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Tag Archives: Illustration

  • The Long Arms of The Law

    Hilarious Chimp is listening to records. At the moment it is the turn of Pithecanthropus Erectus by Charles Mingus, a long-standing family favourite. The music is terrifically exciting, with five men seeming to make the noise of eleven, and Hilarious is playing it at an appreciable volume while whirling around the room on a unicycle and whooping and a-hollering with the band! Unfortunately, his neighbours are rather less appreciative. They've seen the video Hilarious made recently with all of his other Oddbins cohorts, and they didn't find quite the same joy in its assorted muckslinging or the Mingus-maybe melodies that have sent the chimp back to his record collection. And now this racket! Tired of his primate pranks, they have summoned the long arm of the law...

    Hilarious-Banner

    In the conference room of a swish hotel, Sassy Chimp is delivering a seminar entitled 'Writing On The Wall: When To Flog Your Business, and Where You Won't Be Found'. It consists, in large part, of the murky tales surrounding his sale of 'Monkey Vegas', a huge empire founded on teaching circus skills and party tricks to primates. By what he described as an 'uncanny coincidence', Sassy sold the business at an eye-watering profit exactly one month before animal acts were banned from circuses. "I didn't so much avoid the country after that, it was more a case of simply being somewhere else...". He has come back to help his friends and family with the cheerful invasion of Oddbins, whence he has graced his event with ample supplies of Terra Noble Reserva Terroir Syrah, a deep and deliciously savoury red from the Maule Valley in Chile, together with a Chardonnay from the same winery, a warmly approachable white that partners delightfully with the hors d'oeuvres he's provided. While he's pointing to a Venn diagram on a Bo-Nobo board, he is discreetly called out of the room and taken into a police station.

    Terra-Noble-Syrah

    Terra-Noble-Chardonnay

    "...and he says you're the only person he knows who can pay for his bail. Well, you and..." consulting a notebook, "...Billy Expletive Smart. Funny bloke considering he doesn't even crack a smile!"

    "Funny?"

    "Yeah. He's cracked everybody up round here, playing table tennis with the boys. 10p, 50p, whatever, absolutely thrashed all of them. Funny thing was, he was riding a unicycle throughout. Even when we brought him in he pedalled out to the panda. Then he made the handcuffs disappear and we found them in the glove box."

    "How much is his bail exactly?"

    Sassy-Banner

    "Well, he's clearly a chimp of good character. In fact, we considered dropping all charges when we told him we don't usually have much to do with hominoids, and he said that's because you can get cream for them nowadays. If we can find a caring home for him we'll forget the whole thing - you seem to have done better than he has out of circus regulations, maybe you owe it to him to see he doesn't spend another Christmas in the park? Meanwhile, we'll set him up in Oddbins and the staff will take him under their loving wing! Now,  back in the car and you can pick up your records while we bring your neighbours in for crime against hilarity. A couple of days in the cooler listening to Kenny G should teach them what side their bread's buttered!"

    In the back of the car, Hilarious and Sassy are making up. "So, Hilarious, 50p a game, you say? I'm sure I could fix you up with plenty more games, and at a pound a pop! How about we seal the deal with a bottle of this Tarlant Champagne..."

    Tarlant

  • TERRY’S TALES Part Four: Thumbs Down

    Welcome to Part Four of Terry's Tales. If you've missed any episodes, you can catch up with Part One herePart Two here and Part Three here.

    TERRY'S TALES

    Part Four: Thumbs Down

    There they were: the Queen slumped and agog; Terry and Gwinny sparkly eyed and irreverently happy.

    After a word with her Lord Lieutenant (they had appointed themselves military titles after finding an old army register in the woods), the Queen regained her composure and a cool, surmising look spread across her face. Her previously concerned offspring, who lay, lazily, all around her, relaxed a little as their Mother regained her composure.

    “We are amused at one’s earnest outpouring,” she drooled, enjoying what she considered highly sardonic emphasis, “but we must arrive at the admittedly unfortunate occasion of your… extermination” the last word delivered with such bile even her litter shuddered.

    Looking from the rotund Queen, lolling in her lair, to the sycophantically approving Generals, to the terminally absent-minded colony beyond, Terry and Gwinny felt like the fun might be finally over. Barely hearing as the Queen gave the order for their removal, and the hideously sober reality hit home.

    Offering their heads up for the collars placed before them, they started and hunched suddenly to the ground as an almighty noise, rocked the entire chamber: a high-pitched, gurgling giggle, that made way for delighted tones, that sounded like “Daddy, I found a big ant hill,” as the roof began pitching in in great clods above them.

