Thursday 4 February – The Thievery Corporation, a Case for Porthole Drift

With all the birthdays flying around at this time of year – Sir Dempson’s celebrated last weekend by way of deer stalking at Denham Massey; Miss Shazhorn’s within touching distance (not that I will until our impending anniversary) – it’s easy for a man (that’s what I am) to take his eye off the ball, especially if that ball is sat in premature retirement above the boiler, as deflated as Miss Jordan’s chest before that suspicious trip to Switzerland. Or perhaps it was the daydreaming of Voluntary Early Death that led me to mislay an entire barge full of coal last Tuesday. Now I’ve lost the odd bit of coke in the past, you won’t be surprised to learn, and I once lent a chunk of our finest ‘black gold’ to a tinker who carved it into a slightly racist likeness of me before selling it back to me for thrupence, but honestly – a whole barge of the stuff?

Having spent this long with me, in this deliciously seedy corner of The One Great Northern City (voted top ironic tourist destination north of the Cotswolds by readers of Country Life for the last sixteen seasons), you will no doubt have some suspects in mind for the theft of all this dusty goodness. And theft it must be, for the good ship Sludger is nowhere to be seen the length and breadth of this canal – or at least nowhere between here and Old Trafford, at which point my morning run gets painful and I have to return home to wash my feet in iced rum. But while Shifty McQuiggin has indeed been redeployed at the Warehouse he is serving his multiple debts to society by wearing diamante shackles and a distressed rat-skin coat. With a balloon glued to his forehead, a pencil and some extremely thin paper, he can now be traced almost anywhere with ease. Swarthy Erick? How dare you! Thanks to the papers, we’re all aware of my childhood friend’s arrest in Morocco for terror wrist offences, but it later transpired that the distended muscle was caused by one-armed press-ups – something to take the mind of the monotony of his summer job in the steam rooms.

No, no and no – and don’t even remind me of the Russians. Last time I implicated them (and their talking cat) in crimes against the Batson body, fifteen of my carriers disappeared over St Petersburg (long-distance chat-line), my worldwidewotsit connection was hacked into, and I found a mysterious pipeline in the wall of the flat through which my ‘special shag’ was fast disappearing. Yes, the trail was cold, and the clues were few and far-between – but I knew it was a challenge that Porthole Drift would rise to, while scratching his great hairy sea legs. I blew on the special whistle he’d given me as a boy and soon I saw his barge, Gypsy Lady, racing towards me at a rate of knots. An extremely slow rate of knots. But he got there. In the end. But it was five-fifteen by then. And I was really tired after a day at work twiddling my gums. So I said I’d speak to him later in the week.


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