“Your culture,” drawled the Finn, “it’s like the character in Psycho Killer. You, know the Talking Heads song?” There was a pause for this to sink in, for her to take a long speculative punctuation drag on a cigarette. “Not the psycho killer. The other one. ‘You’re talking a lot – but you’re not saying anything.’ You know?” She narrowed her eyes, which she hadn’t taken off the screen, as she blew out a fat stream of smoke. White-tipped Marlboro Menthols. Brushing a trailing blonde fringe behind her left ear, she shook her head briefly.

On the screen, a young-looking man with a beard and hedge-backwards hair was waggling a microphone with one hand while with the other hand was running through a series of exercises – dead spider, itemisation, happy talking, talking, happy talk. Behind him, in big letters on the set of the TV comedy panel game show, it read ‘Lines You Wouldn’t Hear In A TV Detective Show.’

Shifting uneasily on the sofa, Mank Wolfenstein thought briefly but without urgency that he should respond on behalf of his culture, so brusquely maligned. However, he shifted back, Wolfenstein could not help but hear the heavy emphasis on the possessive pronoun, the noun itself. His culture. His brain echoing her words, gesturing at the screen with an open palm, a sarcastic eyebrow. Hmmm, yeah.

He watched the young man leave the floor of the set to return to his seat washed by waves of undeserved applause, and sat agog with dismay as the next participant, a little bald man with a sandy musketeer beard, took the microphone and began a skit invoking well-hackneyed stereotypes of TV detective shows, long years since self-parodied into redundancy. Wolfenstein had stopped listening before the speaking began. Fuck, no, not him too, he thought. He hadn’t even been watching, and suddenly there he was, swinging from the lights and into the fray, the little slap-headed musketeer of inept comedy, all for one, one for no fucker whatsoever.

Listen to yourself. An inner shake of the head. She’s right, Wolfenstein thought. I’ve heard the same shit from 20 different comedians over the course of the preceding – fucking – two minutes or some shit. The more diluted it is, the worserer. And this… Thinking on it some more, aided by a sip of beer from a bottle whose top was warming in his uneasy grip, Mank added to himself that in fact, rather than react defensively, he was honour bound to admit that Magda was right. She’s right. I fucking hate this cunt, he thought. Devil-may-care, he decided: this was the appropriate response.

“Yeah, I hate these cunts too.” Emboldened by the act of naming his disdain, Wolfenstein widened his aim.

“Tsk. That word. You are right, of course, but still. Do not ennoble him with it.”

Magda smiled briefly, her comments dry, without heat. They sat smoking and drinking. There was a shared moment of numb horror as the TV prating continued without abating.

“What is the point of these shows?” Magda asked, drawing Mank, and on the cigarette.

“Oh, Christ, I don’t know,’ Wolfenstein offered, passing a heavy hand over his forehead and rubbing his eyes, suddenly weary. “It’s not satire, is it? It’s entertainment, is it? It’s barely humour. Jesters… I don’t know,” he added, genuinely lost for justification. “I used to love this kind of thing, but I just… it just seems to be…” He faltered.

Magda, eyes still narrowed, inhaled at length. She paused while the smoke settled in. “Imagine if all these comedians were writing something with teeth. Is that the right…?” She half turned to Mank. “With teeth, you can say this?”

“Yes. Teeth. Bite.” Mank sucked his gums. “Or no bite. You could say that too.”

“Yes, exactly. No bite. It’s not a psycho killerrr.” She rolled her R for effect. “It is very gummy,” she concluded. The smoke finally made its way back to the surface.

Mank part-turned to face Magda. “Do you have anything like this in Suomi?”

“Suomi.” She corrected his pronunciation with the tenderness of the well-practised. “Neeeeeeeh… not really. Our comedy shows are funny. Also, these kinds of things… maybe…” She tilted her head from side to side. “We’re a lot more politically engaged than you seem to be. This same show would be saying all kinds of shit about the masters of the universe. Not… what is it now?”

The backdrop had changed to read ‘Words You Don’t Want Sports Commentators To Say.”

