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The Sir Nigel Papers

Volume II

Cap'n lad,

It's a cryin' shame that I missed me rendezvous with yer to pick up the lovely Cracked Carrie but ... er there was this .... other thing I had to go and do and .. well, when we'd done that, ye won't believe it but we only went and ran aground and then someone fell over and grazed his knee and there was a lot of blood, which we had to mop up obviously and make sure he was alright .. and then...this giant meteorite ....

Oh what the hell, I didn't go, ye see, it was yer less than enthusiastic summing up of the poor lass's attributes that prompted me to re-consider. It cooled me ardour somewhat - like a newly forged red-hot blade suddenly plunged into a bucket of icy spring water. Ye know - like that, only without all the steam.

But ye'd better not be playing some subtle and cunning game of double bluff with me, cos if ye are my revenge will swift and terrible and make the front pages too for its deplorable and gory atrociteryness.

But on the whole though, I've probably had a narrow escape and anyway, as me old dad used to day, there's plenty more fish get washed up on the beach to flap about a bit, toyed with, poked with a stick, eaten or tossed back, as the mood takes.

What did happen though was, no really - the other day whilst exploring the isolated South American island of Rumpi Pumpi I happened across a poor deranged shipwrecked matelot. This turned out to be a madman name of Archibald Fido Ding-Dong McSlappy who claimed he had been shipwrecked in a terrible bad storm in the year '01 along with his crew of forty but he was now the lone survivor due to some terrible calamity which he was a bit vague about and didn't really want to go into he said.

After introducing us to his special pirate 'friend' Gerald what he had made out of knotted seaweed, rope and skin, he gibbered something about being a distant cousin o' yours, related to you via some long and fantastical genealogolical link involving unnatural tastes, unseemly practices, genetically modified farmyard beasts and unethical scientific experimentation. Completely out of his wits he was, even for a Slappy.

Do ye want him? cos he's no earthly good to me. Otherwise I'll leave him where he is. I believe he wants for nothing, presents no immediate danger to passing shipping and has quite a close companion in Gerald.

Your partner in crime, drinking, buccaneering and earthy pirate sports although not in any other sense o' the word,

Cap'n Sir Nigel Blackheart

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

Right sad we were to miss ye at the rendezvous. Carrie was so distraught; she took a swing at a fellar in sun glasses at the bar. She hit him hard, but it seemed to jar something in him and we found out that he was something called a Television producer. He had a concept show but lacked a hook. Ironically, it was Carries left hook that activated his creative juices and in fifteen minutes, she was the centerpiece of the latest of what them Hollywood kids call a Reality TV Show. Now, that just seems like a contradiction in terms to me, but apparently, the kids are keen on this sort of thing.

Anywhat, it seems what they've done is revitalized a concept that had hit a snag. Their original idea was to get a group of homosexual men and put them out to sea on a ship and let them figure out how to survive. They called the show The Big Queer Death Ship. Their slow deaths by thirst and exposure proved too much for even the Fox Network and after four seasons, viewership had dropped off. That's where Carrie comes in.

"What if," the television executive with blunt force head trauma reasoned, "we put a woman pirate on board the ship with the gay men?" He went on, "she would boss them around and whip them into a formidable pirate force!" I suggested they call the show, "Pirattitude for the Gay Dude" and they made me an executive producer on the spot. Carrie was sold on the idea when they told her they would pay her a million dollars for the first season with something called "residuals on syndication." Before you could say, "You've burned the béarnaise sauce!" she was aboard the vessel, running the lads through drills and teaching them the finer points of ship-board discipline. (i.e. beating them with her fists and forehead when they got sassy. )

Still, after two weeks, I am now burnt out on the Hellywood Scene and looking for someone to take over my executive producer duties (which consist of sitting in a room with OTHER executive producers) and would like it very much if you wouldn't mind bringing me distant cousin, Archibald Fido Ding-Dong McSlappy up to fill in for me. I am sure they would find his contributions truly inspirational. Tell him to bring Gerald. They can make him an executive producer as well. Hell, he is, no doubt, smarter than most of the "suits" they have in here now!

Create, connect and move on...that's the life for me!

- Cap'n Slappy

Cap’n Slappy:

Ahoy me boy. I wot yer column has lately lacked verve and elan (2 points for word usage), what for my lusty, busty, foul-mouthed daughter Cracked Carrie has been missing from the correspondence. In fact, she’s just been missing.

Sad but true, I warned ye long ago that she was not always what she seemed. She has of late had another of her little "spells," as we call them, but she is getting better and will soon be "released," as them doctors say, and I thought ye’d all be wanting to know. I don’t dwell on this sad misfortune in our lives, but ye might be checking out an old movie that would give ye a clue, something with Joanne Dru or Woodward or somebody in it, "The Four Faces of Eve" or "Six Flags over Toledo" (there be a number in it somewhere). That shrink of hers says Carrie’s like that, but I think she just never got over her little imaginary friends. (Remember that Rudolph Valentino photo she sent ye?) Back aways she got caught out acting like some wee thing with furry feet, and she’s been "offline," as them Internuts say, ever since.

You and Sir Nigel be forgiving of whatever lame excuse she hoists to explain her absence. And I do hope ye deal with this tragedy with more sympathy than ye offer yer poor old Mum. That’s a sad blot on your escutcheon, or wherever else your blots pile up. Pay more attention to me warnings, me boy. That’s what mums are for.

Mad Margaret, in an Admonitory Mode (5 points)

Ahoy me Mad Mum Margaret, (1 point for alliteration)

Insofar as ye have noted an uncharacteristically lackluster linguistical let-down laden as it were with languid loquaciousness of low lament. (15 point alliteration, -4 points for making little or no sense at all and -4 points for not even being a sentence) I must say that it is right pleasurable to hear from ye! We've become worried that the glitz and glamour of the white-hot television spotlight has had an amnesiacal (zero points as it may not even be a word but, damn, it sounded good) effect on our dear girl's remembrance of her friends. I am glad it is, as Doc Burgess would say, "a complete mental collapse and/or psychotic break."

Sir Nigel, as he does, goes bravely on and we must follow his lead. If we were the sort what sends flowers, we would send the finest bouquet fifteen quid could procure. Instead, Cementhands McCormack is taking up a collection to send Our Carrie a quality bag of frozen "tater tots."

Here's wishing her a speedy recovery and you a triple letter word with a "Q."

- Cap'n Slappy

Cap'n,

So, I was strolling casually through the dark and insalubrious back alleys of Sao Paulo yesterday eve and had the occasion to stop a fellow and ask for directions to the Ravishable Maiden tavern. As so often happens on these occasions he fell to his knees, clutched my ankles and spluttered something along the lines of: "Oh, please Sir Nigel sir, spare my life, take anything, anything you like but please, please be merciful to a poor worthless wretch such as me what has never done no harm to no-one never boo hoo." I'm paraphrasing here of course, but folks who know me only by repute do often tend to snivel and blubber and become incoherent in my presence. Nevertheless I was a little taken aback by the fellow's trepidation.

Obviously my reputation for ruthless barbarism and calculated goat-based cruelty goes before me. This is an unfortunate but understandable by-product of my chosen profession but on the other hand it does tend to get me preferential treatment amongst tradesmen, innkeepers and restauranteurs. And also with well to do ladies who like a bit of rough on the side.

"Come come, my good man," I assured him, "death and disembowelment is the farthest thing from my mind, there's no reason to fret so and certainly no reason to lose bowel control in such a spectacular and extensive fashion. Pay me no heed - I shall find the Ravishable Maiden by instinct alone. Please gather your wits and be on your way. And mind where you're stepping there ... .whoops never mind.pick yourself up, you'll soon.. oh dear, there ye go again.perhaps if you..no, no you're covered in it now.yes even in your hair too..off you go ... it's just not your day is it? haha."

So anyway, later in the Ravishable Maiden, as I was a-supping of a flagon of mead (for medicinal purposes - I'm nursing a bit of a sporting injury, at the moment ye see, picked up when an energetic game of Whoops-Where's-yer-Bloomers-Lady-Mountworthy went tragically awry and I took a ping pong ball hit directly in the eye. Ye know how the ladies sometimes tends to be less than accurate with their aim in the 'goal scoring' stages of the game. As ye know, there's them what campaigns to have the No Hands rule revoked and ironically I've fought long and hard against revoking it. After all, its as much a traditional part of the game as the goose feathers, the scrubbing brush and the uncooked frankfurters.)

Anyway, I digress. I got to thinkin' maybe I should do something to improve me heartless and brutal image in the eyes of the public - and promote a softer, more caring-sharing, touchy- feely, lovey-dovey Captain Blackheart. Perhaps a donation to charity would help - offering a hand up to fallen and disreputable women, or a day spent patting the snotty-nosed residents of an orphanage - all in the presence of a photographer naturally. Would ye know of any worthy causes what might be deserving of me patronage - proper deserving causes only though - sad and heart-rending ones what will bring a tear to a glass eye if the photographer gets the right shot. So I'm not talking about the Cap'n Slappy Rum and Retirement Fund here, afore ye gets a glint in yer eye.

Yours, with a black heart, a black eye and a gut-liquefyingly black reputation,

- Sir Nigel Blackheart.

And I think I'm going to need some new boots.

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

A pirate's reputation is a curious thing. Too much goat-based cruelty and the innocent passer-by will find himself incapable of rendering even the simplest of direction to the nearest oasis of horizontal refreshment. Not enough goat-based cruelty and the innocent passer-by will find himself disinterested in giving the afore-mentioned directorial advice. The perfect balance is achieved when the stranger recognizes their need to assist without losing their ability to maintain bowel-control confidence.

That's why me motto has always read; "Fidelity, Philanthropy, Bestial Cruelty." (It looks better in Latin) I have always tried to maintain the delicate balance between the severe pummelings I administer with me fists and forehead with me service to the Toys for Trollops foundation housed at the Little Sisters of the Erupting Cold Sore convent located in the thick jungles of Belize - just south of No Toe Jimmy’s Casino and Farmer’s Market. In addition to being the chairman of the board of directors, I am their chief fund-raiser. Several of the contributions solicited by yours truly have been from “voluntary” donors. (When I say “several” of course, I mean, “two.”)

And I am careful to gauge my balanced reputation with this brief Post Encounter Survey.

1)My meeting today with Cap’n Slappy could best be defined as: A)Cordial B)Business-like C)Frightening D)A Life and Death Struggle

2)I would describe Cap’n Slappy’s demeanor during our meeting as: A)Warm and Welcoming B)Cold and Calculated C)Drunk and Disorderly D)Please Help Me, I am in Need of Medical Attention

3)My experience with Cap’n Slappy today would make me want to: A)Seek him out in future on other matters B)Think twice about incurring his wrath C)Avoid his gaze D)Enter the Federal Witness Protection Program

4)I can honestly say that Cap’n Slappy has changed my life: A)For the better. B)And my medical/dental coverage needs C)And I have subsequently changed my name D)By freeing me from excess appendages

So ye see, me good friend, that generosity and openness to feedback are the keys to a well-balanced reputation. Do not underestimate the philanthropic value of Cap’n Slappy’s Rum and Retirement fund. As chairman of the board, ye could do vast good by ensuring that Ol’ Slappy is kept drunk and happy in his frail dotage. There will be many who are grateful that ye are keepin’ the old man from doin’ the fund-raisin’ himself.

