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Friday 7th February 2014

4093/17012

I managed the first post-holiday trip to the gym this afternoon. To be fair I haven't really been well enough to go until now and maybe still wasn't quite fit enough. But some gentle exercise couldn't hurt and I did some running, cycling and rowing. I was idly chewing gum as I cycled (and to distract myself from the fact I was exercising was immersing myself in a game of Monopoly on my iPhone). As sometimes happens when you're chewing gum for a long time, my mouth lost track of what was gum and what was me and my teeth clamped down painfully on my tongue. As an accidental self-inflicted injury this is about as pathetic as it gets. How can my body be so stupid as to not recognise the difference between my own flesh and a foreign item? What evolutionary advantage would that give anyone? Or is it something that helps get rid of the bad genetic material. This DNA replicating unit is faulty, set on self-destruct. Instruct it to start eating itself.

The pain was intense and I wondered if I had absent-mindedly bitten off a bit of my own tongue, but I checked with my finger and the tongue was still in tact, though I was bleeding. There can be no God, right? If there was a God He would have included some fail-safe measure which ensured you could never bite your own tongue. He'd have noticed that the soft tongue and the sharp and grinding teeth were very close to each other and out of respect for health and safety would have fixed it that they could never touch whilst the teeth-machine was operating. If actual tongue strayed into the tooth area whilst chomping was occurring the whole thing would shut down. But He didn't. It's an issue that evolution hasn't addressed either mind you, but perhaps it is slowly working its way round to it. It's not major enough to put in the first few billion years of adaptation, but now it's got the main stuff working reasonably efficiently it can turn its attention to this minor flaw. Perhaps by creating a poison that automatically leaks into the tongue wound of anyone dumb enough to bite their own tongue. In a few million years humans will be able to switch off their brains, chew gum and be certain that they won't lose track of what is them and what is not.

This week's Metro column is about unusual headgear. I wrote two more columns inspired by my skiing trip this evening and then as my wife was out I "rewarded" myself by recording frame 43 of Me1 Vs Me2 snooker. It was only once I started that I realised how tired and still slightly ill I (and all the other Mes) were. But we battled through to create a podcast that even by the low standards of this particular enterprise was barely adequate. But that is what elevates this idea to high art. Or, if you're my wife, convinces the world that I am mentally ill and have lost touch with reality.

The "I Paid A Pound" badge campaign is getting off to a steadyish if sluggish start. I know many of you have contributed in various ways over the years and I am very grateful for that, but if the 3000 people who read this blog and the 2500 who listen to me reading it were all to give me a pound a month just for the blog then I would have a fighting fund to make some really exciting web content. If the 150,000 who download the free RHLSTP audio felt that it was worth a pound a year to them then I could start making my own web-based sitcoms. Chris Evans (not that one) and me are planning to create some exclusive content for monthly subscribers and will give some extra kickbacks to those of you who give over a fiver a month. It's early days for this idea and we're trying to work out something that is as voluntary as it is fair. It's fair enough to wait and see what Meaning of Life is like before you take the plunge. Hopefully we'll have something for you next week! And for those of you subscribing to Meaning of Life already, there is an audio only version, but if you go for the video option you will also be able to download the audio (and we're going to have HD and non-HD versions of the video too). And most of the show will be available for free on our vimeo channel.

But donate if you can. It's just a pound (plus p&p). That's all it is (you can  give more). And for those of you who might not be aware of the provenance of the "I Paid A Pound" catchphrase (or for those of you who just want to hear it again), Andy McH has created a soundcloud excerpt for your enjoyment.

If you're interested here is the treatment for my new play, "I Killed Rasputin" that I wrote this morning.

I Killed Rasputin

By Richard Herring

The murder of Rasputin and his supposed refusal to die is a melodramatic story that has captivated the world. But what really happened in 1916 and why and what effect did the crime have on the man who claimed to have carried it out?

In 1967, American journalist E M Halliday goes to Paris to interview the former Russian Prince Felix Yusupov, improbably still alive half a century after the Mad Monk and most of Russian aristocracy met their doom. Ironically the Prince has managed to survive his fall from grace by repeatedly selling his dubious story and suing MGM for their version of events. He is the reason that all films now have the disclaimer,  “Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.” He was also a cross-dresser who looked so good as a woman that he attracted admiring glances from George V, had a possibly sexual interest in the man he killed and from a family so rich that they actually forgot they owned a castle, which was found falling down some eighty years after they’d last used it.

Can Halliday wheedle the truth about the murder out of this frail, 81-year old man? And how does Yusupov feel about his association with a crime that failed to save his wealth or the Tsarist regime? Does he have any guilt about the injustice of his obscene wealth as the peasants in Russia starved? Did the murder just elevate the myth of Rasputin and ensure its longevity? Did Yusupov really have anything directly to do with the killing anyway and who is he protecting with his lies?

Yusupov himself is haunted by the ghost of Rasputin, forever leaping at him out of cupboards and doorways, having to be dispatched in convoluted and comedic ways as the old man shouts, “Why won’t you die?”


“I don’t know of an instant in modern history where so many reputable as well as disreputable historians have solemnly repeated such a patently improbable story as if it were gospel.” E M Halliday.



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