She held up a palm towards the screen, point proven.

“Shall we watch something else then?” Mank weakly offered.

“No, fuck this. It’s boring. Let’s go and watch someone start a fight in town,” she said decisively, stubbing the cigarette in the glass ashtray on the floor by her ankles. “We’ll get a really big drink somewhere and watch it all kick off.” She sprang from the sofa and arranged her skirt. “Or just have the drink. First thing first.” A brief glance at the screen relayed a pointless score update. Exhaling a pffft, extending a hand, Magda was waiting with fluid movement for Mank to heave himself to his feet. She leaned back slightly, half-turned to the screen as he reached, she pulled and he pivoted upright. Magda gave another shake of the head as she turned back to him, his hand in hers, now face to face. “Your culture.”

Channel 4 just screened Robin Hood, the 2010 Ridley Scott version. I haven’t seen it before, so felt that I should cast an eye. I have always been a bit of a Hoodie, or whatever you call fans of Loxley-related media.

So, yeah, Russell Crowe tackling the English folk hero legend. The accent issue has been widely dealt with, I note on further reading across the webs. It did kind of intrude. One can only imagine the conversations on set.

[Battle sequence rages]
“Cut! Cut! Russell, what the fuck is that accent supposed to be?”
“It’s, er, 12th Century Nottinghamshire, Ridley.”
“You sound like Alan Bennett. Try and be a bit more rural, twangy? Rugged. Yeah? Okay, reset… Rolling, and, action…”

[Ye scene continuef]

“Cut! Russell!”
“Yeah?”
“Is that John Lennon? Come on, mate. You’re a Midlander yeoman. Action.”

[Swords, alarum]

“CUT!”
“What’s up, Ridley?”
“[Sighs] You’re going Irish, Russell.”
“Bollocks!”
“Yes you are.”
“Er… whit aboot this then?”
“Robin Hood wasn’t a fucking Geordie, Russell. I am. Are you taking the piss? Just do one accent! Jesus. It’ll be fucking Aberystwyth next. [Wearied] Come on, then, action!”

[And so on, merrily throughout the British Isles in search of ye authentic Lincoln Green tones of Kevin Costner.]

The Mortal Bath was meant to have about three new pieces floated in it in the last week. Sorry for the delay. Final week of summer holiday teacher plannery plus car insurance wrangling following an accident that wasn’t our fault – nuff said.

Thusly… here is a short soak. It’s a bit of a channelling of two of my favourite blogs, Wit and Pendulum and Views from the Couch, for it is rude, scriptish and about, like, wimmin’s stuff. And written by a woman. Well, spoken by one… I didn’t have to do anything but type the words. Thanks my love.

Scene: J – familiar to readers of the Holy Flying Circus skit – returns from work toting her 33-week baby bump (her lovely lady lump, ba-rumpa-dumpa-dump) and a bag with ‘Bounty.com’ and ‘Mum-to-be pack’ written on the side. The bag is emptied out on to the sofa.

J: Free treats! (Claps hands, assessing the Bounty bounty).
Ah, a Sudocrem sample. What is it? Sudocrem (French accent)… It’s a cream for nappy rash. (Reads ingredients) Dreadful. I wouldn’t put anything with liquid paraffin in on my skin, so of course I’m going to smear it on my new born baby’s bottom. Meh… some people swear by it, but I’m not touching it. Next!

(Fast voiceover: Paraffin-based products can be useful for some temporary dry skin conditions… The Sudocrem website actually says “Nappy rash cream and products for the whole family”, which bit of uncertain syntax brings to mind delightful images of a wholesome 1950s-type family, all in nappies – rashless baby; rashless dad, with a pipe, in crossword nappy; rashless mum in apron and nappy in the kitchen, etc)

Now, look at these! (J holds up a sachet of Vanish stain remover in one hand and a Fairy Non-Bio tab in the other). Oh yeah, cause that’s what a mum-to-be needs, isn’t it? Cleaning products! “Women! Know your place.” And here, look at this… vouchers to make you feel guilty. “Is your house really baby ready?” Vouchers for Dettol! What are they saying? “Mum-to-be, your so-called home is a bacteria-ridden HELLHOLE. How can you think about bringing an INFANT into this FLEAPIT OF SHAME?” (Flings paper across the room. On the voucher is a picture of a baby with a disapproving expression). This is a joke. Studies have shown that kids brought up with dogs have stronger immune systems. It’ll be a Glade Plug-In Asthma Attack Deluxe next.

