulp down air and site down on a pile of boxes to re-cuperate. But the image of Dolores forgmarching Chloe and McCavity back towards the living area was enough to make me forget my lack of fitness and push on through the lactic-acid towards my goal.

I jogged as quickly and silently as possible back through labs1 and 2, keeping low in case I was visible through the windows. Looking through the window in the lab door, I could just make out that the guests were milling around in the living area. They were all wearing coats, and were clearly on the verge of leaving. Ravel was standing by the monitor. I sighed with relief, for it was now likely that he, not Dolores, had been controlling the camera.

I had not a moment to lose. After briefly composing myself and taking several gulps of formaldehyde-tainted air, I stepped out into the living area. Ravel was the first to notice me. He pointed up at the monitor, drawing my attention to the camera image. It showed Chloe struggling to pull on her left boot, whilst McCavity shielded the girl from the piercing stare of my wife. I initially thought I must have been gifted with super-human speed in my dash to the institute, until I saw Chloe topple over and realised that she was probably trying to dress herself under the influence of quite a lot of alchohol.

The vet was the first person to see me. 'Ahh, there you are. We thought you must have fallen down a ditch or something. I was just about to send out a search party.' He motioned to the small crowd of people in their coats to press home the point.

'Aaah, 'I said, my brain racing to find a suitably anodyne response. 'I was, taken, I mean, I thought I heard someone crying, in the next field, but it turned out to be a, a, fox. They sound, er remarkably human sometimes, don't they?'

I could tell from the raised eyebrow of the vet that he wasn't convinced. 'Well, never mind' he said after a slightly awkward pause. 'I think I'll be off anyway. Thank Dolores for the dinner. Bye.' A few seconds later the whole crowd was walking towards the door. They all muttered some form of thanks to Dolores. Most of them were shaking their heads as they left.

I was, in fact, glad to see them go. It meant that I could now deal with Dolores, Chloe and McCavity in private. The trio entered the living area just a minute after the last guest had filed out. Dolores was clearly fuming, whilst the youngsters simply looked drunk and shamefaced.

'Deal with them' said Dolores, arms folded.

'Huh?' I said, feigning ignorance.

Dolores recounted what she had seen happening, right down to the extraction of a test-tube from an intimate area of Chloe's body. Concerned for our extended absences, Dolores had instructed Ravel to use the camera system. We do, in fact, have several cameras dotted around the place to detect intruders. It was Ravel who alerted Dolores to the activities of Chloe and McCavity in the Art studio. 'But he couldn't find you, Joseph.' said Dolores. 'Funny that'

I shrugged and ran through my story about mistaking a fox's bark for the cries of a hapless maiden. It was clear from her stony expression that she didn't believe me, but what could I do under the circumstances (I had to confess the truth in the end to be given permission to write this blog entry. Conjugal rights have been suspended until further notice)?

Chloe and McCavity took their telling off with reasonably good grace. At one point the young lady complained about 'invasion of privacy', but was brought up short by Dolores pointing out that she had been fornicating in a public exhibition area. The argument went no further. McCavity remained silent throughout, presumably aware that, under the terms of his contract, he was strictly still on duty at the time of the indecent act. 'You will be aware', I said solemnly, 'that misuse of test-tubes is a potentially sackable offence?' McCavity nodded solemnly. I continued in the same tone, less anyone present think that I was joking: 'it falls upon me, as director of this Institute, to check the statutes on this matter. Report to me in the morning.'

With this order ringing in his ears, McCavity was allowed to take his girlfriend back to his flat, where I have no doubt they continued where they left - minus the test tube. Their leaving marked the end of the Christmas party. Ravel and Denise helped clear up the detritus, and I was told to go and do 'something in the office' by Dolores. I used my time in solitary confinement to check the statutes, just in case. After all, I could hardly be seen to make empty threats against a staff member, could I? There was no mention of test-tubes, which, to be honest, I wasn't surprised about. So McCavity got the girl and kept his job.

Lucky sod.


Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas Party Pooper (Part III)

Here is the third section of my report on the staff Christmas party at the Cumbernauld Institute of Parasitology. Please do not judge me harshly. I deal only in facts.

Part I is here

Part II is here


I waited on the periphery of the living area in anticipation that both Chloe and McCavity would re-join the group. Five minutes later they were still absent, and the remaining guests were showing signs of restlessness. Dolores was still doing the washing up in the kitchen. 'Ladies and gents', I eventually announced. 'I'm afraid that we are missing two members of our troupe. The rules of Pictionary clearly state that the teams must remain intact all the way through the game, otherwise the outcome is ruled null and void. If you'll just entertain yourselves for a couple of minutes, I'll go and find them.'

I made this up of course, as I've read the rules of the popular drawing game many times. But as I've already mentioned, I hate to break a game up part-way through. My determination to find the missing team members had caused me to form a white lie, but, as I set of in search of the missing couple, I immediately regretted what I had said. What would happen, for example, if the vet checked the rules himself, and found out that I had been lying? It's not like I have a solid reputation within the village after the events of previous months. All my guests had only shown up at the insistence and persuasion of Dolores, who said she was trying to 'rehabilitate me into village life'. Another unsettling episode, so close to Christmas, was not something I relished.

I first of all turned right out of the living area, in the direction of the bedrooms. For those of you who don't know (which is the vast majority, I suspect), the Institute consists of series of linked pre-fabricated rooms, each of which can be dissasembled and transported at short notice to another location. The living area occupies the central portion of the construction, with the laboratories and offices in modules to one side, and bedrooms, bathroom and kitchen down the other side. Here, for the first time, I reveal the layout of the Institute in sketch format (not to scale).
Please note 1) that not all rooms and partitions are shown, and that 2) the art studio and exhibition centre lies in a separate building. This is where I produce and exhibit the art work that can be previewed on the McCrumble Art Gallery pages

You can use the diagram to help you visualise my search. First, as mentioned, I proceeded towards the bedrooms. There was no-one in either bedroom 1, 2 or 3. The ensuite bathroom was clear, as was the spare room and the second bathroom. Satisfied that the domestic quarters were unoccupied by the missing couple, I then proceeded back along the main axis of the Institute. The guests watched as I moved past the living area and towards the meeting room. I smiled and waved at them, but they didn't respond. Two guests, I noticed, were wearing coats.

I quickened my pace.

The meeting room was empty. The doors to lab 1 were locked and the lights were off, but I knew that McCavity had a key, so I couldn't exclude the possibility that they were inside. A quick sweep of the lab confirmed it was empty, so I proceeded into lab2. Clear. Office - clear. This just left the store cupboard. Pressing my ear to the door, I could hear nothing. But light was spilling out from underneath the door, which meant someone had been inside. For a moment I wondered whether to simply barge in as if I was looking for something and had not an inkling that someone was inside. But there was nothing in the store cupboard that I needed, so I decided to knock instead.

Knock knock.

No reply.

Knock Knock.

Still no reply.

No sound either. All that was left for me to do was open the door. If they were hiding inside, it would be pretty obvious what they were doing, and the embarrassment would be on them. But, when I opened the door and peeked inside, the cupboard was empty. In fact, the only sign that anything had been disturbed recently was a open pack of of test-tubes on the floor (on seeing these I made a mental note to admonish my technician for not replacing them in their designated shelf.)

I was now thoroughly confused. I had been looking out the Institute windows as I moved around, and hadn't seen either Chloe or McCavity anywhere outside. My thorough search of the Institute had drawn a blank. There was only one place left to search - The Art Studio and Exhibition centre.

Rather than risking the staring eyes of my guests in the living area, I took a short cut through the emergency exit next to the store cupboard. It was getting dark by now, so I knew that I wouldn't be seen as I trotted towards the art studio. When I reached the building a minute later, I first noticed that the entrance door was slightly ajar. I then noticed from shadows of the window frames on the grass that there was a weak light source somewhere inside. I pressed my face to the glass, but could see nothing.

Rather than risking a potentially embarrassing entrance through the front door, I walked round the the door to my studio. It was locked, but I always carry my keys so gaining access was no problem. Once inside, I moved quickly to the internal door and opened it just enough that I could see inside the studio.

There was someone there!

It was McCavity!

He was standing in the middle of the exhibition area holding a bottle of wine in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. I couldn't see past him, so I moved out of the office and stood a little further inside the exhibition area. Display boards partly obscured my view, but I could see what appeared to be the form of a woman, reclining on the couch in the centre of the exhibition space. She was making a sound, not unlike the braying of a new-born calf.

My curiostity piqued, I moved further forward. There was just one more display board to navigate. What greeted my eyes as I leant round the edge was something quite unexpected.

Chloe, the tight-jean wearing, hair tossing, sloppy kissing brunette, who thought I was a ghost hunter of some repute, was lying on the couch wearing nothing but a red santa-hat. In her right hand was one of the test-tubes missing from the box in the store room. What she was doing with the test-tube was...well, I'll leave that to your imagination.

