Government Statistics have perished with the news that the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, underestimated the number of migrants working in the UK by 700,000, and failed to factor in the 40 odd members of the infamous Windsor family who have been milking the benefits system for decades.
Since the dawn of time governments have struggled to issue a factual reckoning of everything from the annual figures for the wheat harvest, literacy rate or life expectancy while those governments' subjects have struggled to believe that the figures haven't been spun, seasonally adjusted, calculated in base 72 or just downright fiddled.
When the Trojans woke up one morning to find the Achaeans gone, they proudly announced to the surviving citizens that all that was left behind was one horse, before being forced to rapidly revise this figure by Odysseus and his 30 armed companions leaping from the belly of the horse to remonstrate with the official Trojan statistician. The Ancient Britons massively underestimated the number of migrating Romans arriving via the south coast to take up work in the indoor plumbing and underfloor heating sector that so many Ancient Britons considered beneath them. And, similarly when Harold got his court tellers to tot up the numbers of Normans popping over for a weekend break to buy up and restore disused farmhouses and cottages in England, their calculations were so far out of whack that Harold had no choice but to hand over the keys to William the Conqueror.
Throughout history a sceptical public became used to governments announcing a number they'd first thought of, and then adding ten million to that figure. So when Home Secretary Jacqui Smith first stated confidently that the number of migrant workers in the UK was definitely 800,000, it was no surprise that she was later forced to sheepishly admit that the batteries in her abacus weren't fully charged and the real figure was, actually, 1,100,000... before the Office of National Statistics reminded her that the figure was, in fact, 1,500,000. Having displayed all the statistical acumen of the Metropolitan Police counting the number of protestors at a student demo, Ms Smith's series of seven(1) gaffes exposed Government Statistics as a tissue of lies, damned lies and... er... Government Statistics. As a shocked nation - outraged to discover that it had been misled yet again - called for Ms Smith to be replaced as Home Secretary by a Lithuanian accountant, Government Statistics failed to add up for the final time and were no more.
Government Statistics will be buried at the Church of St Johnny of Ball, the service will be conducted by the Reverend Dave "Let's Just Call It A Hundred for Cash" Dodgy and the congregation will sing hymn 432... sorry, hymn 700,432.
Government Statistics are predeceased by the Tooth Fairy's calculations and survived by Let's Just Split The Bill Four Ways.
(1) sorry, nine, sorry, two, sorry ... 278 following seasonal adjustment.
31 October 2007
Government Statistics have perished with the news that the Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, underestimated the number of migrants working in the UK by 700,000, and failed to factor in the 40 odd members of the infamous Windsor family who have been milking the benefits system for decades.
29 October 2007
It is impossible to exaggerate the sadness at the death of Royal Scandals, which have passed away following news that the best our monarchies can manage these days is some relatively uninteresting sex 'n' drugs allegations about "a minor royal" with "a low public profile". They will be fondly remembered for all the good works they did down the years, keeping millions enthralled and entertained and providing much useful work for paparazzi, indifferent journalists willing to swallow their pride and make a living reporting the antics of a bunch of men and women whose generations of inbreeding have left them with the noble chin, intellectual weight and dignified bearing of one of Wimpy's "Benders in a Bun", and dimwitted aristocratic offspring in desperate need of a family to marry into after failing the entrance exams for floristry and kindergarten assistant.
Rather than dwell on their sad and ignominious end - begging for a headline in the Sunday Times after overhyping in the company of members of the press - we at As A Dodo much prefer to remember Royal Scandals as the great things they once were: hanging around with kings and queens, empresses and emperors, pharaohs, shahs, rajas and ranis from the moment monarchy was first thought of, capable of altering the history of nations and the destinies of millions.
Oh what great times Royal Scandals once had - appalling whole nations even as ancient spin doctors tried to cover them up. Who can forget the quick-witted Egyptian priest who informed a shocked nation that the young pharaoh had only been pleasuring himself out of the palace window in order to fertilise the Nile, or the Greek sage who told the Macedonian troops that what they had seen was merely Hephaestion polishing King Alexander's sarissa before the battle?
