Award–Winning Author of The Full English, Death by Children, and The Beat Cop's Guide.
Please enjoy these excerpts from The Full English.
The Castle of the Velvet Penis
The Flying Boat Whatever
the london eye have to pee
It was raining when we arrived at Castle Rock, the ancient mound of gravel and dirt upon which Stirling Castle sits. I had been on a lullabus coach tour for the last 900 years; I was over napped, exhausted from staring out a rain-streaked window all day, and ready for some medieval action. I wanted high vaulted ceilings, locals in period costumes, and a rousing story of the stabbings, beheadings, battles, and film crews that have haunted this magnificent storybook palace for centuries.
My entire family stepped lightly off the bus, umbrellas held high; I took my own mother’s hand to help her down, beaming with pride at having brought her all the way from Alabama to Scotland, and she beamed right back, proud of her globe trotting son. Neither of us realized I was leading her into a medieval storybook castle full of porn.
Go to Wikipedia. Look up Stirling Castle. Dig that deep well of history, that long line of occupation all the way before the arrival of Rome. Groove on the knowledge that this is where William Wallace yelled “FREEEEEEDOM” and mooned a guy named Bruce. Drink it all in because the article that follows will educate you on absolutely nothing about Stirling Castle. I don’t know anything about Stirling Castle because I spent the entire trip trying to maneuver my mother out of range of our tour guide’s raging boner.
There should be a sign: WARNING: Your Tour Guide is VERY Happy to See You! As I led my wife, my mother, and my teen daughter into one of the main halls, a local actor dressed in full 14th century drag greeted us: big muffin britches, a sword, pointy shoes—and a black velvet codpiece that could smuggle a haggis. It wasn’t even a codpiece. Codpieces are functional armor that protected medieval men from getting poked in the coin purse. They were the progenitors of little league cups and preteen embarrassment. Our guide was wearing porn. A black velvet penis valise with spangles? Hell, it was gay porn.
I asked him what the hell was going on—and do they sell them in the gift shop—and he told us a story about King Something-or-other who developed a medical condition in his nethers requiring him to store said nethers in a pouch right out in the open. To make him comfortable, his guards adopted their own peen pouches and a fashion was born. The present guards wear their pointy pubes publicly to appear properly authentic.
My mom has a degree in theology and has been actively demure since the day she was born. She didn’t say the “S” word until she was in her late 50s. She’s a wee bit conservative and as I thrust her into a small forest of leather dong purses, I was horrified. Instead of flying my Southern Christian Reverend Mom halfway across the world to see history, I’d brought her to Scotland to browse marital aids.
Fortunately, the Stirling Castle reconstruction committee had recently restored the ceilings to their hideous gaudy horror, which my mother found fascinating as we passed through the hall of John Thomases with her gazing upwards.
Look, I know it’s a matter of authenticity and I appreciate Stirling Castle for adhering so flamboyantly to common penis adornment, circa 1496; but come on, man, I’m an American. I’m permanently 14. You can’t just throw me into a castle full of velour covered boner bags and expect me to keep a straight face.
Five minutes into the tour, my daughter and I were barely capable of walking upright, aching from withheld laughter and sneeze giggling.
I had to ask questions.
I availed myself of a man with a bright blue sparkly shaft sack, currently pointed northward. I nodded at the south wall.
“What about that?” I asked. He twirled on his heel, his penis cutting audibly through the air like a switch.
“Wait, I’d like to hear more about that,” my daughter said, pointing to a tapestry on the north wall. Our guide and his tool re-twirled, his penis arcing through the room.
“He’s finished there. Back to the south wall, please, I’m very interested.”
We had him going like a pornographic metronome until my wife, ever polite, ever classy, whispered in my ear that if I didn’t want to wear a metaphorical penis pouch until the day I die, I’d better stop causing our guide to wave his around like he was conducting Bizet.
I think Stirling Castle is missing a grand opportunity to capitalize on what must surely be their most protuberant feature. They should rename the whole tour: Game of Bones. They should have pictographic signs. And why no souvenirs in the gift shop? For those who can’t afford a life-sized penis pouch—or find them threatening—they could offer smaller velvet penis pouches as key fobs and tie clips.
I have seen worse sights than this.”
― Homer, The Odyssey
I’m not much of a museum guy. I’m a bar and whiskey guy. Although I carry a fondness in my heart for great art museums and I’ll accept the argument that libraries are morphing into book museums, I eschew pretty much every other museum in favor of stuff that’s happening now. I’m a large out of shape man. I don’t have much time left on this earth. I prefer to spend it hastening to my grave through a valley of hubris, not gaping at someone else’s reliquary, which is what a museum is after all. Unless it’s the flying boat museum in County Limerick. Then it’s worse.
