* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where our outlook is always international, as evidenced by this week's contributor, Catherine Batac Walder. If you've ever wondered how English pubs differ from American bars, belly up to Ms. Walder's first piece for us...

Posted On A Pub Notice Board

By: Catherine Batac Walder

As much as we’re a public house and it feels just like home, this is not a family pub. We don’t have a children’s menu simply because…we are not a family pub. And please bear in mind we are not a chain. As far as I know there is no other pub with a name like ours, but if you find another one in Sussex, I assure you we’re not related. So if you have had a bad experience with them, we could only offer you our commiserations.

1. It has come to our attention from a recent study that it doesn’t make a difference whether you are hit on the skull with a full or empty beer bottle. Since either may fracture the skull, make sure to start a fight when you finish drinking and the bottles are empty, so nothing will go to waste and it’s easier to clean up afterwards. (We respect this study’s groundbreaking results, but are not happy that the researchers used Feldschlösschen Bier to prove their point. Seriously, Feldschlösschen Bier, what were they thinking? Though I guess to get results they had to break a bottle of something.)

2. Please take note of the emergency exits. One right beside the dart board as you enter this room. The other one next to the snooker table as you walk to the room behind the bar. Note that the door to the garden doesn’t exist anymore. It hasn’t since Lady Augusta moved to the village in the ’70s and built Toad Hall next door intending to put us out of business (haha guess who was put out of business). If you get hit on the skull but are still sober enough to get help, run to the nearest police station, which is just down the street. I repeat, down the street, not after the first roundabout two miles from here. Do not trust the map of the village in the foyer. That was drawn two centuries ago and everything has changed, except for our pub.

3. We are aware that the pub gets too crowded from 10pm onwards. I acknowledge your requests to have an extension where Toad Hall used to stand, which land we now also own. An extension is not impossible but difficult. I’d like to tell you how long it took us to get planning permission for the additional toilets at the back of the pub but I might get emotional.

4. Please mind your heads. Two of our tall patrons have been hospitalized for concussions recently when they banged their heads on the low beams (see, blows to the skulls even without the help of a beer bottle; no they weren’t even drunk at the time). One of these beams allegedly put Admiral Laugherty into a coma during his visit here in the 17th century.

5. We’d like to dispel the rumor that the Inklings used to hold their meetings here. We are The Happy Mantis and Sprog. You mistake us for The Eagle and Child. Neither is this that feisty crime novelist’s watering hole. I think it’s the only pub he hasn’t visited in this area and we take pride in that.

6. There have been complaints that some of our waitresses are too young to even serve beer. They just look young, but they are of the right age, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to work here. If you ask a waitress, “What ales do you have?” And if she answers “Is Foster’s an ale? Or Budweiser?” report them to us as there might have really been a discrepancy in their birth certificates.

7. Because of a previous complaint from a regular customer that we are serving home-cooked food whereas his intention was to get away from home cooking, from now on we can assure you that all foods will come from a Tesco food pack. Sorry, we will not deviate from what’s on the menu. Spare ribs, scampi, everything, will come in a pack. Rice goes only with curry. If you are one of those who cannot survive without rice and want that instead of mashed potato with your lamb shank, pay for both curry and lamb shank meals. On the bright side, we know you love the pastry of the steak and kidney pie from Tesco because it’s buttery. We have a new name for it, steak and kidney shortbread.

8. We are not allowed to open until 11 a.m. (read: we serve drinks as early as 9 a.m. but we don’t serve food until 11 a.m.). You will hear us shout “Last orders, please!” shortly before 11 p.m. Considering that we are breaking the law for you in the morning, you should take closing time seriously. By last orders we don’t mean we make the rounds at tables and take your last-minute orders. We won’t ask what you’re having even if we see that you’re famished. Come to the bar (the term “bar” in Britain means the counter at which drinks are served) to get your drinks, let us know of the number of your table if you’d like food to be served and pay in cash immediately. Tips are unnecessary although an occasional offer to get staff a drink is mostly appreciated. Never, ever use the word “buy” when offering drinks to staff.

I repeat, no rounds at tables, all right, because if there was anyone who should think of ’rounds,’ it should be you fellow in the corner who always waits for your mates to buy you a drink and cowers whenever you see that they are about to finish theirs. For goodness’ sake buy them a round for a change.