Despite such attempts at suppression, by the time of the Romans Royal Scandals had assumed their rightful place in society - keeping comics and clowns, playwrights and players, hecklers and historians in business as they chronicled Emperors happy to entertain their people by marrying their sister before breakfast, murdering them by lunchtime and hopping into bed with their horse by tea.
With the rise of monarchies across Europe, Royal Scandals' opportunities multiplied. Strange sexual preferences, killings and overfamiliar meetings between the species were commonplace - it was not long before those in the know were reporting everything from Phillipe I, Duc d'Orléans's habit of wandering the docks in female attire blowing kisses to the sailors, through Pope Alexander VI's first murder (carried out at the age of 12) all the way to Queen Catherine the Great's stable relationship with Bruno the carthorse. Matters such as King Henry VIII of England's serial marriages and lethal divorce settlements were small beer, even though they helped found a new church.
Ah yes, those were the great days! Yet even in decline, Royal Scandals still had the power to shock. Tales of Marie Antoinette's excess helped to feed the flame of revolution, tales of King George III's madness and the dissolute George IV's divorce threatened the monarchy in England. But it was all downhill from here. Where once a true scandal would have required at least a few deaths or a dangerous liaison with a llama, by the 20th century the best that could be offered to shatter the world's peace was Edward VIII's decision to marry an American divorcee.
The decline continued apace as minor Royals across Europe took to sucking toes and slipping off their bikinis to whip up a whiff of naughtiness, while the best their more senior colleagues could manage was Princess Diana's liaisons with a string of well-heeled dimwits and Prince Charles's fondly-expressed desire to grow up one day to be a tampon(1). Even young Prince Harry found his Bad Boy Reputation almost impossible to maintain.
Royal Scandals' final hour came when, following allegations that two men had attempted to blackmail a royal with an envelope of cocaine and a sex video, the whole of the internet was filled with precisely five people trying to find out who the Royal was, while everyone else turned over the pages of their newspapers to read the soccer scores.
Royal Scandals will be buried at St Catherine's Church of the Hole-y Harness. A minor royal will snort several lines from the Bible and the congregation will sing Hymn 365 "All things bright and beautiful, all creatures great and small, all things wise and wonderful, the royals have had them all".
(1) which would, admittedly, be more useful than being Prince Charles.
26 October 2007
Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle has thrown its last TV through a closed hotel room window and retired to the big mansion in the sky with the news that these days the addictive lines of choice of legendary hellraiser and gravel-voiced blonde chaser, Rod Stewart, are 00 gauge and have model trains running across them, as revealed on the front cover of this month's Railway Modeller.
Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle was born under a bad sign in the mid-50s - the noisy, attention-seeking child of Rhythm and Blues and Elvis's unruly pelvis. Within weeks of its birth it was scandalising parents and politicians on both sides of the Atlantic through the onstage and off antics of Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Buddy Holly in the USA and Cliff Richard in the UK(1).
Though Beethoven may have pounded in frustration at his piano and Mozart died young, it wasn't until the birth of Rock 'n' Roll itself that Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle first reared its ugly head and vomited copiously out of a 17th-storey window onto a family of Pittsburgh Episcopalians breakfasting by the pool below.
Not content with pushing the envelope of popular music, by the mid-60s, rock stars were also pushing the envelope of pills, powders and halllucinogenic tinctures across the table towards each other. Indeed, the Beatles sampled so much LSD that Ringo Starr actually believed he was the drummer in the Beatles, while the Grateful Dead went so far out they still think Jerry Garcia is soloing 12 years after his death.
This grand social experiment in getting high, getting laid, driving a paisley Bentley into a swimming pool(2) and then trying to remember how to play G-C-D was not without its costs: Brian Jones, Keith Moon, Jimi Hendrix, John Bonham, Janis Joplin, Mama Cass and Jim Morrison - to name but a few - all succumbed to the Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle.
In the 70s and 80s musicians continued to test the boundaries of moral acceptability in bacchanalian orgies of drugs and destruction or, in the case of Bananarama, to test the boundaries of musical taste(3).
