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I was recuperating from a final eye operation, sight restored, grateful
that I lived in the 20th century and the miracle was possible, and planning
a vast scheme of reading and art projects to catch up with the enforced
neglect of the past few years, when the phone rang.
" ... doing a fifties fanthology", announces Eric** from far-off Holmes
Chapel. "How about some stuff from Now & Then - three, four pages long
plus a batch of WIDOWER'S jingles. Something redolent of the times but
not dated... not too many esoteric allusions, like..."
** [Eric Bentcliffe Ed.]
So much for my plans.
How do you reprint anything from a quarter-century old fanmag without
hitting obscure references? As I recall, we had to publish a "Glossary
of Esoteric Names, Words & Phrases" after the first three issues of N&T
to help new readers catch up then... So you'll have to leap in at the
WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL PRODUCTS appeared in the mag early on. Eric Needham,
my co-producer, did some bulk-buying to economise on his house-keeping,
and confessed he was getting fed up with a steady diet of Batchelor's
Baked Beans. After a discussion on the techniques of persuasion, Eric
tried his hand at some advertising jingles for the products from an
imaginary company - Widower's. I used the results as fillers in N&T,
and we found readers joining in with new jingles. There was a time when
we had so many jingles on our hands that we had plans to produce a
And in the third issue of N&T, Eric came up with the strange story of
WIDOWER'S WART REMOVER. But read on.
* * * * * * *
HOW STRANGE IT IS that throughout life it is the small things which have
the greatest influence on us. So small a thing as a hundred gallon drum
of Widower's Wart Remover brought me to a fate almost worse than death...
marriage. It was in this way.
When not cleaning windows I try to earn a living by
pushing Widower's Products. One night at home I was
demonstrating, with a number of toads, the efficiency
of the Wart Remover. The prospective buyer, however,
seemed more interested in the spectacle of Algy quietly
absorbing a toad in the corner of the room by the
Nuremberg Maiden. Imagine my surprise when he
said to me, "There's no market for wartless toads
"Could you not create a demand for wartless toads?"
I asked. "Get in on the ground floor on a revolutionary
"Who wants wartless toads?" he enquired irascibly.
"There was no demand at one time for Mexican Hairless
Dogs," said I, thoughtfully, "Or wireless telephones, or
soapless detergents, or seedless raisins."
The buyer looked at the clock and rose to his feet.
"I have no time to waste", he said.
Sensing weakness, I pressed on. "Flameless heaters,
strapless bras, tubeless tyres, or ... "
"Roofless houses, bottomless bottles, wingless aircraft", he snarled,
Some days are like that. Sadly I covered up the drum of Wart Remover,
and shoved it into place between the cage of Black Widow spiders and the
snake venom distillery. Tossing the rest of the toads to Algy, I soothed
my ruffled feelings with Artie Shaw. But still the thought persisted...
The following day at work it occurred to me that a wartless toad would
encounter supply difficulties, since toads are scarce, and when wartless
resemble frogs, of which there is a world surplus. Frogs even fall out of
the sky in showers of rain, according to Charles Fort. Far be it from me
to contradict Charles Fort, but since I work in the open and it rains often,
I have yet to see a shower of frogs descend on roof-tops and fire-escapes.
Once, in Titus Livius's History of Rome, in the first chapter, I came across
a reference to a shower of stones on the Capitol, which is just as well since
I only read the first chapter. I asked a fellow window-cleaner, and he admit-
ted that he too had never seen a frog on a fire-escape. This puzzled me
immensely. Do frogs dislike fire-escapes ?
No man shall ever know the cunning with which I stole a three-storey fire-
escape and smuggled it home unnoticed, all in the spirit of pure scientific
research. Or how in a single night I erected it, single-handed, but I am
essentially modest. On a rainy day, I borrowed a ten-ton lorry, drove into
the Cheshire swamplands and gathered ten tons of frogs, determined to find
out why frogs never seem to be found on fire escapes.
It was appalling. The carnage was indescribable. Ton after ton of frogs I
carried upstairs in a large bucket. One by one I placed them on the top of
the fire-escape outside my window. One by one they hopped off and fell down,
down, down on to the jagged rocks and cruel crawling foam below.
After seven tons of frogs had been swept away by the outgoing tide, I called
a halt to the senseless suicidal urge. Wearily, I scooped up Algy in the
bucket, carried him downstairs and poured him evenly over the remaining
three tons of frogs, and left him to deal with them. Swearing horribly, I
pored through Freud, Brill, Kraft-Ebing, Havelock Ellis, Jung, Hubbard, and
Edgar Wallace to find some cause for this insane spate of batrachian self-
Even the sale of the fire-escape at a fabulous profit did not lighten my
mood. How, in the name of Noshabkeming or all the devils of the Seven Purple
Hells of Palain could I get into the mind of a frog without a Lens?
