* 200 articles. Two years. Whelk. The best of Upsideclown. Might be reprinted.

29 October 2001
Victor's up for exploiting the Third World. Are you?

When I was fourteen my English teacher, Mr Robinson, informed the class that he had received a letter from a boy in Ghana - let's call him Kwame, for that is his fucking name - who was looking for a penpal. Mr Robinson asked us if anyone was willing to volunteer for the task. I, like the wannabe overachiever that I am, duly raised my hand and bought a pack of airmail fold-up notelets in readiness for my first missive.

Thus far letter-writing had been an act of supreme formality: letters home from school to my doting parents concealing nightly fear of buggery - 'today in cookery we made sausage rolls'; the fortnightly due to the French correspondent - 'Merci de ta lettre...le singe est sur mon visage... à bientôt'; thank you notes for much sought after Christmas presents - 'I have always wanted a Foil Art engraving set'. Consequently my introduction to Kwame contained much customary emptiness, which I modified on the basis of his (surely?) inferior intellect and evidently poor command of the English language:

Dear Kwame,

My name is Victor. I am 14. My English teacher got your letter. I told him that I would like to write to you.

What is your favourite subject at school? Mine are Latin and French. I also like playing badminton. Do you like sport?

I live on the South Coast of England in a place called Brighton. It is often very sunny here and I like to go and sit on the beach. What is it like where you live?

Best wishes,

Victor Barnes

It takes about two weeks for a letter to get from Brighton to Ghana. So, go figure - four weeks later I received a an enticing-looking envelope, bordered by red, white and blue flashes and stamped with exotic baked scenes. My pal from Africa had wielded his pen. The handwriting was scratchy: it struck me as a cross between that of my left- handed grandmother minus spectacles and that of Guy Fawkes post-rack torture. This, I thought at the time, was unsurprising given the presumably pitiful state of the Ghanaian school system. The letter read as follows:

Dear Victor,

My favourite lesson is Mathematics. I want to be an accountant. Please send me a calculator.

Best wishes,


Like hell. Aren't there organisations like Oxfam for that kind of thing? But recently I have seen the true quality of Kwame's request, have identified the genius lurking behind the language of the innocent. Kwame may well be an accountant now; he may well have been hindered in his wish by my refusal to reply to his request. Conversely, he may also be a man with a fuck load of calculators.

On this basis I am determined to follow his example. I have so far gathered a database of English departments in 'top people's schools' throughout the British Isles. Two days ago I sent them all a letter:

Dear Sir Professor,

My name is Victor. I am from Ghana. I am looking for penpal. Please someone would write me?

Best wishes,


Having received a swift reply - 'My favourite subject is Geography. I like wrestling. Do you like wrestling?' - I wait for just under four weeks (I'm writing from Ghana). I then despatch the following:

Dear Tarquin,

Thank you very much for your letter. My favourite lesson is Mathematics. I want to be an accountant. Please send me a calculator.

Thank you very much,


PS Can you send please to address here below?
Victor Barnes Instruments
23-25 Airfield Industrial Estate

It might just work.


This is the fucking archive

Current clown:

18 December 2003. George writes: This List

Most recent ten:

15 December 2003. Jamie writes: Seven Songs
11 December 2003. Dan writes: Spinning Jenny
8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
4 December 2003. Matt writes: The Mirrored Spheres of Patagonia
1 December 2003. George writes: Charm
27 November 2003. James writes: On Boxing
24 November 2003. Jamie writes: El Matador del Amor; Or, the Man who Killed Love
20 November 2003. Dan writes: Rights Management
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
13 November 2003. Matt writes: Disintermediation
(And alas we lost Neil, who last wrote Cockfosters)

Also by this clown:

8 December 2003. Victor writes: Rock Opera
17 November 2003. Victor writes: Walking on Yellow
27 October 2003. Victor writes: Our Tune
6 October 2003. Victor writes: Sucking face (in a public place)
15 September 2003. Victor writes: You got any ID?
25 August 2003. Victor writes: Blood on the Boulevard
4 August 2003. Victor writes: In (paren)theses
10 July 2003. Victor writes: Island Fling
19 June 2003. Victor writes: Back (back) and forth (and forth)
2 June 2003. Victor writes: 300 clowns, 13 eight-year olds
12 May 2003. Victor writes: The swings and roundabouts of outrageous fortune
21 April 2003. Victor writes: ...just sitting there quietly contemplating suicide
31 March 2003. Victor writes: Victoria
6 March 2003. Victor writes: Relevant experience
17 February 2003. Victor writes: You will eat chips and go nowhere
27 January 2003. Victor writes: A bushy fish for fishy Mr Bush (after Juvenal)
6 January 2003. Victor writes: The Accidental Voyeur
16 December 2002. Victor writes: Gripper goes bang
25 November 2002. Victor writes: Bediquette
4 November 2002. Victor writes: Where have all the spastics gone?
14 October 2002. Victor writes: An Immodest Proposal
23 September 2002. Victor writes: Fastscan masterplan
2 September 2002. Victor writes: Dry Humping Social Club
12 August 2002. Victor writes: Beat the Mongol
22 July 2002. Victor writes: What life is not
1 July 2002. Victor writes: Stupor heroes
6 June 2002. Victor writes: Dry
13 May 2002. Victor writes: Muppet Suite
18 April 2002. Victor writes: gingermingeninja
25 March 2002. Victor writes: Sodomize with Pukka Pies
28 February 2002. Victor writes: Dave's problem
4 February 2002. Victor writes: King of the Aisles
10 January 2002. Victor writes: Here come the decorator gimps.
17 December 2001. Victor writes: Make war, not supper.
22 November 2001. Victor writes: Cough
29 October 2001. Victor writes:
4 October 2001. Victor writes: Green Gauges
10 September 2001. Victor writes: Blind weed
16 August 2001. Victor writes: Snout!
23 July 2001. Victor writes: You're not going to put this in a clown are you?
28 June 2001. Victor writes: What is a droll?
4 June 2001. Victor writes: Burt Pakamak
10 May 2001. Victor writes: Board to Death
12 April 2001. Victor writes: Tricolon with anaphora?
22 March 2001. Victor writes: Point of View
26 February 2001. Victor writes: Goth's Dinner
1 Feburary 2001. Victor writes: Les Miserables
4 January 2001. Victor writes: Flat-packed furniture
14 December 2000. Victor writes: Deliverance
20 November 2000. Victor writes: Bottomry: Exorcising Ghosts
26 October 2000. Victor writes: Body Art
2 October 2000. Victor writes: Disney must die
7 September 2000. Victor writes: Ice-cream in Offworld
14 August 2000. Victor writes: I like sweets that taste of medicine
26 June 2000. Victor writes: I've seen the future, and it's feathered

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