How does “St. Nigel” grab ye?

- Cap'n Slappy.

Ahoy Cap'n Slappy!

I had this fantastic idea. How about launching a Pirate Olympics to celebrate all that is good and noble amongst our international buccaneering brethren?

Events could include:

And oh, I don't know, these is all off the top of me head you understand cap'n. Maybe ye could run a few of yer own ideas up the mainmast. Oh, and if you could also find the time to organise a purpose built stadium, arenas, pools, a pirate village, strumpets, officials, some flags, sponsorship, promotion, ticket sales and media coverage that'd be great.

Yours enthusiastically,

Cap'n Sir Nigel Blackheart

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

What a splendid idea! In fact, we've just the place. Cementhands McCormack's uncle has a barn - it's a big barn, he has Clydesdales (the only horse a McCormack can ride) - so we have a venue. The rest will undoubtedly take care of itself. We'll put Lieutenant Keeling on it. The lad's a go-getter and he'll arrange for everything else.

Oh, and sign me up for yer Pentathlon, fighting with anything that comes to hand no matter how unlikely or unsporting, Mixed Celebrity Pirate Twister, The Whopping Drunken 10-man Huge Luge and, of course, jumping up and down on stuff 'til it breaks.

The lads have some suggestions:

Jezebel and the Official Lusty Pirate Wench wanted "a little something for the ladies" so we're sending them on a women's retreat we're calling "EST (for "Estrogen Sunshine Therapy") Fest." They'll be gone all weekend, so we have a nice time-frame!

Of course, there will be blood tests to make certain that all participants have the requisite blood alcohol level for all events.

Yours for the agony of defeat!

- Capn' Slappy

Cap'n

An excellent idea, to revive the spirit of piratical brotherhood through the offices of sportsmanship. One or two thoughts.

I think you must have been drinking again when you thought I was suggesting a vomiting competition. Definitely not my interest. As a former ship's chef (no mere cook, was I) I dislike any suggestion that might seem to connect my fine cuisine with the unfortunate action of reverse peritstalsis. When the entire crew of my previous ship heaved ho with such gusto that we sank a Spanish galleon without firing a shot from our cannons, that was definitely NOT my fault. I was completely exonerated by the board of inquiry, which was convened in special session at the harbor infirmary/tatoo parlor. I think you must have heard me commenting on your own unfortunate abdominal complaints.

I am very interested in seeing a resumption of my favorite sport - one in which I believe I still hold the world record - cannon-ball catching. There is no more inspiring sight in all of sport than watching a team of well-trained seamen manuevering under the incoming barrage of 16-pound balls and trying to pluck them out of the air without losing a limb! Truly inspiring. You can have your rigging gymnastics and your plank speed-walking and your keel-hauling marathons. Cannon-ball catching is a true man's sport. Also, I hope we've got a good crowd of "guests" from the Spanish Navy to use for many of the other competitions. The more "fodder," the better the games. And nothing beats a good Spanish bosun for the thrill of the chase! And there's something about the sound they make when struck smartly with a belaying pin!

- Yours, Ol' Chumbucket

Ahoy, me partner in prattle and print,

'tis unusual that ye put yer thoughts on these pages, but when ye do, they are always - well, "thoughtful." It should be known that Ol' Chumbucket is a seven-time world champion cannon-ball catcher and as fine a ships cook as ye are likely to find in a half-day's search.

As fer your and Sir Nigel's suggestions about French/Spanish participation, it wouldn't be "International" without 'em. Of course, we admire all who dare to speak the romance languages for it is in borrowing their phrases and immitating their outlandish accents that we are able to woo wenches.

Well, it's back to the Rules Committee for Cap'n Slappy. Limber up, me friend, thar'll be cannon-balls fallin' like rain soon!

- Capn' Slappy

Cap'n,

I spoke to Cement Hands McCormack about the cannon-ball cashing, and poor thing, he's all excited for the chance to compete. True, the best cannon-ball catchers are "big men," and that certainly describes Cement Hands as well as anything, with the possible exception of "unusually fragrant," but the lad's got the eye-hand coordination of the Venus de Milo (I still recall with pleasure the night you used the statue for target practice and gave it it's current limbless look. That was fun!) and has the footspeed of a sailor sealed in a sugar barrel for "self-improvement."

I think he'd be better suited to the biathlon - the competition where you tie yourself to an anchor, then see how far you can descend before ... well, before the inevitable. True, I am not a large man (I prefer to think of myself as earth-friendly and compact) but I think pure bulk has always been overrated in the sport and rely on catlike quickness to catch me balls.

Speaking of cats, I noticed Lieutenant Keeling limbering up his flogging arm with his "practice cat," the one with actual cats attached to it for extra weight. I think the crew of the Festering Boil will do you proud at this year's games, and bring home more than its fair share of booty and glory. There will be booty, won't there?

- As ever, Ol' Chumbucket

Chumbucket,

Did you not hear that the Brazilian Women's Volleyball Federation will be there? How much booty does one pirate (or me whole motley crew) need? Also, I must insist that ye cease in the writing of notes that include the phrase, "rely on catlike quickness to catch me balls." I am having difficulty enough with me gastro-intestinal maladies as it is.

Still, ye and the lads make an Ol' Salt such as meself proud. Now, get back to yer disciplined preparations!

Ten-Year "Jumpin' Up and Down on Stuff 'til it Breaks" World Champion,

- Capn' Slappy

Cap'n,

Recently me poor old crew has become somewhat depleted due to the inevitable consequences of seaborne conflict not to mention inter-crew vendettas, alcoholism, tropical disease, cannon fire, kitchen fire, the pox, the blue pox, the stinking blue pox, old age, musical differences, natural wastage, running with scissors, playing with matches, thoughtless lack of consideration to others or being a little too free with the sarcastic backchat.

So its time to hire some fresh blood to fill me quota. So would ye mind placing the following public notice in a suitable place of prominence:

Wanted

Good men and true to sail with the famous - nay infamous - Captain Sir Nigel Blackheart who is evil as he is wicked - ahaa! yes the very same - on his good ship The Scourge o'the Seas to partake in a voyage of discovery, gluttony, debauchery, rapacious self-seeking acquisitiveness and sight-seeing.

This is your opportunity to join one of the world's leading seaborne wealth redistribution organisations and if you have a liking for gratuitous brutality, an eye for the ladies and you're the sort what's not too keen on the Frenchies this is the job for you.

Applicants must be able to reef, hand and steer, roister with gusto and kill, skin, gut, cook and eat a full-grown ox without flinching. You should also be handy with a sword, good at games and not be squeamish or a cry-baby when it comes to roasting Spanish noblemen over a slow fire and stuff like that. It would quite nice if you could dance the hornpipe too as it livens up the long evenings at sea. Or if not a hornpipe something else, like the lambada or rhumba. In fact I would particularly welcome applications from any man who can dance that Wild Turkmenistani Cat-Squashing stomp. I likes that one and it goes down well with the lads too (but must bring own cats).

Medical coverage: Hooks, eye patches, legs and other artificial prosthetics will be provided (all handmade by our talented in-house limb artificer the renowned Fatty Dobson) for injuries sustained during the course of battle, sporting events, roistering and rogering. However you must provide your own teeth, eyes and hair whether real, artificial or imagined.

For those of a devout persuasion we have a man of the cloth on board: Father Seamus 'Ten Bottles and keep 'em coming ye heathen dog but may the Lord bless and keep ye' O'Mahaughnessesy who will gladly attend to all your spiritual needs.*

*subject to certain strict and unegotiable conditions. May jump ship or bite you if not met.

In return for your unquestioning obedience and loyalty I will guarantee you (although this should not be construed in any way as a legally or morally binding guarantee):

  1. all the riches you can pick up and run off with without being shot in the back,
  2. more strumpets, minxes, doxies, harlots and rollicking good time gals than you ever imagined you might have dreamt of having if you were to indulge in your wildest fantasies and reveries (subject to availability).
  3. your very own pirate cup and spoon
  4. a bijou personal space in which to string up a small hammock (hammock not provided)
  5. a peg to hang things on. (shared)

Hours: long and arduous - ay, there's no point pretending otherwise.

Pay: pitiful and derisory its true but see points 1, 2 , 3 and 5 above

Life expectancy: possibly a little on the short side if I'm honest but it's a man's life and no mistake. And we have a friendly goat on board too.

Please note: I am not in any way an equal opportunities employer, what I say goes and if I don't like your face, or the cut of yer jib or if you're wearing a damned silly pair of impractical designer pirate boots fit only for wannabe lubbers you're out, and you should be damned grateful I spared yer life ye ungrateful dog.

Also, anyone who is, or who is related to, any of the following need not apply: Thunderbritches McCormack, Flatulant Frankie 'Fatdabs' Dubarry, Flea-ridden Willy o'Dowd, Dogbreath McSweatingham, Angus 'Call me Dolores' Fontinelli, Hamish 'No man calls me Dolores and lives!' Fontinelli. Plus, anyone with a nickname pertaining to halitosis, parasitic infestations, contagious skin conditions, unseemly nocturnal practices, treehugging or anything to do with unpredictable bowel disorders will also be unceremoniously shown the door.

Applications enclosing CV, references, recent photo and small token of your esteem to:

Cap'n Sir Nigel Blackheart, The Scourge o' the Seas

No time wasters please.

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

Consider it done and done! (With additional "done" for added "doneness.")

I saw me own lads salivate when I posted your advert and had to deal with one crestfallen Cementhands McCormack when he realized that his cousin, "Thunderbritches'" with "the problem" had already eliminated him from consideration. "That's DNA discrimination!" He cried. "Aye," says I, "Sir Nigel has discriminating tastes. Perhaps if Thunderbritches britches were less ... thunderous ..." To which Cementhands had no argument. Many a McCormack family gathering for Christmas dinner has been spoiled by his cousin and "the problem." And with that, I gave him a bag o' tokens for Toothless Meg's Roister Palace, and he was off on his merry way.

Good luck with yer recruiting. Just in case ye were considering some recruiting gimmicks to stimulate interest, here's some what's been tried and found wanting.

All the best - and if any of me lads shows up, send them back with a good thrashing. They're fools, but they're my fools.

- Cap'n Slappy

Capn, me old pal,

Ye'll be happy to know me recruitment campaign went very well indeed and I now have a full compliment of reprobates, rascals, rapscallions, rogues and aromatherapists (but they're a pretty mean and ugly bunch of aromatherapists mind.)

Competition was fierce and the assessment process long and arduous - the ox-skinning and consuming went well despite some faintings and vomitings and a few minor deaths due to a stampede. The Do a Dance or Something to Amuse Your Shipmates section wore my patience a little thin however and I'll shoot the next bow-legged Foremast Jack Hand Lad who thinks he can dance the mambo.

As always, the Carry a Strumpet All The Way Up to the Top of the Mainmast and All the Way Back Down Again Without Dropping Her challenge proved to be the toughest. Many applicants failed to complete it within the required time or without dropping the poor lass (but don't worry there was many willing hands ready to catch 'em - and no strumpet suffered any more than a mild case of over-enthusiastic man-handlement). As ye know, this exercise is a useful test of strength, self control, hand/eye co-ordination, stamina not to mention strumpet carrying and it weedles out the weak, the clumsy, the careless, the forgetful, the acrophobic (look it up like I did) and those lacking even the most basic and fundamental sense of direction.

