Some time ago, there was a tedious online carry-on because the bass player of a certain longtime band had apparently announced on social media that he’d had a falling out and was quitting. This was followed by a lot of sound and fury from a subsection of the fan base, and complete silence from the band’s official channels. I was aware of these happenings through being a regular music forum participant at the time, and was flabbergasted by the amount of in my view useless noise and speculation this created – not to mention the intrusiveness of some people shamelessly clogging up the social media accounts of band members and connections to express existential woe and to demand immediate explanations.
So I therapeutically set about writing some fairytales to explain what had really happened – with a bow to Dr Who, Harry Potter, Lost in Austen and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (brilliant works that these are).
Impatient Aliens Invade Earth
Space aliens stage a stealth invasion of Earth because they have waited 13 long years for a new Cure album and they can no longer bear the suspense. They go to Simon’s house and secretly interfere with social media accounts he hardly ever uses. They do this when he’s out on a 50-mile bicycle ride and to avoid detection, go in under cover of Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak. Afterwards they return, chuckling, to the mother ship hidden in the woods, jump on the Internet and watch the typical human shit storm unfold.
The aliens don’t want to annoy Simon, they just want to stir the pot a bit because they are impish and a bit immature. They actually love Simon and they think he’s the best bass player this side of Andromeda. In compensation for their practical joke, they have left him several dozen crates of craft beer, which will also hopefully serve to distract him from going on the Internet or answering his telephone when he returns from his bicycle ride.
This actually works, and as a result, his perplexed bandmates cannot contact him by phone or email. Meanwhile, the space aliens have made an invisible shield around the perimeter of Simon’s house. Simon has no idea any of this is going on and is delighted with the craft beer.
The naughty space aliens then plot their next move…
Further Alien High Jinks
After their naughty little excursion to Simon’s house, the aliens are keen to create more havoc and fly their spaceship to a woodland near Robert’s abode. Using Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak and beam-me-up technology, they sneak in and interfere with Robert and Mary’s washing machine at midnight, install a spy camera in the laundry on their way out, and, giggling gleefully, beam themselves back to their spaceship. There they set up telecast to their big screen and make tonnes of popcorn.
They enjoy the telecast of Robert appearing near the washing machine a couple of hours before dawn with a big, well-filled laundry basket. Clearly it’s either his turn to wash, or it’s one of his chosen ongoing household responsibilities – there’s more than one way to achieve fairness in a relationship. But the machine refuses to work, making blipping sounds instead, so Robert sighs and gets out his toolbox. He’s only got a couple of hours before bedtime and really wants to get that washing on the line at the crack of dawn.
While Robert is thusly spending extra time with the washing machine, the aliens know he likely won’t be popping onto social media to discover their naughty practical joke. They also know there is another reason it is good for his mental health to keep him away from that cesspit of human “discourse” at this time; on a daily basis, he is inundated with whiny messages from fans asking when the new album is coming out. It doesn’t seem to occur to these fans that their empty-headed bombardment of their idol is counter-productive to their tunnel-visioned desires for that long-awaited album. Such insight would require multiple neurons.
After letting Robert tinker for twenty minutes and enjoying their popcorn, the aliens remotely reverse the electronic jinx with which they afflicted the appliance. Win-win: Robert will get the washing on the line by the crack of dawn, and the aliens have reduced the likelihood of him discovering their little social media joke. Also, Robert is now in an excellent mood, because he thinks he successfully fixed the washing machine. This results in him looking around for more little things to fix while waiting for the first load of washing to finish – as you do when you’re on a roll. Wasn’t there some paint peeling on the western barge? It would only take a ladder, a dropsheet and half an hour to get started sanding that, and we all know 1) that the preparation is actually the hardest part of a little paint job, and 2) that making a start on a task makes it more likely that you’ll be finishing it before too long.
Aliens Thwarted By Unusual Force Field
The aliens now embark on an excursion to Reeves’ place, but find themselves unable to teleport into his aura of cool, which they discover extends fully 30 metres out from his person at all times. They therefore have to wait until he leaves his house before checking out his guitar collection. When they get a chance, they pore over the guitars with magnifying glasses and make alien sounds of fascination and reverence.
Since our aliens have tentacles instead of digits, the playing of guitars is difficult for them. The moisture levels and sensitivity of their integument renders them extra sensitive to even tiny electric currents, so they don’t dare to plug in any of the electric guitars to try them out. But even with this precaution, there are fundamental difficulties trying to depress cheesewire-like metal strings with soft tentacles lacking any kind of mineralised internal skeleton. Even human novices on stringed instruments find their initial playing time limited by the formation of blisters on their fingertips. Calluses eventually come to the rescue, but not when you have tentacles.
