Following the passing of Ingmar Bergman, one of the greatest figures in European cinema, we at As A Dodo are extraordinarily proud to be able to present an exclusive interview with someone who not only inspired many of Mr Bergman's works but is also, we are happy to say, one of our closest collaborators - Death. (Readers should be aware that Death is a very busy personification of the termination of life and appears to have been somewhat distracted during our conversation with him, which we here transcribe in full.)*
AAD: Who's that?
Death: I am Death.
AAD: Cor, you didn't half give me a fright. You shouldn't go round sneaking up on people like that.
Death: I have been walking by your side for a long time.
AAD: Well, I never noticed you. You'd've thought I'd've heard something ... what with all the pebbles on this beach. You must be wearing crepe souls ... geddit? Ah well, suit yourself ... Anyway, I take it you're here for the Bergman obituary.
Death: Are you prepared?
AAD: For the obituary? Well, I've had a quick glance on Wikipedia.
Death: Well, there is no shame in that.
AAD: Cuh! Tell that to the readers. But I could do with a bit more time to tell the truth ... I wasn't expecting you right now.
Death: That's what they all say. I grant no reprieves.
AAD: Right ... better get on with it then. To sum up - Bergman will go down in cinematic history as one of the greatest stars in the Hollywood firmament, perhaps best known for her role as Ilsa Lund in Casablanca opposite Humphr ... oh, wait a sec, that's Ingrid isn't it? What I meant to say was that Ingmar Bergman was one of those who, alongside directors such as Godard, Truffaut and Fellini, helped to define modern European cinema. From early comedies like "Smiles on a Summer Night" to sombre masterpieces like "The Seventh Seal", "Winter Light" and "Persona" to reflective pieces such as "Wild Strawberries" and "Fanny and Alexander" he reflected on the really big issues - life, love, sex, death and God - and helped his audience to struggle with them even as he struggled himself. With his regular company of actors such as Max von Sydow, Ingrid Thulin, Bibi Andersson and Gunnar Björnstrand, his taut scripts spare of dialogue and his careful framing of beautifully realised images he created a truly unique oeuvre.
Death: How did you know that?
AAD: Er ... like I said, Wikipedia. Makes research a doddle - 5 minutes and you can have a slapdash and only haphazardly accurate article on anything you fancy. You must know about it! Haven't you even got a computer?
Death: Yes, in fact I'm quite a good chess player.
AAD: Ooh! I prefer Minesweeper or Spider Solitaire myself. But if you're online I'd be happy to give you a game some time.
Death: Why do you want to play chess with me?
AAD: Well, partly as a metaphor for the way humanity as a whole arrogantly struggles against Death even though it knows that Death must eventually win and that an ever-distant God will not intervene but mainly because it's not everyone who gets to play chess with Death - unless they're Max von Sydow.
Death: That is your privilege.
AAD: Nice one Mr D! I always thought you were decent sort - great turn of yours in Woody Allen's "Love and Death" by the way ... and that bit playing Battleships in "Bill and Ted's Bogus Journey" - genius! Great stuff! ... And now here we are with a board and here I am ending a piece about the passing of Ingmar Bergman by playing a game of chess with Death himself. Who'd've guessed?
Death: Very appropriate. Don't you think so?
* AS A DODO UPDATE - we are now advised that the above is not in fact a true record of a conversation between our correspondent and Death but is merely some of Death's lines from "The Seventh Seal" interspersed with a series of facetious remarks. We can only apologise to our readers ... again.
31 July 2007
Following the passing of Ingmar Bergman, one of the greatest figures in European cinema, we at As A Dodo are extraordinarily proud to be able to present an exclusive interview with someone who not only inspired many of Mr Bergman's works but is also, we are happy to say, one of our closest collaborators - Death. (Readers should be aware that Death is a very busy personification of the termination of life and appears to have been somewhat distracted during our conversation with him, which we here transcribe in full.)*
30 July 2007
The Truth, that nebulous concept that has exercised the minds of everyone from the greatest philosophers to the lowliest politicians(1), has passed away – crushed under an endless succession of fake phone-ins, cheating teachers, sexed-up dossiers, re-edited documentaries, alternative therapeutic nonsense, political spin, ridiculous advertising claims, dodgy journalism and wholly unreliable obituaries.
The Truth was a controversial concept from the moment it first cleared its throat and proclaimed itself a necessity of human interaction, an asseveration which was challenged in around 100,000BC by Ug the Estate Agent - who felt it could do real harm to his offers of centrally-heated caves with a wonderful view of the dormant (‘no, really’) volcano - and has been under continual challenge by his descendants ever since.
It was not long before the formerly-simple Truth came to be regarded as a complex and heavily-nuanced thing. Even as Aristotle stood up to announce that ‘To say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true’ other philosophers were gathering round him to "spin" his simple statement into something so complex it would require several hundred more years of reasonably-well-paid philosophising to explain.
Despite such difficulties, The Truth soon became extremely popular. Among its early fans were many religious groups, all of which claimed to have direct access to The Truth, which turned out to be available in manifold, mutually-incompatible forms. Indeed, so keen on The Truth were its religious devotees that many of them proved willing to die for The Truth or - even better - cause other people to die for The Truth, preferably by being roasted over a stake for witchcraft, stoned to death for adultery or blown into thousands of pieces thanks to a disturbed teenager's desire to become a martyr and cop off with 72 virgins.
Scientists, meanwhile, were also industrious in their pursuit of The Truth – happily disabusing us of the notion that the Sun revolved around the Earth or that apples floated upwards, and questioning religion’s view that the Big Bang was just God hitting himself on the thumb with a hammer and that the Earth and its creatures were created in both of the two mutually incompatible ways set out in the Bible at the same time. During the 20th Century the popularity of The Truth was to become even greater with some scientists after they discovered that if you came up with the right sort of Truth you could become extremely sought after... and very well paid. Soon several scientists were happily proclaiming all sorts of Truth, such as the non-existence of global warming to the existence of "Intelligent Design", via the remarkable rejuvenating powers of extremely expensive cold-cream to the validity of homoeopathy.
Followers of the Arts too had become enamoured of the truth, with the great poet Keats claiming that all one needs to know on earth is that ‘beauty is truth, and truth beauty’ (an argument which impressed many of his friends and followers but has still failed to fool even the most indulgent examiner come GCSE time). Great authors sought to illustrate profound Truths by their fictions, with writers such as Jeffrey Archer skilfully proving how much truer fiction can be than reality. Great composers sought to touch on truth in their music, with the works of such as JS Bach capable of uniting all humanity by their beauty ... and the work of such as James Blunt capable of uniting all humanity in a desire to tear their own ears off.
