Attempted Murder.

On yesterday’s walk, Mrs Playmo was showing serious signs of mental imbalance. I told her, and she rightfully retorted, “Well, that’s rich coming from someone who shares her time between singing out of tune and talking to a Playmobil, setting it up in compromising photo shoots and even telling the world about it!” She had a point.

As we turned a corner, she began to cackle with laughter and pointed a claw at the tree on her left. ‘Look! Murder!” I looked at her blankly. She sighed, then stopped and laughed again, uncontrollably this time. Her arm shook as she pointed right, at another tree.

“ATTEMPTED MURDER!” She squawked raucously before rolling on the floor, helpless with laughter. I looked more closely, and finally understood. Here are the photos for you – a virtual packet of Midget Gems to anyone who gets her joke.

The tree on the left... "MURDER"

The tree on the left… “MURDER”

The tree on the right: "attempted murder".

The tree on the right: “attempted murder”.

Little did I realize how well-timed her joke would prove to be. Mrs Playmo was drunk – so drunk that if you cracked a match whilst she was exhaling, you’d get free sunburn.

“That damned Eric,” she babbled, taking huge gulps of rosé from her hip flask. I stared at her. “I thought you like him? Giving him the eye over your Chupa Chups, and all that…”

Mrs Playmo leveled with me and sighed, blasting wine fumes into my unwilling nostrils.

“You don’t get it, do you? That ratbag was blackmailing me. It was a trap! Shacklebottom ratted on me to the police, and good old Eric decided to get to know her better. You know the old line: Wanna come round to my place and check out my truncheon?”

She shook her head sadly.  “I should have seen it coming. Boy, I’m a low-wattage lightbulb at times”. She stopped to fish her knickers out from between her buttocks then set out again, stamping her feet glumly in the mud.

“Shacklebutt and Eric devised a plan together. I should have known – she always puts evil twists in the church pantomime. Eric had to get to know me better, seduce me if he could, and get some incriminating evidence to blackmail me. Then they’d share the cash and run away together. Poor Marcel… The woman’s a goddam man-eater… Anyway, that’s how Eric ended up at the Cabbage Patch Pole Dance Dive with a camera, wig and glasses a few Fridays ago.”

I stared at her, incredulous. “What, you mean you’ve been unfaithful to Mr Playmo?” I gasped. Mrs P burst into tears. “Noooooooo!” She sobbed. “I couldn’t! I love him too much!”

Wiping her nose on my sleeve, she added “…. and I like handbags, rosé and Tupperware parties. That’s life. Had to finance it somehow.”

“Where were you off to on that Friday night?” I insisted, staring into her bloodshot eyes.

“I was delivering the cash to Eric,” she said calmly. “It was either that or he put the photos inside Mr Playmo’s bible for maximum impact at mass on Sunday.”

We walked for a while, feet squelching in the mud. “Is it all over now?” I ventured. “I mean, you gave Eric the money, and he gave you the photos. That’s it, right?”

The look Mrs Playmo gave me could have shrivelled Rocco Siffredi’s appendage to the size of a peanut. “As if!” She snapped. The evil runt went to see Mr Playmo and told him about our meeting, how nice he found me, and how much he enjoyed my pole dancing. Poor Mr P….” Tears began to stream down her cheeks.

“Mr Playmo sent me a text message asking me to meet him at the beach and to chose my weapon well. He brought a Chupa Chups, and said he’d heard it was good to sweeten bad guys up, but he didn’t want to hit me with it. When I got home, I found the incriminating picture of me on the bed, with a rose and a letter saying he needed a break, and was going away for a few days…. That was on Sunday – I haven’t seen him since….”

She dissolved into tears, and blew her nose so hard I was surprised she didn’t turn inside out.

“I’ve got it all sorted now, anyway. At least, I’ve got Eric sorted. I’d like to give you the photo for today’s blog post – I got Marcel to take the picture. He helped me – just two little slow punctures, and poor old Eric needed a mechanic. There’s only one in the village who will go out to the country lanes… and that’s Marcel. Shucks. Life sucks.”