    The ensuing pandemonium saw the guards jumping in terror before pelting headlong to the nearest exits. Terry, now in full super hero mode, grabbed Gwinny’s arm and swept her with him towards a smallish side tunnel. “Quick!” he cried, grabbing her arm, and they hurried towards it.

    The roof was now pouring in on the Chamber and the bright sky opened up above them. Having reached the tunnel entrance, Terry and Gwinny turned back to watch it all collapse, only to see the intruder, grinning from ear to ear, greedily scoop up Her Royal Highness, hissing and helpless, for a thorough examination.

    Bursting out of the tunnel, they were greeted with a white landscape, the like of which they’d never seen before. Darting across the wintry scene, which was interrupted only by the snow-covered fir trees and a lark, rising up into the sky above them, they made for the shelter of some nearby gorse. Here they allowed themselves to pause for breath, and did so, with considerable relief.

    Evening was falling and the forest air was cool and refreshing after the hot chaos of the inner chamber. Leant up against the trunk of the bush, Terry allowed himself to reflect. As far as days go, it had been pretty eventful. That morning he had awoken in turmoil, believing it unwise to confuse his steady life with women and now here he was, the colony prodded and poked to oblivion, with Gwinny by his side. All his life, he’d lived in placid acquiescence. Why? But it didn’t bother him now as he gazed out over the snow, watching the hill continue to fall in on itself; he was simply amazed at his own complacency. Deep in these thoughts, he nodded off, into an instant slumber.

    Read Part Five by clicking here.

     

    Images artfully crafted by Catalin Ardeleanu.

  • TERRY'S TALES Part Three: Trouble at the Hill

    Welcome to Part Three of Terry's Tales. If you've missed any episodes, you can catch up with Part One here and Part Two here.

    TERRY'S TALES

    Part Three: Trouble at the Hill

    Full of life and love and the promise of excitement, he charged out of his tunnel only to find her entertaining a few off-duty workers with a coy dance routine outside on the path. But when she saw Terry, deranged and wide-eyed, still clutching his tea, she went weak and collapsed in laughter for a second time. This wasn’t what he’d wanted, but he didn’t care anymore. “Mrs, er, Miss.. er, we should copulate!” Again, not what he’d wanted to say, but not to worry. Laughter petering out, she told him that sounded like a lovely proposition, but maybe they ought to have some tea first. So they walked off, femur in femur. “Gwinny,” she said. “Terry,” he replied. “How’d you do?”

    No sooner had they got in the door of Terry’s nest, talking animatedly now – Terry, loosening up in a way that was a marvel to him – than they heard something odd. It started off low, like an underground humming, but it grew louder and more discernible, until they recognised it for what it was: the inexorable thud, thud, thud of a thousand footsteps.

    Quaking, as the noise reached fever pitch and then stopped outside their door, they knew they must have come for them. They’d been careless and Terry was grief-stricken with the thought that it was going to happen again; that his clumsiness was going to result in the death of another woman whom he loved.

    Illustration by Catalin Ardeleanu

    They looked at each other as the General kicked down the door: Terry, amazingly, still holding his tea, and Gwinny, unrecognisably vulnerable. But, however frightened he might have been, the sight of Gwinny, cowering like that made Terry swell with indignation and blind anger. What came next was a surprise to them both, but he reared up on his hind tarsi and roared,

    “You pathetic, miserable cowards!,” gesticulating wildly, “look what you’ve done to Gwinny!”

    Well, even as they came marching towards them, Gwinny felt exhilarated and thought her chest would just burst with pride. “Isn’t he wonderful?” She gleefully said to the soldier escorting her out by the femur, “I think I rather like him!”

    On hearing this, Terry suddenly became flushed with the knowledge that he didn’t care if he lived or died, as long as he experienced love, and so he waltzed merrily along, as the grim-faced guards thudded on. Catching Gwinny’s eye, and seeing she was equally jubilant, he couldn’t have been happier.

    Illustration by Catalin Ardeleanu

    All of which meant that, when they arrived at the Queen’s Chambers, much to Her Majesty’s displeasure, they were grinning from ear to ear like a couple of naughty school children. Not convinced that the gravity of the situation had quite struck them, the Queen shifted in her nest, white rage flashing across her eyes.

    “Do you mock me?” She eventually bellowed.

    “You, Ma’am? No, Ma’am!” offered Terry, amiably.

    “Then what do you mean by this?”

    “Well Ma’am, I just don’t care anymore! This whole colony is ridiculous! And I’ve got this beautiful ant by my side, who makes me very happy. And the fact is, we can Talk, which is a joy. We can chew the cud or float off on whimsical flights of fancy and, in doing so, we connect, you see! It’s just wonderful, isn’t it? We’re not revolutionaries – we rather like the established order – we just want to be able to lose our selves in conversation if we feel like it.”