The aliens therefore mostly content themselves learning how to pluck open strings with their suckers. After several hours of this ecstatic activity, they sense Reeves’ aura of cool approaching and, after carefully replacing everything exactly as they found it, quickly teleport back out.
It is a little-known fact that our aliens’ tentacles make tentacle-prints. While human fingerprints have unique patterns of loops and whorls, our aliens’ tentacles print tiny runes in which stories of cultural importance are told.
This fact might never have had any practical relevance for Reeves, if he didn’t have such a close relationship with his guitars. But upon his return, his guitars telepathically call out to him because strangers have plucked their strings.
Reeves has an interest in forensics (he’s cool), so he gets out his dusting powder and his special lights. He now discovers there are tiny runes all over his guitar bodies. It turns out Reeves has also taken advanced courses in the deciphering of runes – so now he has an interesting project to work on. It’s a good thing he has already recorded all of his contributions to the new Cure album, otherwise he would have to take systematic photographs of the runes and work from those. But because he has been conscientious in his responsibilities as a Cure member, he can now afford to take time to study the runes directly, and to decipher important cultural stories from an alien civilisation, while other Cure members are still getting daily headaches because of the new album.
The Aliens Discover Hidden Talents
The aliens prepare to visit Jason’s house next, and rack their brains over what gift to make him. They’re adamant about getting him a gift and very keen to find him something special because even aliens can see Jason is a good bloke. He literally exudes goodwill and bonhomie. They were impressed too by his recent charity swim, which they saw on Alien TV (their planet’s cultural channel specifically devoted to earthlings and their doings). Alien TV also frequently broadcasts Cure concerts, table tennis, Dr Who, Attenborough documentaries, poker competitions, dry stone walling, etc.
Craft beer, which would be the easy option, simply will not do here. Jason is an athlete. The aliens want their gift to benefit his fine physical condition, not to destroy it. Finally they settle on obtaining for him a large wheel of traditional Wensleydale Cheese, from a Yorkshire creamery. It is a delicious source of complete protein and various beneficial minerals. Our aliens are well-informed, and have read the study comparing the performance of milk with that of commercial “sports” drinks laden with sugar, artificial colouring and flavouring, in recovery from endurance events and resistance training. Milk won hands-down here.
The aliens therefore take a little trip to Yorkshire in their spaceship. Their human friend and companion obtains the cheese wheel, and then they all embark on some sightseeing while in Yorkshire. First order of business: Our aliens are keen to find a good slope, so they can try the British sport of downhill cheese rolling, which they saw on Alien TV. They find that their Wensleydale wheel is better suited to downhill rolling than the traditional Double Gloucester, as it is wider and therefore more stable. After a highly active and fun morning of cheese rolling, the aliens make inevitable jokes about food miles as they stow the Wensleydale securely on board their ship.
A couple of days later, the aliens are ready to visit Jason’s place. They steer their craft to some woods near his house before discreetly beaming themselves into it, early in the morning, when he’s off doing some wetsuited ocean swimming and they know they will have several hours before he returns. After lovingly depositing the Wensleydale wheel in the centre of his dining table, and decorating it with a single tulip, they go in search of his drum kit, which they find in a well-appointed basement.
While our aliens thoroughly enjoyed trying out Reeves’ guitar collection recently, they are sadly aware of their anatomical limitations with these instruments. A drum kit, however, is a different proposition for them. Here they have a head start: Jason and other hominids typically have four appendages each. Our aliens have eight each. (If you’re surprised by our aliens having the same number of tentacles as terrestrial octopods, you might like to study parallel vs convergent evolution.)
Not only do our aliens anatomically outshine human drummer-percussionists – they also have a fantastic sense of rhythm. So much so, indeed, that when they take turns at Jason’s drum kit, they discover they are all naturals, and the neighbours who are listening in remark to each other, “Isn’t Jason in fine form again today!”
The Aliens On Another Special Adventure
The aliens decide that Wednesday morning is a good time to visit Roger’s house, since it coincides with his regular slot of life modelling for the community fine arts group. Besides, it’s likely he will follow it up as usual with lunch out and then the weekly Wednesday afternoon meeting of the local branch of the International Society for Echinoderm Appreciation, which holds regular coastal excursions in good weather, and aquarium workshops in inclement weather. This gives our aliens plenty of time for another little field trip.
Beaming in, they find themselves in the living room: Sofas, coffee table, bookshelves, comfortable armchairs – one of them with a book on the armrest and an ottoman drawn up. On closer examination, the book turns out to be a heavily annotated copy of Lol Tolhurst’s autobiography – lots of underlining, question marks, sets of multiple exclamation marks, additional information, cartoons of pigs with wings, and recurring doodles of an enigmatic figure with black spiky hair.