McCavity, for his part in this bizarre spectacle, was painting her as she lay, er, panting. His brush flew over the canvas, and I guessed from the wild strokes that he was less interested in the quality of his artwork than the behaviour of his model.

I must have watched them for no more than a, seconds, trying to work out what to do for the best and to avoid any embarassment, when I heard the familiar whirring noise of the security camera. I had the camera installed when the Art Studio was constructed, as it is often left unattended. Any movement within the studio is captured on film and images are transmitted back to some monitors in the....

Oh no. The sudden realisation of what was happening hit me like a sidewinder slamming into a wall of jelly. I staggered backwards as I saw the camera turning in my direction. All I could do was cover my face with my arms and retreat into the studio. I must have stayed there for five minutes, hiding under a desk, before I plucked up enough strength to evacuate myself from the building.

My only hope was that the guests were still in the living area. Any of them leaving whilst I was in the studio would have walked right past the monitor. I had to think fast....

**********TO BE CONTINUED!***********

Friday, December 22, 2006

Christmas party pooper (part II)

Hello all

This is part 2 of the report on my staff Christmas party. If you missed it, part I is here. I suggest you read part I first; otherwise Part II won't make much sense. What follows may not be suitable reading for all audiences. Reader discretion is advised. As usual, I tell the truth in its purest form. I cannot help myself, for I am a scientist.


Cloe started to draw very quickly on the paper. At first we couldn't see what she was doing, as her back was turned to the audience. Brenda was the first person to react, by clamping her hand over her mouth as if suddenly shocked by something she shouldn't have seen. The vet was next, wincing as if struck by something acutely painful. Denise and Ravel turned their heads to one side and frowned, as if unsure what was on the paper. When I saw what she had drawn, I could do nothing except gasp at her audacity.

'Come on, it's easy!' shouted Chloe at her team, as she put the finishing touches to her artwork and stepped to one side. Her fellow team members looked completely perplexed. I wasn't sure what to do at this stage. As master of ceremonies, it was my duty to maintain standards. But at the same time I didn't want another party to end in complete disaster. I was still mulling over the idea of creating a distraction when I suddenly noticed that shopkeeper had come over all animated and excited. I watched as he locked and unlocked his fingers, stroked his chin, rubbed his elbow. His team mates, including McCavity, seemed to shrink as he looked at them, eyes wide open, an expression of triumph on his face.

'Yes mate. You've got it, haven't you?' shouted Chloe, pointing at the portly man sitting on the floor in front of her. The shopkeeper nodded rapidly. 'Come on then! Time's running out! Whadisit, eh?'

'STRAP-ON DILDO!' shouted the shopkeeper, foaming slightly at the mouth as he spat the words out.

Brenda, now literally sitting on the edge of her seat, looked immediately shocked, and almost fell backwards into the chair. The vet wore an expression of disgust, Ravel and Denise looked bemused. My reflexes made me glance backwards towards the kitchen door, where I knew Dolores was preparing coffee.

'NO!', shouted Chloe almost immediately. 'Oh come on, you can do better than that!. Look here!', she said with a hint of urgency in her high pitched voice. 'Watch!'. With that, she started to make a pushing motion with one hand towards a point in her picture.

'I know!', shouted the shopkeeper, unswayed by his previous crude outburst. 'It's an ANAL PROBE!!' With that, he burst out laughing and fell sideways on to the floor, spilling his drink into the lap of McCavity. My no2. research assistant leapt to his feet, grabbed a near-by tissue and started to dab at the the wet patch on the groin area of his jeans. The shopkeeper simply continued to laugh, tears streaming from his face. Clearly, the pictoral representation of an anal probe was too much for his faculties to handle.

'Close!' shouted Chloe. 'Time's running out team! Come on McCavity, you know! What did we use last night?'

Have you ever seen anyone actually die of embarassment, right in front of you? It's not a pleasant sight. There's a sort of crumpling effect, as the legs give way. The face becomes ashen as the blood drains, and the person appears to regress into a child like state before finally succumbing to the effects of the mental poison that that they have just ingested, and falling backwards. Fortunately, in this case, McCavity was prevented from hitting the floor by the vet, who rushed forwards and managed to support my terminally weakened research assistant. 'I don't think we really need to know, do we?' said the vet in an authoritative voice, looking over to where I was standing at the back of the room.

I saw disaster looming. Glancing once again at the kitchen, I was in an immediate quandry. If I stopped the game, it would spell the end of the party. Dolores would find out what had happened and forbid me from ever having a staff Christmas party ever again. On the other hand, if I allowed the game to continue, it was likely to scar the minds of all present and lead to debauchery on a scale unimaginable in the history of the Institute. 'I, er, think that, the time has, er, run out, actually.' I said, trying to sound calm. 'We should move on. Sorry Chloe, you have to sit down now.'

Chloe looked immediately disappointed. 'Aw, you lot are useless. Angus, you should have guessed it. I can't believe it. It was a...'

Before Chloe could actually reveal the truth behind her controversial drawing I heard the kitchen door slam, quite hard. The sound distracted everyone enough to halt proceedings, and was followed immediately by the sight of Dolores striding into the room carrying a tray of mugs and a large pot.

'Coffee anyone?', said Dolores with a tone of clearly enforced jollity.

'Oh yes!' I shouted, pleased at the intervention of my wife. 'We'll pause the game I think and take coffee. I think it got just a little too exciting there. Too much sherry before lunch I think! Coffee everyone?'

I took the tray from Dolores, whom I had watched carefully as she came into the living area, for any indication that she had seen the drawing. Fortunately, she hadn't looked at the board. I kept myself between her and the drawing whilst she took the cups off the tray. Glancing over my shoulder, I saw the vet lift the sheet of paper over the stand to reveal a blank sheet underneath. Looking around the room, I noticed that everyone except Chloe and McCavity were talking in excited whispers. The two young disruptive elements were, in fact, nowhere to be seen. 'Where did McCavity go?' I asked Dolores.

'I saw him heading for the loo. He seemed to have wet himself.' said Dolores as she unloaded the last of the cups. 'Going well, is it Joseph? I had the radio on in the kitchen to drown out the noise. Everyone seems very excited.'

'Er, well, you know. Christmas high spirits and all that. Young Chloe seems to have brought something to the party, if you get my drift.'

'Nothing more than a filthy mind, as far as I can tell Joseph. Well, enjoy the party. I'm going to do the washing up. Don't disturb me.'

A few minutes later the group had more or less composed itself. The shopkeeper who had suffered the apoplectic laughing fit was being comforted by Brenda. Ravel and Denise were in discussion about something or other, and the other guests and staff were quietly sipping on their coffee. McCavity and Chloe were still missing. On the one hand I was happy for them to remain absent. But on the other hand I didn't want their Pictionary team to be short of members. In my experience, the surest way to lose a game of Pictionary is to have fewer members. I had to bring them back to save the game.

You may question this line of logic, but at the time it seemed sensible. I was desperate to bring the game of Pictionary to a satisfactory conclusion. I have an intense dislike of party games that end before their legal endpoint. I think it comes from something that happened in childhood. You see, I was often a bit cleverer than the other children, and they would get very angry with me if I won games where you had to think more than a few steps ahead. Sometimes I would get pushed around and the game would be stopped by someone throwing the board at me.

And on top of that, I can't actually see through walls or predict the future, because I am a parasitologist, not a parasychologist as young Chloe thought. I mean, how was I supposed to know what they were getting up to, eh?

******************TO BE CONTINUED!***************

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas party pooper (part I)

Hello all

I promised a report on yesterday's Christmas party today, so here it comes...

I opened proceedings a t 12:35 with a small sherry reception. This year I decided to offer both dry and sweet sherry, following complaints on previous occasions that I was being a bit 'tight'. The staff were all present, except for McCavity, who was still en route from London. He had phoned previously and told me to expect both himself and 'friend' around 1pm. Dolores, who doesn't like sherry, was in the kitchen putting the finishing touches to the menu.

Being Christmas, I took the opportunity to put on my favourite Christmas album. It is a collection of cover versions by singers from the 1980's that never fails to get me in the Christmas spirit. Ravel appeared to enjoy the electronic beats and drum machine rythms almost as much as me. He wanted to know about each of the artists when their song began, and I was entirely enthusiastic in reciting their (abridged) biography. I admit that I may have become a little too animated, as at one point I heard the kitchen door slam heavily. 'Dolores is pooping the party, eh boss?' said Ravel.

'No Ravel, Dolores has heard all this before. I think she needs to focus on basting the turkey. She'll be OK in a little while.'

'OK Boss, so carry on with your story about Jason Donovan. He seems like a groovy guy...'

I was just about to tell Ravel about Jason's groundbreaking performance as Joseph in 'Joseph and the Technicolour Dreamcoat' when I heard people approaching the living area. Moments later, McCavity and his guest literally stumbled into view. 'Hello everyone!', shouted McCavity.