…no, no more freebie tat. Right, the catalogues! Hmmm… (leafing) No… no… Jesus… No… Ooh, shall I get one of these? (It is the Simple Wishes Hands-Free Breastpump Bra:)

Ridiculous! Surely you can’t be so busy that you don’t have five minutes to sit down and pump your tits. “It is essential I have BOTH hands free at ALL TIMES!” Think what I could be doing! (Mimes doing office work with a gleeful Stepford Wife expression and thrusting tits. Hilariously, when I look up the “Simple Wishes Hands-Free Breastpump Bra” for further information, there is this picture:

The Breast Pump Review Centre suggests that “this ingenious product was designed by a group of creative and entrepreneurial moms who have taken it upon themselves to come up with a product that could help them attend to their parenting and household duties more efficiently – all without pumping breast milk getting in the way of their tasks.” This is read to J.)

I love that image of pumping breast milk getting in the way, like New York fire hydrants going off or something. And attending to my DUTIES! Duties, against all of which paying sole attention to my CHILD’S NUTRITION for a moment is simply an inconvenience. Are you even supposed to pump both breasts at the same time? “Come on, Daisy, let’s get these on your baaags.” No, you’d feel like a right cunt sitting in that.

(shakes head in disappointment)

AND, I had to wait in Superdrug 15 minutes for this, because the voucher wouldn’t scan. They couldn’t just give it to me – this free item. They had to go and Sort It Out, make it Official. Brrr! Baby big business bollocks. I look forward to the New Mum Pack. There better be pile cream and a rubber ring for me to sit on.

[Scene: a lounge in York, recently. Two sofas, one cafe au lait, the other espresso, form a coffee-coloured chevron. J sits curled on the espresso with laptop computer, making M’s heart come all undone chuckling at links. M is watching the TV, which faces them at a slight angle to the apex. BBC4 presents Holy Flying Circus.

Terry Jones, Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Michael Palin

HFC is a ‘fantastical’ account of some of the problems suwwounding the welease of Monty Python’s Life of Brian. M, a fan of Python for many years, has stopped commenting with delight on how similar the actors (particularly Rufus Jones) are to their real-life counterparts, and started enjoying the programme. Time passes. J looks up from the PC.]

J: So, we have to get the tickets to Turkey today.
M: Mmmm?
J: For the wedding.
M: Oh, yes.
J: We said coming back on the Friday.
M: Gets us in when again?
J: 1am on the Saturday.
M: Mehhh… but Sunday morning was the alternative.
J: Yesss.
M: Yes, do it do it do it.
J: [Beat] £670.
M: What, each?
J: No, that’s for the two. £335.
M: Each.
J: Yes.
M: Bit steep, innit? Who’s this with?
J: Jet2.
M: I thought that was a budget airline.
J: Well… it is. That’s still cheaper than the ‘proper’ ones.
M: Hmmm. Well, yes, carry on.

[J clicks and scans, illuminated by the screen. M goes back to watching Holy Flying Circus, illuminated by the screen. The story is well-written and well-done, M concludes, suitably Pythonesque meta-humour, asides and time-shifts, jumps into surreal animations and puppetry that tick his boxes. Meanwhile, also ticking boxes, J continues her tussle with e-commerce.]

J: Do we want to check in online for £10, or at the airport for £36?
M: Is that each?
J: No.
M: Goodness. Well, online, obviously. [pause] So, they’re charging us to check in, online?
J: Yes.
M: Isn’t it included in the price?
J: No.
M: Hmmph.
[Holy Flying Circus continues for a few minutes. M expresses mildly though with some heat…]
That’s a total outrage! Charging us, to check in online, for tickets that we have bought, online, on an aeroplane! It’s not as if we can’t check in. We need to check in. Just include it in the price! [Pause] I’m writing them a stiff letter.