This is very interesting, but not the main thing they have come to see, for these aliens are music enthusiasts through and through, and have already had a great time with Reeves’ guitar collection and Jason’s drum kit. They look for and rapidly locate Roger’s music room, ooohing and aaahing over the grand piano, the Medieval pipe organ and the quality range of electronic keyboards assembled.
Our aliens discover that keyboards suit their anatomical idiosyncrasies far better than guitars do (though not quite as well as drums). They find they can compensate fairly well for having two less tentacles than the average human has fingers, and that they can get the pipe organ to make fascinating sounds by having one of their number playing its keyboard, and another sticking their tentacles down the pipes.
The most extroverted of them is soon suckered to the underside of an electronic piano, while sticking out enough tentacle ends from below to enable him to play a rollicking tune. He’s an ardent fan of the film Amadeus, which he saw on Alien TV many times, and he’s always yearned to emulate a certain scene:
Our extroverted alien has a merry time with this undertaking, and after half an hour makes the bonus discovery that playing a certain combination of notes causes a secret door in the room to open. That’s right, a bit of the wainscoting is actually on a hinge and reveals what looks like a small library behind it, with shelves all over the walls.
All the aliens now go through the secret doorway to investigate, making excited polyphonic hooting sounds. But on the shelving they don’t find books; they find tambourines, hundreds and hundreds of them, different styles, colours, eras, histories, etc etc; and our aliens spend the rest of the morning thoroughly investigating and road testing this extensive collection.
Around noon, not wishing to be greedy, they decide to call it a day, and make sure everything is left exactly where and as they found it (for which their photographic alien memory is very helpful). Before teleporting back out, they leave three gifts for Roger, carefully arranging them on the top of his grand piano.
The most remarkable of their gifts is a packet of special Scandinavian bath salts called Furu Uppenbarelse, which is a special formulation with natural pine needle oil, highly effective for washing away other people’s dirty thoughts. They imagine he might appreciate this when returning home after his Echinoderm Appreciation meeting, given his regular Wednesday morning engagement at the fine arts centre. With it, they leave a bottle of red wine and a generously sized box of those round Lindt chocolates that come in white, milk, hazelnut and dark.
The Aliens Go Meta
Back at their spaceship, enjoying some home-brewed craft beer, the aliens have a collective think about their recent excursions to Cure households. There’s nobody in the band left to visit, and they realise on reflection that the entire thing was mostly spontaneous and beer-lubricated rather than carefully considered and planned, beginning with making unauthorised social media posts on someone else’s account. In retrospect they’re not sure whether that was a good idea, but what’s done is done, and they will let it be a lesson to them.
Our aliens are also grappling with asymmetries about their gift-giving, and general ethical issues around that. Their gift to Simon was first and foremost about compensation and distraction – it was ulterior rather than pure in intention. On the other hand, it was also the most expensive gift any of the band members got, and the only one that was lovingly home-made. They have noted from what their human companion heard from their local contacts that Simon is unsuccessfully looking for more beer from their label, and resolve to drop another four dozen crates over to his place soon, this time without ulterior motives. They are pleased he likes their product and happy to make amends for their ethical failings with a combination of fine craft beer and completely pure intentions.
The aliens furthermore discuss the fact that two of the band members weren’t left any formal gifts. In the case of Reeves, the stories in the runes of their tentacle prints turned out to be an unintended gift that will keep on giving, perfectly suited to the personality and inclinations of the recipient. Still, they resolve to find a nice saxophone, gift-wrap it and drop it through his letterbox sometime. They’ve felt for a long time that someone in the band ought to take up saxophone so that the corresponding solos from old songs can be played live, and they were disappointed to find no evidence of saxophone adoption on any of their forays into the members’ homes – despite the fact that the pandemic would have provided a perfect opportunity for doing so. They think Reeves, with his 30-metre radius aura of cool, will be the most naturally suited, and therefore the fastest learner and ultimately the best player of the saxophone, out of the five contenders.
Which leaves them with Robert. Although they made no formal gift, they did bring about a long-lasting improvement in mood and self-esteem for him, by giving him the feeling that he had successfully repaired his washing machine (even though he hadn’t). Besides, because Robert has had so much unwanted and inappropriate attention from the public for the majority of his life, they think that one of the nicest things you can do for him is to leave him alone. He’s had enough unwanted presents from fans to fill up several landfill sites, and wouldn’t thank anybody for more, let alone welcome the feeling that his home had been invaded by crazy people. So what the aliens resolve is to do Robert anonymous good turns on future occasions – so anonymous he won’t even realise a good turn has been done.