But as the years passed ageing rockers, suddenly ambitious to get old before they die rather than the other way round, began to swap groupies for trophy wives and a life of raising hell to a life of raising trout. When that great rock survivor Keith Richards seriously injured himself - not by accidentally injecting Cillit Bang diesel into his veins or erroneously snorting a line of Sanatogen - but by falling off the ladder in his library, the writing was on the wall ... if he could still remember how to write and still remember where he'd left that wall(4). If Keef could mash himself up badly while peering over his half-moon specs and reaching for the latest Barbara Cartland, then what future for Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle?
With the revelation that Rod Stewart was giving away his latest album exclusively in Railway Modeller, the last eardrums have been perforated, the last amplifiers blown and the house lights brought cruelly up as Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle choked to death on it's own 1:87 scale replica of a young girl waving excitedly at a passing locomotive.
Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle will be buried at the St Animal Church of the Submerged Muppet. The service will be conducted by the surviving members of Led Zeppelin and the congregation will sing Shine On You Crazy Diamond - if they can remember what comes after "three" as they count in the band...
Rock 'n' Roll Lifestyle is survived by Coldplay, James Blunt and Katie Melua.
(1) Not to mention skiffle legend Lonnie Donnegan, who in one notorious incident slightly grated a backstage manager with his washboard for serving the wrong kind of dandelion and burdock.
(2) Such was Keith Moon's passion for this aspect of The Lifestyle that his local public baths were forced to ban the submerging of any motor vehicles during the Mothers and Toddlers Swimming Class.
(3) and, in the case of Duran Duran, testing both of the aforementioned categories simultaneously.
(4) probably at the bottom of his swimming pool...
24 October 2007
In a double blow this week, following the sudden death of Children's Literature, As A Dodo has received tragic news from the Wild Wood. The following tribute to the late Mr Brock Badger was penned by his old friend (and The Wind in the Willows co-star) Ratty.
Ah Badger! You've never met a finer felllow! Hated company of course. Hated Society, and invitations, and dinners and all that sort of thing. Couldn't bear people fluttering and fussing around him. But still, one of the best of all the good creatures I've known - a better beast than Otter, Toad or even Moley. Always willing to help a friend in need. Always ready with wise words and good counsel. Stout of body and of heart, that was old Badger. Or at least, that's what we all thought.
I remember how I found out what had happened. I'd set out for the Wild Wood with dear old Mole. Oh come on, old chap, you know Moley: a bit beneath the salt perhaps but as kind and honest a fellow as one could want to meet. Besides which, one has to face it, we're all in trade these days, are'n't we? So it's best we muddle along together. Anyway, Moley had scrabbled and scratched his way up from that charming, little hole of his and popped in to ask me if I cared for a jaunt to see old Badger. Of course I said, "Yes."
To tell the truth, it had been quite a while since any of us had seen Badger. But there was nothing in the least odd about that. The best one could usually hope for was to catch the sound of a rustling in the hedgerow as he went past or maybe a brief sight of his stripey head and wide, high shoulders before he disappeared back into the woods. If you were especially lucky Badger might give you an "Oh ... company!" before he set off. Still, beneath it all he was the most decent of sorts. And he had a soft spot for Moley, what with them both living sub terra and all that.
As I say, Moley and I set off to see Badger. I'd packed a few little things for a picnic on the way - cold chicken, cold tongue, cold ham, cold beef, pickled gherkins, salad, french roll, cress sandwich, ginger beer, lemonade, just a snack as I say - and we made a very pleasant journey of it until we came to the Wild Wood. You know, I never understood why Badger would want to live in such a place. The squirrels are alright, and some of the rabbits, but as for the rest ... A fellow can't take two steps in there without seeing the pinched faces and beady eyes of all those stoats and weasels staring out at one. Wild things they are, and they let their children run wild too. Why only a few weeks ago, Toad dropped in to see Badger and left his new motor car outside and by the time he came out the car had gone and all that was left was the horn. A couple of days later and Otter was telling me he'd seen the very vehicle being advertised on eBay (whatever that may be). Still, it never worried Badger ... though he did always make sure to carry a big stick (for myself I always prefer a brace of pistols ... or at the very least a taser).