9. For those of you who stumbled upon our pub in the hopes of finding the typical British pub, welcome. We understand your curiosity but you might not want to drink our supply of bitter in one gulp in your search for the typical British ale. We serve chips here, which are sliced in large wedges as compared to the French-cut fries that you must know. Bar snacks are not snacks but a meal so be careful when ordering varieties or else you’ll be stuffed. It’s best to stay away from the regulars’ verbal or nonverbal pub-talks. When you see me signing to a passing stranger through the glass window, I’m not making fun of you tourists. I’m just updating my mate with football scores.

I must have forgotten something else. If you have any comments, I’d like to hear from you. I am the poor old sod occupying table number 8 by the fireplace, except during Arsenal games, as I prefer to watch football in the comfort of my abode, and not be bothered by busted bottles and skulls.

NB: Tuesdays are Bingo days, from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. May we request for you to hold on to your bottles in that short span of time.

— The Landlord

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we enjoy solving crimes the literary way. This week's author is a first-time offender named Tim Cushing, and the parole officer in us likes to think we'll be seeing a lot more from him.

A Guide To Homicide Investigation

By: Tim Cushing

Good morning. I’m Detective James Morniwheg, Homicide.

As you know, your homicide team has suffered its share of “black eyes” recently thanks to some botched investigations and Officer Hisel himself. As a favor to your recently dismissed chief, I have agreed to speak to you briefly on the techniques of proper homicide investigation.

The First 24 Hours
You may have heard it stated that 90% of homicides are solved in the first 24 hours. Whether or not this is true doesn’t matter. Everyone already believes it is, so act accordingly.

This would seem to indicate that you will have a hectic day (and night) beginning with the homicide call. Try looking at it this way: you will only have to look busy for 24 hours before you can return to your normal schedule of playing computer solitaire and ticketing your ex-wife’s vehicle.

If you can make it past these critical hours, you are out of the woods, even if the victim’s body still isn’t. Label the paperwork “Cold Case” and throw it in the precinct fridge for some cheap laughs.

Your Homicide Toolkit
Here’s a list of items you should have on you at all times:

Evidence bags
Ballpoint pen (for picking up empty casings; occasional writing)
World-weary cynicism
Desire to help people (rookies only)


Unlit cigar
Pet theories
Desire to hurt people

Arriving on the Scene
Your average beat cop will most likely be the first responder to a homicide call. They are usually unimpressed with your position and will undercut your authority at every opportunity. Send them out to “knock on doors.” This will keep them away from the crime scene and thus unable to show you up with their “attention to detail” and “logical conclusions.” Also, their street smarts will clash badly with your world-weary cynicism/desire to help people.

Securing the Scene
I’m touching briefly on this because improper police tape usage continues to be a problem in this department. Your tape has both an inside and an outside. Failure to keep your tape “right side out” while cordoning off a scene will result in you being “taped out” and unable to further pursue your investigation. It will also leave you exposed to the mocking laughter of the returning beat cops.

Identifying and Collecting Evidence
Expect to collect some form of “evidence” at every crime scene. Some criminals, especially drug dealers, will have thoughtfully pre-bagged some evidence for you. Mark any evidence with something distinctive, like “Party in a Bag,” “Retirement Fund” or “To Be Planted.”

You will also be charged with maintaining the proper “chain of custody,” which is easily accomplished by keeping the evidence in your possession at all times. Larger amounts may be stored in your house, storage unit or bus station locker. It’s also a good idea to have a stack of custody forms and ample amounts of Whiteout, in order to accurately reflect your rapidly dwindling stash of evidence.

Occasionally, you’ll find yourself with a surplus of evidence, especially during Internal Affairs’ investigations. Feel free to ditch the excess at any current crime scene. The other responding officers will appreciate your generosity and it will often take the case in surprising new directions.

The Smoking Gun
As the most famous form of evidence, the “smoking gun” can often refer to other things metaphorically. We will be dealing only with the literal interpretation.

If you find a gun on the scene, pick it up and sniff the barrel thoughtfully. Has it been fired recently?