Ironically, one fellow who didn't drop his strumpet was a young lad name of Marlon 'Butterfingers' O'Dwyer, heir to the 'Well I'll Be a Monkey's Chuff if this stuff isn't Real Butter' margarine fortune, who, weary of the demands of the petrochemical and soya dairy substitute industry, has recently run away to sea. However, I later had to disqualify the cheeky young pup after complaints from an outraged strumpet about his unorthodox handling and carrying methods. 'The saucepot!' says she ' Do I look like a friggin' bowling ball!?' and she quite rightly flounced off in a hissy huff. I'll have to put something in the rule book about that - that sort of grip is probably cheating.

It's been a good few years since I carried a strumpet up the mast but what a strumpet she was! - none other than massive Maggie 'The Muncher' McGillykelly - yes the very same - Scottish Pie-Munching champion 1975 to 1987 and 1991 (she bet me hundredweight of potatoes I couldn't carry her). She's dead now, unfortunately, accidentally dropped from the topmost rigging during a similar wager celebrate her successful comeback pie munch. No-one was prepared to catch a strumpet that size. What a splat that must have been, there was pie everywhere, so I heard, and the ship's timbers were irrevocably sprained. Tragic it was - they had to sell the ship for firewood and pig swill.

Anyway, back to recruitment, finally I rated the applicants into eight categories - I hired all the fellows in the Good Men and True category, some of the Tough But Dim ones and filled any remaining spaces with the Stupid But Loyal Cannon Fodder. Then I sent all the Preening Wannabes, Witless No-Hopers, Pond Life, Fish Food, and those that were A Danger to Themselves on their way with either a pat on the back, a prod in the kidneys, a kick up the rear or a merciful dispatch to their maker, as I saw fit.

Captain Sir Nigel Blackheart,

ps. young Marlon 'Butterfingers' O'Dwyer, is still looking for a ship if you're interested. He promises his new captain a years supply of 'Well I'll Be a Monkey's Chuff if this stuff isn't Real Butter' margarine, a maxi-tub of apricot flavour 'Yoghurt!? You call that muck yoghurt!? This is yoghurt, pal' yoghurt (created from a blend of organic vegetable oils, industrial resin and dyes, he assures me). And a party bag of yummy 'Getoutahere, no way did this not come out of cow's udders' non-dairy Lo-Cal Gorgonzola 'Squeezers.' Me, I've got lots of leftover ox to finish off.

Ahoy Sir Nigel,

What's more fun than a Monkey's Chuff? Hardly anything, I assure you - but sadly, Marlon 'Butterfingers' O'Dwyer not only failed to pass his physical for the Festering Boil. But things took a turn for the tragic as well. Now I assure you, my friend, that this examination is not difficult to pass. It consists of a very few physical activities and simple biological responses to environmental stimuli. Including but not limited to:

And while we were all very impressed with his skill in puppetry, years and years in the family business have taken their toll on his body. He informed us that he was Vice President of Quality Control for "Daddy's company." When the "cutting and bleeding" portion of the physical exam came about, he oozed this sort of yellowish-blueish liquidish stuff that created a corrosive patch about a meter in diameter. It was an awkward moment for all and he did his best to make the most of it by breaking into a Wicked Witch of the West impression and crying out, "I'm melting! I'm melting! Oh, I'll Be a Monkey's Chuff if this stuff isn't Real Butter!"

Doc Burgess, a good man but a stickler for rules, pointed out that not only did oozing noxious (did I mention the smell?) and corrosive non-dairy substitute chemical by-product NOT qualify as bleeding, he wasn't sure if it wasn't a health hazard to the crew. I pointed out to him, that, "Sir Nigel's Crew falls MOSTLY into the 'Good Men and True' category whilst my collection of spotty pirates barely qualifies for the 'Remind them NOT to run with scissors' category."

And while we argued, the deck gave way beneath Butterfinger's feet and he fell into the huge pot in which Ol' Chumbucket was boiling up some experimental heart-smart stew. Instantly, the heir to the O'Dwyer family business and fortune was, as Shakespeare envisioned, "melted, thawed and resolved into a dew." Ol' Chumbucket was loathe to waste a perfectly good batch of tentacle stew but was convinced by the dripping whole in the deck above his head to ship the pot off to the Retired French Pirates' Home, as a good will gesture.

Cementhands McCormack is currently hard at work drafting an amended will and testament for young Marlon 'Butterfingers' O'Dwyer, based on the handwriting samples left in his application, naming yours truly his bestest buddy and heir.

I'll be taking the corporation in a new direction.

Your pal,

- Cap'n Slappy

Cap'n,

What a fine day it is out here on the Caribbean - I'm a-sitting here with the sun on me back, me legs dangling over the side, a soft Southerly breeze ruffling me chest hair, supping a quart of Tahitian rum and feeding a fellow to the sharks. Here little sharky sharky, have a nice bit of leg. There ye go. These lumps of flesh by me side used to be one of the crew, a Norwegian, name of Knut Knutundunmendundssonsenn. He was looking at me in a funny way, wasn't he sharky? Yes he was. And looked like he was thinking about maybe saying something sarcastic. So out came me cutlass and off I went into one of me manic chopping frenzies. There ye go fishy, have another lump of Norwegian.

I realise that's what comes of having a short fuse and also one of the reasons why I have such a high turnover of crew. I really ought to learn to control me wicked temper - its not that I haven't tried, in fact last year, on the recommendation of me old pal Father Seamus 'Ten Bottles and keep 'em coming ye heathen dog but may the Lord bless and keep ye' O'Mahaughnessesy, I went on an Pirate Anger Management course to address me issues. We were making some considerable progress but unfortunately, something terrible happened - about halfway into the course the poor counsellor - a pale, wan, mild-mannered and sadly vegetarian cove - suddenly found himself, to his intense dismay and astonishment, thrust unceremoniously head first down the barrel of a 24 pounder just as it was about to go off and well...., sadly he perished. And with him went any chance of me gaining a prized Certificate of Anger Managementness (Elementary level). Hand on heart, I think I may have been more than a little responsible for his demise although my recollection of such events tends to get a little vague once the red mist comes down. They never found any witnesses mind, not live ones anyway, so no more was said. Although in me defence, the man was a habitual sandal wearer.

Excuse me I'll just I toss another fresh lump in. After all, it would be a shame if all this meat went to waste. A heavy bit that - wonder what it was. Oh I see now, it had a hat on. The poor old crew believe I'm going through one of me dark moods and are currently are all a-cowering and a-quivering in a corner of the quarterdeck. In fact I don't believe I've seen so much quivering going on since the 1999 San Juan Piratefest when a minor earth tremor hit Madame Hefty La Grande's troupe of Tumbling Trollops in the middle of their famous Human Pyramid finale. As ye know, they banned ill-advised balancing acts by excitable nude fat ladies after that and the world's a poorer place for it.

But anyway the dark mood has passed now and I'm feelin' quite serene and at one with the world and all the many colourful and varied creatures of the deep too. Aah look he's spitting out the hat, poor sharky warky doesn't like nasty woolly hats does he, no. I'm just a big sentimental old softy really - cutting the shark's dinner up so thoughtfully into bite-sized chunks.

Father O'Mahaughnessesy sends ye his blessing by the way and wonders when you're going to try and drink him under the table again and will he have to carry you home again afterwards over his shoulder, give you a good soapy scrub down in the bath and then tuck you up in bed? I must say that seems a little too caring and considerate even for a man of the cloth but no-one argues with Father O'Mahaughnessesy, especially not in one of his caring and considerate moods. I prefer him when he's cursing, ranting and throwing furniture around for no apparent reason. Then ye know where ye stand with the man. Don't be tempted to take up his challenge, no matter how belligerent or revengeful ye may feel (unless of course the idea of a free ride home and a soapy bath appeals). No man has ever drunk Father Seamus O'Mahaughnessesy under the table, apart from Iron Mike 'Cannonball Head' Cannonballhead but he unfortunately died in the process, drowning lamentably in his own waste.

Anyway, I has to go now. I'm going to try and lure the crew back to their duties with a promise of a trip to Buccaneer World. Did ye know, by the way, that they have a cardboard cut out of yourself beside every ride there? 'Ye have to look more seamy and contemptible than me to go on this ride'. It sorts the men from the boys I can tell ye.

Cap'n Sir Nigel Blackheart

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

Did I not recommend a splendid new drug that was field tested on meself and is now available on the black market? They called it, "Giveusahuganol." Apparently, it's an industrial strength version of one of them "party drugs" the kids are so keen on these days. It works like this:

Ye're feelin' all antsy and wantin' to chop, stomp or clomp the next fool what crosses yer path. What do ye do? TAKE A GIVEUSAHUGANOL! (I double the dosage - and wash it down with rum) Before ye know it, ye're in a swirl of electronic funkadellic music and every one around ye looks like they just stepped out of a Dr. Seuss book! Ye wouldn't harm a Sneech, now, would ye? Not even a Star-bellied Sneech! (Although I have it on good authority they are right cheeky bastards!) After a couple of hours of frenzied dancing, ye just want to curl up in a puppy pile with forty-seven of yer closest friends all of whom are sucking on belayin' pins. But better they should be sucking on one than feeling the wrath of the pummelin' with one that ye were about to deliver before ye had the help of yer little bluish-greenish friend, GIVEUSAHUGANOL!

Just tell yer apothecary to "Super Size It!"

As for old pal Father Seamus 'Ten Bottles and keep 'em coming ye heathen dog but may the Lord bless and keep ye' O'Mahaughnessesy, and his hard-drinkin' and scrub-a-dub-dubbin' ways, I've yet to meet any other man on God's big blue marble what scares me like he does. Oh, sure, ye come away from an evening with the Padre feelin' the Lord's blessin' and smellin' like a field o' lilacs, but thar be something just not right about his obsession with cleanliness. I just can't put me finger on it. But ye have to respect a man o' the cloth and a man who can drink any man I know - including Cementhands McCormack - under the table. But as me Grandmammy McSlappy used to say, "Respect and Fear are the twin building blocks of Godliness." Then, she would hurl a butcher knife into the wall just three inches from me head.

She made the best cheese sandwiches.

Have a grand time at Buccaneer World! Tell 'em "Cap'n Slappy Sent Me" and ye get a free Sausage and small Pepsi.

All the best!

- Cap'n Slappy

Cap'n old pal,

I've just got back from attending the Blackheart family reunion where I had a chance to catch up with some of me close relatives and also to meet some of the innumerable illegitimate progeny that have been spawned over the years as a result of the Blackhearts' predilection for putting it about a bit. Guest of honour was me dear old grandpa: Sir Toby "Grab me Vitals" Blackheart - the, if you will, Pirato di Pirati. He's sunk over 120 ships in his lifetime (a lot of 'em his own its true) and strangled no less than 87 Frenchmen with his bare hand - even some what had never been nowhere near the sea and was not even French, and he's still going strong at the age of 107, not letting the fact that he's dead affect his life of piracy. He's always been a stubborn old boot ye sees and has little time for such nonsense. The fact that he sits staring blankly into the middle distance, says nothing, keeps falling out of his chair and gives off an damned unpleasant aroma is nothing new, so the Grim Reaper came and went with barely a raised eyebrow. Nevertheless his crew is forbidden to mention the big D-word. He's not as active as he was of course but his head still wobbles in time to the hornpipes and he seems to enjoy himself despite the fact that the strumpets is becoming increasingly reluctant to perch on his crumbling knee.