In any event, we made our way through relatively unmolested. The shock was to come when we got to the fine old hummock where Badger lived. At first we didn't suspect anything unusual at all - there was the door scraper, there the mat, there the engraved brass plate reading "Mr Badger". All seemed perfectly normal. But then we got to the door itself and saw the sign. I can still see Moley peering at it, rubbing those thick glasses of his to make sure he'd read it right. "Condemned by order of Sir David King, UK Government chief scientist," he said, "TB Hazard ... Keep out ... Gas."
"What does it mean, Ratty?" Mole asked me, "TB hazard - is that something to do with Mr Blair?"
"No, Moley, old chap," I replied, "I'm afraid it's tuberculosis. All the while we thought old Badger was a fine old fellow, it looks like he's been poisoning the cattle with TB."
"But I thought the Independent Scientific Group let Badger off," said Mole and I could see tears of concern welling in his eyes.
"Dear, kind-hearted Mole," I said. "Sir David is a knight of the realm, I'm sure he knows what he's talking about. And besides, Badger did always have that terrible cough didn't he?"
Mole paused a moment. "Yes," he said, "I wonder where he got it from."
Dear fellow that Mole is, I never had the heart to tell him. But there had always been rumours of course: there was always something a little furtive about the fellow, after all. And why would an old man like Badger would be wanting to hang round with all those young Wild Wood types? And, we must face it, we all know they've brought all these dreadful diseases with 'em, don't we?
Yes, it seems Badger wasn't quite the creature we all thought he was. Well, at least he had the good taste to keep his vices to himself.
Now then, who's for a nice slice of ham?
The As A Dodo editors add: Mr Badger will be gassed and cremated, in accordance with Sir David King's report. The stoats and weasels face instant deportation.
22 October 2007
Children's Literature, that young sapling of creative writing that has enthralled children at bedtime and adults who ought to know better on the long commute to and fro their boring, stupid grown-up jobs in the city, has died of shock following the outing of Professor Albus Dumbledore by that gossipy chronicler of Hogwarts, JK Rowling, during her US book tour - a revelation almost as shocking as Enid Blyton's deathbed admission that the Famous Five were all members of the Hitler Youth, and that Timmy had died shortly after the end of the first book and had - unknown to Julian, Dick, Ann, George and Adolf - been replaced by an almost identical dog shortly before the start of the gang's second adventure.
Children's Literature got off to a slow start in the 17th century with the publication of picture books which contained stories of a mind-numbing simplicity that have only recently been rivalled by the films of Adam Sandler. And when the Brothers Grimm first published their collection of fairytales at the beginning of the 19th century there were sleepless nights all round as children begged to be read just one more chapter of the cruel and magical stories and adults went to bed unable to drop off for fear of the harm they were doing their children, and the angry dwarf they swore they saw lurking in the shadows at the foot of the bed.
Yet children had begun to delight in the magical wonderlands seen through the looking glass, found lurking beyond the wardrobe or inside the gates of the greatest chocolate factory known to man, woman and - most importantly, small child. While some authors enthralled young readers with fabulous tales spun from the wildest shores of their imagination, others set their stories in the more humdrum world of home and school. Yet Children's Literature prospered - quite happily refusing to grow up for nearly two hundred years. Indeed, the feared collapse of Children's Literature brought on by its neglect in favour of video games and crack cocaine on the school curriculum, had been averted, chiefly by the creative genius of JK Rowling in joining the magical world of CS Lewis with countless middlebrow boarding school novels of the mid-20th century in her well-written, exciting, never over-long and - most importantly - highly original series of Harry Potter books(1).
So it was with great surprise and horror that the unexpected death of Children's Literature was precipitated by an innocent question about Albus Percival Wulfric Brian Dumbledore's lovelife. Save for a chance remark in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by Griselda Marchbanks, Head of the Wizarding Examinations Authority, that the young Dumbledore had "done things with a wand(2) I'd never seen before" there were few clues to Dumbledore's sexual orientation. Indeed the issue had never occurred to most people, especially those in the media who were - rather disturbingly - far more interested in JK Rowling's wealth, Daniel Radcliffe's getting naked on stage and the precise date at which Hermione Granger would "be legal". When Ms Rowling - with an announcement in no way designed to further fill her golden coffers with what little is left of her readers' parents' money(3) - told a packed Carnegie Hall in New York that the Hogwarts headmaster would never get it on with Professor McGonagall, the shockwaves crashed through Children's Literature.