By the 20th Century the Truth, truth be told, was in a poor state. We were promised the war to end all wars, peace in our time and told that we had never had it so good - yet all turned out to be false. We were promised that chocolate bars would help us work rest and play but just got fat, we were promised mascara could make our lashes more beautiful by digitally enhanced actresses wearing falsies, we were promised endless channels of quality entertainment and got repeats of old Star Trek Voyager episodes on Sky One. Even our parents, it turned out, had been lying to us: Father Christmas smelled of dad’s whisky, the Tooth Fairy kept a surprisingly good eye on the level of inflation for an inhabitant of Fairieland and that man you saw mum kissing wasn't really your uncle after all.
The Truth became a mere commodity to be bought and sold on the open market, preferably as a completely made up kiss-and-tell story "ghosted" by a tabloid hack for a low-achieving teenager with bleached hair, a fake tan and artificial boobs.
Finally it could stagger on no longer. Attacked by everyone and everything from the Controller of BBC1 to the woman from Russia who emails you every day promising ‘sexy good time’, The Truth shrugged its shoulders, took a job in advertising and was no more.
The Truth will be A) buried at St Jeffrey Archer’s Church of the Blessed Perjuror; B) cremated at the National Rail Enquiries Cathedral of the 'No, That's The Cheapest Ticket I Can Find, Honest'; or C) terminated before the phone lines have closed at the Chapel of St Richard and St Judy. Calls will cost £1.50 a minute and your integrity may be at risk if the caller is a member of your own production team.
(1) not to mention builders preparing estimates and couples arguing about whose turn it was to put the cat out.
27 July 2007
Following the removal for slaughter of Shambo the Sacred Bull from the Skanda Vale temple in Wales, his close friend and neighbour, Megan the Goat, pays a moving tribute.
Well when I first heard it I couldn’t believe it, isn't it? My dear friend Shambo dead – taken away like a lamb to slaughter, except he’s a bull. And not just any old bull but a scared… sorry, my mistake, not easy to type with cloven hooves… sacred bull – well I suppose it’s the same thing in his case, poor bugger.
I first met Shambo back in 2001. I have to say I wasn’t that impressed at first. What was he for? He wasn’t tupping every heifer in sight, he wasn’t being fattened up for Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, he wasn’t even being allowed to roam the fields to gore English ramblers… No, he was being worshipped… I couldn’t believe it… I hadn’t seen anyone down on their knees worshipping farm animals since, well, those English ramblers wandered ‘accidentally’ into the sheep pen.
Admittedly we didn’t get off to a good start – while those monks next door were stretching their holy hands out to the chosen one, I had Dafydd Williams hairy hands tugging at my udders twice a day. So I wasn’t best pleased every time I popped my head over the wall and saw Shambo surrounded by more devotees than Tom Jones at a knicker factory.
But slowly I got to know him. As I was trotting up to the good grazing on top of the hill I’d always pop my head over the wall and say, ‘Bore Da’. He didn’t say much but he was a good listener. We’d chat about the weather – ‘rain again!’ – or discuss the dumbing down of The Archers, but we steered clear of politics and religion. Well, I’m chapel, see and, well, he was a god – like JPR Williams but not as fast down the left flank.
Anyway, it didn’t take long to find out that beneath all that high and mighty godliness he was just a down-to-earth ordinary bull who liked to share a joke – normally I’d ask him, ‘Is there a God?’ and he’d answer, ‘Yes, me!’ …Cracks me up, it does still… Lovely guy, great sense of humour.
Of course, as a Hindu he believed in the cycle of life and that his karma was to be reincarnated… whereas I’ll probably come back as a handbag or fake chamois leather sold for tuppence in Swansea market. He taught me a bit of Sanskrit like ‘What is found here, may be found elsewhere. What is not found here, will not be found elsewhere’… I thought he was taking about the endless bloody rain… And I’d teach him some Welsh words for ‘telephone’(1), ‘ambulance’(2), ‘rain’(3) of course, and ‘Look out, the English ramblers are back!(4)’
Then in April everything changed when Shambo was diagnosed with bovine TB. I mean, I know he was coughing and had the sniffles, but who wouldn’t with all that rain? The monks and nuns at the temple argued that he was a sacred cow but say that in Wales and it's usually just a cue for a gag about Margaret Thatcher.
Defra, the Welsh Assembly, The Appeal Court… they all refused to listen. They didn’t give a monkey’s that he was a sacred beast. Maybe he did have TB but there’s all kinds of ailments down here at the moment. Boris the duck – he’s got pneumonia, and Julie the donkey has bird flu… but schtum… we weren’t going to tell the man from Defra that.
Suddenly there were people from all over the world flocking to see Shambo and signing a petition on the internet. But to the end he remained calm and serene – not easy when you’ve got hundreds of monks - and quite a few out-and-out nutters - singing hymns, banging tambourines and chanting and praying round you morning noon and night. Sometimes he’d look at me and I knew what he was thinking – ‘God, I wish I could just slip away for a quiet pint’.
And then yesterday, the man from the ministry came back with 20 coppers and four riot vans – it was like a night out with Charlotte Church – and poor Shambo was led away… But do you know what the last thing he said to me was…? He had such a calm nature… He said, ‘Don’t worry, girl, I’ll see you next week… Who knows I may come back as a goat… But here’s hoping I don’t come back as a sheep…’ Cracked me up it did… God bless, Shambo and Nos da…
So, there it is, Shambo is dead. I can’t believe it. I’ve cried so much that I’ve started coughing and sniffling a lot… but I’m going to keep it quiet because I don’t want that vet putting his cold hand up where the sun don’t shine…
(3) 'glaw' - see, caught you out with that one, isn't it?
(4) 'oh bugger'.
25 July 2007
Economists are today scanning the fiscal horizon for any sign of the The US Dollar which is understood to have vanished without trace on a journey through European currency exchanges.