Not far behind him in age, but still just on the right side of fatality, is Great Aunt Winifred. She was an infamous Lady pirate in her day when she was known far and wide as Flame-Haired Winnie the Licentious and Disreputable Bane of the Southern Aegean Trade Routes (they had much clunkier nicknames in those days). She was, for many years, pursued across the seven seas by her wicked arch-enemy Don Intolorento di Sadisto - the rabidly insane Grand High Torturer of the Spanish Inquisition, but through a combination of stealth and cunning and hiding she managed to avoid his clutches and live to be a batty old trout. Perversely, years later she married Don Intolorento, who had by then calmed down a bit and retired (although he had sentimentally hung on to many of his precious 'implements' from the old days for private use) and they settled down in Haiti to raise goats and chickens .. (from the dead .. don't ask) - but with only limited success. She's a widow now - Don Intolorento died a few years back in a bizarre thumbscrew accident.

Then there was poor old Uncle Sardino - he was unfortunately found dead, face down in the trifle - a boarding axe in his back. But he would have wanted it that way - he loved trifle. Nobody quite knows why he was done in but you always expect a few slayings at a family get together. Uncle Sardino never quite managed to take to life on the high seas and so was instead dispatched to look after the family's wedding chapel interests in Las Vegas where he bought a cheap pale blue suit and married a leggy but emotionally unstable show wench. I'll miss him - it was Uncle Sardino who first taught me to shirk.

Me young cousin Digby Farnes-Barnes Merryweather Ringworm Blackheart has done very well for himself - he's now a Bishop - not a real bishop its true - he just happened upon a discarded bishop hat whilst out walking one day and decided to set himself up as His Grace the Most Worshipful Archbishop of Smuggler's Cove. It was a modest ambition as there are only three other residents of Smuggler's Cove - one of them is quite mad, another is a scabby dog - I'm not sure about the third, but if not a dog, he's bound to be mad or dead. Or he could be a dead mad dog - it's that sort of cove. Still, they have their very own bishop now.

One fella missing from the proceedings was me twin brother Ruprecht. I don't think I ever told ye about him did I? By rights you would think that if I was to have a twin brother he would be soft and foppish and like flowers and suchlike. But no - he's me evil twin - a very bad lad. Far wickeder than me even, and quite mad with it. In fact, Ruprecht has only recently escaped from the high security Dangerous Lunatic Asylum on Devil's Island in which he had been incarcerated. Mind you, you could hardly blame him for that - it is a very dangerous lunatic asylum - many of the floor tiles are loose, there's electrical wiring hanging out the walls and the janitors almost never use those 'Beware - Slippery Floor' signs. According to reports, he has been swanning around the Caribbean masquerading as me and sullying my reputation by being nice to people - just to spite me. But he's very easy to spot - he looks just like me but has a less refined air of unabashed insouciance. And of course, being an evil twin, he has a goatee beard and scratches on his cheek from a vengeful harlot.

So beware of imposters

Your esteemed pal,

Captain Sir Nigel Blackheart,

The Scourge of the Seas

ps. Hope all the Slappy clan are all well and not in any way dead.

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

Right glad I am to hear that all went well at the Blackheart family reunion! I don't know where me invitation got off to (everyone knows I love a good family reunion - so long as it doesn't include me own family), but pass along me best to yer Aunt Winnie - who, I know to be a fine woman and a good sport.

We Slappys (and the Irish branch o' the family tree, the McSlappys) gave up on reunitin' many years ago. Maggie McSlappy was the last to try to organize such a gatherin' on the ancient McSlappy estate near Galway. She requested one o' them fancy RSVPs and received naught but shameful excuses and bizarre denunciations o' the family honor. Her booty of rejection was so impressive, she wall-papered the Grand Ballroom of the ancestral home with the declinations and has since referred to the room as "The Grand Bailout Room" or "The Great Wall o' Slappy Shame."

In her bitterness, she went so far as to change the family crest from two hands slappin' a High Five over a majestic frigate bounding over the waves to that same frigate sinking in those same waters with only the back of one hand hovering over the doom offering a clear view of the finger between it's ring and index brothers - fully extended - in what appears to be a rude gesture.

I'm sure ye can imagine how many misunderstandings the offering of the family salute has lead to ever since.

As always, the lads were eager for me to read the latest dispatch from our pal, Sir Nigel. However, when ye described yer own dear evil twin brother, Ruprecht, there was a sudden and violent soiling of their collective britches. Even my most stouthearted of men, Cementhands McCormack and Lieutenant Keeling, were not immune from the sudden rush of bodily fluids - although, in fairness to Cementhands, he DID, in fact, seize upon the moment and soil someone else's britches. Still, I feel I must inform your brother that a sizable laundry bill awaits him should our paths cross.

And next time ye see him, offer a salute from yer ol' pal, Cap'n Slappy!

Yer ol' pal,

- Cap'n Slappy

Anyway Cap'n -

Pirate Olympics. I believe I left all the arrangements in yer own capable hand. I hope the preparations are going well cos I'm already in training - I've been running about a lot, rogering, fighting, menacing people, celebrating and I've have been pouring illegal performance-enhancing rum down me throat like there's no tomorrow. I've even had a special hat made to impress the ladies.

By the way, will ye be entering any of the 'unofficial' events this year? I quite fancies me chances in the er... Who's got the er ... most impressive and noteworthy ... ahem, ye know ... event.

It's the one competition where no training or practice is required - although that's not stopped many from trying (One-Eyed Dan Carew has been using a eye-wateringly fiendish contraption to aid his chances consisting of a length of rope, a string bag, an eighteen pound cannon ball and a trampoline.) The field will be wide open this year now that both Jesse 'The Conger Eel' Mortadello and Hubert 'Anybody seen me Python?' O'Mahoney have sadly passed on since the last competition. Both were giants of the event they was. Also I heard that a disturbingly putrid case of the Peruvian Rotting Pox could seriously hamper the chances of last years bronze medallist: Monty 'Give us a Hand Here Would Ye' McDougal too. That leaves only Lorenzo 'Hey baby, Get a load of THIS!' O'Meholeo as a serious contender - but his appearance depends on the conditions of his bail and whether his aversion therapy has had any effect.

I understand that the competition is to take place in the back room of the Happy Slattern, moving on to Mingin' Minnies Olde Tyme Tumbling Tavern afterwards for champagne and fighting. Adjudication will as usual be carried out by the respected umpire the Rev. Samuel "Oh I wouldn't touch that if I were you madam" Satterthwaite. So, on a warm day with a following wind, ye may come away with a medal and some extra points on yer reputation.

By the way, in these troubled times security is all important, we can't let just anybody in, and I knows a couple o' guys of the, shall we say, Italian persuasion: Jonny 'Two Hammers' Di Maggio and Vinny 'The Chainsaw' Gamberetti who have very effective methods of maintaining crowd control and dealing with pesky landlubberly interlopers. Without givin' away their secrets, lets just say they'd give any wrong do-ers a one-way ticket to the ocean bed in concrete sea boots to sleep with the fishes with a .44 bullet in the back of their head which will no longer be attached to their body anyway - if ye gets me drift. They're very thorough. In fact the chillingly ironic way they in which disposed of their rival: Luigi "I've got a nail gun, a sharp knife, some chisels and this bradawl" Sasperillo made even me wince, and I keep a man-eating goat remember.

Anyway, Adieu and may the wind always remain abaft yer beam.

-- Cap'n Sir Nigel Blackheart

ps. I hear that a particularly virulent strain of the Peruvian Rotting Pox is going around - and sadly its not passed in any of the normal sporty ways in a salon of salacious insalubriousness - its borne on the wind they do say or you can even catch it just by smiling warmly at a becoming wench. So beware - remember to take precautions and smear yer boots, yer breeches (and not forgettin' yer all-important southern extremities) in a concoction of chum fat, goat grease and brimstone and that should keep any infectious unpleasantness at bay.

pps. One-Eyed Dan Carew is happy to lend out his Tackle-boosting Tackle, as he calls it, to any man what needs it. Not that I'm suggesting...ye know, but if ye should have a friend who might want to borrow it, or a friend of a friend perhaps. Dan walks a bit funny now though mind ye. ppps. I've just realised that the above processes are mutually incompatible in any case. It's a well known fact that no rope can attach onto anything smeared in chum fat and ye certainly don't want to go applyin' goat grease and brimstone to yer rope burns - I mean yer friend doesn't. Ooh no - that would smart a bit. I'd better go now.

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

All preparations for the Pirate Olympics are well underway - in addition to the Happy Slattern and Mingin' Minnies Olde Tyme Tumbling Tavern, the venues for the water and improvised weapons events are being built by the same folks what's doing the building of the other Olympics in Athens - so they should be done in no time at all.

I ran the names of your two security fellas past our own chief of security, Guido "When I get quiet that's a good time for you to shaddup!" D'LaTaglio he said he would check 'em out and see "if they wuz Union-Friendly, Capeche?" I hired him on a recent trip to Las Vegas and he asked me if I wanted to see what he did with non-union interlopin' lubbers " but I was busy with the Wench-wrestlin' Pool designer, who goes by the single name, Cuddles. Anywhat, Guido doesn't seem to be too bad, he was taking two tearful men into the desert and all he had with him was a baseball bat - "What are ye doin'?" says I, "Playin' baseball with those two scallawags?" "Yeah." says he with a chuckle. "I'm gonna hit a double."

So, I guess he tries to engage interlopers in the spirit o' the games.

As for One-Eyed Dan's generous offer ... We, had the good bit of fortune recently to raid a Swedish vessel whose cargo was of real interest to some of the crew. I don't know if any real tackle-enhancement has taken place, but I do know that "Wee" Willy "Tiny" Tally has a renewed sense of confidence and a funnier-than-usual gait.

And thank ye for the warning about the Peruvian Rotting Pox. The lads have eaten all the chum-fat, so we improvised a mixture of gunpowder and weasel grease. (Allowing me to make steady use of one o' me favorite phrases, "Slap Weasel Grease to it and March On!")

I wonder how Weasel Grease will work in concert with those Swedish Suction Devices... Perhaps I'll have Wee Willy give it a go.

Go easy on the performance-enhancin' rum, my friend, it grows hair in funny places.

Your Pal,

- Cap'n Slappy

Cap'n,

Me dear old Aunt Winifred came to visit me the other day: 'Nigel', she said, 'You need an heir and fast - I am very very old and will shortly kick the bucket' (or words to that effect - she may have phrased it more delicately) 'and I'm not a-leaving my not inconsiderable fortune to you without you haven't got a young sprog to carry on the proud family name.'

She wouldn't listen to my reasonin' that there's probably a whole fleet of me little sprogs out there, spread amongst the taverns and bawdy house, nunneries and ladies finishing schools of the upper hemisphere and can't I just have the money anyway? But no she says - its got to be one born into this world on the right side o' the blanket. She's very strict in her views.

So knowing that she's sitting on enough gold and rubies to purchase a central African dictatorship I set sail immediately for San Juan, where as ye know, I has an old flame, the Governor's daughter - Lady Clarissa Pertley who is very tasty and sporty and excitable with it.