Revelation followed revelation as tearful children and shocked adults still clinging on to the nostalgic sanctity of their favourite bedtime reading from decades past learnt in quick succession that the Mad Hatter had married the Dormouse in a civil ceremony, the Cat in the Hat loathed children and Winnie the Pooh was not just addicted to honey but also "prescription painkillers".
Unable to show its face in public, Children's Literature went into a steep decline and within days of Ms Rowling's outing the last chapter had been read for ever, the bedside lamp extinguished and Once Upon a Time was no more.
Children's Literature will be buried in the St Bookhouse Cathedral of Remaindered Fiction. The service will be conducted by Archbishop Rowling herself. (Service begins at midnight, admission fee £14.99(4), all welcome). The congregation will read from the book of... No, we had that one last night... No, it's my turn to choose...
Children's Literature is survived by the works of JRR Tolkien, Dan Brown and JK Rowling's billions.
(1) Not that we would dare suggest that the billionaire author would ever have the need, let alone desire, to employ a team of the finest and most highly-overpaid lawyers...
(2) No, the wand wasn't Prada.
(3) for the love of God, see (1), Ed.
(4) at time of going to press that is approx $350.
19 October 2007
The news of the long, slow death of BBC Television Centre - the home, over the years, to many of Britain's favourite television programmes (not to mention quite a few of Britain's least favourite programmes as well) - is unlikely to come as a surprise to those who have known and loved it during its long life, and will be particularly unsurprising to all those who are aware of the vast amounts of asbestos to which the building has provided a home for more than five decades.
The story of TV Centre's design is an unusually apt one, involving as it does - like so many a BBC project - great cost, vast layers of bureaucracy, government interference, a lengthy planning document and, in the end, a lonely creative left with no alternative but to come up with something in ten minutes while knocking back a couple of pints in the pub. Even more appropriately, architect Graham Dawbarn was to draw his inspiration for the building's design from doodling a question-mark, the act of doodling anticipating the activity many future BBC employees would spend their time engaged in while senior management banged on at length about "vertical integration", "360-degree vision", "trimediality" and making joy through work, and the question-mark design anticipating the many viewers wondering why the hell they were paying their licence-fee for repeated editions of Tittybangbang. More appropriately still, the project displayed the BBC's legendary swiftness of foot: having been commissioned in 1950, the foundation stone for TV Centre was not laid until 1956 with building only being finished in 1960.
When the building was, eventually, completed, many were amazed - not to say utterly bewildered - by its unique design, with its central rotunda's circular corridors set out over seven identical floors and its signage apparently arranged by a group of drunken medical students as part of a rag week prank. Indeed it is rumoured that last year a tattered figure, dressed only in the shredded paper waste removed over the decades from the innards of the BBC's many malfunctioning photocopiers, was discovered, having been wandering the building for over 20 years, surviving on curly-edged sandwiches left behind in empty green rooms and the water dripping from the malfunctioning air conditioning(1)
Yet somehow thousands upon thousands of programmes - from such well-loved gems as The Wednesday Play, Morecambe and Wise, Monty Python's Flying Circus, Tomorrow's World, I'm Alan Partridge and Dr Who to such well-loathed dross as Noel's House Party, National Lottery Stars, He's Having a Baby and Dick and Dom in Da Bungalow - were created within TV Centre's walls. The building was filled with designers, builders, make-up artists and wardrobe departments as well as all the lighting, sound and camera units needed to provide entertainment to the nation. It echoed to the sounds of fierce political debates on election nights, the sussurus of silken underthings being removed in hundreds of costume dramas, the tapping of thousands of record-breaking feet led by Roy Castle and the croaking of Daleks bent on extermination (not all of those Daleks being John Birt), not to mention the frequent hissy-fits of luvvies, screaming of irate directors, flopping of elephant dung on Blue Peter studio floors and the constant banging, hammering and drilling from thousands of technicians ... usually in the middle of a live broadcast.
