The Small Screw Phenomenon

Have you ever dismantled a malfunctioning electric toaster in order to effect a repair?

Have you then located the cause of the problem, generally something trivial, a disconnected wire or whatnot, made the repair, reassembled the toaster, tested it and found everything once again working properly?

Then discovered you had two small screws left over?

Then heed the words of Rune.

Open the nearest window.

Take the screws in your right hand. (Or your left, if this interferes with your Biro Implant.)

Defenstrate the screws.


Because if you do not, then all that lies before you is madness, misery and the ruination of your health.

If you again dismantle the toaster and search for places to refit the screws, you will very shortly become aware of two things.

  1. Once reassembled, the toaster will no longer work.
  2. You are now the proud possessor of three small screws!

That the mystery of the small screw phenomenon, S.S.P., has baffled the scientific greybeards of our age is hardly surprising. The greybeards lean naturally towards bafflement.

However, I Rune, understanding, as I do, all things, reveal this truth unto you.


The small screw, as may be observed through a very powerful lens, resembles the spiral of D.N.A. It is a living body.

The fact that toasters, as with all electrical appliances, possess self healing screw holes, has long been recognised as fact. All screw holes have the tendency to shrink once the screw has been removed from them. This is natural. Nothing enjoys having a foreign object forcibly inserted into it. With the notable exception of certain members of the Chiswick Townswomen's Guild. But this does not have any particular bearing upon the subject of S.S.P.

The small screw is the demon spawn of modern technology. It has driven many good men to early graves, cost industry countless billions of pounds each day, crippled innovation and cost us The Empire.

I have recently been made privy to certain leaked Ministry of Defence documents.

These refer in great detail to S.S.P. in regard to the construction and maintenance of so-called nuclear submarines. (See Nuclear Power: The Myth Exploded, Hugo Rune)

These submersibles are literally bulging with electronic hocus pocus, which, having been constructed to the very highest standards of technological perfection, is in constant need of repair.

During a recent overhaul, the multiplicity of small screws became so pronounced and the incidences of madness amongst the service teams so apparent, that the M.o.D. was forced to seek a socially acceptable excuse. They chose radiation leaks!

The S.S.S. (Special Screw Service) were called in to descrew the submarines and remove nearly three tons of small screws, all of which had appeared to some out of something or other, but nobody knew what.

The small screws were packed into containers, labelled TOXIC WASTE to avoid suspicion, driven to the south coast of England and dumped into the sea.

My own interest in the subject of S.S.P. began in the late 1940's. I was in India, acting as Gandhi's spiritual advisor. At the time I write about, he and I were travelling on a steam packet out of Bombay. We had decided to get away from it all for a couple of weeks and do the nightlife in Calcutta. As usual we went incognito, adopting our favorite guise of of man and wife.

Gandhi had a natural bent for female impersonation. Had he chosen to take it up professionally, it might well have made his fortune. His widow twanky was formidable. And how well I remember his rendition of 'I'm just a girl who can't say no', performed in blonde wig and ball gown, to the appreciation of the British Trade Delegation outside the Taj Mahal (by moonlight).

Although we had begged the captain to see to it that we remained undisturbed, word soon got out that one of the world's greatest spiritual leaders was on board the ship.

In no time, passengers and crew alike were beating a path on our door and begging me to bless their children, cure their baldness, restore their youth, and double the length of their 'old chaps'. All of which I did, simply in the hope of getting a bit of peace during the rest of the voyage.

When all were satisfied I prepared to turn in for the night. But noticed that a single figure yet remained, cowering in the corner of the cabin.

Having done my bit that day for the good of mankind, I told him to clear off at the double, or know my wrath. But he flung himself down before me and kissed the hem of my raiment.

He was as ragged a wretch as I ever saw. And I've seen some. Stained a deep chestnut by the subcontinental sun, white of hair and mad of eye.

It was only when he spoke that I realised that he had once been an Englishmen. And a gentleman to boot.

He told me that he had a terrible confession to make and knew of no other man on earth to whom he could make it. His name was Lord N___ (I withhold his name because his family are prominent members of the ruling class, and to reveal it would bring shame upon a noble house and in all probability bring down the present government).

The tale below is told in his own words.

During the early 1930s, I spent a period passing the time as a news reader for the BBC. In those days the BBC was staffed exclusively by members of the English aristocracy. It had very much the atmosphere of an exclusive gentleman's club.

The news was supplied to the readers by a team of back-room Johnnies whose job it was to think up items suitably cheerful and patriotic to broadcast. This was generally done by recycling whatever news had proved popular the previous year, or taking passages from the pages of Old Moore's Almanac. During the depression, the BBC Northern Service broadcast 'live coverage' of the King's coronation every three to four weeks, to great spirit raising effect. And you will no doubt recall how the summers were so much better before the war. This was due to the BBC's policy of always adding a few degree's on all weather forecasts. A little wrinkle picked up from the Russians, who used it to ensure good turnouts on May Day.

Anyway. Each morning, when I arrived at broadcasting house, I would leave my top hat and cane with the porter and collect my daily supply of news from my special pidgeon-hole. It was always there in a large, crisp, buff-coloured envelope.

Once in a while, if I felt in the mood, I would flick through it in advance, to see what the Johnnies had dreamed up for the Empire to be doing. but mostly I did not, considering it unsporting for the newsreader to know the news before the listener.

