Matthew’s Blog: Walk Through The Fire

The bruises are starting to heal. Dan is now out of bed and walking again. For my part, it no longer causes me violent paroxysms of pain whenever I laugh (not that I’ve had much cause to do that these past few days!).

How did it all go so wrong? Last Thursday’s event had looked set to be a huge success. Twitter was all abuzz, so when we arrived at the Ripper Museum for Dan’s talk, there was already a queue snaking round Mitre Square! Geoffrey, the museum curator, stood in the doorway, peering over his spectacles with a ‘rabbit-in-the-headlights’ look.

“Thank God you’re here!” he cried with relief, hurriedly ushering us inside and locking the door behind us.

Well, the scene that greeted us took my breath away! The whole cafe was lit by candlelight, it was as if we had been transported aboard the TARDIS back to Victorian times, and Geoffrey was the Doctor (more William Hartnell than Matt Smith). On a table at the far end of the room, (where Dan was to give his talk) sat the prized possession from the collection, the human kidney sent by the Ripper to the police! Two candles stood either side of the glass jar, guarding it like sentries, and it almost seemed to glow and pulsate in the flickering light, as if it were alive.

“Yes, I thought you’d like that,” said Geoffrey, chuckling, “adds an extra gothic element, don’t you think? Just do be careful you don’t knock it over, the alcohol in the jar is highly flammable! What’s that you’re carrying?”

“A smoke machine and an overhead projector,” I gasped, dropping both heavy items to the floor. (I had asked Dan to help me carry them from the station, but he was carrying his costume and also, as he pointed out quite reasonably, he needed to preserve his energy for his performance).

We set up, Dan changed into his Victorian costume and Geoffrey opened the doors to let in the hordes. Our audience was a motley bunch. It soon transpired they were evenly divided between ‘Ripperologists’ and ‘Wildeans’ (many of the latter sporting green carnations) and they were all, quite frankly, weirdoes to a man (and they were ALL men!) Geoffrey briefly introduced us and then the show commenced. I switched on the smoke machine and Dan entered from the toilets in top hat and cloak.

“Night. A clock chimes twelve times,” intoned Dan, swishing his cloak around. “A young woman hurries through the dark, deserted square. Suddenly, a figure emerges through the unfurling London fog in front of her.” I thought Dan was giving a stunning performance, really showing the benefits of his abortive RADA training (another story for another time, dear reader) but there was some tittering from one corner of the room, tittering which gradually began to spread across the room like a Mexican wave. It was when Dan began to do the voices that people really began to hoot. His ‘cockney prostitute’ voice was too much for some. Rather red faced, he bravely finished reciting the book’s opening chapter to scattered (and somewhat sarcastic) applause. Then he began the ‘meat’ of the night, his detailed presentation of the evidence against Wilde. Then, lastly, came the Q and A. We were both somewhat taken aback by the hostility of the questions. The Oscar Wilde society were furious. One compared Dan to the Marquis of Queensbury, another angrily accused us of trying to defame a dead man who couldn’t defend himself (he got a huge round of applause for this). Understandable perhaps as he was their ‘hero’ so the sordid truth must hurt, (Jimmy Savile fans must be currently undergoing similar torments) but if anything the ‘Ripperologists’ were even worse! They picked holes in everything, pointing out that Wilde was in Paris at the time of one murder, in Dublin at the time of another, etc etc etc (Well of course he’d have given himself alibis, wouldn’t he?) One man, after mistakenly presuming he’d torn our argument to shreds, smugly asserted that “of course everyone knows that the real Ripper was in fact Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man!” to be shouted at by every other Ripperologist in the room, saying, “no, no, it was obviously George Bernard Shaw!” or “nonsense! Even a damn fool knows it must’ve been Prime Minister William Gladstone,” to which someone else retorted “Tory lies! It was blatantly Disraeli!” It was at this point that I noticed something was seriously awry with the smoke machine. It had been gently releasing a steady stream of dry ice across the floor, but now it had malfunctioned somehow and huge clouds of smoke were gushing out, quickly filling the room till nothing could be seen through the dense fog, whilst a succession of disembodied voices angrily shouted out names; “George Gissing!” “Sir Arthur Conan Doyle!” “W.B Yeats!” “No, no, Florence Nightingale!” “You’re all wrong, it was Emmeline Pankhurst, I have the proof right here!” At this, everyone seemed to suddenly notice that they couldn’t actually see anything, and widespread panic broke out.

“Please, remain in your seats,” urged Geoffrey’s alarmed voice, but it was no use, pandemonium was unleashed. Tables and chairs could be heard toppling over as people cursed and cried out in pain.