She passed me this photo.

Putting out the fire....

Putting out the fire….

I stared at Mrs Playmo. “No. You didn’t…. clock him on the head with a fire extinguisher, did you?”

“No, much better,” she said, breezily taking a swig from her hip flask. “I had an opportunity to extinguish that “flame of passion” he’d talked about when I first met him. Amazing bad luck, really, the ambulance man said so too. He really shouldn’t have smoked his cigarette so close to that petrol leak on the ground… Now stop gawping at me like that. Close your mouth please – looks like an open sewer in there. Let’s go home and see if Mr Playmo’s back.”

I did as I as told, and as we walked as I considered sending her story to Quentin Tarantino for his next film scenario.

 

 

 

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Catching up….

Mrs Playmo and I are very sorry for the resounding silence. We have no excuse for not having posted, except for very bad organisation skills (please note that Mrs P and I are in this together, even if she can only type by jumping up and down on the keyboard).

We are still going strong, moving our respective rumps and taking pictures, but we haven’t had time to upload and describe our antics of late. There have also been a few days when it was so windy that Mrs Playmo either refused to come out of my photo bag, or couldn’t stand up for the photo because she got blown over all the time. I tried to convince her that everyone had already seen her knickers anyway, but to no avail.

So here is a resumé of her intrepid adventures to get you up to date. Grab the popcorn and dim the lights, folks …

Mrs Playmo particularly enjoyed the Museum in Nîmes, and insisted on posing as an alligator hunter in the hope of being spotted in time for the casting of the next Crocodile Dundee film.

Mrs Playmo particularly enjoyed the Museum in Nîmes, and insisted on posing as an alligator hunter in the hope of being spotted in time for the casting of the next Crocodile Dundee film.

Amelia Shufflebottom's daughter made a brave bid to avenge her mother, but was caught red-handed as she tried to do a runner with Mrs Playmo's carpet bag.

Amelia Shacklebottom’s daughter made a brave bid to avenge her mother, but was caught red-handed as she tried to do a runner with Mrs Playmo’s carpet-bag.

Mrs Playmo always pushes in and forces he musical choices on me. She has a distinct preference for Tom Jones, and leaps around the vineyards yelling "What's new pussycat".

Mrs Playmo always pushes in and forces her musical choices on me. She has a distinct preference for Tom Jones, and leaps around the vineyards yelling “What’s new pussy cat”.

Unbeknown to Mrs Playmo, Prince Charming had survived her New Year's Eve plot to get rid of him. In her drunken stupor, she had forgotten to remove the champagne bucket she had jammed onto his head before burying him in the sand. Luckily, she had followed Mrs Sensible's Wet Wooden Spoon Self-Defence course in a hidden location in Italy.

Unbeknown to Mrs Playmo, Prince Charming had survived her sinister New Year’s Eve plot to get rid of him. In her drunken stupor, she had forgotten to remove the champagne bucket she had jammed on his head before burying him in the sand. Luckily, she had followed Mrs Sensible’s Wet Wooden Spoon Self-Defence course in a hidden training camp run by a black sheep in Italy. He was soon heading off to the horizon as fast as his horse could take him.

Ok, during the interval, here’s the advertising: for more about Mrs Sensible, check out PN’s blog at http://englishmaninitaly.org

Now, dim lights…. Andra, stop wriggling. And Gypsy, that’s my popcorn.

It was cold that day.... Mrs Playmo checking in the cave for any signs of a bear who could spare her a bit of fur to make a coat.

It was cold that day…. Mrs Playmo checking in the cave for any signs of a bear who could spare her a bit of fur to make a coat.

Mrs Playmo thought she could pass this one off as her tight-rope walking on the Eiffel tower. I admit that it was a dangerous exploit given the gusts of wind, she would have fallen into the local irrigation canal.

Mrs Playmo thought she could pass this one off as intrepid tight-rope walking on the Eiffel tower. I do admit that it was a dangerous exploit, though:  given the gusts of wind, she could have fallen into the local irrigation canal.