It was in the mid-to-late 18th century that the people of America began to tire of the system of pounds, shillings and pence (abbreviated - for reasons of Latin (and insanity) - as "L.s.d" and just as likely as the drug of that name to cause the users to hallucinate thanks to the extraordinary complexity of a system in which a pound was divided into 20 shillings, and each shilling was divided into 12 pence) and decided to tell the Brits back home in the UK exactly where they could stick it ... along with taxation without representation, all those German mercenaries they kept billeting in American homes and several tons of tea.
When the British finally took their American cousins' advice and waddled - somewhat uncertainly - away from their shores, the newly-liberated United States of America was left in desperate need of a currency of its own. So desperate was that need, indeed, that in 1785 the Congress of the Confederation was to take the route followed by so many American celebrities in recent years, and adopt a young Hispanic currency - The Dollar - as its own.
The Dollar was soon being raised by its new parents in the ways of the Enlightenment. Gone was the weirdly contorted system of L.s.d., replaced by a clear-browed, strong-thewed metric subdivision - enabling every citizen of the new republic desirous of giving their neighbour their "two cents" to know exactly how much that two cents was worth without having to resort to logarithmic tables or advanced calculus.
Over the following centuries The Dollar would come to bestride the fiscal globe, backed by a land rich in resources, natural and mineral, and by an industrious and inventive population. By the mid-twentieth century, The Dollar had become the hard currency of choice from everyone from oil magnates and international jet-setters to purveyors of currency-backed affection in South-East Asian backstreets, Moroccan hash-dealers and rebellious young citizens of communist states eager to be able to afford a pair of Levi's jeans on the black market.
Yes, The Dollar had its bad times: it got caught up in successive flirtations with assorted financial systems, from the gold standard to the fiat standard, even experimenting with bimetallism in its early years; its value rose and fell with mineral discoveries and oil crises, stock market surges and crashes, it splashed millions here there and everywhere in the 1920s yet could hardly spare a dime in the 1930s, it bubbled up with the arrival of new technology and new dealing methods and slipped away on the suds of Enron and Worldcom. Yet through feast and famine, war and peace, The Dollar still kept to its adventurous ways, journeying across the globe in the hands of the rich and the poor and in the back pockets of millions of plaid-shorts worn by troops of oversized American tourists eager to belittle foreigners and complain about the lack of decent water pressure in the hotel shower.
Despite having seen off so many disasters before, The Dollar that was to meet the crises of the mid-noughties was not the currency it had once been. Now it found itself assailed on all sides: on one side by the costs of the war on abstract concepts by their very nature incapable of defeat terror, on another by the surging price of oil, on yet another by a faltering industrial base threatened by increased competition from China and India, on another still by a set of banks eager to loan out billions of dollars to anyone capable of signing their name (or if not capable of signing their name, at least capable of finding their ass with both hands ... or maybe one hand ... okay, let's leave the ass-scratching thing and just get you to make your X on the dotted line).
With US credit fatally undermined by years of sub-prime lending, The Dollar's journeys into foreign currency markets were to become increasingly fraught with danger. In mid-July 2007 it flew out into the European and British exchanges, apparently without a care in the world. Tragically, it was last seen plunging to record lows over the rocky mountains of international finance and is believed to have crashed into the side of a euro.
The Dollar is survived by millions of British tourists amazed to find that a £10 lottery win will get them three week's stay in a suite at The Four Season's New York and the whole contents of Bloomingdales, Saks and Tiffany's, with enough change left over for a 12-course meal at Alain Ducasse.
23 July 2007
Today all of Britain (or at least that part of it which is not currently under six feet of water) stands (or wades) astonished at the death of the Quest for Atlantis, following the news that the fabled underwater civilisation has been discovered in the watery realm of legend that was, until yesterday, known as the Vale of Evesham.
The Quest for Atlantis was born, like Democracy and ... er ... Weekly Rubbish Collection, in Ancient Athens. It was in around 360BC that Plato described the island of Atlantis in his dialogues Timaeus and Critias(1). The great philosopher claimed that the rich and fruitful isle lay beyond the "pillars of Heracles" and was the home of a wealthy and noble race who received tribute from the peoples across Europe and Africa until their island home was plunged beneath the waves by a wrathful Zeus.
Inspired by Plato's words and ever eager to believe tales of lost civilisations (especially lost rich civilisations that might have left a bit of gold and jewellery lying about when they mislaid themselves) generations of adventurers were to go in quest of fabled Atlantis. Some claimed it was the birthplace of the Ancient Gauls, others that it was the true home of the Mayans and Aztecs. It has been located by scholars(2) variously in Antarctica, Indonesia, America and even below the Bermuda Triangle. Who could have known that Plato's references in fact pointed to a region of England best known for being a fairly good (if rather dull) base for anyone visiting the Cotswolds? And yet, who can truly doubt it? Is it not a fruitful region, famed for its harvests of plums and asparagus? Does it not still receive tribute from across Europe and Africa, indeed from the very Antipodes, in the form of assorted unseasonal fruits and vegetables flown into its Tesco Superstore? And is not the Vale's recent drenching by an inundation of a level so extraordinary and unexpected that the Met Office had only been warning the Government of it for the past 12 months, the sign of a renewal of Zeus's wrath (or possibly an incompetent Government)?
The conclusive evidence for the experts' conjectures that the Vale was the site of Plato's fabled civilisation came when a representative of Patrick Duffy - the "Man from Atlantis" himself - claimed the former Dallas star had agreed to appear in a production of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea at Evesham Arts Centre (although this was, admittedly, due to a mistaken belief that Evesham Arts Centre was a new West End Theatre). And thus has Atlantis finally been located and thus has the Quest for Atlantis passed, like so many gallons of floodwater, under the bridge.
The Quest for Atlantis will be buried on the seabed or in the middle of Evesham's main car park, depending on which is at the greater depth. The Reverend Captain Nemo will preside over the ceremony and the congregation will sing hymn number 423, "For Those in Peril Under the Sea" before hastily reaching for their aqualungs.
The Quest for Atlantis was predeceased by millions of pounds of funding for flood prevention projects cruelly cut down in their prime by wicked Chancellor Gordon Brown and now resurrected by our glorious Prime Minister ... Gordon Brown. It is survived by vast swathes of devastation, wholly inadequate and underfunded flood prevention schemes, plans to build thousands of homes on flood plains and the spectre of King Cnut rising from his (watery) grave to shout "Not such a laughing stock now, am I?" in Old Norse at any plucky soul that might pass by.
(1) also, coincidentally, the name of an Ancient Athenian department store.