'Watcha!' shouted his companion, a twenty-something lady with long brunette hair, tight jeans stuck into leather boots, tight t-shirt and short jacket. Her left arm was wrapped around McCavity's waist, whereas her right hand contained a half drunk bottle of white wine.

I diagnosed immediately that both McCavity and his companion were inebriated.

'This is Chloe,' said McCavity, propelling his friend into the room. Chloe made as if to curtsey, but then seemed to think better of the idea, and merely waved. She looked around at the occupants before finally pointing at me and exclaiming, 'you must be Dr Crumble!'. Without waiting for confirmation, she came up close and planted a kiss on my lips. 'Pleased to meet you. He's told me ever so much.'

'I'm afraid I haven't had the reciprocal pleasure,' I said dryly, wiping her saliva from my lips.

'So this is the famous Insitutue of Parasychology!' said Chloe as she stepped back towards McCavity. 'I never knew it was done scientifically these days. When my mum had a reading it was in a tent somewhere near Margate and I reckon the woman was doing, what do they call it - a cold reading? Yeah! Wow. Thanks for inviting me Dr Crumble. When Angus said where he worked I just knew I had to meet you all!'

I looked over to McCavity expecting him to correct this gross misunderstanding. Nothing came forth. 'McCavity?' I asked. He lifted his head and completely blanked me. Just stared. No words at all. Not even the slightest hint that he understood his own position. I was baffled, and in turn could think of nothing else to say that would ease the tension. Anyway, it wasn't up to me to shatter the poor girl's delusion!

Dolores came to the rescue a few moments later. She opened the kitchen door and brought out a plate of handmade party sausage rolls. McCavity recovered himself and introduced his friend to Dolores. My wife made a sufficient number of pleasantries to diffuse the situation, and I turned the volume of the music up, slightly, so as to animate the ambience. I also made sure that I stayed out of range of Chloe, lest I be asked to read her rather sweaty palms.

The conversation ebbed and flowed for the next twenty minutes. Chloe seemed to want to mingle, whereas McCavity seemed content to keep his arm firmly round her waist whilst he nuzzled her ears. Ravel was talking with Denise about going hunting in Bulgarian forests, and it was up to me to chat to the rest of the staff (our cleaner - Jennifer, junior technician - Ian,) and invited guests (two shopkeepers from the village, the local vet, a friend of Dolores called Brenda). Each one of them asked me who the girl was, and how she could have made such a mistake. I could only smile, shrug my shoulders and offer them more sherry.

It was probably because of this unseasonally generous application of alcohol before the meal that, within about twenty minutes, everyone in the room was looking a bit flushed, and the volume of conversation had increased quite substantially. I was even forced to raise the volume on the hi-fi to compensate.

Dolores emerged from the kitchen to let us know that the food was ready. As in previous years, we decided to have a buffet rather than a sit-down meal. In my view, at least, this approach not only facilitates the party atmosphere, but allows people to eat at their own pace. I remember from childhood how I was forced to eat quicker whenever we had a sit-down meal, and since then I have been determined that others should not have to follow such a regime.

The guests filed up in front of the table. By chance, Chloe and her super-glued boyfriend managed to be just in front of me. Chloe turned her head to see who was behind, and upon seeing me she blew a big kiss before taking another slug of white wine. She offered me the bottle and seemed offended when I refused, as if to decline was some sort of insult. 'Angus!,' she cried, 'your boss doesn't want to take a drink with me. You tell him!'

McCavity either didn't hear her, or didn't want to respond. Instead, he picked up a plate and started loading it with food. I didn't really want to talk any more with the girl, so I pretended that I had forgotten something and moved out of the queue. Behind me was shopkeeper #1, who didn't seem to mind being next to the young brunette, so I left them to it.

Dolores was still in the kitchen, taking a break. I closed the door behind me and gave her a hug. 'How's it going out there?', she asked.

'As well as can be expected, I suppose. McCavity and his friend appear to be annoying or amusing the guests in equal measure. I think one of the shopkeepers fancies her, but the vet is just keeping out of her way. Brenda sat down about ten minutes with her third glass of sherry and hasn't moved since. The girl still thinks we are a bunch of paranormal investigators. Ravel tried to tell her the truth but she wouldn't listen.'

'Oh well, I'm sure you'll keep control of things. You haven't had too much to drink have you?'

'No dear. I'm keeping to my side of the deal, don't you worry.'

'Good. Now get back out there and make sure everyone is having a good time.'

'Don't you need a sit down, love?'

Dolores patted her bump. 'We're fine', she said.

The party proceeded in a light hearted fashion for a while. Everyone ate their fill, and a round of applause was offered up to Dolores, who graciously emerged from the kitchen for a moment to take a bow. She didn't seem to notice her friend, Brenda, who was still sat in the same chair she had occupied for the last thirty minutes, only standing to help herself to more food or wine. In fact, she fair swigged it back. At one point she carried a half empty bottle back from the table, only to have it snatched back by Chloe with the words that Brenda should 'not take from others what you don't want taken from yourself'.

Now, it is traditional at the McCrumble Christmas Party that we all play Pictionary (other party games are available, but I've always enjoyed this one in particular). I normally wait until people are about to fall asleep after lunch, so as to liven things up again. But this time, because of the extra alcohol, people seemed keen to carry on talking. I asked our guests in turn if they would perhaps like a game, but received no affirmative responses until I reached McCavity and Chloe. 'Oooh, Dr Crumble! I love Pictionary. Where's the box Angus? I'll get it!'

'It's OK, Chloe', I said, patting her shoulder. 'Angus doesn't know where it's kept. I'll go.' With that I stood up, clapped my hands and shouted 'Alright everyone. We've got some takers for Pictionary over here. I'm going to get the box, so please arrange yourselves into teams of four. Chop chop!'

I returned two minutes later with the box under my arm. Chloe first clapped, and then insisted that she help me set up the game. I had to push people a bit more into forming teams, but eventually we were ready. The die were rolled, and Chloe's team (herself, McCavity, Brenda and shopkeeper #1) were the first up to draw something. Chloe insisted on being the 'drawer'

'On your marks, go!' I shouted as I started the clock. Chloe picked up a pen, thought about it for a moment and then began to draw. But, what she actually put on the paper stunned the whole room into silence...

***********To BE CONTINUED!**********

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Christmas Party

Today is the day of our annual staff Christmas party. I have been busy the last few days with our final survey of the year. Every December we conduct our survey of the parasitic fauna of the local fish population. The vital data that we collect tells us about the long term trends in the ecology of both the fish and their parasites. Fish have an amazing capacity to play host to several species at any one time, and a single dissection can take up to thirty minutes, even for a seasoned parasitologist such as myself.

But I digress.

In previous years, the Christmas party has usually gone reasonably well. I doubt that our version differs in any significant way from any other staff party, except with the possible exception that no-one, to my knowledge, has ever made any innapropriate movements towards anyone else. I suspect this is mainly because no-one on the staff is a heavy drinker. On top of that, Dolores keeps everything under control, and insists that we eat heavily before indulging in the Christmas spirit.

We don't have Christmas cake anymore, after a calamatous party two years ago when Denise tried baking one. To cut a long story short, she left the cake on a shelf near her bed to mature for three months. When it came to the cake's unveiling, we found out that something had crawled into the cake and died. It turned out to be her pet hamster, Dolly, which had gone missing two weeks before the party.

Dolores has been entirely responsible for the Christmas food before and since. Ravel keeps wanting to help, but my wife has stood firm. She doesn't have to cater for many people, and has told me that it is 'really no problem' to remain in the kitchen for the whole day. I suspect the real reason is that she isn't much of a party person herself. Anyone familiar with this blog will be aware of an episode during the summer when her negative attitude towards parties was driven home.

Anyway, I must move forwards. I've got the last ten fish to dissect before breakfast, then I have to write some emails. The party officially starts at 12:30pm with a sherry reception in the living area. McCavity (my no.2 research assistant) is arriving with his guest at 1pm. It will be nice to have a fresh face at the party, and, if we count them both in, we should just about make quorum for a game of Pictionary. I'll post tomorrow with a report on how things went.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

McCrumble hits the shelves!

Hello all

Dr Mark Booth, my marketing manager, sent me an email this morning with the following photograph attached:

He told me that it was taken in Heffers Bookshop, Trinity St, Cambridge. They have, apparently, kindly offered to stock the book, despite the fact that I am a first-time author and have self-published! Dr Booth has also negotiated with Brownes Bookstore on Mill Rd (also in Cambridge) to stock the book.

I feel a slight swelling of pride.


Monday, December 11, 2006

Long Answer to a Short Riddle

Dear all

'The Wonderful World of Joseph McCrumble' is now available in paperback. You probably know this already if you are even an infrequent visitor to the site. At £7.99, this 284 page book represents fantastic value for money, and really should be at the top of your shopping list. But it probably isn't.