    Boggle-eyed and with a mood perched somewhere between rage and incredulity, the Queen sat, slumped, for quite some time.

    Read Part Four by clicking here.

     

    Images artfully crafted by Catalin Ardeleanu.

  • TERRY'S TALES Part Two: The Lady Killers

    Welcome to Part Two of Terry's Tales. If you missed Part One, you can catch up here.

    TERRY'S TALES

    Part Two: The Lady Killers

    If he was honest with himself, Terry knew that there was a bigger reason, lurking below the surface, for his outburst. It was the profound anxiety suffered by every male in the colony, that none of them could talk about (in fairness, Terry thought, they can’t talk): that to copulate was to die. Copulation Means Extermination, as his dear old Ma used to chirp.

    Making the tea back in his tunnel the next morning, the rain beat down outside and he put an old record on and stood, inert, as the steam billowed from the kettle.

    “Oh to be an ant!” He thought, pitifully. What other creatures must choose between having sex and dying, and never Doing the Deed? Birds do it. Bees do it. Even bloody humans do it. A cruel joke, that one.

    It had never bothered him before – he’d taken it as life’s lot, as he had done with being a Talker – but it seemed to bother him rather a lot now. Why? “May the Queen have Mercy, I like her.” Admitting it was a relief. “I like her, but I don’t want to die… I like her but I don’t want to die,” he glumly mused. Settling into his chair and stretching out, he thought of his Ma again.  She’d never regretted sex, even though the old man had quickly snuffed it.

    “It’s part of life, son,” she had soothingly told him, never one to make a fuss unduly. Terry had always admired her stoicism and twinkle of naughty humour, however bad things were  – she wore life lightly and he tried to do the same. But thinking of her now, of how her short time in the colony was ended so brutally and mercilessly, he could not muster the same lightness and he could not escape the stifling sense of guilt.

    It had happened on Terry’s first week birthday, when he was officially presented to the colony at the weekly Initiation Ceremony for new arrivals, attended by the Queen. Wearing her best attire, antennae bristling with pride, Terry’s Ma took her young son along to the Inner Sanctum, adjacent to the Queen’s chambers. But, on the lap of honour with the other arrivals, Terry, still lacking in co-ordination, tripped up and plunged face-first into the neatly-raked soil. Having been sternly warned by his Ma that morning not to speak in front of anyone, least of all the Queen, Terry held back the cry of mild expletives running through his head, but it was his Ma who made the fatal mistake. “Terry!” she’d cried as he fell. The march stopped, a thousand ant heads swivelled in unison in her direction. She made no move and no further sounds but, as the Queen shrieked instructions for her to be taken off to the gallows, she looked at Terry and winked. Though now blinded by tears, he winked back, and smiled. And then she was gone.

    And it was then that Terry realised that it was the Queen and the Generals, and they alone, who were supposed to talk. His Ma had always warned him that they hated speaking, though she didn’t know why, and now the depressing consequences were crystal clear to this young orphan.

    Shell-shocked and trembling, Terry saw that the room’s attention had now turned to him and, before he could think, a severe-looking General was standing before him, watching him with scientific scrutiny. “What’s your name, ant?” Terry looked as blank as he could. “Your name!!” Summoning as much dullness in his eyes as he could, Terry looked blankly up and continued his silence. Cogs churning, the General, not quite as intelligent as he imagined himself, was satisfied that Terry was not a talker. So it was that he escaped death and began his lonely path in colony life.

    Presently, Terry noticed that the rain had stopped and the temperature had picked up a little. He put down his now cold tea and walked to the window. His Pa had sacrificed it all for love and neither he nor his Ma had thought twice about it. The romance of it softened Terry’s mood and he made up his mind in a flash. “They’re right. They are so right! Living just isn’t living without loving!” And, with that, he grabbed his coat, headed out into the rain and resolved on finding this mystery ant, wherever she was.

    Read Part Three by clicking here.

     

    Images artfully crafted by Cat Ardeleanu.