There I got down on one knee, presented her with a single red rose (well, you shoulda seen the disgraceful price of a bunch) and a fine ring what had a diamond in it as big as me left one. As she most observantly pointed out. (I must get that hole in me breeches stitched.) And there's plenty more where that came from I assured her (diamonds that is - I'm blessed but not unnaturally so) That fair turned the lady's head I can tell ye.

So we was married afore the next tide by Father Seamus 'Ten Bottles and keep 'em coming ye heathen dog but may the Lord bless and keep ye' O'Mahaughnessesy's cousin Liam 'Ah go on then, just the one, but make it a big one mind, no!, BIGGER than that ye tight-fisted young scamp ye' O'Mahaughnessesy who is a pastor in those parts.

Naturally all the crew turned out for the celebrations - Paddy "Three fingers but can still play the fiddle" Muldoon played a few jigs, Salty wee Joe Macgillykelly sang "Ain't nobody here but us Chickens" in deference to the Lady's presence (because that's the only song he knows which doesn't have the word "*****" in it. Or indeed "*********" for that matter - the foul-mouthed swab). Then Jimmy 'One Knacker' O'Reilly regaled us with a speech in which he recounted some humorous incidents from my past, hilariously recalling some of the dockside diseases I've had occasion the share and telling bawdy tales of the many fine ladies I've wooed and won over the years. Oh how we laughed. (On a sadder note, Jimmy One Knacker was tragically lost overboard later that evening after accidentally tripping over his own intestines and then failing to attract the attention of anyone on deck as he bobbed away in the wake, the life draining out of him and the ravenous sharks closing in).

Then we rubbed Mungo's head for good luck and away we sailed - off into the sunset and the promise of piles of gold and rubies. And now I've briefly interrupted me programme of intense procreational activities to send ye this missive.

The new Lady Blackheart is feeling happy if a little flushed but quite well thank you and settling into the master cabin, where I've shoved a couple of hammocks together. We intends to honeymoon on the isle of Tahiti. It'll take a good deal of old fashioned gunfire, shouting, waving of cutlasses and slaughter to clear the island of tourists but once settled in, and we've selected only those serving staff what have had their tongue cut out, it should be a dream paradise.

I await your effusive, fervent and flabbergasted felicitations.

As always, your old pal and slightly drained correspondent.

- Cap'n Sir Nigel Blackheart

Ahoy Sir Nigel (and Dame Clarissa)

When I told the lads the news o' yer nuptuals, thar were a great cheer what went up from the Festerin' Boil! (and one case o' the snifflies - Cementhands McCormack gets to cryin' even at weddin' announcements). Me and the lads got together to get ye and the missus a little somethin' and since we didn't know whar ye were registered, we ended up pillagin' a little shop in Bangkok what makes lewd mechanical devices. Anywho, expect the crates to arrive next week - or shortly thereafter.

Ye know, Doc Burgess had a similar situation. The Burgess fortune - two tins o' beef, a nice footstool and a parrot named "Dolph" - were in the balance and would have gone directly to charity (the St. Eustace School for Oily Adolescent Bedwetters) when Gammy Burgess kicked the proverbial bucket. She told Doc that she could not, in good conscience, leave the heirlooms to a bachelor pirate. So, we staged a wedding.

Cementhands McCormack quickly volunteered to be the bride and I, as Cap'n o' the ship, presided o'er the solemn occasion. Gammy Burgess seemed a bit put off when "the bride" broke wind during "her" walk down the aisle causing three lads to pass out but aside from that (and McCormack's loud weeping and suspiciously lingering kiss) the ceremony went well.

The reception was another story that involves a staged birthin' o' a Bolivian Midget named Manuel - typical Cementhands' overkill. But that's another story for another time. Suffice it to say, Gammy died happy, Doc got his meat, his footstool and a bird that curses in German.

We all lift a tankard to yer domestic tranquility and connubial bliss.

- Cap'n Slappy

Which prompted a correspondent to wail:

Dear Cap'n,

Is it true? Is Sir Nigel really married? If it is true I will throw myself overboard the next ship that comes through Iowa. What is a sultry depressed lass to do when her secret lover, (really secret because we've never actually met or anything, but WOW! He's so good to me!) ups and marries some fancy pants lass that doesn't even understand the fine points o' a copy machine (the only fine point o' a copy machine is it is the perfect height to sit on and, well...) Please tell me truly if my Sir Nigel is taken and where can I find another fancy lad as quick witted as he be.

-- Sad Wench

Ahoy Sad Wench,

Aye, it be true enough that Sir Nigel has joined the ranks o' the "happily married" which puts him in a group with twelve other people on the planet. (And I ain't sayin' which twelve) I know this comes as a shock (and awe - as in the collective and heart-pained awe that was released by all the women o' the planet when they, like ye, heard the news) but ye must find the courage to forge ahead!

Take Cementhands McCormack for instance. When he found out he went down six dress sizes in a week from loss o' apetite - but he's a better man for comin' to "acceptance." Also, ye'd be doin' us all a favor if ye just took Cementhands - he needs to be shaken' out o' this cross-dressin' phase.

Ah, hell, lassy. Thar be any number o' lads aboard The Festerin' Boil what could use a good takin'. Remember. When Sir Nigel closes a door, Cap'n Slappy opens a portal.

-- Cap'n Slappy

Cap'n, me old mate,

I was sorry to see amongst yer correspondents, a lonely heartbroken wench expressin' her heartfelt sorrow at the news of me recent nuptials and rueing the fact that she would no longer have the opportunity to experience the pleasure of me company.

As ye know, I am a man of delicate sensibilities - it pains me the think that there may be wenches out there, many of 'em quite wayward, harbouring unrequited wants and needs, and indeed I do have a long felt commitment to attend to wanton, wayward wenches' womanly wants.

So could I take this opportunity to assure yer distraught correspondent (and others of her ilk) whether she be a shameless floozie or a demure little thing just nicely on the wrong side of coquettish, that allowing for the ravages of time, alcohol, disease and fair winds permitting I will do my utmost to get around to her eventually. For, despite me nuptials, I sees it as the noble and selfless fulfilment of a social need - a sort of welfare for wenches, I might even launch a charitable foundation to that end (but not a word to the missus mind). Perhaps I shall name it Swive and Go - a service to be delivered personally to your door, as it were, with a wink, a doffing of the cap and a firm commitment to customer service. And quite apart from those high minded ideals, as me dear late Uncle Erasmus "Two Legs" Blackheart used to say: 'There's no point in havin' a cannon unless you're going to run it through a few portholes now and again and fire it off. Ye also needs to regularly haul on the tackle, load the shot, shove in the ramrod, prime it, adjust the angle with a belaying pin, apply the slowmatch, stand well clear, cover yer ears, shout 'Fire!', then repeat, after the smoke has cleared. Otherwise it'll go all rusty and be no good to man nor beast.'

Bear in mind, he was only talkin' about cannons. Cannons were his life. Whereas I'm takin' the liberty of usin' his advice metaphorically. And with me not havin' the time or inclination to edit his words, not all of what he said is going to be strictly relevant in this context and may indeed be meaningless nay misleading even disturbing but as long as ye gets me drift.

Similarly, there's his oft quoted maxim on the maintenance of cannons which also should not lend itself to deeper analysis: "Rub seal oil onto yer barrel daily and yer aim will always be true, Let rust and barnacles gather on it and the weight/velocity ratio of yer roundshot may be seriously affected." He was a fine gunner but no poet.

But getting back to me point: Fear not for Sir Nigel still has the wind in his sails, his cannons primed, no barnacles about his person and now has a noble and deeply felt vocation. That's what I calls it anyway.

Yours, etc. etc.

- Captain Sir Nigel Blackheart

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

Did ye hear it? It was as palbable as the heat that rises from a recently fired cannon. The collective breathless gasp o' an entire generation o' wenches (wanton and otherwise) as well as cannon enthusiasts (again, wanton and otherwise). Their lungs and minds flush with the shock o' oxygen and anticipation - Sir Nigel has NOT abandoned them, but rather is in the process of raisin' his "talents" to the level of "philanthopic commerce in the art of sensual enlightenment!" Once again, your genius astounds.

Ye are the missionary o' machismo! Ye give and give and give and what do ye ask in return? Just a wee bit o' discretion and the odd bobble. If sainthood could be conferred on the livin', the Pope would be a dope to delay yer beatification for even a day!

Meanwhile, I am buying additional futures in "rubber" commodities.

God bless you, Sir Nigel!

-- Cap'n Slappy

Cap'n,

I was wending me way home last night from that fine establishment Mingin' Minnies (not to be confused, as many a hapless rum-faced matelot has done, with those dastardly imposters: Manky Maggie's, Mucky Maureen's, Merry Molly's or even, the Lord spare us, Mincing Malcolm's) when I bumped into an old shipmate of mine, Cap'n Findlay 'The Sleazebag' De Montmorency - who only has one arm - he lost the other in a wager on the horses.

"Sleazebag!" says I, "How's about you share a flagon with an old pal? And a damned odd way to lose an arm by the way."

But before he could reply poor Sleazy turned purple right there and then, began to gasp and quiver and fell to the ground.

"Blackheart" he croaked, "My time is up, I'm done for - take the map, hidden down me breeches. There be treasure - lots of it....go on, just take a look down me breeches."

"Hmmm," I says, "that might work with some unworldly maiden just off the boat you lecherous old hound but..."

"No, no really." he gasped, grabbing me sleeve. Luckily a passing trollop was happy to assist (for a shiny sixpence) and furtled around in his breeches for a while, eventually pulling out an ancient, creased and stained and disturbingly warm Treasure Map.

"This," he gasped, "is a Treasure Map - take it - it shows the location of.... "

"Yeah I knows the rest Sleazy," I said, "I have been in the business a while ye know." and I left him to expire on his own in the dust quietly arranging himself, for some reason, into the shape of a Double Sheet Bend and Half Hitch.

Now its been a long while since a Treasure map fell into me hands and the last one had a very large and unmistakable X on it marking where the loot lay and was as easy to follow as a Yellow-Spotted Sumatran Tree Sloth, even if ye was incapacitated by grog and baccy and loose wenches.

But this is no ordinary map - it has a riddle on it - some might even call it...a code. Possibly an ancient and secret code known only to a few, a very select few. Unfortunately I'm not one of 'em and I must confess meself stumped. If ye could be of any assistance I'll gladly tip a few baubles your way in gratitude once all the mallookah is safely in me hold.

Here be the riddle:

THE DEAD LETTERS MUST I PUN. R I P

OH DE FAT MAN BE RIGHT

O LION AND RAT GUTS.

Oh, and one more thing, the map is drawn on the back of a portrait - a portrait of none other than....

No, that would be givin' too much away.

Enigmatically yours, Cap'n Sir Nigel Blackheart

And remember, as me old Granpa Sir Toby "Grab me Vitals" Blackheart used to say: There's plenty o' things to see for them what has eyes to see 'em with. And plenty to sniff for them what has a nose. Theres a similar point to be made about ears and tongues. But always watch where ye put yer hands.

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

I was just settlin' in for a game of Tiddly-winks with the Taffy-headed Totsenhautsen Twin Twits who live at The Trollop Towers in Tortuga. I promised their dyin' mother I would look after the twin-gits twenty-seven years ago when they were but thirteen and she died of, aye, ye guessed it, tuberculosis - but only until their trust fund runs out! Then, they're shark bait. Excuse me for one moment.