Our coach rolled into the parking lot of the Flying Boat Museum in Foynes. I have no idea how one addresses mail in Ireland, but apparently you just write “Flying Boat Museum” on an envelope and the postman knows where to deliver it. Trying to locate their address delivers this lyrical description:
Foynes is located in the west of County Limerick approximately 35km (22miles/30 minutes) from Limerick City on the N69 route from Limerick to Tralee.
Try that in America.
I imagine if you’re Irish and you tell someone you grew up in Foynes, it’s kind of like being an American and telling someone you grew up in Ocoee, Florida. Foynes is a corridor of warehouses and cranes with a population smaller than your average American math class. Its main industry now is maintaining its minor entry on Wikipedia and being a place on the highway where you slow down.
In the 30s and 40s and especially during World War II, Foynes was important because there weren’t any airfields long enough to land a plane capable of crossing the Atlantic. At Foynes you could land your plane in the harbor (assuming your plane was also a fucking boat) so Foynes was a big deal for ten years before some innovative aviator thought to himself “Hey, wheels!” and then Foynes’ slid into senility and warehousing and now its kids won’t even come to say hi but there we were, parking at the Flying Boat Museum.
Just as Disney knows every ride must exit into a gift shop, hip Irish tourist destinations know every museum needs an uncomfortable movie theater to play their documentary. We watched the movie in the Flying Boat Museum and I fiddled with my seat, which had been designed by a person who’d never met an American so did not know we are proactively hypocallipygous so I was trying to gauge when I could switch buttocks in my chair before my legs fell off when the documentary lied to my face.
To my face.
Here, in print as evidence, is the ridiculous conceit of the Flying Boat Museum: they claim to have invented Irish coffee.
I grew up in a southern family whose roots on one side are tangled and rimed with genetic dirt all the way back to the stone age. The Whitfields, by the time my mother birthed me, were Italian, English, Dutch, German, and Blackfoot. The Garlingtons are pure Welsh which, if you’ve ever been to Wales, is like a prettier, more refined and picturesque version of England dangling off its bottom hoping to break free, full of good looking men who are witty and can sing. Not a drop of Irish anywhere in the blood stream. But I married into an Irish family and therefore have license to state that an Irishman from Ireland standing in Foynes in the Flying Boat Museum claiming to be the first Irishman to ever pour whiskey into his coffee and, further, that this never occurred before there were FLYING GODDAM BOATS is a damned liar. I prowled around the Flying Boat Museum a little while longer until they served us all our sample of Irish coffee. I could not bring mine to my lips because it smelled like deceit. I set it down on a rickety table with disdain then glanced up into Beatrice’s cold dead eyes over the rim of her Irish coffee. My face already set to disapprove mode, I pointedly pushed my steaming cup further into the middle of the table, as if its very fumes smelt of the devil, keeping my eyes locked on hers until she looked away. As we left, I noticed her cup was entirely full.
 I will be using the flying boat museum’s title in its insufferable entirety instead of pronouns because I remain, years afterward, incredulous that such a place exists and is a point of interest on an expensive bus trip. Therefore, whenever I can mention the Flying Boat Museum I will actually type out all of “The Flying Boat Museum” so you know I mean the Flying Boat Museum.
 So small you can lean over it. It’s a Native American word that means, “No, this is a suitcase.”
 The Flying Boat Museum
 The Flying Boat Museum
 The Flying Boat Museum
 The Flying Boat Museum
 The Flying Boat Museum
So we were released into London, no agenda to hold us back, not even a wee agenda from [My Attorney] though she mentioned the London Eye. I say she mentioned it; I should probably quote her:
“We’re going to the London Eye.”
For those of you who’ve never been to London, it is, as I have mentioned, something like 4,000 years old, was hemming and harrumphing when Jesus learned to walk, and is replete with layer after later of history slathered on top of each other like some kind of sepia tinted history pie. There are alleys overspilling with the ghosts of murder victims, and coffee shops that served Charlemagne, pubs where—it’s old; so when you go there, be sure to see the goddam Ferris Wheel.
There are aspects of visiting the London Eye which will appeal to those special nerds who like their history in real time. I am speaking of the weirdos really into the minutia of life: tediophiles. For them, standing in line is the ride. I think there are more of them than we believe. I grew up in Central Florida and I’ve seen them in their natural habitat, standing patiently, shuffling one person forward every couple of minutes, getting mumbly when an entire party is loaded onto whatever massive entertainment they’re lined up for. When I was a mutant teen, we’d go to Disney and walk around until we found two lines disastrously close together. We’d stand in the lines so that every time we shuffled forward, we’d also shuffle closer together until the lines merged. We were sadly disappointed with this brilliant commentary on mindless tourism didn’t result in madness and mayhem, but instead only elected a few mild chuckles as people extricate themselves from the wrong lines. They didn’t even get mad. These people thrive on patience. They love the moment when they turn around to the people behind them, seemingly randomly but we know they’ve been calculating all day, and say to them, lovely weather isn’t it? Which is tediouphile for we’re into it now, bitches! WOOO! GODDAM! WE’RE IN LIIIIIIINE!