Inspiration - Scientology! Perhaps one form of insanity could explain
another, I mused. Did some phantom fire-escape in some previous incarnation
haunt these hag-ridden frogs? So Ole Faithful came out of its cabinet, and
was modified into an Electropsychrometer. It may not be on the same lines as
Hubbard's, but the results are pretty much the same. Using the existing
line time-base, I added modulators to the frame time-base, and pumped in
respiratory waveforms, brain alpha-, beta-, and xi-rhythm waveforms, cardiac
waveforms, and amplitude control dependent on electrical conductivity of the
skin of the frog. The resulting composite waveform was murderous, and matched
my mood at having to do this to a perfectly good television set. Still, the
lust to know overcame my desire to see Sir Mortimer Wheeler and Connie
Three weeks and five frogs later, I had probed back 637 trillion years without
result. In despair, I lightly took the motor-bike and gat me to Romiley to
He was sitting at the window, proudly gazing at the new mangrove swamp
which, at great expense, he had imported from Belfast and installed in
his back garden. Seeing my frown he tucked the hibiscus blossom he held
behind one ear and raised his eyebrows. Accustomed by now to Harry's
decorating schemes, I praised it. He does look sweet with hibiscus blossom
behind one ear... But, as ever, he drove straight to the heart of the
"I seriously doubt", said he, "if there were any fire-escapes 637 trillion
years ago." So I sadly took the motor-bike and gat me hence.
An Experiment with Time offered me a clue. Did the fear of fire-escapes
exist in the future? I asked Madam Clara in her Oldham Street salon how
to determine the future but she, being a palmist and clairvoyante, could
offer no help, though she did give me the address of a horoscope manufacturer.
But here, as always, there was a snag. When is a frog born? As frogspawn?
Tadpole? Or when it loses its tail and becomes a true frog? So, to be
certain, I had a horoscope cast for a frog of each sex at each stage in its
development. If any of these six remarkable horoscopes comes true, there
is a surprising future in Algy. I banged my head against the wall, and went
to see Harry again.
Ploughing through the dense bougainvillea which festooned No. 10's entrance,
I gained access to the mangrove swamp. And lo! there was Harry in an attitude
of intense thought contemplating the largest frog I ever saw. It was a
beauty... 3 feet high, 2 feet thick, and 4 feet deep.
Two hours solid bargaining with Harry, the exchange of 7 shillings and
sixpence, and a two-ton truck brought the Frog home.
Rejoicing at this find, I made room for the Frog in the living-room by tipping
the Black Widow spiders into the snake venom, and poured the lot into the
Nuremberg Maiden, and shovelled Algy in on top. The cage went into the sea,
and then I brought the Frog in. And I got the shock of my life when the Frog
sat in my armchair, looked at me, and said: "You must kiss me".
Numbly, I answered, "Kiss you? Kiss you? Kiss you?"
"I am really a Princess", said the Frog, "and if you would wed a fair princess,
all you must do is kiss me and restore me to my true shape and form".
Fishing in one of its ankle socks, it handed me a book of instructions. The
instructions were plain enough, but my eye caught a revealing phrase in tiny
print - "This princess is not transferable".
Suspicion deepening, I dragged the tipsy Algy out of the Nuremberg maiden and
arranged him around the Frog in a circle. Algy shoved out several eyes and
watched with interest. I took a deep breath and kissed the goggle-eyed horror,
stepped back and opened one eye, and regarded the transformed apparition,
vaguely aware that Algy was deserting me by oozing under the skirting board.
Alone with the princess, I retreated behind the snake venom distillery.
"Am I not still desirable?" it said, raising skinny arms in an attempt to
to embrace me. Clutching the Wart Remover drum and gasping for breath, I
asked: "How long have you been a frog?"
"Six hundred years, good sir", she said, still advancing...
* * * * * * *
Selection of WIDOWERS jingles
Socrates died by his own hand.
Imagine what this means...
A whole life wasted - he never tasted
WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL BEANS
In winter, Apollo's chariot
Needs no starter handle to crank it.
Engine Frozen? You should have chosen
A WIDOWER'S ELECTRICAL BLANKET
Where Florence Nightingale kept her lamp
Is a source of many rumours.
She had it concealed, it's now revealed
In her WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL BLOOMERS
Lucifer fell from heavenly grace
And landed in the gutter.
What caused his slide was not his pride
but WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL BUTTER
A poltergeist, when moving things,
Can often cause disasters.
Furniture moves smooth and sure
on WIDOWER'S GLIDING CASTORS
Lewis Mumford's most excellent thesis
Of buildings baroque & rococo
Was initiated, and then stimulated
By WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL COCOA
We read of the Battle of Bunker Hill,
In first form history lessons.
Why did they run? It wasn't for fun,
but for WIDOWER'S COFFEE ESSENCE
Since Jael murdered Sicera
All righteous men despise her.