If it hasn’t or is still “undetermined,” go ahead and fire a few shots into the wall or available corpse. Try out some creative angles to confuse the boys in forensics. Mark gun as “recently fired.” Place in evidence bag. (Allow time to cool.)

Be sure to indicate, when asked, that the gun was fired “circa the time of death,” rather than “shortly after I got here.”

Shell Casings and the Importance of Pen Selection
A homicide detective is only as good as his pen. Don’t scrimp on costs here, as you will have no other way to properly collect empty shells. Look for something thin with a low center of gravity.

Picking up shells is not as easy as it looks. You’ll want to practice at home, using one of the “evidence” guns you’ve secured. Fire a few rounds into the wall or available corpse. (This will also help you get the sense for the “recently fired” smell.) With enough practice you should be able to pick up casings in one smooth move.

(Important note: never use your hands to pick up shells, gloved or not. It is considered a crime scene “faux pas” and will probably “tamper” the evidence.)

Dealing with the Forensic Pathologist
As someone who deals intimately with death, your average forensic will often be a pasty, emotionless, wise-cracking weirdo who will insist on eating something no matter how gruesome the homicide.

He will often use phrases and ask questions full of words you won’t understand. Just nod and ask occasional leading questions, such as:

“Any signs of foul play?”
“What’s your guess on the time of death?”
“Would this ‘recently fired’ gun have anything to do with it?”

If stuck for words, you can always defer to the responding officer. A second tactic is to remove your sunglasses and chew on them thoughtfully while gazing over the scene, perhaps guesstimating the wholesale price of the now ruined Persian rug. I know this tactic sounds ridiculous, but do it in front of a mirror a few times and you’ll see how “thoughtful” it can make you appear.

I hope these tips will help you out in future investigations and bring a sense of competency back to this force, which has been hit hard by wrongful arrest suits and Officer Hisel himself, who seems to be “externalizing” his frustrated emotions through a series of well-placed left jabs.

Thank you for your time.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are inordinately proud of Western civilization's Greco-Roman heritage. That and the fact that the mad emperor Caligula made a horse into a senator one time. How cool is that?

From The Journal Of Incitatus, The Horse Caligula Made A Senator

By: Federico Garduño

Ianuarius 9, 40
I saw a cat in the stable today. It had stripes. Also, Caligula said that I am going to be a Senator now.

Februarius 20, 40
Despite what I assumed earlier, there is very little crossover between the duties of a Senator and those of a racehorse. I have a lot to learn about the law and government before the Senate convenes. It’s daunting, but I hope there will be some legislative and political situations where I can rely on my strengths, such as running quickly.

Mariutus 27, 40
I know that I was not given my position based solely on merit, and I know that makes me unpopular. There are probably dozens of people who deserve this job more than I do, but who am I to refuse my emperor’s patronage? He has been a good friend, and very generous with crisp, sweet apples. Yes, he can be unstable. No one that has ever been forced to attend one of his “wiggle parties” could deny that, but he has Rome’s best interests at heart.

Iunius 30, 40
Would any other member be expected to endure the indignity of being made so stand on straw when the senate is in session? I think not. I am again subjected to a double standard. Yes, I have peed on the floor, but I am hardly the only senator to have done so.

Iulius 4, 40
My colleagues’ criticism has grown tiresome. “You’re just a symbol of Caligula’s contempt for the Senate,” they say, or “you’ve kicked over the podium again.” I would trample them all, but I am afraid that I would never be taken seriously if I did. I cannot afford to be labeled “difficult.”

September 8, 40
Sometimes it’s partially my fault. I admit that. Asinius Celer could have been a great ally, and I lament the loss of his support. It was both brave and kind of him to offer me a carrot as a gesture of good will, but he should have known to lay his palm flat. I did not mean to bite him, it is simply the way my mouth is made. I will send an apologetic letter, but I fear my zeal for carrots has cost me another potential friend.

Augustus 14, 40
Yet again, my senatorial colleagues have shown that they will refuse to support any measure that I put forward. I worry that I am doing more harm than good to any cause I support. What, other than spite, would compel anyone to vote against a simple resolution declaring oats a more delicious crop than barley.

I would hate to see the same thing happen to my proposed ban of all brightly colored things that flap loudly in the wind, because they are terrifying.