(2) and loonies.
20 July 2007
The As A Dodo Team is pleased to announce that one of its junior staff members - fresh from his previous work editing a documentary on Her Majesty the Queen - has today provided us with what must be the greatest scoop of the decade, a sneak peak at what he assures us are the final few paragraphs of Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (despite the fact that they seem to have been scrawled in his own hand on the back of a series of losing betting-slips made out in his name), paragraphs which reveal that Harry Potter is to die in tragic and unforeseen circumstances. Accordingly, we print the following paragraphs as the young wizard's obituary. Let them speak for themselves.
"So, Harry. We meet again", said Nosferatu Lord Voldemort, his long thin form gliding towards Harry.
"I'll kill you Ming the Merciless Voldemort", said Harry, angrily, in the first bit of direct speech he'd been granted in the last two hundred pages.
"Oh I doubt it, Harry Potter", hissed Saruman Voldemort, his red eyes gleaming.
Harry raised himself to his feet, preparing himself for the bout of sadistic cruelty that he always had to face at the end of one of his books. Fu Manchu Voldemort pointed his wand at the young wizard and muttered a word with just enough bad Latin in it to sound a bit magical. Harry struggled to stand but found himself frozen. The Dark Lord of the Sith slid towards him.
"No, Harry Potter, it is you who will die, though I will not be the one to kill you ... that task belongs to your true enemy", continued Lex Luthor Voldemort, the slits of his eyes widening. "But first I must give a long and involved recap of all that has happened so far in case any of the slower readers - not to forget all those people who have got so used to skipping turgid passages about Quidditch matches, magic lessons, O.W.L. examinations and your tedious and somehow strangely passionless 'passions' for a series of females lacking any deep characterisation that they've flipped straight to the final pages - have missed anything."
Harry was about to speak but remembered that if he did so he would break up Davros's Lord Voldemort's lengthy exposition. At last - several pages later - the red eyes turned once more to Harry.
"What a fool you are Harry!", Moriarty Voldemort cried. "You thought I was your enemy all along didn't you? Didn't you realise who was punishing you?"
"It was Snape! I knew it!" said Harry.
The Sheriff of Nottingham Voldemort sneered at him. "Snape! Don't be a fool - if he doesn't get a moment of Darth Vader-like redemption in the last book I'll eat my own horcrux! Your enemy, Harry Potter, is She Who Must Not Be Named!"
"She Who Must Not Be Named?" thought Harry, who was having one of those astonishingly thick periods he always got between making astonishing intuitive leaps when the author wanted to move the plot on. "Dolores Umbridge? Rita Skreeter? Not Professor McGonagall?"
Dr Doom Voldemort momentarily buried his head in his hands. "Dear Lord you're almost as stupid as Sam Gamgee C3PO Ron Weasley. Think boy! Think! I speak of the one who truly hates you. Who is it that has punished you for seven, ever longer, books? Who is it that has ensured that all around you ignored your warnings and called you a liar? Who has seen you pummelled and beaten, cruelly mocked and more cruelly tortured for thousands upon thousands of pages? Who has made you doubt your own sanity?"
Harry looked up at the man he had once thought was his greatest foe, who he had always feared - even after discovering his true name was, ridiculously, Tom Marvelo Riddle.
The Wicked Witch of the West Voldemort continued, "Oh she hates you, Potter. Don't doubt that. Think how she sent you away to the Dursleys ..."
Harry shivered. "They're awfully common aren't they?" he said, then brightened for a moment, "But I'm not like them - I go to boarding school and have friends called Hermione and live in a magical world that is exactly like a scene from a 1950s Ealing comedy."
"But without the warmth or humour" said Blofeld Lord Voldemort, stroking a Persian cat. Harry nodded to himself, he knew his enemy's words were true. The Hooded Claw Voldemort carried on, "She even killed off your uncle Boromir Sirius Black and your mentor Gandalf Dumbledore"
"You mean Obi-Wan Dumbledore won't 'unexpectedly' be making a reappearance in the final book?" Harry shouted, his knuckles whitening as he clenched his hands in anger and disappointment.
"I wouldn't put it past her", whispered Nogbad the Bad Voldemort. "Can you really be so stupid?", he continued, his rage mounting once more ... "Didn't you suspect anything even when you realised she'd made your best friend a ginger?!"
Harry just grabbed his wand and squeezed it tight, causing sniggers among any of his readers who'd ever laughed at a Carry On movie.
"It is your creator who detests you so! She Who Must Not Be Named is J.K. Rowling! And now she has chosen to kill you by creating a saga so long and so repetitive that you will be sucked into an endless sequence of quidditch matches and O.W.L. examinations, punctuated by the occasional death of a friend and several over-familiar plot-devices. You will die not by my wand, Harry Potter, but by the actions of ten fingers upon a keyboard!"
His speech finished, Abanazar Lord Voldemort looked down triumphantly at Harry but Harry could not see him for Harry was already dead.
Harry Potter will be buried at St Mickey Mouse's Church of the Marketing Wizardry, in a grave well set apart from Lewis Carroll's Alice Through the Looking Glass, Lloyd Alexander's The Chronicles of Prydain, Norton Juster's The Phantom Tollbooth, James Thurber's The Thirteen Clocks and The White Deer, Susan Cooper's The Dark Is Rising sequence, Alan Garner's Weirdstone of Brisingamen and the works of The Brothers Grimm. He is survived by a generation of young adults for whom thousands of years of myth and legend, wizardry and wild romance, fairy tales and gothic sagas, imagination and mystery have been distilled into a moderately-well written, deeply small "c" conservative, school story in which all the magic of "magic" has been rendered into a banal substitute for technology with all the eldritch mystery of a trip to McDonalds.
18 July 2007
The Freedom of the Road, that cherished tenet of British democracy that has allowed motorists over a hundred years of carbon footprint- to-the-floor driving, has crashed and burned after the announcement of plans to allow police to use traffic cameras to investigate all forms of crime, from minor matters such as terrorism all the way up to thinking bad thoughts about the government and failing to love Big Brother (in either its literary or televisual form).
The Freedom of the Road was granted to motorists at – absolutely coincidentally – the same time as it was denied to pedestrians accustomed to sauntering absent-mindedly along the middle of the Queen’s highway without a care in the world(1), a custom which still persists in many parts of East Anglia and throughout London and other cities during the rush hour.