I understand. My name is not synonymous with the idea of a blockbuster. In fact, I've never published anything like this before in my life. When Dr Mark Booth suggested putting the contents of my blog into a book, I shirked off the idea as ridiculous. But then he came up with the idea that all my royalties should go to charity. I was a little reluctant at first, what with the twins at boarding school and No.3 on the way. But he persisted, and I eventually saw the light. I have now become determined to help him raise money through the sale of the book.

'We need some incentives', I told him during a recent telephone call.

'Such as?', he asked. 'We can hardly offer a discount, given that all your royalties are going to charity.'

'What if we throw in something for free?', I suggested.

'Providing it costs nothing to produce', said Dr Booth, dryly.

'Mmmm, that's tricky', I opined, 'given that we are fast approaching Christmas and nothing comes for free.'

'Hang on though', said Dr Booth after a long pause. 'There is something you could offer, Joseph. It won't cost you a penny, and may even boost sales.'

'Huh?', I grunted, not sure where this was leading.

'Goodwill!', exclaimed Dr Booth.

'Are you serious?' I asked, incredulous at the idea.

'I am. Try it. You've become cynical, Joseph. I know it's been a hard year, but that doesn't mean the pot of goodwill has dried up. Try using some.'

'Well, I'll think about it, but I'm not sure. People might think it has no value if we just give it away.'

'Joseph. I can't believe you just said that.'

'OK, OK. I'll work something out.'

With that idea in my head, I set to work. The maths were difficult. I first had to invent some units of goodwill. After several hours of scribbling and crossing things out, I decided on dividing Goodwill into units called 'Booth's Unitary Numerator of Goodwill Standard' or, to give it its acronym 'B.U.N.G.S'

I then had to work out how much Goodwill I should give away with each book. I asked Dolores for her opinion, but she was too busy teaching Denise how to cook an omelette to pay any attention. Ravel was decorating the Christmas tree with some home-made ornaments, and McCavity was in the laboratory, dissecting something. So it was down to me to work it out.

Several mince pies and a few glasses of mulled-wine later, I had it. So here it is. My very, very special offer for every reader of 'The Wonderful World of Joseph McCrumble'

Buy 'The Wonderful World of Joseph McCrumble' and you will receive ABSOLUTELY FREE, not one, not two, not even three, four or five, but a massive

6.5 B.U.N.G.S. of GOODWILL!! *

This very, very special offer is only available until midnight on the 25th of December, after which the pot of Goodwill will spontaneously evaoporate into thin air. So hurry! Stocks are limited.

How to claim your Goodwill:

1) Purchase a copy of 'The Wonderful World of Joseph McCrumble'

2) That's it! Your 6.5 BUNGS of GOODWILL are automatically included with every copy.



*Terms and conditions apply: your Goodwill is at risk if you do not spread a little happiness. Goodwill cannot be resold, but can be shared. Value Added Tinsel (VAT) is applicable at 17.5%. Postage and Packing not included. McCrumble Enterprises Ltd accept no liability for Goodwill that is lost, stolen or broken. Goodwill can be returned at any time, but no refunds will be given. Additional Goodwill is available on request, or by shopping at

Friday, December 08, 2006


Hello all

I just tried to introduce Gabbly - the instant chat thing on the sidebar, to the blog of Mr Chris Evans, Radio 2 presenter. It failed, not surprisingly perhaps, because it has the potential for subversiveness and unregulated comments. Oh dear. Well, at the moment there is nothing to stop it from happening. Let's have some fun before they find a way of blocking it..

Simply add the following before the http:// part of a website address and it will open a chat window.

It really works.



Thursday, December 07, 2006

Just add text

Hello all

Sorry for the delay. I was forced to give up blogging for a while under the strict orders of Dolores, who wanted me to completely clear up the mess made whilst I was in the forest. I've yet to type up the final episode, but now that my dearest wife has given me permission to start again, I should have it finished soon. Hopefully.

In other news:

Risk of untimely death
The death threats have completely abated. Whether or not that means I am free from the risk of imminent extinguishment, I'm not sure. I'll keep my fingers crossed. If you don't hear from me for a while, do not automatically assume the worst.

Prosecutions pending
A date for my appearance as a defendant in the case of assault on Toby Hancock-Jones, my boyhood nemesis whom I decked in the summer during a brief visit to Kings Lynn has now been set. Unless something miraculous happens, I will be in front of a judge on Feb 7th 2007. The delay was down to the fact that Toby went AWOL for two months after becoming embroiled in a love triangle with his employers niece and someone from the Kings Lynn council.

Witness statement
A date for the trial of the head of department who is accused of fixing exam results has been set for January 13th. I am likely to be called as a witness.

Dolores is blooming. I tell her every day that she looks more beautiful than ever. She scowls whenever I say this, for reasons I cannot understand. Perhaps it is the effect of hormones. I'm not sure. She is going for her 20 week scan tomorrow, accompanied by moi, obviously.

It's selling, slowly. Dr Mark Booth (my marketing manager), tells me that its Amazon ranking oscillates between 20000 and 150000 depending on sales. He gave a book reading in Cambridge that was well received, so fingers crossed. Dr Booth asked me to remind my American readers that the book is available on, where it is currently showing a sales rank of zero.

Instant chat
I've Gabbly enabled the site (see the sidebar). If I'm blogging, I'll be happy to chat for a bit. Until Dolores catches me at it. She blames my obsession with blogging for most things. A bit unfair I think. If you've never Gabbled before, here are the relevant instructions:

1) Look at the Gabbly window
2) Identify your temporary Gabbler ID (it's the id written in the box underneath the chat window)
3) Change this to something meaningful
4) Type your message!



Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Timothy Hedgehog

I found this little chap wandering around in the garden, looking dazed and confused. He agreed to make this video if I fed him some extra snails for dinner.

Click on the picture of the book cover on the sidebar to find out more about the McCrumble book.

The art of book selling

Hello all

Dr Mark Booth has kindly written a new webpage for the sale of the book. You can access it by clicking on the book image on the sidebar, or by clicking here:

The page contains a handy synopsis and a link to the book's page on Amazon. I've seen it for sale for just £6.91 instead of £7.99. So long as that doesn't impinge on our profits, I'm happy to see it sold for less.

There is also an Amazon search box on the page if you want to buy anything else.



Sunday, November 19, 2006

Bowing to public pressure

Hello all

Yesterday, Mr Kim Ayres gently berated me for not blogging (see comments passim). I took this stinging criticism with good grace, rolled up my shirt sleeves and buckled down to it. The fruits of my keyboard labours can be seen over on the McCrumble Incognito blog (link on sidebar). As usual, I am splitting my stories into several parts to prevent blogging fatigue in my readers minds. I promise to get this particular episode finished ASAP.



Thursday, November 16, 2006

Scientific endorsement

Hello all

Wow, now I am doubly happy. Not only did the book arrive, but I was sent the following video by my colleague Dr Mark Booth. He is as keen as I to get this book out into the public domain.

thanks, Mark!


It Lives!

Hello all

I'm quite excited this morning. Not because the remaining charge of assault (see entries passim) has been lifted, nor because the police have apprehended the perpetrator of the death threats that forced my flight to the forest (see entries passim), nor because Denise has found a man (she hasn't). No, I'm quite excited because today the proof copy of the book was pushed through the letterbox of the institute. The one you may have seen in Denise's video was a mock-up, using the cover wrapped over a field-guide to the helminth parasites of ducks. The real deal is shown below...

You will no doubt notice the less-than-kind reference to Mrs McHaggarty, Dolores's mother. I have to admit that I forgot to clear this with Mrs McHaggarty before submitting it for publication. I'm expecting a reaction as soon as she sees the book. My defence will be that the marketing people at the publishers put these words in place to boost sales. If that doesn't work, I'll just have to think of some other way of keeping the peace. I am braced for hard times ahead...

Please remember that in buying the book (it is available in the UK, the US, Germany, France and even Japan), you will be supporting the following:



Monday, November 13, 2006

Denise speaks!

Hello all

Denise has asked if we can help her find someone to love. We suggested she needs to be seen in public a bit more often, so she made this video. No crank callers, thankyou.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I made a mess

Oh dear

There I was, trying to put a link to the book of the blog, when all of a sudden the template went kaputt. Had to start a new one. Like the colour scheme?


Today's topic

Hello all

Now that the book of the blog is published, I have to start a marketing campaign that would make a Coca Cola executive blush. Well, OK, smile at least. Given that I have no marketing experience, I may be setting myself a tall order. But, as the McCrumble motto is 'Never give up!', I feel it is my destiny to strike forth and make a significant dent in the armoury of the unenlightened.

Your opinions on the following promotional slogans would be appreciated...

  • McCrumble is coming! Open your purses and receive his emissions today!

  • Snuggle up with McCrumble under the covers tonight.

  • A slice of McCrumble every day is clinically proven to reduce the incidence of SAD. Eat him between meals without ruining your appetite!