Girls, keep your glamour: don't use a hammer
Get a WIDOWER'S EUTHANIZER
Pluto muttered in Stygian gloom:
"It's too dark to distinguish a
Thing in Hades, since Charon displayed his
WIDOWER'S FIRE EXTINGUISHER
Nero was a frolicsome lad,
With many a whimsical, sly caper.
His favourite jest was to seat his guest
On a WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL FLYPAPER
Achilles girded up his loins,
And nothing seems as absurd as
This curious fact he achieved this act
With WIDOWER'S H-SECTION GIRDERS
Lenin's October Revolution grew
To a torrent from a trickle.
In collective farms he praised the charms
of a WIDOWER'S HAMMER AND SICKLE
Capone ended up in Alcatraz
The worst Chicago Mobster.
His life of crime left him no time
for WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL LOBSTER
Picasso's weird and outré shapes
Appeal to those neurotics
Who genuflect and then inject
The most intimate article of lingerie
Won't cause a moment's unease if
You secure your scanties, your briefs or your panties
With WIDOWER'S PATENT ADHESIVE
As Salome shed her seven veils
With Herod as an audience
They beheaded John to the Sound of one
of WIDOWER'S PIANO ACCORDIANS
Diogenese lived inside his tub,
The lovable old sceptic,
This brilliant Cynic kept it hygienic
with WIDOWER'S PINE ANTISEPTIC
The early demure Victorian maid
Was shocked by intimate waltzes,
So each young charmer wore as armour
WIDOWER'S PNEUMATIC FALSIES
The Mona Lisa's secret smile
Which hints of gay adventures
Could be more daring if she were wearing
WIDOWER'S PORCELAIN DENTURES
To shoot an apple from his small son's head
Tell used an accurate, true barb...
Descendants flourishing, reared on nourishing
WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL RHUBARB
The water supplies of Ancient Greece
Were affected by pollution.
A certain cure for a leaking sewer
is WIDOWER'S RUBBER SOLUTION
Elderly maids who blush deep red
At the mention of phallic symbols
Display no shame when they acclaim
WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL THIMBLES
Elizabeth the Virgin Queen
Was chaste to the end of her days.
Although they hurt you, keep your virtue
with WIDOWER'S WHALEBONE STAYS
(All the above by Eric Needham)
Copywriter Chuck Harris:
Godiva ran not the slightest risk
In cantering out in her pelt...
She was in fact a virgo intacta
With a WIDOWER'S CHASTITY BELT
Salome's dancing and demands
Caused John's decapitation.
"Was Herod entranced because she danced
Without her WIDOWER'S COMBINATIONS?
Copywriter Archie Mercer:
In Xanadu built Kublai Khan
A pleasure dome for his workers ...
An illuminated, prefabricated
WIDOWER'S TRAVELLING CIRCUS
The peak of Everest was reached
By Hillary and Tensing,
Who staked a claim and surrounded same
With WIDOWER'S PORTABLE FENCING
Leda cuddled the Jovian Swan,
An unprecedented thing.
But she got a bit more than she'd bargained for -
A WIDOWER'S CYGNET RING
King Canute defied the sea,
But couldn't stop it flooding.
He should have made a barricade
of WIDOWER'S XMAS PUDDING
If you've sensations of' U-radiations
In almost unbearable dosages,
We're safe in assuming you've been consuming
WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL SAUSAGES
The Receivers ought to ask a court
(Whether High, Beth Din or Consistory)
To pin-point the brains behind those quatrains
And solve WIDOWER'S FINAL MYSTERY.
(Archie Mercer's response to a request in 1996 for clarification
of authorship his verses [no] or Eric Needham's [yes])
Copywriter Robert Bloch:
The Boy stood on the Burning Deck:
That fire it was a wow, sirs!
Yet he could, without doubt, have
With WIDOWER'S ASBESTOS TROUSERS
Moses climbed up Mount Sinai
For ten tablets to cure mankind's ills;
But when internal growls distress your bowels
Buy WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL PILLS
When viewing the wringers of washing machines,
Ample-bosomed young women show fears;
But if you've a full bust, then just put your trust
In WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL BRASSIERES
When the Serpent caused Adam and Eve to fall
(Was it python, asp or viper?)
They had to leave Eden and shortly were needin'
WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL DIAPERS
Copywriter Pat Darrell:
Archimedes said: "I'll move the Earth!"
The limit of his science.
You can do the job for twenty-five bob
With a WIDOWER'S LIFTING APPLIANCE
Hercules cleaned out the Augean Stables,
A problem that seemed a poser.
To clean out your byre, you now can hire
A WIDOWER'S WONDERFUL BULLDOZER
The Scarlet Pimpernel came and went
Like a French Revolution drea.
Why his success ? Cannot you guess ?
WIDOWER'S VANISHING CREAM !
Finale, by Eric...
Perhaps your child has his mother's eyes
But appearances can be deceptive.
Undoubted maternity, but as for paternity
WIDOWER'S are unable to offer any assistance!
Produced by the SEPTUAGENARIAN FANS ASSOCIATION™