Dan was angrily hissing at me, “Switch it off, Matthew!”

“I can’t,” I whimpered. There was the sound of something glass smashing to the floor nearby. I stepped forward, and something squelched under my foot (I think you can guess what!). I yelped in disgust as I slipped over onto my back. A burst of flame flared up over me, the room was filling with real smoke now, black and thick, setting off the fire alarms and sprinklers. Everyone was coughing and screaming. Someone had found the door and flung it open, smoke spilling out into Mitre Square, dispersing enough for everyone to see their way out. As I exited through the door I grabbed a sobbing Geoffrey and we hurtled across the square just as his beloved museum exploded behind us, all the evidence and artefacts pertaining to the Ripper’s crimes incinerated forever!

So, if you were planning a trip to the Ripper Museum anytime soon, sorry, too late! As Geoffrey sadly noted in the police station later that night, as he rocked backwards and forwards, “it survived the Blitz, it’s survived multiple funding cuts and threats of closure, but it couldn’t survive one night with Dawn Rescue!” Well, perhaps there’s a little lesson there, Geoffrey. If you’re going to run a museum glorifying an evil murderer, well, the good Lord might get a little cross about that and, as it were, ‘send the boys in’! “For a fire is kindled in mine anger, and shall burn unto the lowest hell, and shall consume the earth with her increase…” (Deuteronomy 32:22)

Exclusive extract: The Importance Of Being Jack

In preparation for tonight’s exciting event at the Ripper Museum, here is an exclusive extract from Dan’s new book ‘The Importance Of Being Jack.’ None of the following is conjecture, it is all based on meticulous research conducted by Dan. In short, it is 100% fact, and precisely 0% fiction!

Dead of night. A distant clock chimes twelve times. The near-by sound of horse hooves and carriage wheels on cobbles. A young woman hurries through the dark, deserted square. Suddenly, a figure emerges through the unfurling London fog in front of her.

“Lor, guv’nor, you aint ‘alf scared me!” cries the woman.

The figure doffs his top hat.

“I beg your pardon, madam,” he says in his lugubrious tones. 

The woman’s ears prick up at the obvious wealth and breeding of this stranger as displayed in his elegant accent and diction.

“Cor, you sounds like a likely sort of swell, bet’s you knows how to treat a lady, dontcha?”

The man chuckles. “Oh I do indeed know how to treat a lady, madam!”

“How’s abaht we go somewhere then, guv’nor. I aint cheap, mind, it’ll cost you tuppence ha’penny and nuffink less!”

“Oh, there’s no need to go anywhere, right here will do for what I have in mind. And I do believe I have tuppence ha’penny in my bag.”

“A handbag?” cries the woman in surprise as she sees the gentleman thrust his hand into a large brown leather bag he has been carrying. But he doesn’t retrieve any money from his bag, but instead something shinier than coins!

“Cor, what you gonna do with that, then?” says the woman as the knife glints in the moonlight.

“Why, with this I shall create a work of art,” muses the man, “perhaps my finest work to date. One that shall life forever in the annals of infamy, for there is only one thing worse in life than being talked about, and that is not being talked about!”

And with that he nonchalantly sinks the blade into the woman’s stomach.

“You are wicked!” she gasps as he pulls the knife out and she drops to the cobbles, blood spattering around her.

“Wickedness is a myth invented by good people to account for the curious attractiveness of others,” quips the man as he opens his capacious bag again and takes out various surgical implements, delicately placing them on the ground.

The woman watches in horror as the man gets to work. “Why?” she croaks.

“Because you are A Woman Of No Importance!”

“And you are Lucifer himself!” she wheezes.

“Well, really, Gwendolen, I must say I think there are lots of other much nicer names. I think Jack, for instance, a charming name.”

“Me name’s not Gwendolen, it’s…..” but before she can tell him her name, the spirit leaves the body of Polly Nichols.

“Murder is so awfully taxing on one’s wardrobe!” the man mutters to himself, dabbing at his bloodstained clothes with his handkerchief as he disappears into the fog on that cold, dark night, leaving Polly behind him, sleeping her last sweet sleep, the eternal slumber from which she will never again awaken, in her warm bed of blood and entrails…

Special event at the Ripper Museum, Whitechapel, this Thursday!

Mark the date in your diaries!

This Thursday the 8th of November we’ll be holding a special event to accompany the forthcoming publication of Dan’s groundbreaking book The Importance Of Being Jack at the excellent Ripper Museum in Mitre Square, EC3, London!