My two-year-old nephew fell in love with Bigfoot's old bulldozer and carted it around everywhere with him. They got on like a house on fire - like him, Mrs P never misses an opportunity to dig up a bit of dirt.

My two-year-old nephew fell in love with Bigfoot’s old bulldozer and carted it around everywhere with him. They got on like a house on fire – like him, Mrs P never misses an opportunity to dig up a bit of dirt.

An inconclusive attempt at harpooning whales in Aigues-Mortes.

An inconclusive attempt at harpooning whales in Aigues-Mortes.

Mr Playmo had sent a crypted message to Mrs Playmo: "Meet you on the beach. Choose your weapon carefully". When he turned up with a lollipop and said something about sweetening up baddies before hitting them over the head, a bell rang in Mrs P's mind. A danger bell.

Mr Playmo had sent a cryptic message to Mrs Playmo: “Meet you on the beach. Choose your weapon carefully”. When he turned up with a lollipop and said something about sweetening up baddies before hitting them over the head, a danger bell rang in Mrs P’s mind. Had Eric spilled the beans?

After a very heated argument with Mr Playmo on the beach, Mrs P insisted that she wanted to visit the torture chamber museum in Carcassonne to get a few ideas. I told her that her cooking was ample punishment for her husband.

After a very heated argument with Mr Playmo on the beach, Mrs P insisted that she wanted to visit the torture chamber museum in Carcassonne to get a few ideas. I told her that her cooking was ample punishment for her husband. She didn’t get her own way, but she did get the satisfaction of seeing me get laughed at by the builders working on the house opposite when I took this photo.

There you go, folks. Back to normal tomorrow for the last two days of the challenge….

Day 12: Small Pleasures

Mrs Playmo enjoying the small pleasures in life with Smelly Dog, whose head appears to make a very good impromptu slide.

Mrs Playmo enjoying the small things in life with Smelly Dog, whose head appears to make a n excellent makeshift slide.

Day twelve’s walk started off quietly. Mrs Playmo and I were still shell-shocked from recent events, and the subdued, mellow sunlight bathing the vineyards seemed to echo our state of mind.

After a few hundred meters, Mrs Playmo asked why we were being so mopey. We were, she argued, wasting precious time. “Life’s there to be lived, honey-bun!” she chirped before scaling Smelly Dog’s leg. She clambered dangerously along the furry backbone, a female equivalent of Indiana Jones on the roof of a train, and hoisted herself on to Smelly Dog’s skull. Sitting between the two floppy ears, she yelled “Yeeeee- ha!” and pointed into the distance before pulling hard on them and bellowing, “Onwards, and forwards, my faithful steed. To infinity… and beyond!”

I had a sneaky feeling that she had combined John Wayne, Napoleon and Buzz Lightyear in her head. As far as I was concerned, she looked uncannily like Alice astride the Bandersnatch, with a truckload of attitude and a black corset. She attained the result she had hoped for: I laughed.

Letting go of Smelly Dog’s ears, she slid down her steed’s nose and landed neatly on her feet, her face flushed with pleasure. “Ta – daaaah!” She eyed me from head to toe, sniffed and added: “C’mon. You might have given up the rosé, but your muffin top is still drooping for Britain. Lets walk.” So we did.

For those who are new to the blog, check out this post to understand what this is all about.

Day 11: Sticks and Stones may Break my Bones…

…but cartoons will never hurt me. Today’s post will not be neither short nor sweet. Day eleven was one of the most sobering days of my life. We walked more than we have walked on any day of this challenge, with a conviction in each step that went beyond anything I have ever felt before.

Mrs Playmo and I went to Montpellier that day to march in the memory of those killed in the recent attacks in Paris. The anger and pain of the French is palpable. The distress, horror, incomprehension and the deep sorrow that I see on faces every day have turned my stomach and placed a brick in its depths since last week, when obscurantism defied the very principles on which France is based.

One of the 100,000 people walking on Sunday shows her commitment to freedom of expression.

One of the 100,000 people walking on Sunday shows her commitment to freedom of expression.