Sorry, every time they miss the cup, I slap them on the head with a rotting tuna. It adds joy to the game.

Well, as ye can imagine, I loves a mystery! Sadly, I am not the man to decipher Sleazebag De Montmorency's secret code! I'm beginnin' to regret killin' Dan "Page-turner" Brown in a fit o' rage and jealousy over his addictive writing style and always leavin' one OBVIOUS clue on the table that his so-called genius characters can't seem to figure out! For the LOVE O' POSEIDON! WHAT OTHER "ORB" WOULD THAR BE ON NEWTON'S FREAKIN' TOMB!!!

Shake it off, Slappy - yer safe now.

Anywhat, the twins got all excited, clapped their pudgy little hands with glee and bounced up and down on their "Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Di-like bottoms" when they heard about yer puzzle - when I told them that it wasn't the kind they could put together to make a picture of a "Happy Piggy in a Floppy Hat" they cried and cried. It was the highlight o' me freakin' day.

Alright, back to yer puzzle - it seems that it should be obvious...

"DEAD LETTERS" - hmmmm ... the Dead Sea Scrolls??? No. "Fat man be RIGHT?" ... Dom Delouise??? No. "O lion and rat guts" ... What's for supper, Alex? No.

Ah, it's useless! I should have paid more attention in "Code Decipherin' Class." Here's an idear, how's about if I put it in "The Ship's Blog o' The Festerin' Boil" and see if any o' our crew (and visitin' crew) can figure it out! Check on its progress by pressin' this magical link!

And if somebody figures it out - I'll send ye somethin' nice - but not too expensive.

- Capn Slappy

Cap'n,

Thanks for yer feeble attempt to crack old Sleazebag's secret code. Luckily I've up and solved it meself using the ancient and little known Chinese art of anagramistics.

In fact, I twigged it not long after I'd written to ye: It translates thus:

IT'S UNDER THE PALM TREE STUPID,
BEHIND THE GOAT FARM,
ON TORTUGA ISLAND.

Obvious aint it?.

So off I set off at once with me shovel to dig up the loot. And now I'm sitting on a pile of gold and rubies as big as a horse, feelin' pleased as punch and singin': Oh it's a jolly pirate life for me, I'm as rich as Croesus, Whoever he may be. Something something, La de da de dee.... or however it goes. None for you though mind.

There's still one thing puzzling me though - the portrait on the back of the treasure map, since you ask, is of that chubby baggage Fat Fat Sally 'Two Chins' Maguire - a 'lady' of our mutual 'aquaintance'. To the untrained eye it's a straightforward portrait of a chunky wench smiling sweetly if mysteriously. But if ye looks closer ye can see her left forefinger is pointing - pointing to a bucket of chum in the corner, upon which sits a enigmatic Seagull who looks like he has something to hide. Look closer still and ye see Sally's right leg is raised high in the air, seemingly in a show of careless girlish abandon, but the stubby big toe points puzzlingly to the North Star - a symbol, which as any student of ancient Sumerian mythology knows, represents 'The Sky'.

Which begs the question: Slappy, me old son, is there an earth shattering secret ye are sitting on? Were ye spawned as result of a bizarre liaison between an alien life form and a wildebeest or are a ye closet cross dresser or was you once secretly married to Fat Fat Sally's not-so-fat half sister Pat.

Of course, I could be barkin' up the wrong tree but I've a feelin' there may be a bestseller in it. Or at the very least a bit of juicy tavern gossip. I await yer huffily outraged and possibly life threatening refutations. Or yer airy dismissal of arrant tosh, as ye sees fit.

As always,

Cap'n Sir Nigel Blackheart

Rich as rich can be and handsome with it. Though I says so meself.

Damn and BLAST! Hang it all, Sir Nigel! I'll not stand for it!

So, sit down I will, and write a brief albeit biting retort!

I had nearly cracked yer mystery code - but left off at

PLUNDER THAT - ITS DIP T' REUSE FORGETIN' ME HAT - BAD I LAND ON T'OR GUTS

But it struck me as a very bad invitation to a party, so I delayed a response. Truly, I WAS goin' to RSVP, but things have been a bit hectic around here what with the "Cap'n Slappy, I need yer advice" on this and "What do ye think, Cap'n Slappy" about that - plus I really need to get in at least three hours of debauchery a night - what's a fellar to do?

But back to me sharp defense! I sharply with razor-sharp sharpitude, deny ANY wildebeest blood in me family tree! Also, I find that dressin' like a pirate keeps me urge to wear women's clothing in check. Also, I was NEVER married either to Fat Fat Sally or her not-so-fat sister Pat, although, we once played a spirited game o' drunken "Twister" and got a bit carried away win the spin came up "left foot blue."

There. I feel better and ye can take that back to ANY tavern and tells 'em that Cap'n Slappy's just a normal fella - like anyone else - who is prone to fits o' violent rage and hideous bouts o' depression.

As for the REAL interpretation o' yer paintin', her LEFT forefinger pointin' at the enigmatic seagull with something to hide on the chum bucket indicates that an important birth is about to take place - perhaps a child o' yers - perhaps a child o' mine. After all, Fat Fat Sally WAS a "mutual acquaintance" and we all know what THAT means when it is captured by "quotation marks."

Fat Fat Sally's big toe pointing toward the sky is not a symbol, but more a tribute to the artist's ability to see things as they really are. That girl's feet were ALWAYS in the air!

So, now it's up to us to find this wee one and bombard it with a manly duet o' "Who's yer daddy?!" I see no book here, but perhaps a televised "situation comedy."

Not that you and I couldn't populate a small continent with our "illegitimate" progeny...

-- Cap'n Slappy

To: Captain Cecil Wilberforce Tarquin Montmorency Slappy, if that even be yer real name or one I've just made up out of me head, what do I care.

From: Ruprecht Blackheart. Felon, Ne-er do well and Startler of innocent passers by.

Aharrahhgggh yes - I be a brand new correspondent, that I am, brand new. Ye don't know me but ye does know my bilge-hopping, bulwark-grabbing, backstay puddening horn-scrobbler of a brother Sir Nigel. Excuse me while I spit.....Phuhh...Phooey.

Well, just let me tell you Mister Slappy I am much meaner than him, much much meaner. You may have never felt the full extent of my ire or suffered the blunt force of my unparalleled wrath but if you had ....well, then you would know how inexplicably despicable I am. And as soon as I gets meself a real ship - and I can you know - then the whole world will know how unaccountably dreadful I can be. Me crew is already chomping at their bits to be up and at 'em, from me callous First Mate Mr Napoleon Boneypart to the ship's Beast Slayer Mr Pettigrew who lives in the bottom of my hat. Not to mention that other fella who agreed to come along with us - Brian I think he said his name was - Fierce Brian and he carries a BIG STICK!

They says I'm battlin' with me demons - but what would they know - they wouldn't know a demon from that little fella who dances jigs in me head all blasted night.

The reason I'm lowering meself to write to ye is I needs a ship - a big one – this big - with lots of cannons - 97 pounders - not an ounce under, mind. I don't have much in the way of gold but I has some shiny baubles and a year's supply of muffins which we stole from a lily-livered muffin man down by the harbour. Do ye know of any fellow selling such a vessel? Or better still, just tell me where it is and I'll take it, hah. I shall name the ship the Slaughter All Unbelievers for such is my mission and my calling.

Excuse me now while I fling open the bedroom window and let the chilling sound of my devilish, delinquent laughter echo through the otherwise silent cobbled streets outside my secret hideout in Port Royal. ha haa Ha Haha! HA HAHA HAHAAA!

They'll never catch me - I'm not going back in there again, oh no.

Yours faithfully,

Ruprecht Blackheart, desperado and mountebank.

And don't call me mad, unless you means it in the sense of a person being beside themselves with splenetic or apoplectic fury. Never in that OTHER way.

Ahoy Wee Ruprecht!

At least that’s what yer big brother, Sir Nigel, calls ye. I feel like the drunken bastard uncle ye never had – wait, ye did have at least three o’ those – so, let me amend that to read, “I feel like one o’ yer many Drunken Bastard Uncles.”

I take it from the tone o’ yer missive that ye are no longer in residence at Mrs. Miniver’s Residential School for the Incorrigibly Delinquent and Ill-Mannered Sons of the Obscenely Wealthy and Disaffected.

How did ye make yer egress? Was it over the forty-foot wall wrapped in razor-wire with shards of broken glass embedded into the cement? Or did ye make yer escape via one o’ the many tunnels left over from the days when the fortress was used to house the young women’s college of St. Agatha the Dyspeptic School for the Sedentary Arts.

It matters not. But I am sure yer elder brother, Sir Nigel, will be thrilled to hear that ye are startin’ yer own baby pirate business. Aye, this is the most precious thing I’ve heard o’ since Cementhands McCormack stole them duck eggs from Ol’ Chumbucket and after weeks o’ keepin’ them in his armpits for warmth, hatched them and they followed him around the ship – just a-quackin’ away. That was ADORABLE and they were enjoyed by the whole crew right up to the day Lieutenant Keeling slaughtered them and turned them into Duck Jerky. Even a tearful Cementhands had to admit that they were delicious!

The lads are so excited about yer new career choice that they got together and built ye a ship out of a discarded rum barrel. And while we weren’t able to find ye a “97 pounder” cannon, we had our gunsmith, “Toothless” Mick Heusyer-Datti start work on ninety-seven “one pound” cannons that will fire tiny melon balls up to fifteen feet! But thar’s only enough room on yer new ship for a crew o’ one (plus any amount o’ tiny men who live in yer hat) so ye’ll have to choose between Mister Bonypart and “Stick Boy” Brian.

Also, I’m sorry to tell ye that we weren’t able to get the WHOLE name ye requested on yer “ship” so Doc Burgess used as many o’ yer requested letters as he could and painted “Laughter Liver” on the back o’ the barrel. Oh, and I should warn ye, it’s not sea-worthy on account o’ Cementhands McCormack puttin’ the bung hole on the bottom but ye and yer tiny hat-man and whichever other crew member ye select will be able to sit down and rock it back and forth while ye pretend to be at sea – firing melon balls at innocent passers by.

Welcome to yer new life on the high seas (or at least something like it.)

- Cap'n Slappy

Cap'n, me old pal, worry not,

I'm sure ye'll be glad to learn that me wicked and deranged brother Ruprecht is now safely back behind bars. An 'anonymous' tip off to the authorities brought the full weight of the law upon his head, he was surrounded, arrested and then carted off unceremoniously in a basket raving, gibbering and otherwise venting his spleen. He is currently residing in a padded isolation cell in the notorious Adolf Heinrich Institute for the Unequivocally Unhinged. Of course his lawyer is trying to argue that he is nothing of the sort, that he's just misunderstood and so should instead be transferred to Mrs. Maisie O'Doodles Rest Home for the Not Quite All There - which has nice soft beds and quilting lessons and cocoa. But a quiet word in the ear of my good friend His Honour Judge Gaylord Backhander should ensure Ruprecht's cell is kept securely locked and the key quietly thrown away.

As for me, my life in these last few weeks has been one of quiet reflection - Frenchmen have been able to roam the seas unchallenged their limbs and internal organs intact, bulging treasure ships have sailed past unmolested and pert and perky wenches have gone unswived. Much of my time has been spent lounging on the poop a-readin' of poetry. Here be me favourite ditty: 'Young Molly Nethershanks goes a-courting in the dell with her beau, Norbert, who's a shepherd boy': which I'd like to share with you...