As men, some uppity suffragette types and even toads(2) began to bowl down the tarmacadam at ever-increasing speeds, Britain’s motorists began a long and heady affair with The Freedom of the Road - the freedom to journey hither and yon at speeds of up to eight miles per hour in their mighty Edmunds & Wadden Autotrix cyclecar free from worry or the fear that they may have a daguerreotype of their likeness passed to the police in the event that they may be in the act of committing a crime or imagining what Queen Victoria’s ankles looked like.
In the twentieth century thinking about the monarch’s disrobed ankles gave way to thinking about how to drive further and faster without a care in the world – or even the slightest suspicion that the AA man was saluting you to get you to turn your good side to the hidden camera as he secretly photographed you for MI5's files.
However motorists’ freedoms began to be eroded faster than Richard Hammond in a race against Jeremy Clarkson and James May, as the right to speed through residential areas, blunder the wrong way down the motorway, pick your nose at traffic lights or even drive a burning 4x4 into an airport terminal were heavy-handedly outlawed.
Motorists soon found themselves hampered by sleeping policemen, speed cameras, the high cost of petrol and millions of other white-knuckled, grim-faced speed-freaks clogging up the roads in their own pursuit of The Freedom of the Road. A nation of voyeurs who spent weeks watching a dozen morons people trapped in a TV studio every summer, became incensed at the thought of being photographed up to 300 times day in central London as they inched forward in first gear thinking about watching a dozen morons people trapped in a TV studio every summer.
The decision by the Home Office to give police access to traffic cameras in real-time rather than applying for the data on a case-by-case basis – or subscribing to Sky’s top-rating 24-hour Traffic Jam Channel – was the last potato in the exhaust pipe and The Freedom of The Road came to a sudden stop with a Flash! Bang! Wallop!
The Freedom of the Road will be buried at the St Alastair Stewart Church of Police, Camera, Action! The mourners will sing along to a selection of turgid mid-1970s guitar-based anthems from the Best of Top Gear CD while being photographed by undercover coppers posing as mourners. The service will be sponsored by Snappy Snaps and the driver of the hearse will be arrested and taken to Guantanamo Bay for thinking about picking his nose at a traffic light as he heads home.
(1) especially insofar as such cares related to being run over
(2) The As A Dodo editorial team must apologise at this point for the sloppy work by the junior staffer who prepared this piece, who appears to believe that Kenneth Grahame's Wind in the Willows contains an accurate record of motoring in the Edwardian era.
16 July 2007
The Special Relationship, that beautiful alliance between Britain and the United States that saw the British give America unswerving support in times of conflict in return for America giving Britain Dick Van Dyke's cormickiully acksarntid Cockernee chimernee sweep in Mary Poppins, has - we are advised by International Development Secretary, Douglas Alexander and Foreign Office Minister Lord Maloch-Brown - passed away.
The Special Relationship between Britain and America was born following the break-up of the Old Relationship between the two countries, after America grew tired of Britain always trying to cadge money off it and decided to throw Britain and all its things out ... including that bloody awful tea it insisted on drinking.
Due to the acrimonious nature of the split it was not, for many decades, apparent that something Special had been born. Indeed it wasn’t until World War Two that Winston Churchill - himself the fruit of the union between a Briton and an American - first realised that Britain was completely stuffed without the support of the most powerful country in the world made for America and the Special Relationship flowered anew, based on Britain being forced to flog off everything it owned to afford financially-crippling lend-lease arrangements the free, trusting and open sharing of ideas and resources that saw the two countries – united as one – defeat the Nazis(1).
Following such a successful beginning, it was little surprise that the love between the pair continued, ehen as America grew richer and stronger (and quite a lot fatter) and the United Kingdom became poorer and weaker (and also quite a lot fatter). America loved Britain's history and relics (particularly the royal family) and Britain worshipped America's enormous power and wealth appetite for happiness and adventure (and food).
Beneath the surface, however, all was not well and there were rumours of both countries dallying with others. Britain was frequently seduced by the continental allure and Gauloises-wreathed intellectual mysteriousness of France, but constantly rebuffed by a France deeply suspicious that Britain saw her only as the nearest ‘available’ country and was much more turned on by France's cheap booze, cheap fags and cheap summer homes than by her passionate interest in developing a Gauloises-wreathed critique of the later films of Jerry Lewis. Meanwhile, the United States began to cruise around the globe looking for a no-strings-attached good time but frequently ending up with a much bigger bang for its buck than it expected – as a series of 'one-night stands with no expectations and no hassle' led to it waking again and again in the middle of a massive hangover and a long-term abusive relationship.
Ironically, it was as America embarked on yet another such relationship - its heart having been smitten by oil the sensual beauty of Iraq - that there was a late-flowering in The Special Relationship as a love-struck Tony Blair, eager to secure himself a place in history and a lucrative post-premiership lecture tour in the States stand shoulder-to-shoulder with George Bush, persuaded Britain to snuggle up to its old flame, even joining America in a sado-masochistic menage-a-trois with its Iraqi lover.
Sadly, while the countries' leaders remained in love with each other, Britain and America themselves were becoming less keen on the idea of spending all their time in bed together and The Special Relationship began to break down. With the sweeping of Tony Blair from power and the hobbling of George Bush's Presidency, the Relationship - despite protestations from Gordon Brown and David Milliband that it was alive and well and planning to try for a baby in the autumn… Fall… no, autumn!... whatever - expired.
The Special Relationship will be buried at St Vegas's Little Chapel of the Drive-In Divorce. The American members of the congregation will sing Neil Sedaka’s Breaking Up is Hard to Do with a big grin on their faces while the British will sing Ken Dodd’s Happiness with tears streaming down their cheeks. Afterwards the joint CD collection will be ceremoniously divided with George Bush keeping the Best of Huey Lewis and the News single and Gordon Brown clutching a copy of the Arctic Monkey’s first album… whatever it’s called…
(1) with perhaps just a teensy bit of help from the 10,000,000 Russians who died in the war and their comrades.
13 July 2007
A worried nation was today gathered before the gates of Buckingham Palace, awaiting news of The Queen's Loss of Sang Froid, which is understood to have passed away yesterday during an official statement from the British Broadcasting Corporation.