Tears have been shed for the victims. And also for the values at the very core of France, attacked by cowards who do not understand that freedom of speech is necessary for all societies, because everything can and should be criticised. A world that cannot question itself and others cannot evolve.

I suspect that the liberation of France was the last time this kind of turnout was seen across the nation. The overwhelming solidarity of the walkers was the biggest raspberry that anyone could blow at fundamentalist puppets and those pulling their strings. The crowd was made up of Muslims, Christians, Jews. Adults, children, old-aged couples with walking sticks, people in wheelchairs. All together, spontaneously applauding. On our arrival at the Place du Peyrou, I looked back and saw the dense black column of citizens, stretching away below Montpellier’s mini Arc de Triomphe with its flag at half mast, and disappearing on the horizon. A soprano took the microphone and starting singing the Marseillaise, and the collective voice of tens of thousands of people of all origins rose to the sky. They lifted pens, pencils, signs, fists and flags and bellowed that anthem with pride. Because beyond all their differences, they had one thing in common: they were all proud of France and the values it defends.

This scenario was repeated across France, with nearly four million people out in the street to show that they are all standing tall. It was echoed on an international scale. Forty representatives of other countries joined President Hollande –  many of whom had conveniently forgotten the attitude to the freedom of speech in their own countries.

In the media, in everyday conversations, on social networks and on blogs, I see people using their right to voice their opinions. Many have said that the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo “asked for it”. To those who maintain that if you deliberately provoke, you get what you deserve, I would reply that satire is part and parcel of a normal society, and that nothing justifies killing for a drawing, however provocative it may be. I also ask the simple question: In what kind of world do they wish their children to grow up?

The famous 1831 caricature of Louis Philippe t...

The famous 1831 caricature of Louis Philippe turning into a pear would mirror the deterioration of his popularity. (Honoré Daumier, after Charles Philipon who was jailed for the original.) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The satirical press has been a small but essential part of journalism for centuries. In 1831, Charles Philippon’s sketch transformed the face of King Louis-Philippe into a pear in four pictures. It landed him in prison for insulting the King – but even at that time in French history, no death penalty was applied for his cartooning “crime”. Philippon noted the impact his cartoon had on the French population:

“What I had foreseen happened. The people, seized by a mocking image, a simple image design and simple shape , began to imitate this wherever he found a way to make charcoal image smearing, scratching a pear. Pears soon covered all the walls of Paris and spread to all parts of the walls of France. ”

(Source: Charles Philippon, Lettres du 7 juillet 1846 à Roslje, Carteret, op. cit., p. 126).

The caricature is a direct and unambiguous form of public communication; it can be understood quickly by everyone and produces an immediate reaction. Political caricatures have always existed, and it is inevitable that someone’s nose will be put out of joint. But as artist Bob Mankoff from the New Yorker pointed out in a recent cartoon, a culturally, ethnically, religiously, and politically correct cartoon is no more than a blank page.

IMG_7878

Before claiming that cartoonists should bow to the demands of extremists who cannot accept criticism in any form, please imagine the day where political correctness and fear of reprisal removes all satire from the world in a bid to avoid insulting political figures, or attracting the ire of regimes, movements, and religions. Because not only journalists are concerned by this. All types of art are in danger of censorship, and your personal liberty is in danger as a result. If fear of reprisal leads to the international satirical press going under ground, what will they take down next with their Kalashnikov?

Books penned across the centuries contain satire or criticise religion, politics or culture. Could we burn Aesop’s fables, works written by Chaucer, Rabelais, Voltaire, Swift, Fielding, Poe, Dickens, Carroll, Twain, Wodehouse,  Shaw and Orwell, to name but a few, in the name of political correctness? You can forget Dr Seuss, Lewis Carroll, Hergé and Goscinny for your kids, too. Kiss goodbye to The Chaser, The Onion, Fritz the Cat and Private Eye. What about film and theatre? Goodbye Monty Python’s Life of Brian. Exit Shakespeare and Molière, Casino Royale, Douglas Adams, The Clockwork Orange. Oh, and those TV chat shows you loved so much for their irreverent sarcasm about current issues – Yes Minister, Seinfeld, Have I got News for You, This Hour Has 22 minutes, Not the Nine o’clock News..? Could they all be sacrificed for fear of awakening obscurantist monsters who don’t believe that politics, culture and religion can be laughed at?