Oh Young Molly Nethershanks walked out one morn/ for to meet with her beau, in the dell,/ She said "Norbert, oh Norbert you're nought but a boy/ you're lovely, but of sheep you smell"

"I thought you liked sheep", whined Norbert/ She said "No, I was just bein' kind,/ the young squire has asked me to marry him too,/ And that smell has just made up my mind."

"Don't wed the squire!" cried Norbert/ "I can wash in the stream in the dell."/ "No, I'm going to stick with the squire," replied Molly/ "Cos he's loaded and well hung as well."

But when she returned to the village/ They cried "What? you went off on your own?"/ And they called her a hussy and stoned her to death/ 'Cos she didn't take no chaperone.

So if you lives in a small village/ And despairs of their backward old ways/ have yourself cryogenically frozen,/ to awake in more tolerant days.

Always brings a tear to my eye. Of course, it doesn't mean I'm gettin' soft just because I reads a bit of poetry now and again. I could still make yer blood curdle if I wanted.

Adieu Cap'n, and if a warm following wind should ever bluster unexpectedly abaft yer breeches may ye convincingly maintain a demeanour of angelic blamelessness.

Cap'n Sir Nigel Blackheart

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

Whilst I am glad that yer dear brother has found his rightful place in the world (hopefully they used the maximum 8-inch luxury padding and not the “economy” padding – 2-and-a-quarter inch thick on his cell), I am concerned that yer current bout with poetry is but a phase – a Zen phase but a phase nonetheless.

Ye see, me ol’ pal, that the lads and lasses aboard The Festering Boil, live for your correspondence and many o’ them, inspired by your stories of derring-do, have achieved great heights of piratical aplomb.

In fact, the crew was so moved by this, your most recent letter, that they have lazed about the deck all day with nary a bite toward a juicy Dutch merchantman or a wink at any number of saucy wenches that have disguised themselves (poorly) as men and insinuated themselves into the crew. This apparent drop in enthusiasm, as ye must know, is cutting deeply into me profit margin.

Of course, the sweet with the bitter is that yer missive generated an enthusiasm for poetry and Ol’ Chumbucket organized our first annual Pirate Poetry Slam. While Cementhands McCormack’s recitation of his original poem, “Thems What Had It Comin’!” complete with his interpretive dance depicting the Battle of Waterloo received honourable mention, it was Doc Burgess’ moving tribute to his medical tools that won the first place award “The Golden Beret.”

Here’s an excerpt from the section he calls, “Me Bone Saw.”

I sharpen each tooth/ In this small search for truth/ On the bones of our Youth/ <woo-gah, woo-gah

The blood splatter here/ All red, nothing clear/ What is broken I shear/ <woo-gah, woo-gah

Through the gore and the sweat/ Am I finished? Not yet./ Give me that tourniquet./ <woo-gah, woo-gah

Clamp the vein. Stop the pump./ Hit the floor with a thump./ Cauterize the whole stump./ <woo-gah, woo-gah (pause) THUD!

After a stunned silence there was a chorus of finger snapping and Lieutenant Keeling ordered an espresso. But artistic contributions to literature aside, I’m bleedin’ revenue. It’s either back to piracy, or turn the damn ship into a smoke-filled coffee shop full of Frenchmen in black body socks. And ye know how I feel about body socks!

Therefore, it is with a keen sense of vested self-interest that I hope your general malaise swiftly passes and stories of your legendary ruthlessness once again regale and inspire me crew to acts of insatiable and highly profitable cruelty.

Your pal,

- Cap'n Slappy

Cap'n lad,

Well, lash me to the mainmast and call me Pauline, yer words have stung me into action, here's me a-lounging about wasting me time in arrant idleness, reading poetry, without a thought for me influence on the wider world of piratedom.

I never realised that there were those what followed my every move, copied my every deed, and hung on to my every word. If I was to don a flowery summer frock and belt out Barbra Streisand songs from the top of the mizzen mast would they do likewise? I think not.

But obviously I needs to galvanise yer crew into action. So, for them what wants to steer the same course as me, here's me plan of action for tomorrow, a typical day for me but feel free to copy, re-arrange or mix and match as ye sees fit but the essence, as every pirate knows, is balance:

The list doesn't actually end with bed, by the way, but I'll draw a modest veil over the rest if ye don't mind. In any case, it might stretch the capabilities of the mere ordinary workaday fellow to stay the course. He still needs to find the strength to pull on a mainbrace in the morning.

Of course, what ye seems to forget about poetry reading is that enticing effete Frenchmen into coffee shops with the promise of hearing some nice poems is always a very effective way of luring them to their doom. And at the same time keeping a healthy glowing shine on the ship's goat's nose - he likes his tasty entrails he does. Ah yes ye sees, I'm always thinkin' two steps ahead and there's a cloudy lining to every silver pot of coffee.

Yours industriously,

Cap'n Sir Nigel Blackheart,

May yer aim be always true, yer cannon forever loaded and primed, but yet not go off with unintentional haste.

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

Right! Tis glad I am to see ye back in the proverbial (and literal) swing o’ things! There is a sayin’ amongst the Piratical Faithful, “As Sir Nigel goes, so goes Piracy!” And it was illustrated once again as I broke up the "Laze about the deck drinking tea and trying to come up with a rhyme for ‘Purple’” portion o’ the crew’s day with the reading o’ yer letter. No sooner had the words, “If I was to don a flowery summer frock and belt out Barbra Streisand songs from the top of the mizzen mast would they do likewise?” escaped my lips but Cementhands McCormack had, in fact, donned his rather sizable summer frock (the one with daisies) and was leading the lads in a rousing chorus of “Don’t Rain on My Parade!”

My first thought was to fire off one or two of the Long Nines to regain their attention, but two things prevented me:

1) McCormack has a voice “like butter.” 2) The ensuing dance number was the first sign of life in the lads since your last letter.

The rest of your letter, vintage Sir Nigel, inspired a flurry of activity not seen in years aboard The Festering Boil. Aye, there was sharpening and polishing of disemboweling cutlasses and Lieutenant Keeling led the lads in some “pre-slaughter warm-ups,” while Pauly “Dogwatch” Watts practiced his piano.

We captured two French ships and a Dutch colony all before Tea.

Some of the lads decided to break off and have a go of it on their own using your “coffee shop poetry enthusiast trap.” Let it not be said that I stand in the way of the hopes and dreams o’ the young. I think Samuel Folger, Maxwell House and Chico Starbuck will make a fortune on the idea of luring the unsuspecting into their dark world of caffeine charged existentialism and mountain grown freshness. And they will owe it all to you, in a very real and legal sense. I gave them one of the French ships which they re-christened “L'Araignée Poétique” and they sailed off into the sunset swilling something called “Orange Mocha Frappecinos,” and wearing those wee black berets we took from the heads of our victims earlier in the day. We kept the ship’s goat. They already have Juan Valdez’s donkey.

As always, me ol’ friend, thank ye for the boost to morale. Never underestimate your influence on the masses.

- Cap'n Slappy

Cap'n Sir,

How will ye be celebrating the festive season this year? - me, I shall be dropping my anchor in Tortuga town and inviting the lovely girls from Dame Hortensia Tweedie's Ladies Finishing School aboard for a Christmas Eve 'Fancy Lah di Dah Cheese and Wine party.' Dame Hortensia will of course be chaperoning her young ladies but as she has an unfortunate taste for cherry brandy and an even more unfortunate thing for old Jimmy 'One Knacker' O'Reilly that should keep her out of the way for a while. The rest of the crew will have to find their own entertainment.

There was some discussion amongst the lads as to what we should slaughter for Christmas dinner in the absence of a turkey, a goose or a Polynesian Mutton Parrot.

All eyes slowly turned to the ship's goat which I then had to hurriedly shepherd into my cabin for protection - he's far too valuable a member of me crew to eat - his reputation in the Caribbean is such that the mere sight of him on the quarter deck has been known to persuade a ship to haul down their colours, indeed, one bleat can ruin a man's trousers

. I've now set the ship's cook - Monsieur le Ouancére - who I captured out of a French privateer, the task of fashioning a turkey/goose/parrot/goat substitute out of what's left in the stores - ship's biscuit, rats, rat droppings, sawdust and rum. I understand there are those (who I believe call themselves Vegematarians) who survive on similar fayre all year long so Monsieur le Ouancére is under pain of death to produce a tasty and memorable creation with the stipulation that there be a leg for every man. Although either way he may not survive the day - he may be an excellent chef but his tantrums, hissy fits and general Frenchness are becoming a little tiresome.

As ye know, when it comes to dispatching those who have displeased me, I have a taste for the bitterly ironic so after Christmas lunch I think I might feed the rascal to the goat with cranberry sauce. After all - it's Christmas for the goat too.

I have banned the exchanging of gifts on the ship this year after last years bloodbath. The crew simply can't accept anything at face value:

and so on.

So the spirit of goodwill was largely absent on a ship awash with blood, teeth and entrails. They may, if they wish, exchange comical caricatures of each other carved out of driftwood but that's all - that should be harmless.

Now I'm off to work me way through me extensive stock of looted Spanish sherry. Greetings of the season to ye. And may yer bottom remain free of barnacles, encrustations and other trailing marine infestations.

Your old pal,

Captain Sir Nigel Blackheart

Best Greetings o' the Season to ye, Sir Nigel!

Aye, it all starts with one o' them magazines with the man-perfume samples in it and the next thing ye know, ye're swabby is mopping up severed ears, lips and genitalia from the decks and NOBODY wants to go caroling after that. But beware of the comically carved caricatures. Your Jimmy 'One Knacker' O'Reilly once carved one of me that Ol' Chumbucket refers to as "Slappy Buddha." For a man with one knacker, he sure casts comic aspersions on others' manliness with an abandon that can only be described as "reckless." Pass along a special holiday greeting to him from yours truly and remind him that he is due one savage beating with me fists and forehead - in the holiday spirit, of course.

As for the rest of the crew, we are making our annual trek to the alleged death bed of Cementhands McCormack's quite possibly nearly dead rich Uncle Angus. Ye may know him as The Salted Kipper King o' Sligo. Well, to hear Cementhands tell it, he's "Dead Rich" and just waiting to make Cementhands (and his mates) the inheritor of all that fish! But don't look for us to change jobs anytime soon - Angus has been "dying" for the last fourteen years. But each year, we dutifully make the trip and have a grand Christmas in Sligo.

Well, I'm off to Deck the Halls - I mean, Deck with boughs of holly. Here's wishing you much plunder and adventure in the year to come!

Yer Pal,

- Cap'n Slappy

Months passed ... and then, near the eve o' Talk Like A Pirate Day 2005:

Cap’n, me old pal!

Its yer old partner in crime Sir Nigel. How are ye?

