This is the tenth and possibly penultimate episode of the Houseago Diaries, confirmed by the University of East Anglia’s School of Penguins, Chess and Road Surfacing as the most significant papers to come out of the late 20th century, especially on a Tuesday. Recently unearthed, they give never-before-seen background information about items that appeared in the Eastern Daily Press in the late 20th century concerning the struggles of Henry (Fred) “Shrimp” Houseago to maintain a normal Norfolk way of life in the face of the devious devices of a consortium of great crested newts, among other things.
April 4, 1998
Reporter from EDP rang to say gnomes were being inserted in gardens in Great Yarmouth, and would I like to comment. Retorted that I was not gnome, and Yarmouth deserved everything that was coming to it. Bit over the top, but I was still in bed. Dislike people telephoning while I am in bed, even if lunchtime. In the end relented and said it was obvious newt plot. Wanton gnome insertion was “typically newt”, and no good would come of it. Suggested better idea would be to remove newts from as many gardens as possible, even in Yarmouth.
April 6, 1998
Comment from official spokesman in paper that no good had come of gnome insertion, but feeling of delight and vindication rapidly dispersed when saw Hardy described in another story as “expert on comets and alternative nutrition”. Rather spoiled the effect by adding that he often used “pieces of rounded flint in my dumplings, and they go down a treat”. Also went on about seaweed, sand pies and grass from his garden being typical Norfolk recipes. Man is insane. What has he been doing with Dorothea? Obviously he has not been cooking. And how does he get quoted in paper so often? Have reporters no other people to quote? Sometimes I wonder what our local press is up to. It’s almost as if it were being run by…. no, probably not. Would be going too far.
April 18, 1998
Too tired to do much. For a moment tried to write a bit more of my book, but was overcome by burst of exhaustion. While recovering, switched TV on accidentally and watched two or three hours. No idea what it was about. Felt peaky. So bored, I told EDP exploding cormorant population on the Wensum was linked to exploding rabbits on Beccles Common and hoped great crested newts would be next in line.
April 20, 1998
Line about “puffed up newts” published in EDP. Sometimes think they would publish anything.
May 4, 1998
This time they have gone too far. Totally spurious story appeared in paper about my resignation as manager of Newt Cannon Fodder Club, saying inability to field full team had hampered my ambitions. Also said season was blighted by injury to my deputy Dorothea Goodchild, 104, and this clearly not true. Wish she did have injury: would not keep vanishing for days on end in North Norfolk. At least, I suspect North Norfolk. Probably Hindolveston. Would try to halt her raging affair with Len “Kissme” Hardy, but cannot find Hindolveston. Not many people can.
May 14, 1998
Decided to take holiday. Chose Melton Constable, as no-one else would go there. Rented holiday cottage for £2.35 a week. Feel fairly secure. Left phone number with EDP.
May 16, 1998
Alarm and dismay in Swanton Morley (apparently) following shocking item in local organ, reading “FOUND, newted tabby male cat”. Do not quite understand what this means, but it sounds disturbingly like “nuked”. Surely newts not attempting genetic modification? Swore to tackle expansionist newts in this new area. Said: “They could see they were losing the PR battle; so they had a go at a harmless tabby. What will it be next? Canaries?” (Was trying to make point about recent spoof story, but reporter asked if canaries had already been got at. Very witty. I said it could explain a lot of things. Reporter laughed. Sometimes they are quite human.)
May 28, 1998
Have uncovered great crested newt plan to pass themselves off as smooth newts and obtain jobs in PR agencies. Held press conference at Swanton Novers and said: “They have had plenty of practice at being smooth. But we mustn’t let them get away with it. Once they get into PR agencies they could sway public opinion instantly. Or make it up. It would be a disaster.”
June 1, 1998
Noticed EDP left out line about “Or make it up”. Must be PR decision. But included my suggestion for questionnaire to screen PR job applicants and pick out newts almost instantly. Suggested questions: “Are you a great crested newt?” and “Would you like to expand?” That should sort them out.
Was not taken in by smooth newts spokesamphibian who said I was “remarkably astute and intelligent person, and good looking too”. True enough, of course. Wish Dorothea realised it instead of spending so much time in Hindolveston. Where is Hindolveston?
Scheinlich has re-emerged to comment on story about Scout Hut in Hingham Republic disappearing. Apparently no-one noticed, because building immediately replaced by one looking exactly the same, but now called the old girls’ school. Sometimes think Scheinlich has disappeared and been replaced by something exactly the same but even madder. Hingham now under investigation by La Fédération Poohstix d’Europe, which had been planning to hold European Poohsticks finals there. Apparently worried about height of bridges, speed of water and time-space instability in area. Don’t know why they picked it in first place. Everyone know Hingham trouble spot. May have to send in Nato.