The same applies to artists and singers – were hit men sent to silence Lily Allen when she sang “F**k You”, described by music critics as a direct attack on George W. Bush? Was Pink Floyd ever censored?

The crucial question of the right to expression and the use of censorship also concerns you, Joe Blogger. You can lay out your opinion on your blog, unless you hate-monger there, without being censored in any way. Except in some countries, where bloggers who brave their government’s control over the freedom of expression risk weekly flogging and even death penalties for expressing their opinion online. Should they have “put a lid on it” in the face of oppression? Should we refrain from pointing a finger at the absurd, criticizing what must be criticised, through fear of reprisal by those who have recognized that the pen may just be mightier than the sword? No. In the words of Franklin Roosevelt, translated into French on a piece of cardboard held above the crowd in front of me,  “Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither”.

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Now France is not only mourning, but thinking and debating. Many of those advocating freedom of speech appear to have rapidly changed their version on social media to “I’m all for freedom of speech as long as you don’t vote for….”  I watched in horror as discussions became debates then mud-slinging matches, and virtual and real friends “unfriended” each other as they discovered that their personal (or rather political) convictions were not the same. Yet we all have the right to speak. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words, and pictures, will never hurt me. I’ll wrap these musings up with the words of Voltaire, who said:

“I do not agree with what you have to say, but I’ll defend to the death your right to say it”.

 Vive la liberté, et vive la France.

 Erratum: The quote attributed to Roosevelt should actually be attributed to Benjamin Franklin, who was the first person to say it back in 1755. Roosevelt used the quote in a 1941 speech, and has henceforth been wrongly quoted as its author by many, including me. Mea Culpa.

Day 10: Roxanne.

Rooooxanne, you don't have to put on that red light....

Rooooxanne, you don’t have to put on that red light….

Mrs Playmo and I have been literally run off our feet over the last three days. Our apologies for not having posted earlier – Mrs P said I should lie, but I won’t. We’ve walked, and we’ve worked, and we haven’t drunk a drop of alcohol. Or rather, I haven’t. Mrs Playmo is taunting me with her bottle of rosé every night, but I’m still going strong. So here is day ten, with our apologies for a lateness most French people attribute to the SNCF.

On day ten, Bigfoot was back at the ranch. So was my workload. So by the time I’d got to the end of my working day, the sun had set and our usual stomp through the vineyards necessitated a miner’s helmet equipped with lamps. I decided to drag Smelly Dog and Mrs Playmo out for a new itinerary – along the road. Bigfoot elegantly offered to accompany me in case I met any tall, dark, handsome strangers / Kalachnikov-toting loons along the way. Within ten minutes, he was asking me to slow down and enquiring just how long this walk would be, and I couldn’t help feeling a tad smug.

That feeling didn’t last long -Smelly Dog is scared of the dark and hates walking along the street. She dragged us at top speed around the route and only slowed down when she recognized the final stretch home. This made for a top-speed power walk that quickly had Bigfoot and I completely bushed.

And what about Mrs Playmo in all this, you ask? The answer is, we left without her. Not because we didn’t want her company, but because she had disappeared. We checked below the sofa having accused the cat of using her for mouse-chasing training, to no avail. Zilch.

Half-way around our circuit, Bigfoot stopped and pointed to a small figure stood in the lamplight. She was clutching her new handbag, and pretended not to see us as a car stopped beside her. Mrs Playmo quickly opened the door and got into the passenger seat, leaving Bigfoot and I astounded.

“Mum, I don’t think she’s told you the entire story.” Bigfoot grinned and started singing “Roxanne”.  “It’s Friday night and your protégée is hanging around in a red dress under a street light? Sorry, but this looks decidedly dodgy for a blogpost about something as innocent as Playmobils.”