Ianuarius 24, 41
Uh oh. They killed Caligula. Someone stabbed him in the face and the chest and genitals a bunch of times. I had hoped that is was an accident, but when the news broke, senators began congratulating each other on pulling off such a smooth conspiratorial murder. I tried to sneak out the back of the senate quietly, but my hooves make that pretty difficult. I am not sure I would have survived if I had not been the fastest Senator by a pretty wide margin.

Ianuarius 25, 41
I have decided to retire to the country. I have accomplished what I set out to do, and it is time to move on. This afternoon I will release a statement explaining that I am leaving the Senate for personal reasons and to spend more time with my family.

* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where God knows we love our country. And by God, we mean Curtis Edmonds, assuming he wins the election.

I Am A Candidate

By: Curtis Edmonds

Every November, Americans go to the polls to elect our leaders. Every two years, we elect our Congressmen, every four years, we elect our President, and every six years, we elect our Senators. And this year, we finally have the opportunity to cast our vote for the highest office in the land. This November, you and I will go to our polling places and cast our vote for who will serve in the position of God.

Everyone knows the record of the Incumbent. All of us in this country — those who believe in Him, anyway — have been praying to Him all of our lives. He has unlimited power and influence, a fervent network of supporters, extremely high name recognition, and high poll numbers. The conventional wisdom says He should win this election handily.

But in the last few years, I think all of us have asked ourselves one question — can we do better? Can we expect more from our God? Should we ask God to do more to impact the lives of the less well-off? I believe that we can do better, and we should do better in this election. Therefore, I announce today that I am a candidate for God.

This election will be a fierce uphill fight, but I am undeterred by the battle ahead. I may not have omnipotence, omnipresence, and His world-spanning omnibenevolence, but I believe I have the skill, the experience, and the dedication that this country is looking for from its God.

In fact, I wouldn’t even be running in this race if I didn’t think I had some distinct advantages over the Incumbent. This country needs a young, dynamic God to meet the challenges that we face, and there are real questions as to whether the Ancient of Days is still up to the job. And as a mortal, not only do I have a real understanding of the suffering of ordinary people, but it serves as a built-in term limit. Once I die, that’s going to be the end of my service as God — and I give you my word that I won’t resurrect myself.

Another thing I have over God is my longtime residence in this country, something that He can’t match. As your God, it will be my intention to stay right here on Earth, with ordinary Americans just like you and me, and not spend all my time seated on the Throne of Grace. And when I travel across the country to visit the Faithful, I’m going to fly coach — and we’ll sell the flaming fiery chariot on eBay.

Most importantly, I am the candidate that can address the issues of the modern world. My Opponent’s platform dates back to the First Century and doesn’t even pretend to address net neutrality, dependence on foreign oil, or what the heck is up with Lady Gaga.

First of all, as God, I intend to address the important issue of climate change. Winter snowstorms will be restricted to ski areas whenever possible. All holiday weekends will have guaranteed clear skies and warm weather. And the current Administration’s practice of subcontracting the end of winter out to some groundhog is going to end.

The next step after climate change is disaster reform. As God, I will take an active role in routing hurricanes away from Caribbean resorts and cruise-ship routes and towards areas suffering from droughts and wildfires. There will be strict rules against tornadoes, floods, tsunamis, and Michael Bay movies. And God’s current practice of sending earthquakes to poor tropical countries with lax building codes will be suspended indefinitely.

As God, I intend to take a more active role in national defense. The Incumbent’s slogan has always been “Vengeance is mine, I will repay.” If I’m elected God, vengeance is going to be more than just talk. Our foreign enemies — whether that’s Ahmadinejad, Kim Jong-Il, or Simon Cowell — will know My wrath. And I’m not going to send any of our country’s brave men and women into battle without a whole host of flaming thunderbolts to back them up.

Of course, as God, I will be a strong force for world peace. And I will go to the United Nations and give a speech where I just go up there and talk, but everyone there hears my speech in their own language, just because that would be a cool thing for God to do, don’t you think?

I expect this to be a long, tough road to victory. I pledge to run a clean, positive campaign, and not bring up little things like the Crusades or religious intolerance or any ancient history like that. If I am elected God, I pledge to do my best to live up to your faith in me. Thank you again, and come November, I hope to be able to say — I bless you, and I bless America.