Such great days, however, are gone. Now the make-up, wardrobe and design departments are closed, much of the camera, sound and vision work outsourced. Studio-based drama has passed away. The news operation - much of which was moved to the building in 1998 - is to be sent back to central London, following the discovery that nobody actually in the news had any desire to make the lengthy journey to be interviewed in a part of London with all the charm, character and cultural facilities of a defunct urinal block in Salford (which, by happy coincidence is the new location for the BBC's Sports and Children's Departments)
With TV Centre a hollow shell of its former self and the BBC eager to grab a bit of cash to fund vital services like news and drama (and not-so-vital services such as BBC3's low-rent factual output and patronising "youth" TV), it was inevitable that it should be quietly put down.
BBC TV Centre will be buried in the Blue Peter Garden, next to the statue of Petra and just above the Blue Peter time capsule. It was pre-deceased by thousands of BBC jobs and Lord Reith's Legacy.
(1) So Byzantine is TV Centre's design that many people have been astonished to round an unfamiliar bend only to bump into Dr Who's Tardis lurking in a darkened corner.(2)
(2) Although not as many people as have been astonished to bump into Dead Ringers' Jon Culshaw lurking in a darkened corner doing an impression of Tom Baker as Dr Who ... especially as Mr Baker ceased to play the role more than 20 years ago.
NB the author of this obituary wishes to acknowledge his huge indebtedness to the excellent "Unreliable and Wholly Unofficial History of BBC Television Centre", which interested readers (of whom we are sure there must be at least one ... surely) can find here.
17 October 2007
Analogue Television has begun its long journey to the great decommissioning centre in the sky as Whitehaven in Cumbria became the first town in Britain to switch off its old-fashioned, analogue, cathode-ray "idiot boxes" and replace them with smart, new, digital, widescreen, LCD and plasma idiot boxes instead.
It was was back in the mid-1920s that John Logie Baird(1) pioneered TV in this country, inventing a mechanical means of broadcasting almost-impossible-to-see pictures of a dummy's head (a practice still much in favour with TV stations across the country). Sadly, like so many British inventions, his system - while brilliantly inventive - was utterly useless, meaning that an alternative means of broadcasting had to be invented in America. Thus it wasn't until 1936 that the BBC began broadcasting from Alexandra Palace. Thousands of middle-class(2) Londoners were able to dress up in black tie and gather around their mahogany-hewn television sets to watch up to four hours a day of programming devoted to dancing, loveable cockneys and Bruce Forsyth.
Discontinued during the war for fear that the Nazis would discover the secret of light entertainment and develop a terrifying new weapon, the LE-bomb(3), normal service was resumed following the death of Hitler(4).
Although it remained rationed until 1954, millions of Britons saved up their coupons to watch the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II - beginning the golden age of Analogue Televison. Sofa manufacturers and spam-and-powdered-egg pizza delivery companies rubbed their hands with glee as those millions of Britons sat, night after night, glued to dramas, sitcoms, documentaries and Bruce Forsyth.
Throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s Analogue Television had the nation enthralled(5), but by the noughties it was facing competition from a new rival. Digital Television was young and slim and able to woo the nation with the promise of hundreds of new television channels (admittedly generally showing exactly the same programmes) and the government with the prospect of flogging off the old analogue broadcasting spectrum to the highest bidder. Analogue TV began to look about as fresh and original as Bruce Forsyth and thus a plan was mooted to pull the plugs across the whole country by 2012 - enabling us all to press the red button and select not just the Olympic Mens' 100m Final, but also the race to complete the Olympic Stadium itself and the ceremonial resignation of Lord Coe.
The people of Whitehaven, Cumbria were chosen to pioneer the great switchover (even though many argued for a complete and utter switch off) and so, in the early hours of this morning, the slow euthanasia of Analogue TV began as Analogue BBC2 had a pillow held over its face(6) and the people of Whitehaven watched the white dot disappear from their screens for the last time.
