Norbert Dentressangle and the Brain-Worms of Inner-Space #narrowboat #boating #boatsthattweet

I have never been entirely certain that my Brain is on my side.

It plays music to itself almost constantly. I don’t mean like some Albert Hall conductor ponce, I mean something more akin to a teenager with a new Dansette, six 45rpm records all by the same heart-throb crooner and with twenty-four hours a day to kill in the room at the top of my spinal-column staircase.

My dreams are more intense, dominating and action-packed than is my waking life. I have recurring dreams, serial dreams, two dozen or more entire and complete, unchanging dream “landscapes” that serve as the settings and even though I can wake myself up during dreams and can be self-aware and change the course of (some of) my dreams, it doesn’t matter – next time I go to sleep they just continue from where we, Brain and I, left off.

When I am awake Brain insists on filtering everything so that it presents as almost cartoon-form, and if the dialogue, mine or that of others, isn’t grammatically spot-on then brain will insist on the most ludicrous interpretation possible.

A news headline such as ‘Woman killed in car accident on M3’ simply causes the homunculus between my ears to comment ‘Bastards! Why kill her when she was already having a lousy day, having been involved in a car accident? Taking the opportunity while she and others were distracted, I suppose.’

It’s really not very nice sometimes, and although it may sometimes not appear so, I do do (Dodo doo-doo) an awful lot of damage limitation and control, keeping my gob shut in spite of outbursts from Brain. It’s what I manage not to say that makes John West salmon the best. I remember once in my first office job a beaming couple brought their new grubling baby in for everyone to gawp at (for some unaccountable reason, producing babies is hardly akin to splitting the atom or capturing the Mona Lisa’s expression just before she belched, is it?). Before I knew what was happening I could hear a pair of lips expostulating ‘Christ! That’s the ugliest baby I’ve ever seen!’ Though not under my control, those lips were mine…

To be fair to Brain, it was a “remarkable” baby. Remarkable in the sense of “fetch me a crucifix” and “fetch flaming brands” and “don’t, please, let the sun go down until we’ve dealt with this”. To be fair to me, there’s just nothing to be done after that sort of thing. Slink away in shame, apologise all you like, none of it makes the slightest difference. You just have to pretend that it didn’t happen and hope that everyone else joins in the farce. ‘Mortifying’ is a lovely word, and one that often hangs around more often than it ought, although not for the same reasons as Norbert or Dentressangle.

Walking past an empty lock I have to consciously wrestle with a temptation to lob myself bodily in. It’s not that I want to, just that Brain thinks that it might be hilarious. Anything for a laugh, eh? I am well wise to the antics now. There’s no danger, unless one of my knees gives way suddenly… or someone upon whose baby “I” have commented finds me at a lock sans witnesses or cctv… 😉

Another of the delights of Brain is Trypophobia. If you knew the discomfort in obtaining that link you’d almost certainly laugh contemptuously; most do. Internet searches these days return images as well as text and links, and sites about trypophobia are awash with images that chuffing well trigger the effects – physical “skin crawling” “flesh creeping” discomfort, a need to be most urgently elsewhere, nausea and some level of panic.

I kid you not.

My personal theory is that the maternity home (Croft Baker, in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire), built me on a Friday afternoon from bits that they found on the floor.

I was assembled by drunken medical students working from instructions they found inside a Christmas cracker (in June).

Let’s face it, high-quality raw materials are just not going to be readily available in Cleethorpes at the best of times, are they?

Gods alone know what I would look like were I a car. A two-stroke diesel Isetta Bubble Car with three steering wheels, six reverse gears, no seat and a handbrake made from spaghetti, probably. Poop-poop! [Not “parp-parp”.]

So; Norbert Dentressangle.

I can type that now because it doesn’t matter – it’ll be going around in my head for days, maybe even weeks. Some phrases do that, and I don’t mean that they pop in and out for amusing consideration once in a while. Oh no. Such a phrase will be pushing itself to the forefront of my brain every two or three seconds, blotting out what I ought to be thinking of and/or causing a log-jam and congestion among other thoughts.

If I wake up in the night a little voice will give me just enough time to find the light switch and then it will begin bouncing around like a kid in a sweetshop, riding around the inside of my skull on a unicycle, shouting through a megaphone: ‘NORBERT DENTRESSANGLE! NORBERT DENTRESSANGLE! NORBERT DENTRESSANGLE! NORBERT DENTRESSANGLE! NORBERT DENTRESSANGLE! …’ until I go back to me (vivid, serial, sometimes lucid or semi-lucid and oft-repeating) dreams.

Really, it’s fun!

You’re never alone with a brain like mine.

I can go a long, long time between “Norbert Dentressangles”. The current one was caused by a narrowboat book that I was re-enjoying. Narrow Dog to Carcassonne. Tum ti tum te tum ti tum, read-y read-y read-y, page turn page turn page turn and then the idiot author slaps “Norbert Dentressangle” in the text for no really good reason. To be fair, there are a lot of other words and phrases of that “shape” and character that would have had the same effect. The author can’t be blamed.