  • Buy this book for the love of will never feel the same again...

  • Hug a geek + buy this book = two good deeds.

Like I said, I have no marketing experience, so, if you have any suggestions of your own, I'd be most grateful to hear them.



    Tuesday, November 07, 2006

    McCrumble in Print!

    Dear all

    Yes, it is I, reclaiming my blog. Sorry for the long absence. I will explain everything in due course. May I first thank Dolores for looking after the blog whilst I was away. She is my rock.

    Anyways, for the time being I am simply going to declare that the book of the blog is now in print. Yes, after weeks of negotiation, I am finally able to offer 'The Wonderful World of Joseph McCrumble' in a conveniently portable 5x8 inch paperback format. The book features material taken from the first nine months of the blog, and a completely new and orginal story about scientists behaving badly at a scientific conference. At a price of just £7.99, the book offers fantastic value for money. If that isn't enough to tempt you then perhaps the knowledge that by publishing the book I am hopefully going to raise a shed load of money for Children in Need and the Matangini Project.

    I will post a permanent link to the bookseller's website on the sidebar in due course. In the meantime, you can buy McCrumble by clicking on the following link.

    J McC

    Monday, October 23, 2006

    The days are getting shorter

    Hello all

    Dolores here, yet again. Feeling like I've been left behind to deal with everything. Joseph is still refusing to come home. Denise is getting increasingly frustrated at having to cook, clean and fulfil her role as receptionist. I am getting heavier and heavier. Joseph said I should put the twelve week scan of Number 3 on the website, just to prove it is true. Why we need to prove it I don't know. I mean, would you make something like that up? He said that some people think this blog is pure fiction, and that showing a real baby might convince them otherwise. OK, I said, let's see. So here is the scan, taken a few weeks ago....

    Anyone familiar with these ultrasound scans will immediately recognise what they see. For those of you not yet there, you are looking at a 12 week old foetus reclining with its head on the right and its feet on the left. You can just see its little hand behind the head.

    Joseph has assured me that he is not abandoning me, but he still insists that whilst his life is in danger that he is best away from the Institute. So, I tell him, who is going to defend me when his stalker comes calling? Can't Denise handle them? he asks. Actually, I think he has a point there. She has beaten Ravel a few times at arm wrestling.

    Ho hum, I guess I've just got to stick it out until his lordship decides he's had enough of playing hide-and-seek.

    I suppose there is a modicum of cheer to be shared. I sent the book of the blog off to the printers today. It should hit the bookshelves soonish, hopefully.



    Friday, October 13, 2006

    The book wot he wrote

    Hello all

    Dolores here. I'm looking forward to hopefully getting my own blog back, rather than having to cover for my absent husband. I am trying my best to understand why he's in hiding, but he won't listen. The police have been in touch with him to make assurances that his safety is paramount. We haven't had any more threats yet, which either means the perp has gone underground, or has been arrested for something else.

    I'm muddling along. The morning sickness is abating, though I do get tired very easily, and somewhat nauseous in the evenings. Denise has been as helpful as possible, but the girl isn't really made for housework, or companionship come to think of it.

    My mother has been here on a couple of occasions. Her views of Joseph's activities are best kept off this post, I think. I keep trying to defend him, but she won't listen.

    The local media have been here on several occasions asking about Joseph and his whereabouts. He is becoming more of a local celebrity by his absence than anything he ever actually did or said whilst here. Two reporters have apparently been dispatched to track him down. I suggested that might be a bad idea, what with Ravel apparently having taken on guard duties, but they ignored my advice. Good luck to them, I say.

    It is now my turn to read through the book of the blog. There are certain bits I really think shouldn't appear if we are to have the mass appeal that he anticipates. He's also put in a story about things going on at a conference in Denver, Colorado. Now, he tells me that it is all entirely from his imagination. But I know he actually did go to a conference in Denver a few years ago, and I of course have no idea what he really gets up to at these things. No reason to doubt his word of course, at least not at the moment.


    Thursday, October 12, 2006

    Some good news....


    Dolores here, still babysitting Joseph's main blog. He still insists on writing everything on his new incognito blog, so if you really feel the need to read what he says then you'll have to nip over there. Of course, I have a life too, so you might like to read what I have to say.

    In fact, as of today, the news isn't all bad. One of the charges against my husband has been dropped. I was in the middle of instructing Denise how to cook an omelette when I received a phone call from the local police. They told me that the girl who had accused Joseph of sexual assault was no longer pressing charges. It turns out that she was caught with her pants down administering a 'favour' to the brother of one of the arresting officers in a layby. The incident was reported in the local paper, at which point several other men came forward and said they had enjoyed brief encounters with the girl in public places. There actually seems to be some sympathy for my husband, and the village may even be coming round to the idea that the charges were unwarranted in the first place.

    I've told Joseph, but he is still reluctant to come home whilst the person who made the death threats is still at large. 'This is a small victory in a long war', he wrote. 'Only tremendous fortitude and exemplary courage will bring about a long-term, viable settlement'. Yeah, whatever. Sometimes he's just a little bit.....

    You get the picture.


    Thursday, October 05, 2006

    Big ideas

    Dolores here. Joseph has asked me to tell you that he has posted his censored comments on his other blog

    I don't like censorship either.


    Hello all

    Dolores here. As you may know, Joseph has gone into hiding. He assures me that once the threat is lifted he will be back here. In the meatime, he has promised to update his new blog. Why the hell he feels the need to write under a different blog title I have not the tiniest idea. He did mumble something on the phone about 'IP address tracing', so maybe he has some method attached to his madness.

    Did I say madness? Oh dear. I've been trying not to go down that route but I'm beginning to wonder if perhaps my husband needs help. Any suggestions based on your own observations would be welcome.

    Over here at the Institute things have virtually ground to a halt. Without their boss around the staff are just lounging around doing sudoko puzzles. I'm not doing too bad considering the stresses and strains. Whether number 3, currently growing inside at a tremendous rate is unharmed remains to be tested. The twins have calmed down since Jospeph made contact. The headmaster offered to send them home on compassionate leave, but I politely declined. Having my mother here and Joseph missing is just about as much as I can bear at the moment.


    Saturday, September 30, 2006

    Has anyone seen my husband?

    Dolores here. No time for niceties I'm afraid. Joseph was due back yesterday from the police station after having been bailed for some ridiculous amount of money. I sent Ravel to fetch him as I was feeling too nauseous to travel. I heard from Joseph just after he got in the car with his research assistant and then.....


    I don't know what's happened. They've both gone AWOL. There have been no reports of an accident anywhere within 3o miles of the village, and no other accidents involving a car that matches the description of our own. His phone is off. The police are on the look out, allegedly, but....the other possibilities are too awful to contemplate, especially with those recent threats by persons unknown.

    I'm not quite at my wits end, despite what you might have expected. The nausea being caused by number 3 is beginning to wear off, and I'm feeling able to draw on some kind of inner strength. I only cried for half an hour after hearing of this latest setback. My mother is coming over tomorrow to keep me company, and the Institute staff are rallying round. The twins were almost apoplectic when I told them last night what had happened. Twin X, currently believing he is a 'gangsta', threatened to go 'blap blap' at anyone who hurts his dad. What that means, I'm not sure.

    I'll keep you informed as to progress


    P.S. Additional information - I have now heard from Joseph. He is holed up in a 'secret location' concerned that a relative of Miron is after him. Don't ask me where, or why, or what the hell is going on inside his head. I am just relieved that he is OK, at least for the time being.

    P.P.S. Unbelievably, Joseph has ALREADY begun to blog about his situation. What is wrong with him??????

    P.P.P.S. He emailed me to say could I please point you all towards his new blog, so that his case doesn't become forgotten. Anything for a quiet life I suppose. He is here:

    Wednesday, September 27, 2006

    Twins call for father's release!

    Hello all

    Dolores here, once again, struggling to keep head above water whilst husband dines at taxpayers expense. He is hopefully seeing the magistrate tomorrow, but has already asked to be put on the witness protection programme after receiving 3 death threats. I'm already looking around to see how many empty boxes we have lying around.

    I told the twins what had happened to their father as soon as he was arrested. At first they were a little unconcerned, but when they found out about the scale of charges they started to talk in a language that suggested they had suddenly discovered the phenomenon of loyalty. It got so bad after a few calls to their boarding school that Twin X even insisted in copying Ravel and issuing an open statement of support for his father. Unprecedented, I tell you. Next thing you know they'll be camping outside the station and refusing to eat until he is released.

    Anyways, here is Twin X, in his own words. Please bear in mind he is only 12, and appears to be going through a phase of thinking he is from 'the ghetto'

    'Are ya listening?

