What ho, kiddiwinks! I must own to being in a superlative mood this afternoon. The weather is still absolutely filthy (there has been snow up in the Lakes and Fanny has taken to sporting an old beaver muff she found in the south attic), but I feel in such fine fettle that the sleet just don’t signify. You must forgive my repeated weather reports.
I know it does get tiresome, but I am an Englishman, and I can no more avoid it than I can deny my penchant for Spotted Dick and spanking. I don’t know if it’s down to last night’s productive session on the commode, the fact that Fanny says the traps are filling up or just the reassuring scent of my own inexorable death, but I am fit to burst with friskiness. I woke up in such excellent humour that I was moved to play a little prank on poor Fanny. It involved a rather elaborate system of pulleys and a clandestine trip to the Eel Ponds, but it was worth it to see the look on her funny old face. Most unusual-looking thing, my Fanny. Manages to look like an egg
I am all for japery – back at the School I was crowned Shenanigan King three terms running – and I wholeheartedly believe that a little mischief is good for the soul. I have a soft spot for bizarre and pointless naughtiness and I must confess that my sense of humour can err towards the juvenile. Which brings us to the subject of this week’s review – Ned Wingfield: taxidermist, amateur D.J. and ‘master negotiator’.
The conceit here is that our Nedders trawls the classifieds and responds to the advertisements of innocent people who want nothing more than to sell their iron, rent a room or hire a babysitter. Ned then embroils them in a series of increasingly bizarre emails, ostensibly to practice his ‘negotiation skills’, but really just for shits and giggles.
Now, I have seen this kind of thing done before. If Mr Wingfield doesn’t have a copy of The Timewaster Letters by Robert Popper writing as Robin Cooper, I suggest he invest post haste. Perhaps I was predisposed to find Ned amusing because I enjoyed this book (although Ned never reaches the giddy heights of Robin Cooper). Perhaps I am predisposed to find anything that includes jokes about taxidermy amusing. Perhaps it’s just my chipper mood, but I laughed out loud on several occasions whilst reading this blog.
He informs the woman looking for a babysitter that he has trained himself to lactate and once “raised a clutch of baby otters and then harvested their fur and meat”. He tries to interest one poor man in his new business venture; wolves’ teeth dentures for the elderly. When he responds to the advert of the young man looking for a room to rent, he writes “Do you have any experience with brick laying or tarring? Familiarity with deboning primates would also be a plus. Otherwise you’ll have to learn that the hard way”. However, it is sometimes his victims that get the best lines, as said wannabe-lodger proves when he writes, “Yeah but see the thing is it’s precisely the fact that you claim to have a stuffed koala and a ‘weapons cache’ that makes me not want to live with you."
Of course, we all know that humour is subjective, that one man’s meat is another man’s Linda McCartney vegetarian sausage, as I have no doubt proved with that cheap quip. Ned’s shtick will not suit everybody. There were times when I found his jokes a touch basic, the surrealism obvious, his taste questionable, and these moments were only highlighted by the occasional flashes of maleficent brilliance. I like silliness, but I like sophisticated silliness. Overall, however, I found his willful absurdity most chucklesome, and when he ended an email to a man setting up a prayer group with “Ned’s Bible Quote of the Day: 2 Kings 2:24: Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths”, I inhaled a goodly portion of my Gin Rickey, although I have no idea why.
There is, however, an issue of suspension of disbelief. I think this kind of thing works best when the reader cannot quite decide if the person writing the emails is real or not. There are a few lapses in tone, particularly in the introductions and in the fact that Ned has merchandise, which allow a glimpse of the Ned who is writing the Ned who is writing the emails, and I would like to see those disappear. For example, he makes occasional references to himself as a ‘celebrity blogger’ and it might be larks if the ‘Ned Wingfield’ character did consider himself to be a celebrity blogger, but his blog was not the one containing his emails, but another, far more unhinged fiction about his day-to-day life.
Mr Wingfield hasn’t posted anything since January, which is something of a pity – unlike any of the other opuses I have reviewed here, I might consider popping back for more. If old Ned smartened himself up and tightened his conceit, I could see this being published as the kind of book one receives multiple copies of at Christmas, because it was on sale at the counter in the book shop and because one’s aunts have no imagination.
So, despite the baying wind and the hoar frost on the windows, I find my mood is gay. My Fanny has recovered from her eel encounter and I have decided that if Ned gets to have merchandise, I should have merchandise too. So far I’ve managed to confect a little something out of a snorkel and a rubber glove filled with Swarfega, but I haven’t tested it out yet. Fanny is looking worried, and rightly so.
Ned Wingfield, for keeping me amused with your gleeful nonsense I am going to give you three stars, and to encourage you to refine and expand on your particular brand of buffoonery, I refer you to Deuteronomy 23:1.