Now I enter a phase that will, at some point, have me suddenly thinking to myself ‘Hey – I haven’t thought “Norbert Dentressangle” for a while!’ – thus starting the homunculus off all over again… and for another few days the word or phrase or sound will be following me around again like a cloud of farm flies in summer.

Seriously, it’s f.u.n. with a capital please s.t.f.u., Brain, for the love of Zeus and Apollo.

In the days when I used to drive (when I had a car – so much less embarrassing to be on the roads when you have a car, no-one these days seems to appreciate Toad of Toad Hall impressions on the M6…) all that was needed was to see a “Norbert” lorry.

Eddie Stobart, on the other axle hand, was never a cause for Brain to break out the finger-bells and begin chanting. I can say ‘Eddie Stobart’ and then not have to say it again until next time I need to.

My ever-present consolation is that I am, therefore, quite normal and far, far more sane than most of you out there in Blogland.

On a less Mimi, less navel-gazing note, what happened yesterday, when all of my dreams were sofa away?

Well, in the one house nearby Daddy decided to burn the Christmas rubbish – and forgot to check the direction of the local breeze-ette. The family home was kippered.


I was, yesterday, the only boat (well, the Cardinal was the boat, I’m just the skipper) on this stretch, something on the order of a third to half an empty, country mile.

So where did Mr Angler and family and yappy yappy yappy dogs set up camp? Ten feet away from the Cardinal’s bow, and then he, and they, proceeded to “angle” two feet off the bow and a similar distance off the stern. People and dogs up and down the side of the only boat moored here (mine) all day long. Share the space, the Canal Rozzers tell us.


No, no, huddle together near the strange boat for warmth, reply the anglers.

When Daddy wasn’t walking up and down to change from bow to stern the kids and the dogs (not all shown here) were running back and forth, from one t’other.

Why? I mean why would you set up shop for a family expedition (which only the father was enjoying) right next to, around and about, almost all over, the only boat moored here?

It beggars belief.

Worm-danglers of the world untie!

The bread of my previous post turned out to be (I would estimate) three-quarters bread and only one-quarter brickish. It’s very tasty, anyway, and has made some fine toast & Marmite. The Cardinal’s oven doesn’t quite get hot enough for bread methinks, sometimes the heat just bores the dough to death rather than baking it. I make smaller, shallower, narrower loaves to compensate. Or buns. Nice buns, Vicar. Are there speciality bakeries that bake tur-buns for Sikhs? Wheeeee! Norbert Dentressangle.

The odd pattern on the body of the loaf is because I line the tin with baking paper, and I’m none too prissy about flattening it all out as well as I ought. The Artex texture of the top is probably because I didn’t knead it enough. Will you still knead me, will you still feed me, when I’m sixty-four? Conjugate “knead”; I knead, you knud, they kned, we all kneadled.

Today is Sunday in that little oasis of non-descript nothingness between Spendmas and New Year. We’ve got a smidgen of weak sunshine here at the moment. The solar panels are sipping at the photon-ambrosia the way that bed-ridden invalids sip at Lucozade and then, with each cloud that passes, falling back onto their pillows with an exhausted thump.


More bread, I think, although today I’ll make it flat flat flat, with rosemary and garlic (other popular-beat duos are available).

I wonder if the anglers will come back to play?

Where will I hide the bodies if they do?


Ian H., & Co.


  1. Look here my good man, I saw the photo of the loaf and then had to plough through the avalanche of wordsnstuff. Your brain needs a knead, the angler and family needs a nibble from Moby Dick. The job then would then be a good’un. Now about this here staff of life masquerading as a house brick, a blooming anaemic one at that, oven notwithstanding… A good worker never, like never ever blames his tools. Now to the numb or should a say cob of my question, I ought to say at this point I am the self proclaimed and anointed queen of sourdough, a late arrival at the ancient brethren of natural leaven bread., call me Crusty for short. ‘Is it sourdough?’ Answers on a barm cake to …

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Sourdough? Ye gods, no. It’s what I like to call my “memory foam” loaf – I just remember what I did the last time I made bread and do it again…

      Another fifty thousand loaves such as that one and I’ll be able to build myself a house.



    1. They do indeed – and then to be thrown [back] into the water afterwards!

      If, as they say, the object is the rest and relaxation, then there is no need for anything on the end of the piece of string… so why not just a seat and a good book? It is almost regrettable that here in England we have no fresh-water fish species that leap out and drag humans off land, for food…

      Allidiles or crocagators perhaps?