Analogue Television will be buried at St John Reith of the Spinning Grave's Kirk. The service will be conducted by Justin Lee Collins and Tess Daly and, after a cross-platform, interactive, phone-in competition the congregation will sing Bruce Springsteen's 57 Channels (And Nothin' On) whether that was the true result of the phone-in competition or not.
Analogue BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Five are survived by Digital BBC1, BBC2, ITV, Channel 4 and Five... and Men & Motors, Nuts TV, The Horror Channel and Bruce Forsyth.
(1) and his assistant Boo Boo.
(2) only the middle-classes had space in their homes for the newfangled television sets which were the size of a small room - normally belonging to the servants, who, from then on, had to sleep in the garden but were allowed to watch television through the window, provided they wore black tie.
(3) which is why Bruce Forsyth spent 1935 to 1945 under armed guard deep in a Welsh mine.
(4) which was broadcast live on UKTV History after viewers voted to evict the Fűhrer and Reichschancellor from Der Grosse Bruder Bunker.
(5) some say hypnotised - especially those in the advertising industry.
(6) something that anyone who has watched The Egghead Challenge has been dreaming about for some time.
16 October 2007
LibDem MPs are today rifling through their cupboards in search of any dinosaur-sized skeletons as they prepare to bid for their party's leadership, following the political death of Sir Menzies Campbell, a man known to his supporters as "Ming the Merciless" ... and to his critics as the Knight of the Living Dead.
It was way back in early 2006 - a time when 50s-style dresses were filling fashion store windows, the ultrasmooth sounds of Corinne Bailey Rae were gliding out of every iPod and geeks across Britain were hunkering down to play their 75th straight hour of The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion - that Sir Ming decided to join the battle to assume his party's leadership, following his predecessor Charles Kennedy's decision to step (or, more accurately, slide) down. The decision was undoubtedly a brave one. At the age of 65 Sir Ming was deemed to be "too old" by many experts(1) ... though, sadly for themselves and Sir Ming himself, many of those same experts failed to spot that, as well as being old, Sir Ming also had all the energy and pizzazz of an Open University physics lecturer on Mogadon.
Yet Sir Ming was made of stern stuff. Galvanised by the same spirit that had seen him represent Britain in the 200 metres in the Tokyo Olympics and once saw him deemed "the fastest white man in the world"(2) - not to mention the same spirit that saw him assisting Charles Kennedy to fall on his sword(3) - Sir Ming was not to be dissuaded.
The result was a triumph. Aided by his sterling service as Foreign Affairs Spokesman and the fact that, with some help from the media, his opponents managed to implode - Simon "the straight candidate" Hughes choosing the duration of the election campaign to confront the true nature of his sexuality, with married Home Affairs Spokesman Mark Oaten choosing the same period to claim that his relationship with a rent-boy was the product of the onset of baldness - Sir Ming swept, slowly and with great dignity, to the abject powerlessness that is the Liberal Democrat leadership.
What happened next is a mystery. All that is known is that, mere days after becoming Liberal Democrat leader, Sir Ming disappeared from sight. Some said he had gone off to work part-time as a Sir Alec Douglas Home lookalike, some said he had slipped into his cardigan and slippers and was having his afternoon nap, while yet others said his possession of a manner so stiff it would make a Daoist tea ceremony look like an ecstasy fuelled all-night rave rendered Sir Ming inaudible and invisible every time a camera or microphone appeared within a mile of him.
Whatever the truth may be, all that can be said is that nothing more was heard from Sir Ming until 15 October 2007, when journalists saw a piece of paper announcing Sir Ming's resignation appear to float across the room and into Liberal Democrat Deputy Leader Vince Cable's hand, after which a door seemed to open and close all by itself and soft and dignified footfalls were heard slowly disappearing in the direction of Sir Ming's Scottish home.
Sir Menzies "Ming" Campbell's LibDem Leadership will be buried at St David Steel's Church of the "Go back to your constituencies and prepare for government". It is survived by leadership campaigns from Nick Clegg and Chris Huhne among others, and even an attempt by Charles Kennedy to get a campaign off the ground ... if someone can give him a hand up.
