Hairy Podcast Week, Day 3
What was the inspiration for Hairy London? Well, as I mentioned on Monday, the inspiration was a call put out by Eibonvale Press for short stories fitting the anthology Where Are We Going? edited by Allen Ashley. The idea of this anthology was to visit locations on planet Earth which had either been too little or never explored. Enthused, I found myself thinking about Jules Verne’s classic Around The World In 80 Days, with its wager theme and Victorian adventure. At once the theme and style of my tale Xana-La (a collision of Xanadu and Shangri-La) were set.
But there was much more. As a young man, I was thrilled by and addicted to the Goon Show, that never-to-be-repeated work of genius from Spike Milligan, Larry Stephens, and Peter Sellers, Harry Secombe and Wallace Greenslade (with an honourable mention to Michael Bentine). I adored the madcap, surreal flights of fancy, I loved the absurdist word play, I loved the characters, the sound effects and the whole vibe. I loved the fact that the cast frequently collapsed into laughter at their own brilliance.
Later, I loved Monty Python and other comedy with a surreal, absurdist style. This is without doubt my kind of comedy: the humour of strange juxtaposition, of accidental mash-up, of impossible thematic collisions. So when I came to write Hairy London, knowing that I’d used and enjoyed the humour of Xana-La, I knew I had to continue that style. Hairy London had to be as daft as a brush: surreal, illogical and yet with its own cast iron logic, absurd and whimsical.
No doubt those early listens to the Goon Show remain engraved upon my subconscious, because there is one episode, The Choking Horror, in which some buildings become hairy:
Now listen, London is in the grip of a choking horror. Hair is starting to grow on monuments and buildings.
What. Sapristi, Choking Horror part six.
Thank you, part hair. We must inform Parliament of this choking horror.
(echoing in large hall) Yes honourable members of Parliament, well you may murmur rhubarb in Choking Horror part six, but it doesn’t alter the fact that in the past ten months the following buildings have also been declared hairy: The National Gallery; St Pauls; Nelson’s Column; The Windmill Theatre!
(loud grumbles and muttering, rhubarbs)
(Milligan, nasal voice – Spriggs?) I tell you, please, honourable members
Please, silence please
We must take action at once:
I agree, I agree
The Albert hall is a dreadful sight its hair is hanging down its back.
That’s nothing – Graham Sunderland’s portrait of Sir Winston Churchill is completely hidden.
(Sellers) Thank heavens for that.
Have no fear, I have taken action. I’m commencing with having the Albert Hall’s hair cut, with Mister Crun supervising.
Yes, I’m going to give it a real military hair cut.
Military? The Albert Hall is a civilian Sir!
Later on, one of the buildings begins to develop a bald patch – classic Milliganese, which may well have influenced my expansion of the theme into every part of London…