The Queen's Loss of Sang Froid was born on 11 July 2007 in front of a select gathering of journalists in a small screening room at the BBC. The birth was overseen by BBC1 Controller Peter Fincham. Sadly - perhaps owing to a brief flashback to his terrible time taking fire in the BBC trenches after his decision to commission a chat show starring Davina McCall - it appears that Mr Fincham became distracted during the birth and failed to notice that a large section of questionably edited videotape, appearing to show Her Majesty storming out of a photo-session with the acclaimed photographer Annie Leibowitz after being asked to remove her tiara, had become wound round the baby's neck.
All present were so horrified by the result - which seemed to reveal Her Majesty the Queen acting in a manner more befitting of a mere human being than a head of state(1) - that they immediately ran off to their editors and producers demanding that front pages be cleared and tops of the bulletins be emptied to make space for their astonishing and vital news story.
And yet, despite the eagerness of the press, The Loss of Sang Froid was too sickly to live. By the time Mr Fincham at last discovered the presence of the deceptively edited videotape and informed the nation of his error The Loss of Sang Froid had already passed away and The Queen's Sang Froid - that calm, determined and unsmiling manner so beloved of the British people and press (save when they are all threatening to rise up and destroy the monarchy unless she shred her clothes and beat her breasts in memory of Diana, Princess of Wales) - was restored.
The Queen's Loss of Sang Froid will be buried in St Tabloid's Church of the Low Media Standards between the grave of the Unknown Fact-Checker and the rapidly revolving tomb of Lord Reith. At the same time the BBC will enact the Ceremony of the Rolling Heads, in which an utterly blameless producer in BBC radio and a couple of low-paid writers will be fired for the delectation of the media, while the mysterious figure at the independent production company who thought it would be a good idea to sex-up their dull royal documentary by splicing together a dodgy edit will be granted a £500K bonus and three new commissions for BBC1.
The Queen's Loss of Sang Froid is survived by a media that thinks it is a scandal to suggest Her Majesty might have a hissy fit but sees no problem whatsoever with suggesting that MMR causes autism, global warming is not manmade, wi-fi technology can cause allergies and that the best solution to illness and disease is a couple of drops of water from a homoeopath or a diet based solely on walnuts and chinchilla droppings.
(1) Our American readers are at this point advised that the British still retain the quaint custom of believing, however erroneously, that the head of state should not conduct themselves in the manner of a belligerent chimpanzee.(2)
(2) or indeed, given William Jefferson Clinton's performance in the role, a sex-starved bonobo.
11 July 2007
Quiet Man (aka Iain Duncan Smith), the superhero from another planet empowered with the ability to roar more quietly than the hoarsest bat, lead more ineptly than the worst John Major and bore potential voters with a single word, who led the Conservative Party from 2001 to 2003, has passed away following the publication of the Conservatives' Social Justice Policy Group report into the UK’s “broken society”.
Born in 1954 on the planet Shh!, Quiet Man was the son of Dreadful Sy-Lenns and Awful Kwy-Ett, keepers of the planetary library. Facing the destruction of all they held dear by an invasion from the planet BluddyLowd, the pair placed their son in a - very quiet - spacecraft and sent him on the long and silent journey through space to Earth, where they felt his quiet voice and incredibly stiff demeanour could make a difference to the fate of humanity.
Quiet Man was discovered in a small field outside the rural farming town of Edinburgh, Scotland by a simple highly-decorated RAF Group Captain and his simple ballerina wife, who chose to bring up the boy they would name Iain Duncan Smith(1) as their own.
From the beginning it was clear that young Quiet Man was different. Schooled in a naval academy on the Isle of Anglesey he was marked out from the moment the teacher called the register and mistook his answer for the flapping of the wings of a passing moth. A career in the army followed, Quiet Man spending hour after hour not barking orders at NCOs, before he entered the world of business, mostly as the silent partner in a mime agency.
During all these years Quiet Man bided his time, quietly, knowing that one day "the call" would come. That day came in 1992, when the grateful people of Chingford, tired of their former MP Norman Tebbit's habit of grabbing them by the lapels and shouting at them endlessly about how the country was going to "the dogs, the Eurocrats and the namby-pamby-pinko-crypto-communist-lesbian-muesli-munchers", chose to elect Quiet Man as his successor.
Keen to disguise his mighty powers, Quiet Man passed his time in Parliament gazing silently (bar the odd cough) but strongly at the Government benches on the other side of the Commons chamber, or being mistaken for an usher. Nonetheless, he knew the country's hour of need was coming and, when William Hague resigned as Conservative leader in 2001, he chose to throw his name into the hat, mainly because no-one could hear him when he spoke his name out loud.
So it was that Quiet Man at last found his place among the band of heroes that was the Tory Party of Great Britain. Alongside such mighty figures as Nicholas "The Blob" Soames and Michael "The Fang" Howard he took on villains from Tony Blair ("The Smiler"), to Gordon "Iron Man" Brown and John "Twelve Pies" Prescott.
Yet despite his bravery and courage, Quiet Man was to be defeated by a kryptonite-like substance made up of a lethal combination of his own inability to stir up enough passion among his supporters to elicit a luke-warm round of applause and the tendency of Conservative MPs to act as if they were applying for the post of first assistant to Niccolo Macchiavelli
Almost fatally weakened Quiet Man crawled - very quietly - away to his Fortress of Quietude, where he established his awesome Centre for Social Justice think tank. However, there was one last battle to fight: in his hour of greatest policy need, the new leader of the Conservative Superheroes, David Cameron ("Green Man"), called on his predecessor to defeat the forces of social breakdown. Quiet Man had no choice but to answer, turning up the volume at last in a 1000 decibel (and £6 billion) vocal blast of policy initiatives, tax breaks and benefit increases for married couples. And so Quiet Man passed away, replaced by Fairly Audible Man with a Bit of a Cough and a Thing for Married Couples.
Quiet Man will be buried at St Marcel’ Marceau's Church of the Man Trapped in a Glass Box. The service will be signed for the hard of speaking and the congregation will silently mouth hymn No. 453 The Sound of Silence.
(1) Thus failing miserably to comply with The Superhero Alter Ego (Alliterative Naming) Regulations of 1952.
09 July 2007
Eco-campaigners and celebrity publicists eager to get their charges some front page coverage(1) are today mourning the passing of Live Earth, which let slip the bonds of gravity and slipped past the ozone layer and beyond only 24 hours after its birth on 7th July 2007.