    I was in bed in me crib when Mumsy rang to tell me that Dad had been arrested by the Feds and is now in HMP. Are ya listening yeah? He didn't do nothing. If any pussios want to disagree with me I'll get strapped up and get my brethren round to talk to them and we'll make em smoke their Nan's ashes through their crack pipes. Me and my bro are sending out this message yeah? Our Dad's gonna bust case yeah? The Feds and all them other dickheads are chattin shit about what my Dad's done. If my Dad gets a big man's sentence yeah, he'll ride it out on his bogbrush, he won't let no batty boys chat no shit to him. Whatever dem who chat bubbles say, he's not some neeky guy yeah?

    Allow it man. '

    Monday, September 25, 2006

    Ravel writes!

    Dear all

    Dolores here. I have been asked by Ravel if he can use this blog to make a statement about his boss. You must forgive any grammatical errors. He's come a long way in the last few months and we are encouraging him at every opportunity to practice his English (he's originally from Bulgaria. You can read how he came to the institute here). He's also quite a sensitive chap and wanted to say things 'alone in his words', so I've left things as he wrote them. You should be just about able to make sense of what he is writing.

    'Dear bog people

    My name is Ravel. I am proud senior research assistant with big scientist the famous Dr Joseph McCrumble. Maybe you heard my name sometimes in this bog. I am here today to tell you that my boss, Dr Joseph McCrumble, is innocent. Completely innocent he is. I try to defend my boss, Dr Joseph McCrumble, when they come for him but I get hit on the head by policeman with very hard stick. It hurt so much I get to hospital for two days and they let me go home. I now look after the wife of boss, Dr Joseph McCrumble on her own. Tonight I give her Bulgarian special.

    I want to say it is not my boss, Dr Joseph McCrumble, fault that he is in prison. I make mistake of bringing not dead girl back to the Institute. I feel guilty and should be in prison not my boss, Dr Joseph McCrumble. If I could get him out I will. Do not forget he is guilty until proved innocent, so don't just give up. He needs our support to help him now with his crisis. I know he will be pleased that I ask you assault your member of the parliament with shouting cries of 'Freedom Dr Joseph McCrumble.'

    I try to always be good assistant to my boss, Dr Joseph McCrumble, but sometimes it is not easy for me. I now speak little English but he is always good to me except when I make slang for sex up. This happens sometimes but not deliberate. We all slang for sex up somewhere yes?

    I must now go because the wife of my boss, Dr Joseph McCrumble is making demands. You ever not accept demands of another mans wife, you are in big trouble. I tell you this from experiments.

    with good wishes


    Senior Research Assistant with my boss, Dr Joseph McCrumble'

    Sunday, September 24, 2006

    Still in the clink

    Joseph is still in custody. He should have been back by now, so his solicitor said, providing the magistrate sets bail at a reasonable amount. But then I heard two things. One, the magistrate had been taken sick whilst running a practice marathon. This delayed his hearing by a couple of days. Then, I heard that he was VOLUNTEERING to stay locked up in fear of his own safety. If you read back a few weeks, you will read that someone unknown to us issued a death threat. That was shaky enough, but what Joseph didn't tell me (or yourselves, apparently) is that he has since recieved two other threats. The suspect is a disaffected student from the university where Joseph was marking papers and where the head of department is now on the run (something else no-one told me). For all I know, the head of department could be issuing the threats himself. Wouldn't surprise me in the least.

    The solicitor told me that my husband is in good spirits considering his position, and has been giving impromptu 'seminars' on parasitology to the local police. He knows most of them anyway, and I think they see him as the local eccentric rather than a serial criminal. I don't really see the difference, as he is still locked up and I'm having to run the show pretty much by myself.

    Ravel came back from A&E without any obvious injuries. He took a blow on the head from a truncheon when he pushed one of the policemen away but seems OK. They said he suffered a mild concussion, and should take it easy for a few days. So I've given him some light duties, mainly in the kitchen where I fear to tread. Denise has been demoted back to receptionist after she served me chips with gravy three nights running.

    The solictor also told me that since Joseph has no previous convictions and is considered to be of good character, he should be treated leniently. I couldn’t help letting out an ironic snort when he told me . ‘So why’s he in jail on assault charges then?’ I asked.

    The solictor gave me a letter that Joseph had deposited with him just a few days earlier. Typically for Jospeh, he included instructions with the letter on how it should be ‘deployed’. He has instructed me to use the letter as the ending of the book. The assumption in this statement is that someone is going to finish the book whilst he languishes at Her Majesty's Pleasure. He apparently wrote the letter some time ago, expecting the worst. A permanent sense of his own predicament is one his enduring characteristics.

    Oh, I nearly forgot - he asked me through the solictor to say thanks for all the messages of support. He maintains his innocence and looks forward to blogging with you all again soon.

    Nice to know he's got priorities.

    Anyway, that's all for now



    Thursday, September 21, 2006

    Joseph in chains?

    Dear All

    Dolores here. You may have been expecting another melodramatic statement from Joseph, but I'm sorry to say he won'tbe blogging today.

    Why? Because he has been arrested and is currently in police custody.

    They came for him early this morning when I was out jogging (a dawn raid on my husband!). Apparently the shit hit the fan when the police came to the door. There was some sort of scuffle. Ravel got hurt in a vain attempt to smuggle Joseph out of the back door, and had to go to the nearest accident and emergency (30 miles away!). No doubt, if they bail him, my husband will blog what happened sometime next week. Fortunately the police left behind his computer.

    I’m not sure I can cope very well at the moment. I’m feeling sick every morning. I can’t go into the fridge without gagging. The only thing I find that has any positive effect is the smell of apples. I’ve strewn them around the Institute. Denise the receptionist has been temporarily promoted to kitchen manager. From what I remember, she can't cook, but at the moment I don't really care.

    Actually, thinking about it, I might just hire external catering. Joseph can pay for it.



    Wednesday, September 20, 2006

    the last hurrah?

    You may have noticed that the last few entries have focused on events that stop just around the beginning of September. There is a good reason for this, and that is because I have been fighting a war on several fronts the last couple of weeks and have not had the inclination nor the opportuntiy to bring you up to date.

    Perhaps I have been putting my head in the sand and it is time to face the music. I have been interviewed by police from 3 forces more than five times in the last four weeks. The Norfolk Constabulary told me yesterday on the phone that they are pressing charges for assault on Toby Hancock-Jones, my fomer nemesis whom I decked in a Kings Lynn hotel a few weeks ago, and that I should report to a police station within 24 hours or they'd come and get me.

    Then I was contacted by the local constabulary who told me they were pressing charges for sexual assault against the girl whom I thought killed by Ravel. They knew that the Norfolk police were after me, and offered to deal with both cases if I report to the local village police post within 24 hours.

    Finally, I was contacted by the Serious Fraud Squad who let it be known that I am a potential witness in the trial of the former head of department at the university where I noticed bizarre things going on with student exam scripts. They sent two men round to the institute to interview me. They’d come all the way from Manchester and were not in the best of moods after having been led down a very narrow lane by their satellite navigation system. So narrow in fact, that their newly acquired car turned up at the Institute looking like it had been attacked by a pack of wild cats.

    For a man to face two sets of charges, one of which is without foundation and one of which has been grossly exagerated, is simply not expected. I have to say that my fortitude is wavering slightly. Dolores is being superb of course. I am facing the prospect of defending myself in two courts simultaneously with some trepidation. I asked a local constable how it would be logistically possible for me to face two sets of charges under two constabularies at the same time whilst appearing as a witness at a major fraud trial. He smiled, in a genuine attempt to show sympathy I think, and told me that they’d just stack them up on top of each other. One after the next. He didn’t want to alarm me, he said, but I could be looking at five years.

    ‘But I’m innocent!’ I protested

    'If that’s your story Dr Crumble’ replied the policeman. 'Then I advise you to stick with it'.

    To distract myself from worrying I have begun to put my house in order. First priority is the book of the blog. I’ve already written the acknowledgments, the preface, the novella bonus section, designed the cover. If I am taken into custody and not given immediate bail, Dolores will have to finish things and get the printed tome out into the wider world. That is assuming the police don’t confiscate my computer. To guard against this eventuality I’m backing everything up on an online server. Dr Mark Booth from the university of Cambridge has kindly agreed to take over the editing and marketing of the book. He doesn’t yet know about the charges against me, and thinks I ‘m just too busy. I think he also feels a bit guilty about persuading me to hand over all the profits (yes, I capitulated) for his charity. I hope he doesn’t think badly of me.

    By the way, the 24 hours was up about 6 hours ago.

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    Apple Strudel (Part II)

    A couple of posts ago (read part I here) I was in Austria with Dolores and the twins. I had just praised them for showing a modicum of restraint after a local child had accused them of 'losing' the hotel guinea pig. We pick up the story just moments later as several adults and children continue to hunt for the hirsuite pet.


    The commotion outside brought several people into the garden in quick succession. Dolores was there alongside the owner of the hotel and three of his staff. The mother of the Austrian child who had assaulted the twins was joined by her husband and eldest daughter. I immediately noticed that the daughter looked particularly annoyed, and she kept trying to attract her mother's attention as we searched the garden like a row of police hunting for clues.