This Thursday we will reveal once and for all the true identity of the infamous serial killer Jack the Ripper! Before the night is out it’ll be ‘case closed’ as the greatest ‘cold case’ in history is finally cracked by Dawn Rescue’s very own in-house super-sleuth. The shocking revelations are bound to do for the culprit (clue: he’s a revered ‘wit,’ aesthete, playwright and sometime resident of Reading Gaol who liked to take a walk on the Wilde side) what recent revelations have done for the reputation of Jimmy Savile. Just as never again will the BBC show re-runs of ‘Jim Will Fix It’ so never again will actresses proclaim “a handbag!” whilst treading the boards in a certain person’s plays, and never again will clever-clogs types like Stephen Fry quote a certain person’s epigrams.

So head on down to the Ripper Museum this Thursday. The talk is FREE and starts at 7pm, and is followed by a Q and A and a special author signing. (The book is hot off the presses and doesn’t go on sale officially until the new year so this is your opportunity to get your mitts on an advance copy and a piece of history!)

We’ll be downstairs in the Museum’s cafe, right next to the marvellous gift shop. (Why not get there early and do a spot of shopping! You can check out the souvenir dolls of the victims, complete with removable internal organs- surely the ideal stocking filler!)

Matthew’s Blog: Family Values

Firstly, some of you regular readers of this blog may well have noticed comments popping up below-the-line over the past few weeks from a certain Bryony Ditty who leaves embarrassing, hysterical, incoherent and foul-mouthed tirades directed at yours truly. As you may have divined from her surname, Ms Ditty is indeed my sister. I have chosen not to respond directly to her messages but have left them on display as I think they only reflect badly on herself and they demonstrate the aggression and hostility which a well-meaning organisation like Dawn Rescue is subjected to by the secular establishment. You’d think she’d have better things to do seeing as she works at the BBC and should be addressing her complicity in the Jimmy Savile sex abuse scandal. How much did she know? Why didn’t she challenge BBC top brass over their decision to shelve the Newsnight broadcast? Ok, admittedly she only works in the production office of CBeebies, (she’s the diversity and equalities co-ordinator, natch) but surely all the more reason to have investigated the rumours more thoroughly, considering the “diversity” of victims coming forward who were all children at the time (although admittedly not quite in the Cbeebies age bracket- so far as we yet know!). Or does she think the limits of her job merely entail ensuring that Pakistanis are properly represented in ‘In The Night Garden’ and that the ‘Teletubbies’ caters to transgender toddlers (is that still running? I have no idea)?

Family is something of a running theme this week as Dan’s mum Linda is gifting us the pleasure of her divine company. She arrived yesterday afternoon whilst Dan was out. There she was on the doorstep in her trademark pink Adidas tracksuit, swigging water from her bottle, looking not a day over 40 even though she must be, ooh, at least…. (but no, naughty me, I shouldn’t spill the beans!). She seemed slightly crestfallen to see me, no doubt quite understandably preferring to see her beloved son.

“Where’s Dan?” she asked, (refreshingly to-the-point, as always!).

“Hello Linda,” I replied, “Dan’s meeting with investors. Do come in.”

But Linda had already pushed past me by that point and had jogged straight through to the kitchen, making herself at home, sat down with her feet (in sparkling Nike trainers) up on the kitchen table. As ever she took a kindly interest in my welfare and what I was doing, firing off various friendly questions. What was I doing? Was I bringing any money in? Why not? What’s all this about some boy called ‘Zac’? Was I pulling my weight? What the hell was I playing at? Was I fully committed to the cause? Did I want to end up in the ‘Garage’? I was doing my best to field all these enquiries when I heard the key in the front door and Dan entered. Well it’s always a joy to see those two when they meet, there is such shared love between them! “Mummy!” cried Dan. “Danny darling!” cried Linda and they ran to each other and embraced, immediately launching into singing their song “Daddy’s Burning!” (a family tradition this, it’s sung to the tune of “London’s Burning” and goes, “daddy’s burning/ daddy’s burning/ In hell/ In hell/ Pour on petrol/ pour on petrol” etc)

A little background here; Dan’s father was an Anglican vicar who met with national tabloid disgrace in 1995 when he was discovered in a public lavatory drilling a “glory hole” in a cubicle wall. The Sun and Daily Star ran stories about the “Bent Vicar” and “Pervy Parson” (he wasn’t a parson, they just liked the alliteration). It was all too much for the Reverend Giles Erpingham, who hung himself in the vicarage attic on the day he and his family were to be evicted. Mother and young son were of course in complete shock, but every cloud has a silver lining and from behind this sordid, seedy cumulus eventually emerged the bright sun of Dawn Rescue, which Dan set up to prevent more tragedies like that of his father, (with his mother’s blessing and encouragement of course!).