Except in London it’s called a queue and you’re in it until you die. When you’re in line for the London Eye, you’re in it until you board the giant stainless steel lozenge that for some reason you imagine is hauling ass around the axle of the ride. This is a stupid thing to imagine since you are in line for roughly half your life and the damn thing never moves. But you feel it. You believe it. As you get closer and closer you start having little imaginations of what it’s going to be like and you think of the London Eye as a ride but it’s more like a stop.
We finally got onto our capsule with 34 other people. I braced myself for acceleration but nothing happened. I scanned the faces of the people around me; they were mildly acquisitive, maybe even slightly aroused. Nobody looked devastated or angry. My family and I, being Southern/Midwestern which is like being High Canadian, immediately sought the middle of the cart as far away from the windows as possible so other people could look first. I managed to sneak a glance over a Japanese man’s shoulder at the Thames, unspooled below me in all it’s emerald glory. Oh, how it glimmered flatly in the midday gloom. There was some kind of natural order, an unspoken politeness that caused people to scuffle sideways to make room. Everyone moved inch by inch to give up their view to someone else. All except the eight Japanese tourists who planted themselves against the window with the very best view of the river and did not move.
The river of tourists inside the car flowed around them like ants around a turd. I have always known the Japanese for being overtly and proactively polite, almost supernaturally Canadian, but this group had clearly spent too much time in New York. I looked over someone’s shoulder to gauge how far we’d moved and saw there were still people getting on. It had only been an hour; perhaps I was being a bit impatient. I was hungry and parched, maybe a bit delirious. I gritted my teeth and threw my shoulders back. I may expire on the London Eye, I may face death in a stainless steel pill fourteen stories over the Thames but I will do it with dignity. Also, those Goddam Japanese: I will eat them first.
Thank God my mom was there. She saw the dark color of hanger cloud my face and shoved a piece of beef jerky through my clenched teeth. As my consciousness cleared, the door was bolted shut and we rose majestically over the walkway just far enough for the next gondola to settle, disgorge its tourists, and fill up again. This took most of my 40s.
That gondola filled entirely, there was a slight bump, then we rose majestically into the — like another eight feet. I fixed my eye on a barge moored below the ride. This would be my marker, the notch in the woodwork by which I’d calculate our progress. It never moved.
Another bump. Another couple feet. I wondered for a moment what would happen if someone needed to pee while they were racing around the wheel at nearly an inch a minute. There was no bathroom. Not even a bucket. Just someone’s open Harrod’s bag. Then I wondered why in the hell I’d wonder this because the instant I wondered it I wanted to wander over to wherever one would water and wet the walls but no such place existed. I am an old old man, highly suggestible, prone to poor kidney management and I pee something like 87 times a day so as soon as I got the idea into my head there were no bathrooms a mental spreadsheet blossomed in my mind’s eye showing a bar graph of all the pints I’d put away while standing in line for eleven years to get onto a goddam futuristic pod with no port-o-potty. My kidneys raised their hands and cleared their throats and tried to get my attention but I wasn’t listening to them, I was trying to figure out how to open a window.
I leaned over to whisper to [My attorney].
“I have to pee,” I whispered.
“Shut up,” She whispered.
“I’m serious. It’s bad,” I whispered again.
“You peed three minutes before we got on this thing They had to hold the ride for you,” She whispered again.
“I know but I started thinking about how there’s no bathroom–“
“You don’t have to pee.”
“Can I borrow your purse?”
“I’m peeing in the camera bag.”
“We don’t have a camera bag.”
“I know,” I say, glaring at the Japanese.
“You’re an idiot.”
“Who has to pee.”
“It’s just your imagination.”
“Look at that river.”
[My Attorney] is already looking at the river, which hasn’t changed in 8,000 years and is very wet and full of water that is moving from one place to another and—
When we hit our 50s, the Ferris Wheel discharges us and we race through the crowd like Daniel Craig in a fat suit. My wife yells to me over the toppling tourists.
“What about the kids?” She bellows, elbowing a German in the throat.
“They’ll be fine! England is a socialist country!” I scream back at her, momentarily hindered by a large Norwegian, but I sweep the leg and make it to the men’s room just in time.
 I am making this up. Charlemagne was probably a tea guy. Or a mead guy. I have no Idea and his wikipedia page is NOT helpful.
 The line for It’s a Small World.
 We didn’t have cable.
 We were so happy when the internet was invented.
 Granted, you are probably starving to death at this point so you’re mind is out of control trying to find a happy death scenario.
 I am aware we’re two Canada jokes up in a section that’s only a thousand words long but it’s a useful metaphor, especially when dealing with the Japanese who are the Asian Canadians. (Shit, three).
 It’s never there when you’re trying to split a bill but Good lord, at moments like this it’s crystal clear.