She has remained silent about the event ever since. We hope that it was her taxi for her pole-dancing slot at the local dive, but we can’t be sure….

If you are wondering what this is all about, check out “The Great Outdoor Playmo Challenge”.

Day Nine: The Cabbage Patch Kids

The Cabbage Patch Kids hanging about at "Ze Chou".

The Cabbage Patch Kids hanging about at “Ze Chou”.

Mrs Playmo refused to be in the picture yesterday due to events beyond her control. She did not have a good day, so I went along with her request to be absent from the picture.

She had already clipped her dress on back to front in her haste to leave the house, and had been decidedly snappy and irritable when I asked why she was in such a hurry.

As we approached the cabbage patch, she started looking around nervously and fiddling with her (-or should I say Amanda Shacklebottom’s-) handbag.  “Are you expecting to see someone in particular?” I enquired, thinking back to her expression the evening before on chatting with the tall, dark and decidedly handsome Eric. “Do you think he’ll let you play with his truncheon tonight?”

Mrs Playmo turned on me, furious. “How dare you! It’s nothing like that! I’m… I’m… The vicar’s wife!” Flushed with anger and embarrassment, she ran ahead of me, and stopped beneath a cabbage leaf. As she opened her mouth to add a new lie to the equation, she was soaked from head to foot. Loud laughter ensued, and four small heads peeked over the leaf above us. The cabbage patch kids are not just a myth, they really exist in Playmobilia. They are crafty little things, and Mrs Playmo hates them (she assures me that the fact that they are Amanda Shacklebottom’s offspring has absolutely nothing to do with it).

“Are you wet, Mrs Playmo? Gosh, can’t imagine how that happened”. Uncontrollable laughter ensued. Mrs Playmo angrily brushed herself off. (Being made of plastic can be an advantage – no clothes to dry and no running mascara.). She turned and looked up at the children, shaking her fist and yelling, “I’ll ‘ave yer guts for garters, yer miserable li’l toads. When I get my ‘ands on you, I’ll slap yer so ‘ard you’ll end up with yer kecks on back to front!”

I was astonished, but made a mental note to remember her rather cool expressions for my own use. I sternly reminded Mrs Playmo that she was, as she had said a few minutes earlier, the vicar’s wife. She grunted and asked me to take a picture of her aggressors for her to show to the police. I have a suspicion that she was happy to have an excuse to visit the local station….

Day 8 : Lollipop Launchers

Sweetness and light. Or something like that.

Sweetness and light. Or something like that.

In light of current events, Mrs Playmo insisted on protection for our walk yesterday. She was not convinced by my arguments that there was nothing interesting for terrorists around our village, and rummaged furiously in the accessory box until she found a riot police helmet. The steel capped boots were too big for her, but when Eric the Policeman called from the bottom of the box and shyly offered to accompany her, she blushed and accepted with a shy smile.

A blustery wind was sweeping across the vineyards, and it was very hard for Mrs Playmo to remain standing for long enough to take any photos. She took shelter on the old orange tractor, and took the opportunity to suggest her new idea of weaponry to Eric. She asked him to hold her dog’s lead for her, then disappeared into my photo bag and – after a great deal of grunting and swearing – returned dragging a huge strawberry flavoured lollipop. This, she explained, was an exciting new concept – a lollipop to sweeten up bad guys, and if that failed, it became an edible cosh that could also be set up in a grenade launcher and fired at the more dangerous villains.

Eric the Policeman kindly refused her offer, telling her that bashing the villain’s bonce with a Chupa Chups would fracture his skull. The Playmo justice system would not only put him in prison and let the bad guy go, but they would also fire him and make him pay damages so that the baddy could afford the latest Kalachnikov and start all over again.

Mrs Playmo shrugged her shoulders, and told him that he could avoid the whole problem by eating the weapon. That said, she unwrapped the lollipop and attempted to eat it. Staring into oblivion, she did not see the expression on Eric’s face as he watched her. The more she tried to understand society these days, the less she liked it. Her opinion of Eric, on the other hand, was a different question all together….