However, on one particular morning, I noticed that the buff-coloured envelope presented a somewhat shabby appearance. There was evidence of a finger mark and what looked to be the ring made by the damp underside of a coffee cup. You can imagine my surprise, as the BBC was always scrupulous about providing saucers.

I complained at once to the Director General, an Etonian uncle of mine, and he agreed that the culprit should be given a stern ticking off and that I should be the one to do it.

Now, I did all my news readings from a comfortable drawing room on the third floor and had never ventured down into the labrynth of sub-basements beneath Broadcasting House. It took me nearly an hour to locate the back-room Johnnies' room. The sign on the door said, Back Room Keep Out.

I knocked loudly. But illiciting no responce, turned the handle and went in. What I saw upset me not a little. I had expected a number of learned bookish types, being terribly earnest and responsible, seated at great desks, studying mighty leather bound tomes. But no. The room contained but a single cove, clad in an overall and worrying at a complicated-looking electrical contrivance about the size of a portmanteau. This was all covered in dials and valves and little lights and mounted on a sturdy workbench.

'You, sir', I hailed to the cove and waved the grubby envelope in his direction. 'I demand to know the meaning of this'.

'Oh, you've read it, have you?' he replied. 'Well sorry, guvnor, you'll just have to wait'.

I did not like his tone, nor did I understand the meaning of his words. So I opened the envelope and acquainted myself with the contents. On a sheet of paper, torn from a cheap copybook, were scrawled the words Normal service will be resumed as soon as possible.

'I demand to know the meaning of this also', said I, striking a martial pose.

'It means what it says', said the overalled cove, in what I now came to realise was a working class accent. 'Until I get this fixed there ain't going to be no news. So you'd best go back upstairs and apologise to the listeners'.

I shook my head. 'That is not the way things are done at the BBC', I told him.

'Well, it's how they are today', came his insolent reply. 'Until I have this here gadget all tickety-boo, there'll be no news today'.

'And what, pray tell me, exactly is this gadget of yours then?', I enquired.

'A radio reciever'.

'You mean a wireless set', I corrected him.

'I mean a radio reciever. It picks up news from all over the world'.

'What? Foreign news?', I was flabbergasted. 'The listeners don't want to hear news about a bunch of damned foreigners. They want English news made up by Englishmen for Englishmen.'

'Progress', he said.

'Progress?' Well, I was rattled at this, I can tell you. Progress is not a word a gentleman uses. But then, this cove was evidently no gentleman.

'I wish to speak to your master', I told him.

'Bugger off', quoth the lout, and then, 'strike me pink, another of the little perishers'. And with this he flung a tiny screw in my direction.

By now I had heard quite enough and stepped forward to give the blighter a sound thrashing. But I lost my footing upon numerous similar little screw which covered the floor and fell heavily. Striking my bowling arm on the table and my forehead on his infernal machine.

'Have a care', he cried, with no concern for what damage my person had recieved. 'I've nearly got it fixed'.

'Sir', said I, rising with difficulty and dusting down my tweeds. 'Sir. Where are all the back-room Johnnies who make up all the news?'

'Gorn', said he. 'All sacked last Friday. New policy, what with the war coming and all'.

'War? What war?', I was astounded.

'No-one's supposed to know about it yet. But I suppose it can't do no harm to tell you...'

And then he went on to tel me that a second world war had been arranged. Something to do with solving unemployment and getting full use of allotments. And that there was to be a 'war effort' and a 'Blitz spirit' and lots of songs from Vera Lynn. And how this radio reciever was to play a vital part in running it all. And how it was all very hush hush and top secret.

'And so', he continued, 'I am doing work of national importance here. And if you care about King and country, you should muck in and give us a hand.'

And so I did. Poor fool that I was. And that is how I came to be as you see me now.

He sank to his knees weeping bitterly. Gandhi came mincing in. Full drag, a sailor on each arm.

I sent him packing and ordered Lord N___ to finish his tale.

'It was the small screws', he wailed. 'The more we tried to fix the radio reciever, the more screws we were left with. We worked at it day and night. The back-room Johnnies had to be called back in the mean time, while we worked on and on.'

'But you must have got it fixed eventually', I said to him, 'because the Second World War did go ahead on schedule.'

'No it didn't. It was supposed to start in 1936. By 1939 Hitler said he couldn't wait any longer for the BBC and he was going to start without them. The whole thing was a complete shambles and it was all my fault.'

'Well, not all your fault. The cove in the overalls was really to blame.'

'No', wept N___. 'He was a genius. He finally swept away all the small screws. Obtained a wiring diagram. Stripped down the reciever and rebuilt it from ground up. It worked perfectly first time.'

'But I thought you said--'

'I did. He got so excited that he rushed upstairs to tell the Director General. And while he was gone I twiddled with the dials and listened to the news coming in from all over the world. It was wonderful, I can tell you. But then I noticed that one of the dials was a bit loose. So I took it off to have a look at it and a small screw dropped out. So I removed the dust cover from the from to see where it had come from. And you'll never guess what happened then...'

But I allowed Lord N___'s tale to go no further. I brought out the stout stick that I always carry when travelling in the east and smote him fiercly upon the head with it. Called up the Captain and had Lord N___ promptly bundled into an open boat and set adrift.

Having waved him my goodbyes, I returned to my cabin and chanced to notice several small screws lying upon the floor where he had fallen. In the spirit of devilment I placed two next to gandhi's hairdryer.

I would draw attention to them the following day.

The Book Of Ultimate Truths
Hugo Rune

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This page was last updated on 7th November 2002