Live Earth was the consciousness-raising progeny of former Vice-President Al Gore - a man whose credentials are so green that he had his own charisma hand-crafted from solid wood - and a large number of pop stars eager to flog some 'Best of' albums save the planet from "that, like, global warming thing, yeah" in a way which didn't involve them giving up their private jets. From the outset its ecological bona fides were clear, having itself been recycled from 'Live 8' which had seen the gathering together of a large number of pop stars eager to flog some 'Best of 'albums "end like 'Third World' poverty, yeah" in a way which did not involve them putting a hand into their own pockets.
Yet, despite such good intentions a cloud hung over Live Earth almost from the moment of its birth. That the cloud consisted of the estimated 75,000 tonnes of CO2 generated by producing and watching the series of Live Earth concerts around the globe was, perhaps, unfortunate, especially as Live Earth's parents had done so much to offset its carbon output by patronisingly paying a small tribe in the Amazon rainforest a tenner to install eco-friendly lightbulbs.
Even in the face of such difficulties, Live Earth's carers did their best to carry on, flying in from across the globe in their personal jets to wish it well and deliver two songs from their back catalogue and one from "the new album, available on iTunes right now". Band after band and singer after singer rose up to express the rock'n'roll spirit of the age, not by urging their fans to fight the power, rise up against big business and a capitalist system based on the acquisition of more and more planet-destroying consumer goods, but rather by turning off a few lights and remembering not to put their tellies on standby. Particular praise must go to bands such as Snow Patrol and Keane who have done so much to pick up and recycle discarded rubbish down the years, even if the discarded rubbish in question is the music of Coldplay.
Nonetheless, with the cloud continuing to hover over Live Earth, many experts were already warning that it might pose a threat to health, especially when combined with the output from its pop parents' massive egos. With Sting's arrival on stage at the Giant's Stadium in New York the cloud began to pulsate weirdly. It was Madonna's appearance at Wembley, however, that sent the cloud (not to mention several members of the audience) critical. The resulting explosion of noxious gases and even-more noxious egos sent Live Earth hurtling into space, leaving behind a Wembley Stadium so heavily irradiated that only those shielded by vast salaries, massive egos and motor cars with the carbon output of a small jet will be able to use it in future ... which at least makes it the perfect venue for football matches.
Live Earth is survived by increased music downloads for the artists involved, Al Gore's As-Yet-Unannounced-Presidential Campaign and a public still so thick that 50% of it doesn't believe in global warming despite the fact that the data have convinced just about every sane scientist on earth - bar a few professional members of the awkward squad, some professors who owe their shiny new laboratories to the generosity of the oil companies and a couple of guys who think a dodgy Channel 4 documentary is an even easier way to get on the telly than Big Brother - that the planet may well be on the way to Hell in a very hot handbasket.
(1) That is, front-page coverage unrelated to drug abuse, sexual infidelity or the adoption of yet another child from an impoverished country in the Southern Hemisphere.
06 July 2007
The Sandwich, that quick and filling meal that has sustained day-trippers, office workers, students and lazy busy men and women for nearly 250 years has curled up at the corners and passed on to the Great Bin in the Sky with the news that many pre-packed sandwiches contain more salt than a Roman centurion’s bank account.
It was the 4th Earl of Sandwich who, in the 1760s, first placed some cold meat between two pieces of bread to sustain him, either - according to reliable sources - during his marathon cribbage sessions at the gaming table, or - according to less reliable sources - as he worked through the night on important government business at his desk, or even - according to sources whose reliability is on a par with national rail timetables or Jenson Button's Honda - because his wife was away and he didn’t know how to work the microwave.
Soon The Sandwich had moved on from its humble origins as gourmets adapted the basic recipe of cold meat between bread to create some of the most mouth-watering delights known to man, woman, child and dog begging at the table: including such delights as the chip butty, the dripping sandwich and the ready salted crisps double-decker.
The Sandwich had its darkest hour during World War Two when the advent of rationing which forced plucky Britons to fight the war on a diet of powdered sandwiches and (if they had the coupons) the bread sandwich – a delightful combination of bread between two slices of bread.
In the post-war years Britons were free to indulge themselves once more, experimenting with such delights as the chip and crisp sandwich and the dripping double-decker. In Scandinavia meanwhile it was indulging itself in a series of open relationships with a diverse range of fillings. Over in America, US sandwichologists began to experiment with new hybrids such as The Sub (so-called because its size and weight were crucial in its use against the Japanese navy), Peanut Butter and Jelly (the sticky peanut butter stabilising the wobbliness of the jelly) and the Club Sandwich (so-called because its size, density and those annoying plastic swords they stick through to make them hold together, made it the foodstuff of choice for busy burglars and muggers eager for a handy snack with which they could also brain their victims ).
Soon sandwiches were spreading across the globe, their wrappers boasting unlikely combinations of thai-style prawn and onion chutney, roast wildebeest and camembert or tandoori chicken and lychee, while their contents inevitably revealed a semi-identifiable meat-style substance plus some limp lettuce all drowned in cheap mayonnaise.
But despite its soaring popularity and, seemingly, hardy constitution when an investigation into the salt content of pre-packed sandwiches found that some such as the Pret a Manger All-day Breakfast, the Asda Extra Special Yorkshire Ham and Hawes Wensleydale and the Kwik-Price Sodium and Chloride Salad contained more than a third of the daily recommended intake of salt, The Sandwich’s arteries began to harden and it was left on the shelf for the last time.
The Sandwich will be buried at Newport Pagnell Service Station where mourners will try to eat piles of mayonnaise-slathered crayfish and rocket, ham and cheese and pastrami and gherkin without the aid of their traditional - slightly-soggy - bread-wrapping.
04 July 2007
In the light of recent criticism, we at As A Dodo are sad(1) at having to burden our readers with yet another badly-researched, ill-informed, mendacious and mean-spirited travesty, 'obituarising' (if we may be forgiven the somewhat ugly coinage) yet another easy target, The Royal Prerogative.
The Royal Prerogative was born in Britain in the middle of the 5th Century AD, following the collapse of the Roman Empire's last outposts in Albion. It succeeded the Imperial Prerogative, those powers which, according to scholars, allowed the Emperors of Rome to spread literacy, hygiene, roads, international trade and (like Gordon Brown) taxation and which, according to viewers of BBC2's "Rome", allowed all Romans to wander round with their kit off, have lots of sex and stab at least 20 people an episode.