    After one full sweep of the 100 foot long garden we had found nothing. Every bush had been prodded, every clump of grass trodden (lightly). The guinea pig was certainly no longer there. I asked the hotel owner if there was any point of weakness in the garden perimeter through which the rodent could have escaped. He couldn't be certain so I walked all the way around to check the integrity of the fence. Nowhere could I find so much as a fractured slat. The gate to the garden was spring loaded, and the only way a guinea pig could have opened it was to have acquired super-guinea pig strength. Not to mention an ability to spring three feet up in the air, grab hold of the handle, pull it down whilst still up in the air, pull the gate open whilst falling back to the ground, and nipping through the opening with lightening speed before the gate snapped shut.

    'Well...' I said, after completing my investigation and ruling out the possibility that the guinea pig had made a solitary escape, 'it is beginning to look, I'm afraid to say, that your guinea pig may not have left the compound of it's own accord. I hate to be the one to suggest this, but the evidence is clearly pointing towards.....'

    'Oh no!' cried the Austrian child's mother.

    'Yes, Frau....Frau.....'

    'Rotwein', said the lady helpfully

    'Ja Frau Rotwein. Sorry, but I think that the poor creature may have been.....kidnapped!'

    There was a collective intake of breath all around me. The twins breathed in particularly sharply.

    'I'm sorry boys, ' I said, turning round and bending down to their eye level. 'I know how much you loved the little creature.'

    'Yes Dad. We did,' they chorused.

    At this point the daughter of Frau Rotwein tugged firmly on her mothers sleeve. The mother tried to brush her away but the daughter persisted in tugging. She motioned for her mother to bend down. When Frau Rotwein obeyed, her daughter then started whispering loudly in her ear. I couldn't make out all of what she was saying, but I did hear the names of the twins, and the German for guinea pig ('Meerschweinchen' in case you are interested). I turned away from the boys to see Mrs Rotwein interrogating the child

    'Bist du sicher?'

    'Ja mama. Ich bin sicher. Ich sah alles.'

    'What's that?' I asked, curious as why this girl was getting involved.

    'I'm sorry Herr Crumble. My daughter is making a serious allegation against your boys. I am asking if she is sure about what she is saying.'

    'Oh....' I said flatly. Looking to my left I could see that Dolores was paying rapt attention.

    'Yes,' continued Frau Rotwein. 'She says, I'm sorry to say, that your boys took the animal yesterday up to the castle and came back without it. She says this today is all to pretend that they don't know what happened. She says she knows this because she followed them.'

    'Castle?' I asked. 'What castle. I didn't know there was a castle?'

    I could sense Dolores by my side, her arm on mine 'Darling, your voice has cracked. Try to calm down,' she said calmly.

    'That one, I suppose' said Frau Rotwein, pointing up at some ruins in the distance.

    I spun round on my heels to face the twins. My expression must have been quite severe, for they simultaneously took three steps back. Just far enough that I couldn't grab them.

    'Boys!' I said in as low a tone as I could manage. 'Did you hear that?'

    'Yes Dad' said Twin Y, his eyes cast downwards.

    'And?' I prompted.

    'We.....' began Twin Y' but he got no further before Frau Rotwein's daughter was in front of them, face like thunder. Aggression clearly ran in the family. She pointed at the twins accusingly, her chubby little right-hand index finger jabbing away with each syllable .

    'Meerschweinchenmörder! Ich sah alles!' she screamed, with such elevated pitch and sonic venom that it made me stumble backwards. The effect on the twins was even more profound. Twin Y broke down and began accusing his brother of 'doing it'. In repost to this breaking of their solidarity, Twin X thwacked his brother on the nose, knocked him over, fell on top and began the mother of all pummelling's on his brother's torso. He was so fast that he got in a good five blows before I could grab his collar and haul him away.

    Ten minutes later we were standing in front of the entrance to the castle ruins. I was holding firmly onto the hand of Twin X, Dolores was dragging a reluctant Twin Y. Behind us were Frau Rotwein, her two children, the owner of the hotel and his wife.

    'Where is it?' I asked Twin X. He pointed straight ahead up the path. There was what looked like a wooden cross just to one side. 'Are you being serious?' I asked, pointing towards the cross.

    'Not there' said the child sullenly, 'up there....'. He was still pointing ahead. As we passed the cross I peered closely, just to make sure. In fact it was a sign pointing to the toilets.

    I let Twin X guide us through the extensive castle ruins. It was certainly a well placed fort, with sheer drops and spectacular views of the valley below.

    I asked if the guinea pig had been dropped or something, to which Twin X shook his head. He then led us further into the ruins and up to an intact drawbridge leading to an inner keep. Here he stopped. Twin Y broke free of his mothers grip and the two of them pointed towards a drainpipe protruding from the wall of the ruin.

    'In there' said Twin Y quietly. I could just make out what looked like the head of a small furry animal poking out. It looked pretty much lifeless from where I was standing. Frau Rotwein's chilren began to cry.

    An interrogation followed. Imagine the scene, if you will. Five adults and two children surrounding the twins, demanding to know what happened. At times it came close to what I imagined a lynching might have been like back in the good old days of instant justice way out west. But I managed to keep order, and essentially what happened was this:

    The previous day Twin X had challenged Twin Y to do something naughty. I know they play this game occasionally and to forfeit the challenge is likely to lead to some puerile punishment. So Twin Y had to agree, even though he felt, he said, uncomfortable about the idea. He had seen the guinea pig in the hutch and thought he would hide it somewhere for a day or two. He had removed the animal from the hutch and the two of them had gone up to the castle, having found nowhere suitable in the grounds of the hotel, and antipicating a finger-tip search once the alarm had been raised. They had come across the drainpipe whilst hunting for a suitable hiding place. Climbing up the ruins, they found the entrance to the pipe and placed the animal inside. Their plan was to put some grass inside and a stone over the entrance. The guinea pig fitted nicely into the pipe. A bit too snugly in fact because it couldn't turn round. The pipe was also a bit slippery inside due to recent rain and a thin covering of moss. They watched as the hapless rodent slipped and slid its way down the pipe until the end. At first they feared it would slide out of the other end, but it became stuck fast. At that point they panicked and left the ruins. They decided to raise the alarm themselves to divert suspicion, and at no time had they seen Frau Rotwein's daughter following them.

    The owner of the hotel had brought his zoom camera with him, and after interrogating the boys we trained the lens on the end of the pipe, presuming we would see an ex-guinea pig. In fact, this is what we saw:

    Yes, dear reader, you may well blink in disbelief. It was not a real guinea pig at all, but rather a soft toy.

    'Gott in Himmel...!' exclaimed the hotel owner as he looked at the image on the LCD screen.

    I showed the boys the picture. They clearly hadn't expected a close inspection of the pipe and had nowhere left to hide. One of them tried to make a run for it, but his mother was quick to respond and had him by his collar before he'd even taken two steps. The other sat on the ground and started crying. I remained surprisingly calm, and asked them where the guinea pig was. Twin Y pointed to the ground below the drainpipe. It was a drop of at least fifty metres. The hotel owner trained his zoom lens but the ground was obscured by bushes. The guinea pig was nowhere to be seen.

    The real truth was rapidly extracted from the twins. They had indeed forced the guinea pig down the pipe but had watched helplessly as it slid not just to the end but beyond. They had heard it squealing as it exited the pipe and stared at each other in horror. After a few moments panic they had hatched the bizarre notion of replacing the animal with a stuffed toy, just in case anyone had seen them near the castle. They had bought one from the local toy shop that looked big enough to get stuck and pushed it down. Satisified that they had covered all their tracks, they then raised the alarm.

    On the one hand I was impressed with their flawed ingenuity. On the other, I was mad as hell that they had abused their position as guests of the hotel. Dolores was equally astonished and angry. We had to spend the rest of the day apologising to the hotel owner and the family Rotwein, and were forced to drive to the nearest pet shop, some twenty miles away, to buy a new guinea pig. I told the twins to expect a very severe punishment, and, after discussion with Dolores, decided that their allowance would be cut in half between now and the half-term holiday. It was a shock tactic that worked. From that moment on the two boys remained silent and sullen and within eyesight and earshot for the next two days of the trip. We returned to the UK just in time to pack them off to boarding school. Into each of their bags I packed a guinea pig soft toy and told the boys to look after them or their allowance would be cut further.

    They don't like me at the moment but I can live with that. I've got far more important matters to deal with.

    J McC

    Sunday, September 17, 2006

    Group Portrait

    In preparation for the forthcoming publication of my blog, I have commissioned the following portrait of the main characters, using the excellent character generatation tool at

    I am determined to have it all finished before...I don't want to elaborate at this stage. Sufficient to say that the police people from 3 forces are still interested, and it has been suggested that I don't leave the country anytime soon. Something in my bones is telling me that I might not be blogging as a free man for much longer.

    yours, in trepidation


    Friday, September 15, 2006

    Autumn Exhbition

    Hello all

    Despite recent traumas, I have managed to muster enough time to prepare three pieces of work for my Autum Exhibition. Pop over to my art-page to persue the exhibits. Comments welcome.