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I also have the brain nattering issue, where it harps on a phrase for days. I’ve learned not to give much consideration to the meaning of the phrase, because then the brain flexes itself into a monster. Best to be a martyr to the minor aggravation rather than a victim of the horror.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You’re right, there’s nowt to be done other than to let the beast run its course. I’m quite fond of my brain in most other departments (with one or two serious exceptions; human interaction and an inability to speak the language of love being two such) so I allow it a certain leeway. Doubtless it makes similar sacrifices in my regard…

      Now, if I could just nail down the nature and whereabouts of my id…

      Liked by 2 people

  3. Your angler story sounds like our camping adventures. 100kms down a gravel road, into the Canadian wilderness, park at the nearest lake and an hour later 3 trucks loaded with gear and lunatics park right beside us. Their midnight partying was bad enough, but the fireworks scared the bejesus out of me…sounded like gunshots.
    Ironically, I was baking bread this morning as I read your post. I bake mine in a caste iron casserole with a lid. 450F for 30 minutes, then lid off for 30 min. Great crusty loaf. Of course I am spoiled with an electric range that keeps the temperature for said baking period. Coal or woodstoves are somewhat all over the map with temperature…my grandmother cooked and baked with one and it fascinated me how she managed to keep us all fed with it.
    As for your brain, I have no remedy. My anxiety sometimes acts like this, but thankfully not all the time. It sounds like you are in tune with your own reality , at least.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Had I been in Canada on that trip with you I’d have been lying in my bunk hoping to hear the sounds of a bear disposing of the angling party… I’d have felt guilty in the morning, of course, but I can deal with guilt, it’s a familiar emotion. 😉

      I am very fond of people-watching (not the “in a hedgerow at night with binoculars” type, but the “Games People Play” variety in daylight!) and the most obvious candidate to begin with is myself. It’s all fascinating and terrifying at one and the same time!


  4. Re anglers clustering round only boat on the stretch, it resembles parking areas in France.
    You would pull off the road onto one of the meanders the new road had left behind, rejoicing in the peace, and start n the flask and sandwiches.
    Inevitably a french registered car would arrive and, given about half a kilometre of free space, pull in right in front of you.
    The driver would then get out for a pee…usually doing a full frontal. Not impressive…seen better things in vinegar in a saucer from a seafood stall.
    I used to think it was a hangover from the various German incursions…safety in numbers and all that…but that reasoning can’t apply to your uninvited guests.
    Do you think father was angling for an invitation aboard?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It is a mystery and no mistake. One of the best phrases I ever heard used by someone who was “flashed at” was ‘Hmm – looks like a penis, only smaller…’

      Folk in this era just don’t seem to have the need for or respect for other people’s personal space. Elbow to elbow suits them, whereas I like to be at least out of “sneeze range”.

      Your tale of France reminds me of the time when I parked my “GB” badged jalopy in a row of cars similarly parked down the middle of the main street through a French town – on Bastille Day. We wandered off, came back to town only to find that everyone else had moved, the parade was parting like the Red Sea around my very solitary car.

      Anglers are odd folk in general at the best of times. That said, I did see one smile once, briefly.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Ah, flying the GB plate for Britain, then….
        We took on an old house in France, garden overgrown, as were the islands in the river which went with it. We found endless fishing lines and lead weights lying around and eventually came across an angler who accessed the islands from a weir. We asked him to refrain from using the islands and had a torrent of abuse in response, ending in a demand that we show him our deeds to prove that we were the owners. We showed him the alsatian instead. He did not smile.

        Liked by 2 people

        1. Thank you for that belly-laugh!

          Did you show the documents demanded? No, we showed him the alsatian…


          I remain surprised to this day that the locals hadn’t rolled my car onto its roof and away.

          Liked by 1 person

  5. Do you suppose our Brains are somehow related? This piece turned into a pscyhotherapy session for me – not just the episodal recurring dreams, the ability to go to the bathroom and return to the same one, but to know someone else has recurring words that echo around the inner scull. Of course, not the same one but nonetheless repeated over like one of those very bad songs you can’t forget (like Chirpychirpycheapcheap). I’ve often tried to use this Brain stutter to remember a vital word or phrase I need to remember – nah, it doesn’t work like that, does it? The frightening part was the canal lock and those thoughts – wonder what it would be like if I jumped in – eek, I can visualise having an accident and trying hard NOT to. I think I may be the opposite of Trypophobia – smooth doesn’t do it for me – I imagine the taste of all those crusty nobbly bits on the bread, yum! I think I’ll go and have a lie down now to see if I can get my Brain to keep quiet, there must be a gap between the Brain stutter and the recurring dreams surely?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. In a way I hope yes, but also – given your medical history! – I hope no! Odd that you should mention remembering things – if I think of something overnight I can tell Brain to remind me of it in the morning, and then about a minute after I wake the following day Brain makes an announcement. Just the once, and woe betide me if I don’t write it down quickly, but it’s very reliable – sort of an overnight Post-it Note service!

      Sometimes the repeated word or phrase can drive me absolutely nuts, when it just won’t stop. The thing with such as Brain suggesting that I throw myself in locks and suchlike is (almost) funny, I am up and down the ladders without problem, but if walking alongside an empty lock I have to give it all the elbow-room that I can. Go on, says the little voice, get yourself into trouble…

      …and I can’t swim either. Although, in an emergency, I’d give it a damned good go and/or emulate a mud-skipper and flap across the surface of the water. Not entirely convinced that the human brain is what we think it is.


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