  • TERRY'S TALES Part One: Down The Rabbit Hole

    Prologue by Mother Christmas

    Hello there. I’m Mother Christmas, not sure if we’ve been formally introduced? Obviously I already know everything about you, especially vis-à-vis your levels of naughty/niceness, but that’s beside the point. Some of you may be aware that my husband was involved in an awful antler-based accident and has been rendered incapacitated for the festive period. Rather than calling the whole thing off, I have taken hold of the reins (I was doing the majority of the heavy lifting anyway) and have teamed up with Oddbins to deliver the best Christmas ever. I’ve also taken over their Twitter feed, which is far more fun than mucking out the reindeer. Anyway, where was I going with this? Oh yes, I remember…

    The other day the elves and I were chilling (sorry that was just a bit of North Pole-based humour). We’d just sweated out the troubles of the working day via the medium of Bikram Yoga, and the conversation was doing its usual progression from ways to economise on wrapping paper to ribbon curling techniques and on to bubble wrap versus those polystyrene things that we don’t really know the name of. Then we got on to what we would do if we weren’t in the festive fulfilment industry…

    Eerikki (head elf of the Wooden Toy Department) said he’d like to audition for Willow The Musical. Lyyti (Gift Tags Department), bored with children’s toys, coveted a career in the adult toy market. We moved swiftly on from that bombshell. Honestly, I almost choked on my sea buckthorn herbal infusion. Mikko (Dolls and Figurines) has been distilling his own moonshine during the quiet months and yearned to start exporting. Tarja (Elf and Safety) inspired by Tariq Knight aspired to become a magician. And finally, one of our Gift Coverage Analysts, who wished to remain anonymous, so let’s call her J.K. Wrapping, wanted to be a writer. A little elf with big dreams.

    Well, as I’m sure you’re aware, Mother Christmas loves to make dreams come true. So right here on the Oddbins Blog I am publishing J.K. Wrapping's work. So have a read for yourself, this is the first of an epic five parter…

     

    TERRY'S TALES

    Part One: Down the Rabbit Hole

    “Now there’s a thing,” thought Terry. “There is certainly a thing.” Terry was looking up at the blossomy, billowing clouds, way, way above the pine tops, way above the rich, sweetly earthy ant hill and certainly way above his rather perplexed head.

    Rather uncharacteristically, Terry was ambling. He’d always been a sturdy sort of ant – happy to throw himself into whatever work the colony threw at him, thriving on the community spirit and the wholesomeness of it all. The fact that he was different to the rest of the colony – and the fact that he knew there was no way he could or should share this with them – didn’t deter him. He was a stoic, sanguine, albeit occasionally weary, ant.

    But he had just been thrown a considerable curveball and was ambling, not marching, on his way back to the colony. He was deep in reverie and had only just enough sense of mind to hold onto the bark with which he’d laboured all day.

    The catalyst for Terry’s abstracted state? He’d met someone like himself. Another… another Talker. In a flash, his muddlement changed to delight, an enormous grin spread across his face and he developed a decided spring in his step. For the first time in years he was actually happy! He was thrilled! All of a sudden the world took on a keener, more tangible quality and the events of the day began to race through his brain.

    She had walked past him just after lunch, given him a wink and said, cheekily, under her breath, “Afternoon”. It took Terry a while to realise what had happened and he busily carried on gnawing on the bark that was proving tough.

    Then, mid-bite, the thought hit him like a dumbbell: she had spoken. She had bloody well said “Afternoon”! How sweet, how tantalising it sounded, after not having heard words uttered since his dear old Ma had passed over (Ant on High, rest her soul). But his joy was interrupted by panic as he wondered if any other ants had noticed? He knew they couldn’t understand Words, but they sure hated it when they thought they were being used. Breaking rank with the dozy column of workers, Terry went to have a sit down.

    He wiped the cold sweat from his brow and was beginning to calm down when he spotted her walking sassily towards him.For Pete’s sake,” Terry murmured nervously.

    This time she sidled up beside Terry, stretched her front tibia out seductively and said “Words: they’re sexy aren’t they?” They really are, thought Terry, now in quite a state.

    But the thing about Terry was that he had lived in quiet isolation, thinking he was the only ant in the colony who could talk, for the best part of his adult life. His excitement began to drain away and he began to feel terribly discombobulated. Who was this ant – this woman? What right did she have to interrupt his day talking about the sexiness of words? He found himself, much to his surprise, angrily shouting these questions at her.

    To Terry’s dismay, however, his enquiries were not met with answers, but with an ant almost catatonic with laughter. She was heaving and weeping with amusement that was exacerbated every time she saw Terry’s agitated face. She eventually staggered off, leaving Terry to swim in a soup of consternation and disbelief.

    It was late evening by the time Terry re-joined the homeward-bound column. Earnestly but unsuccessfully trying to make sense of the surreal chain of events, he distinctly felt like he wasn’t heading back to the ant hill but down the rabbit hole…

    Read Part Two by clicking here.

     

    Images artfully crafted by Cat Ardeleanu.

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