The Royal Prerogative constituted those powers, privileges and immunities which were the appanage of British kingship. The earliest ruler known to have exercised such power was the legendary King Vortigern, who used The Prerogative chiefly to give control of parts of England to the Saxons, a tradition which Eurosceptics claim has been upheld in more recent times by successive UK Governments.
The centuries that followed Vortigern were to see a steady erosion of Prerogative power. The first to feel this was King Canute, whose attempt to bypass not merely Parliament but Mother Nature by issuing an Order in Council preventing the rising tide ended in humiliation and barnacles on his sceptre and orbs.
Though by the end of Elizabeth I's reign the House of Commons was to claim that while ‘the prerogatives of princes may easily and do daily grow … the privileges of the subject being once lost are not recovered but with much disquiet’, the next 80 years were to see The Prerogative decline even more rapidly. When Charles I attempted to use The Prerogative to rule and fund his administration without Parliament's approval (something which gave rise to the traditional office of Rouge Lord Levy Cash-Pursuivant) he swiftly had it cut off - along with his head - by Oliver Cromwell and his Parliamentary followers. Even after the restoration, Parliament was increasingly keen to flex its muscles against arbitrary rule by the monarch, leading to 1688's "Glorious" Revolution and the 1700 Act of Settlement which did to the The Prerogative pretty much what a red-hot poker did to Edward II.
Stripped of much of its power, The Prerogative was to struggle on, now vested in "The Crown", rather than the monarch, and used by Government to do everything from declaring wars, ordering the dissolution of Parliament (as opposed to the dissolution of MPs, many of whom can be pretty dissolute all by themselves) to choosing bishops, leaving the monarch his or herself to be contented with owning all the kingdom's swans and sturgeons.
Despite its age and relative feebleness, The Prerogative was still exercised on a regular basis. Even in the early 21st Century Prime Minister Blair was giving it a run round in the yard on a regular basis, usually in order to get it to declare war on other countries. With the passing of this last loyal master, however, it was clear to all that The Prerogative was not fit to survive in the modern world and it was put down at the behest of its new owner, Gordon Brown.
The Royal Prerogative will be buried this weekend. Tony Blair will read from the Book of Britney "Everybody's talking all this stuff about me, why don't they just let me live? I don't need permission, make my own decisions, that's my prerogative".
(1) By which we mean, "too gorged on our own self-satisfaction to give a monkey's".
02 July 2007
Tiger “Tim” Henman, for many years Britain’s greatest hope of losing winning Wimbledon, has gone to the great practice court in the sky after being knocked out of the second round of Wimbledon this year by a combination of torrential rain, flooding, terrorist attacks, the death of Tony Blair’s Premiership, the end of smoking in public and not being quite good enough at tennis.
Tiger “Tim” Henman was born in 1974, with a silver strawberry in his mouth, the newest addition to a great British tennis family – his father a keen tennis player and both his grandfather and great-grandfather competitors at Wimbledon, making their millions in the cut-throat world of lucrative strawberries and cream concessions.
Slapped by the midwife “Tim” astounded his parents by returning the open-palmed volley – sending his umbilical cord across the maternity room with a beautiful top-spin smash (although he later lost to the midwife 6-3, 6-3, 7-6, 7-6, 6-0). He was immediately given the name “Tiger” – not because of his tenacious fighting spirit and ability to rip his opponents to shreds but because of his uncanny resemblance to the moth-eaten and broken-toothed tiger-skin rug the family had inherited from Great Aunt Letitia.
From an early age Tiger was encouraged to follow his natural talent, but like most children he quickly rebelled and decided instead to become a tennis player, a pursuit in which his passionate displays earned him the equally passionate sobriquet "Tim".
“Tim” quickly rose through the junior tennis ranks thanks to his extraordinary skill and dedication and the fact that all the juniors who are any good at sport are playing football, rugby or training for athletics. Having mastered the basics of tennis – the serve, the volley, the sliced cross-court return (although until the end of his career he failed to convincingly punch the air like he meant it) – “Tim”, in the absence of any real competition, soon graduated to the seniors circuit where he was greeted at Wimbledon as the second coming of the British tennis messiah and, everywhere else, as “that useless Brit who doesn’t even have the excuse that he’s actually Canadian.”
Unlike many successful tennis players, “Tim” refused to indulge in the competitive gamesmanship of his rivals, abstaining from barracking his opponents or the umpire and always remembering his manners, saying “please” and “thank you” but mostly “sorry” to his fans and Sue Barker after every match. So, it was a surprise that, in only his second Wimbledon tournament in 1995, he became the first player ever to be disqualified after smashing a ball into a ball girl’s head (although the ball girl later won in straight sets).
Despite this “Tim” quickly captured the imagination of a generation of British fans desperate for a hero, completely ignorant of the rules of tennis and relishing only the chance to drape themselves in a Union Jack and bellow “do come on, Timothy” at a crucial point in the match – normally as their hero was returning a difficult first serve or trying to work out how to operate the Robinson’s Barley Water dispenser. Indeed “Henmania” reached such a fever pitch that the size of his celebrity and his fans’ undying devotion led to the christening of “Henman Hill” – a scruffy mound on the verges of Wimbledon, nearly several feet high.
Tiger’s frustrating losses on the Grand Slam circuit were easily compensated by his amazing Wimbledon performances – as year after year he was knocked out by the rain (or, in 2002, by wild card David Blunkett). But his gritty determination still won him the support of his fans as he clawed defeat from the jaws of victory, all the while punching the air (although he later lost to the air in straight sets in the first round of the French Open).
With the rise of tennis player Andy Murray, Tiger’s status slipped and he became Britain’s Number 2 – a status his harsher critics had been euphemistically granting him some time. As he entered this year’s Wimbledon he fought valiantly to beat Moyà in the first round before succumbing to Feliciano López in the second in a five-set struggle that “Tim” lost only after his Adidas-sponsored wellingtons were stuck in the mud on Centre Court. The spell was broken – as his mentally-disturbed loyal fans and the media realised that Henman was not the name of his superhero alter ego and that the Tiger had miaowed its last.
Tiger "Tim" Henman will be buried at the Fred Perry Church of Nostalgia. The service will be too fast for him to return, but the congregation will struggle on as the final eulogy is delayed by rain for 24 hours before being knocked out in the last set.
He is predeceased by Greg Rusedski and survived by Andy Murray – the spotty 20-year-old with “wrist” injuries.