I know it’s been long while since me last communication - much water has flowed out of me bilges since I last put quill to parchment and I have no doubt ye will have put on a vast amount of weight in the interim. But I was shipwrecked ye sees in a terrible terrible blow off the coast of Brazil, the Scourge of the Seas sank and for the last few months me and the crew have been eking out a desperate existence on a tropical isle with only sea birds, turtles and a tribe of exuberant lady savages known as the Wild Warrior Women of Wongo for company. Although, when I say ‘desperate existence’ that’s not strictly accurate considerin’ we has been fed, bathed, pampered, oiled, wafted with fronds, massaged with unguents and been in constant demand for pagan fertility rites. And as ye know, the vigorous duties of fertility rites, pagan or nor, can make heavy demands on a fellow’s time. Often it’s a relief to get back to one’s hammock and catch one’s breath.

But these estimable ladies fed and tended us after we was washed up on the beach and applied soothing balms and luxurious lotions to all parts affected by sunburn and sand rash and even some that wasn’t. The native dress of these Wongos is an insignificant animal skin costume they calls a Be’ Qeenih - sometimes it is worn in 2 pieces, sometimes in one. Although oddly, there appears to be little stipulation as to where ether of the pieces should be placed about their persons - sometimes this Be’ Qeenih appears to be little more than a scarf or a nice hat.

Naturally it wasn’t long before I found meself appointed their god and had to sit patiently on a throne whilst they carved me effigy and honoured me with offerings of fresh fruit and young maidens and such like. But, ye know how it is, eventually one tires of biddable handmaidens attending to one’s every whim and need and function. So I began to plan me departure and set the crew the task of building a new ship from the wood of the Bam Bam tree which abounds in these parts using discarded Be’ Qeenihs sewn together for sails.

Very timely it was too as the whole adventure suddenly turned sour when the local volcano started erupting. The expulsions of boiling lava and rock were judged as my fault of course, what with me bein’ the all-powerful god, eater of holy fruit and despoiler of maidens so we was lucky to escape with our lives and all our parts intact as we hurried down to the beach. Just in time we hauled up the anchor in our homemade but not quite finished brigantine, waved a relieved farewell to the Wongo women and headed for the safety of the open sea, Hahaa.

I’ve named me new ship Grizilla in honour of one of the Wongos what me faithfull but unstable crewman Mungo has married. Grizilla is a fearsome, tattooed, 26 stone muncher with the hands of a buffalo strangler, the face of a deep sea Groperfish and the eyes of Mad Staring Frankie McDuff (which she keeps in a small goatskin pouch) but Mungo seems quite taken with her and I’m sure ye’ll be overjoyed at the news of his nuptials. There’s hope for old Cementhands yet.

Of course, what this means is that now I’m in the market for a proper ship - one that doesn’t have leaves growin’ out of it and small marsupials in residence. So if I sees a likely ship upon the ocean I intends to take it. I don’t have any cannons of course but Mungo and his good lady wife (not to mention me faithful goat) should be enough to loosen the bowels of any opposition. So all pirates and international shipping should beware - Sir Nigel is a-comin’ for ye!

Avast ye!

Sir Nigel Blackheart, keepin’ a determined lookout aboard the good ship Grizilla, 26’N 54’E or thereabouts

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

The Lads and meself had nearly given ye up for dead – or something quite like dead – perhaps quadriplegically incapacitated or simply going through a bit o’ a malaise. The lads say to say “hallo, Sir Nigel” and Doc Burgess says somethin’ about his collection o’ Dried Bollocks From Around The World that he says ye swindled him out o’ during a suspiciously one-sided game o’ pick-up-sticks.

But no matter! ‘tis good to hear from ye again and we’re right hopeful that ye’ll commandeer a proper ship with a proper crew o’ only semi-mutated sailors. (Mungo and his bride bein’ the exceptions, of course.)

Haven’t heard a word from our Cracked Carrie since she took up with somethin’ called a cinematographer in Cancun, but I can only assume she’ll come crawlin’ back when the rum runs out.

In the mean time, I’m keepin’ busy with the writin’ o’ stories (many o’ them based on actual stories that I made up years ago) with me ol’ pal, Ol’ Chumbucket.

Well, I’ve a schedule to keep – it’s delousin’ day at the sanitarium and the nits won’t pick themselves. Keep in touch and let us know what’s happenin’ in the wonderful world o’ Sir Nigel Blackheart!

All the best,

- Cap'n Slappy

Cap'n, lad,

You’ll be glad to learn I’ve found meself a new ship. Sadly though there wasn’t no fightin’ involved in the getting’ of it - no disembowelment, no screams of horror nor no blood runnin’ from the scuppers. I won her, quite fairly and squarely, in an exhausting all-night game of Dead Men Don’t Argue in which I emerged victorious with the ship, a brace of pistols, somebody’s coat and all the bags of gold pieces I could carry off at a brisk trot.

She’s a fine sound vessel and, and after much consideration and inspired by the depiction of a nightmarish skull on her mainsail, I’ve named her The Shrieking Skull. Although, now that I’m out at sea again, I was wonderin’ if that name might be just a little too terrifyin’ for yer average sea-goer. I know the idea is to strike fear into the heart of the enemy but there still has to be a little sport involved, after all, no-one wants to swing aboard a ship with decks awash with the consequences of a terrorizing a ship full of quivering Frenchmen with no buckles on their breeches. Should I tone it down a little do ye reckon? If so, I need a name that suggests determination, ruthlessness, an inclination towards extreme unprovoked violence yet at the same implies a hint of roguishness and devil-may-care impudence. I'm sure a man of yer infinite imagination could come up with the

The old figurehead up the front is a very fine specimen and depicts Lady Cecelia Makepeace wrestling an Amazon Queen whilst in a state of Careless Disrobement. For those as don’t know, Lady Cecelia was a redoubtable explorer, pipe smoker, and saver of fallen women and, for reasons of her own, she would often turn up in out of the way places, often amongst Amazon tribes, and challenge all-comers to wrestle in a mud hole, shedding her garments in the process so they couldn’t get a good grip. Eventually she attracted a dedicated band of followers who would follow her from mud hole to mud hole, offering support, medical assistance and a hand up whenever she got floored by a half-nelson.

I'll be away now -there are fortunes to be made, oceans to sail, new lands to be explored and Frenchman to be slaughtered.

ps. As a man with a strong public conscience, I’m sending ye a little public health poster to pin to the walls of yer lower deck. It warns seagoing folks, in gleefully graphic and pictorial detail, about the unfortunate consequences of spending a hard-earned sixpence on Rancid Rita who plies her trade behind the old fish warehouse in Port Royal. Its in full colour so it would easily brighten up any dull room. Just don’t eat afore ye pins it up. I realise that you yerself is far too sophisticated to go lurking around abandoned fish warehouses of an evenin’, a warm sixpence clutched in yer sweaty palm, but I know many of yer crew aren’t too picky so it may serve as a timely warnin’.

Yours, surprisingly free of noxious swellings,

Captain Sir Nigel Blackheart

pps. Rita says where’s that half a groat you owe her.

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

Allow me to “clear up” that misunderstanding about Rita. Firstly, while I am sure you heard her say, “groat,” years and years of throat abuse have left with a condition Doc Burgess calls, “Uvula Wobblius,” in layman’s terms, that little hang-downy thing at the back of the roof of her mouth above the throat has even more dangle than normal so when she went to say, “goat,” it came out “groat.”

Funny story, she was raising money for the annual orphan boxing festival (it’s heart-warming to see the wee ones using their natural pugilistic skills to raise their own money by staging several six round slug-fests and inviting the public to come in and place bets) and you could buy a goat or simply pay for a goat to be donated back to the orphanage. Well, since we already have five goats aboard The Festering Boil, I went in on a “half a goat” donation with “Slippery” Billy McKutcheon the famous escape artist. From your message, it appears he “escaped” his debt to Rita and the children. I, however, paid in full – at least as far as anyone can prove. Rita was always bad at keeping the ledger straight.

But thanks for the poster – and the warning … “word to the wise” and such.

As for the name o’ yer new ship, I think The Shrieking Skull works nicely – what with a huge skull of nightmarish proportions billowing overhead. I mean, what else COULD you name her? Certainly Fluffy Boo-Boo Kitty would be absurd and The Lady Makepeace Wrasslers just feels wrong, somehow. The Shrieking Skull has the advantage of letting your intended prey know, “We’re so frightening ye’ll be screaming long after the barracudas have picked yer bones clean!” but on the down side, there’ll be more surrenders than fights – and I know how ye love a good fight – especially when your opponent thinks he’s got a chance of survival. The Shrieking Skull leaves no doubt.

Still, until something better comes along … it suits the ship.

My best to the kids,

- Cap'n Slappy

Many months pass ... and then, with the approach of TLAPD 2007:

Cap'n Sir,

Could ye see yer way to sparing a dubloon for an old comrade who is down on his luck? If ye can't spare a dubloon, perhaps a farthing will do. If ye can't even give me a farthing hows about letting me mention in yer pages that me new book Blackheart! (note the exciting exclamation mark) is available on Lulu.com - It tells of the adventures of Sir Jack Blackheart - greatest pirate of them all (no, don't reach for yer cutlass - ye know it's true).

What happens is: Sir Jack is given a mysterious treasure map containing a seemingly impenetrable code (instead of the usual big X in the middle). So, accompanied by his trusty goat, he voyages to the farthest flung reaches of the Caribbean to seek the key to it, all the while pursued by his deadly rival - the villainous Captain Ugly Mug McBall.

As well as thrilling sea battles and wild roistering, it has a little romance (for the ladies) and of course sword fights, bloodshed, wenching and death (for the gentlemen.) And not forgetting the sexually voracious Wild Warrior Women of Wango.

All folks need to do is log on, buy it, read it, then tell all their friends about it. No lendin' it mind as it's coated with a special anti-lendin' juice. After that it's theirs to keep - they can place it on a shelf or coffee table or worktop where they can admire it, dust it, adjust its position slightly or maybe even pick it up and read it again.

I know ye have yer own books on there's but no need for ye to feel any sort of envy or resentment. There's room for the biggest pirate in the world and the BIGGEST pirate in the world ho ho (if ye gets me subtle double entendre there)

Hope ye're in rude health by the way, Slappy old pal, and all yer embarrassing discharges are cleared up.

Signed, in blood, sweat and phlegm,

Yer old mate Sir Nigel.

And thanks in advance for yer generosity, yer understanding and yer lack of any sort of begrudgement or rivalry in this matter. And please don't torture yerself with dark feelings of inadequacy or despair. ps. I wasn't really down on me luck at all. That was all a cunning ruse.

Remember that's Blackheart! on Lulu.com - Buy it or die!*

*Disclaimer - Death not guaranteed.

Ahoy Sir Nigel!

We thought ye'd succumbed to the unforgivin' clutches o' the Wonderful Whirlpool o' Wellsassea - a force o' nature so insatiable, it makes Black Holes wet themselves in fear!

I'm glad to hear that the rumours o' yer tragic death what I started were naught but a bunch o' hornswoggle what exploded out o' me drunken gob due to the unseemly combination o' too much rum, excessive jealously, poor self-esteem and tainted clams!

Sadly, all our advertisin' space is taken up by us advertisin' our own books at the Lulu store and our perennial favourite, Pirattitude

But I'm sure that our web wench, Jezebel will find room to mention yer book in the "Books" section of our links page, and of course, our wee self-promotion exchange will certainly be immortalized in a little somethin' we call, "The Sir Nigel Papers."

One way or another, me bucko - we'll relieve the pirate public o' their overabundance o' doubloons! Truly good to hear from ye!

Best Fishes,

- Cap'n Slappy

... To Be Continued ... we hope


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