[The Holy Flying Circus continues.]

J: Right, it’s £42.50 for baggage.
M: Okay. Right… £42.50!
J: Yes. So it’s £21.25 each.
M: Is that both ways?
J: Yes.
M: So it’s £85?
J: Oh, right, no, that’s the price for there and back. We’re only taking one bag.
M: Oh, THAT’s okay then.

[M briefly imagines a film depiction of him dragging a massive case, containing J’s entire wardrobe and a pair of his shorts, with some difficulty, through an airport. J breezes ahead looking all 60s aviation chic in headscarf, sunglasses and cocktail dress. She smiles and waves at someone in the middle distance, possibly Mick Jagger. Meanwhile the case spins round on its wheels, M struggling to make it comply. He is dragged from his feet in the background as J blithely proffers papers at the check-in. On Holy Flying Circus, the Pythons sit in the office of their legal counsel, discussing blasphemy prosecutions. Gilliam, as usual, drifts into a bawdy animated aside as he reads the journal in question, Gay News. As the fantasia concludes, Cleese clouts Gilliam round the head with a newspaper and the scene continues.]

J: I said, Where do we want to sit?
M: Well, anywhere.
J: We have to pick – it’s £4.99 to guarantee our seats.
M: That we’ve paid £345 for. No! Wait. £335 for the seats, £10 to get to the aeroplane to get to them.
J: Yes. But the £10 is a total check-in fee.
M: Oh. But still. £4.99, to get to sit in a seat you’ve paid for.
J: Yes. £4.99 each to make sure you get a particular one, next to the other.
M: Do we have to sit next to each other?
[J performs a moue-and-peering-over-spectacles manouevre.]
M: Right, yes, yes, of course. [Peers at seating plan] What about those blue ones at the front?
J: £15.99.
M: Get any ones together that aren’t blue.
J: Right.
M: I am definitely writing them a stiff letter.

[The show proceeds. Michael Palin, the Nicest Man in the World, has dinner with Terry-Jones-as-wife and Michael-Palin-as-his-own-mother. M is giggling to himself.]

J: Do we want to have dinner?
M: We’re NOT having a meal! It’ll be £1,000. No.
J: It’s another £10 each.
M: And what do you get for that? Like, a bread roll and a can of Efes?
J: It’s a three course meal and glass of wine. They’ve got another box next to it reminding you that it’s a four-hour flight.
M: They probably waft the smell of baking bread through the plane as well.
J: We’ll take a packed lunch. Put that in the letter.
M: [Grumbles incoherently]

[There is a pause of card detail completion length. During this time, the action on BBC4 moves forward to the eve of the great heavyweight title debate, Malcolm Muggeridge and the Bishop of Southwark v John Cleese and Michael Palin. Cleese in particular is becoming vitriolic. Comic on-screen warnings signpost the swearing; the effect on M and J is subtle.]

J: Fucking hell!
M: Now what?
J: I’ve just got to putting the payment through, and there’s a fucking £26.10 booking fee.
M: WHAT?
J: A booking fee! £26.10! It didn’t say fucking ANYTHING about a booking fee, anywhere, on the site until I just got to the check-out.
M: So… right. They’re selling us a fucking ticket, that we have to pay extra to use, plus some sort of… fucking personal belongings tax, plus a, a, a… spatial location fee to ensure that we can definitely sit near each other on the plane.
J: In our £335 seats.
M: In our three hundred and thirty fucking five pound seats.
J: Yes, well. These are the cunts that want to charge you for going to the toilet.
M: For fuck’s sake. I am fucking definitely writing them an extremely stiff letter.
J: I’m sure they get fucking hundreds.

[J and M are crushed as a giant animated foot, decked in Jet2 livery, descends with resounding raspberry noise.]