    J McC

    Thursday, September 14, 2006

    McCrumble in print?

    Dear all

    I was contacted recently by a Dr Mark Booth from the University of Cambridge (a well known higher education establishement in the UK). He co-ordinates a charitable venture called the Matangini Project from within his research group. He asked me whether I would like to contribute. Now, I'm all for giving money to charity but I'm not too happy about unsolicited approaches.

    'No Joseph, ' he said when he phoned me at the Institute this morning. 'I'm not asking you for your money.'

    'I'm glad to hear that, ' I countered, 'as I'm facing the possibility of losing everything. On top of that I've got a new child en route.'

    'I know' he said, 'I've been reading your blog'

    'Oh yes,' I replied. I sometimes forget that my life story is now in the public domain. 'So what do you want?'

    'You've been writing for about 9 months now, yes?'

    'Indeed. I started last January. It's been a bit sporadic but I'm still going...'

    'How would you feel about publishing what you've done so far?'

    'Publish? Who would publish this stuff? It has no literary merit whatsoever!'

    'It may not be literature Joseph, but it makes me laugh. And if it makes me laugh, it might amuse others.'

    'You find my misadventures funny?'

    'Not all of them of course. I thought your story on how you reached your celebrity status was particularly saddening.'

    'A tragic tale indeed. So, anyway, why should I publish, and how would it be possible?'

    Mark then told me all about something called Print on Demand. It turns out that for a modest outlay one can publish ones book oneself. Copies are made only when someone places and order. It is a relatively risk-free enterprise.

    'Well, thanks for telling me about that Mark. Forgive me for asking, but what's in it for you?'

    There was a long pause.

    'Er, well, I thought I would basically take the profits....'


    'Sorry - I thought I made it clear. In my email....'

    'Oh yes....I did mention something about fundraising....So, basically speaking, you want the Matangini Project to take the profits from my life-story.'

    'Essentially, yes. Sorry if you thought...'

    'Not at all. My mistake entirely. Don't read things properly these days. I...can see how that might just work. I'd never actually thought of publishing, and it's very unlikely anyone will actually buy the book....unless......'

    'Unless what....?'

    'Well, I've written something that is pure fiction that I was going to serialise on the blog. It's actually a humorous novella about scientists behaving badly at an international conference. I could, I suppose, include it as, say, a bonus section. Would you consider splitting the profits if I added value to the product?'

    'Sure Joseph, whatever. So you like the idea then?'

    'Yes, I think I do. It will do wonders for my PR with Dolores and may just go someway to restoring my reputation within the village. You know she wants to leave because of all the trouble?'

    'I read that somewhere, yes. It's not been a good year for you really, has it?'

    'I can't disagree with you on that one Mark'

    We continued chatting about work related items for a while then said our goodbyes. I then spent some time pondering the implications of what I have agreed to do. I need to re-arrange everything in the blog, format it, edit for clarity and continuity, check for any copyright infringements.... the list goes on.

    Never mind though, at the end of the day, it's all for charity. I'll keep you informed as to progress.

    J McC

    Tuesday, September 12, 2006

    Apple Strudel

    Hello all

    Those of you who have visited my wife's blog will no doubt now be aware that she is carrying our third child. She revealed this magnificent piece of news to me whilst she was holidaying with our two existing children in a place called Austria. This small country of just over 8 million inhabitants is famous for a number of things, not all of which are particularly sweet. It is also an incredibly wealthy country.

    As soon as I heard Dolores was pregnant, I offered to fly out to Austria. The journey to that landlocked country took me almost a day, and I had to hire a car upon arrival at Linz in order to get to Losenstein. It was the first time I had ever driven a left hand car on the right hand side of the road. It was a tricky journey down the increasingly windy (as in going round the bend, rather than buffeted by air currents) roads, but I managed to reach Losenstein within a couple of hours and with only the passenger side wing mirror missing.

    Dolores practically fell into my arms, owing to the fact that the owner of the hotel had not laid some flags properly in front of the main entrance. I caught her in my own arms with a mild admonishment that falling when pregnant may harm the baby. She failed to see the ironic humour in this statement.

    The twins were already in bed, so we retired to the bar. I ordered a large beer for myself, and an orange juice for Dolores. We talked for at least an hour on good terms, using the time to make friends and try to explain our recent, somewhat irrational actions. Then the local darts team arrived, and somewhat spoilt the atmosphere by smoking, drinking and throwing darts at the electronic dart board positioned not one metre (Austria is metric) from our table. We left after one badly aimed dart landed on my pregnant wife's belly, causing a small puncture wound.

    The next day we were awoken by the sounds of the twins fighting. Nothing new in that, except this time they were fighting one of the local children. They were outside our bedroom window, making all sorts of sounds not usually heard in this quiet Austrian village. Dolores shouted at them from the bedroom to shut up, but either they didn't hear or else they were ignoring her, for the noise did not cease. Eventually, I was forced to raise myself from the bed and walk to the balcony.

    It was a slightly cloudy day, and I was presented with the following, south facing, picturesque view of the local hills.

    Looking down, though, my view was spoilt by the sight of two english boys beating up a slightly overweight Austrian child. I shouted at them to cease and desist. Twin X did as he was told, whereas Twin Y continued pushing and shoving at the, now bawling, local boy. Once the local boy collapsed to the floor and started pleading with them in the local dialect to stop, Twin Y obeyed my command.

    I was downstairs just a few moments later. The twins had retreated to a distance of 2 metres from the prone form of their victim. Behind me was the boy's mother. She went immediately to his aid, whilst I approached the twins, finger wagging and stern faced.

    'What was happening here boys?' I asked, sternly.

    A cacophanous reply ensued, with both twins trying to tell me the story the fastest. Eventually, and after much interruption, I managed to make sense of what they were telling me. Essentially, it was thus: In the garden was a rabbit hutch containing not only a rabbit, but also a companion guinea pig. The twins had been introduced to the guinea pig by the hotel owner, who said they could pet the small hairy mammal whenever they wanted. That morning, the twins had gone to the hutch and found it open. The rabbit was still sat there, contentedly munching on a carrot, but of the rodent there was no sign.

    The twins had searched all around the garden but could not find the animal. About five minutes later, the young Austrian boy (nephew of the hotel owner), had also come into the garden to pet the guinea pig. On seeing the cage empty, and the boys prodding around with a large stick, the child had come to the erroneous conclusion that they had lost the animal. The boy approached the twins and started haranguing them in a language they did not understand (Austrians speak a dialect of German). At first they kept their cool, but the Austrian boy wouldn't stop and Twin Y had eventually tried to push him away. Perhaps the Austrian boy had taken this as a sign of guilt, or a pre-emptive strike. He pushed back, somewhat harder, causing Twin Y to fall to the ground.

    Now the twins are no weaklings. They might be a little short for their age, but what they lacked in stature they easily made up in numbers. It was an unfair fight from the start, and soon the Austrian boy was on the ground, bruised and crying.

    I conferred with the mother of the Austrian boy. She spoke excellent English, and basically corroborated the twins story. I was proud of them for telling the truth, and could only admonish them gently for using their numeric advantage unfairly. I promised I would treat them to some apple strudel in the afternoon for not starting the fight.

    Unfortunately, I was forced to renege on my promise soon after. Not something I like to do, generally speaking, but circumstances prevailed that meant the twins would not only forgo their late afternoon treat of spicy apples and raisins in a delicate filou pastry, but would also be sent to bed with the threat of immediate repatriation!

    ************TO BE CONTINUED! ****************

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Celebrity Endorsement

    Hello all

    Before I carry on with telling you what happened in Austria, I thought I would fulfill a promise to tell you about an exciting new collaboration. It happens occasionally that, as the world's first celebrity parasitologist, I am approached by creative types looking for some bona-fide scientific input into their work. In these circumstances I take on the role of consultant with a view towards some mutual benefit and enjoyment. It was in fact taking on this role that brought me into the public eye for the first time (if interested, you can read that story over several parts: part 1 part 2 part 3 part 4 part 5 part 6 part 7 part 8 ). Sadly, that particular collaboration didn't work out so well.....but, well, times have moved on and I look forward to completing this current collaboration without witnessing any fatalities, court-cases or having to remove any botfly larva from the eye of a former judo fighter.

    The collaboration started when I was contacted by a very talented artist called Renee French. She is an author and illustrator with a very unusual but excellent sense of humour. She writes comic strips, books, etc. Her drawings are superb, and I encourage you to visit her website at

    The fruits of our collaboration will be revealed in due course. To give you a taster, here are a couple of drawings she sent me (both are (c) Renee French 2006)