(1) Despite the fact that those same experts included large numbers of men and women more than happy to say things like "of course, these days 55 is the new 35" when it came to discussions of their own age.
(2) Rumours that this sobriquet was earned after Sir Ming was seen urgently trying to chase down a van containing his vital Sanatogen supplies are wholly baseless.
(3) A task made all the more difficult by Sir Ming repeatedly being forced to explain to Mr Kennedy which of the three swords in front of him was the real one.
15 October 2007
The As A Dodo team is proud to present the first instalment of our new, occasional series of obituaries from the future, kindly provided by our Tralfamadorian correspondent, whose moving eulogy in these pages to the late Kurt Vonnegut our readers will doubtless recall.
The following posting was occasioned by Health Secretary Alan Johnson's comparison of the threat from obesity in the United Kingdom to that of global warming. While some might consider this to be as alarmist as comparing the threat from overtight underwear to that of MRSA, it appears that Mr Johnson's warning was more foresighted than might have been thought.
It is with great sadness that I must inform the readers of As A Dodo of the passing of the North Polar Fat Cap, that great white mass (not to be confused with the Chris Moyles of your own early 21st century) at the top of the globe that has finally melted away thanks to the effects of global warming.
The North Polar Fat Cap was, as any twenty-sixth century high school student would happily tell you, first conceived in around 2080 after the failure of humanity's many attempts to avert global warming (even including President Bush's brilliant scheme to launch a giant mirror into space(1)) led to the final destruction of its chilly predecessor, the North Polar Ice Cap, and caused great devastation to the lifestyles of many Inuit, Eskimo, Lapps and others, not to mention thoroughly buggering up the prospects for large numbers of wildlife documentary-makers who had finally got the funding for that feature-length piece on polar bears and just crossed the last T on the script for the Morgan Freeman voice-over.
Without the reflective properties of the vast white expanse, global warming began to accelerate rapidly, imperilling the lives of millions and - even more importantly - threatening the lifestyles of the non-domiciled mega-rich businessmen and women who could afford riverside property in London. So it was that the greatest minds that the Earth had to offer were gathered together to come up with a scheme to replace the ice cap with something equally white. Many suggestions for suitable resources to replace the once-vast swathes of ice were made. Some advocated painting an enormous white sheet over the top of the world but this plan was rejected after several of those present insisted they never liked white and would prefer to paint the world magnolia. Others put forward a scheme to coat the arctic circle with the most pale and reflective substance known - naked Scotsmen and women - but this too was rejected on the grounds that the reflective qualities would be so great they would risk blinding anyone who dared venture north of the equator.
In the end there was only one suitable substitute for the formerly icy arctic wastes - humanity's most abundant and ever-increasing resource: fat. With experts having calculated that the average American tourist's excess lipids would be enough to cover several square miles of water and with even a British twelve-year-old capable of providing enough fat to cover an area the size of several football pitches, liposuctors were soon gathering from all over the world to help slim down mankind and fatten up the new North Polar Cap.
For centuries the North Polar Fat Cap floated over the Arctic Ocean, providing both a new - if slightly sticky and extremely malodorous - home for the polar bears, a fabulous incentive for the indigenous peoples of the Arctic Circle to go into the plastic surgery business and the best justification yet for the existence of fast food.
Yet the North Polar Fat Cap was just as doomed as its predecessor. Despite the warnings of the environmental lobby, mankind still continued to burn fossil fuels in order to power its vital endeavours (endeavours such as driving the three metres to the local shop to pick up your pre-packaged, pre-grated cheese, keeping 112 set-top boxes, 73 gaming consoles and 98 computers chugging away on standby in every household and providing sufficient energy to keep Madonna, Al Gore, Prince Charles and their huge entourages jetting around the world to vast air-conditioned conference centres to lecture us all on how we should use less energy) and so the world's temperature continued to rise. By 2507 things were so hot that the North Polar Fat Cap itself melted, vanishing almost overnight with a brief sizzling sound.
The North Polar Fat Cap was buried at sea in the Arctic Ocean. It is survived by an overpowering odour of mechanically-recovered meat sandwiches and a lone teenager crying in the watery wilderness, "Do you want fries with that?"
(1) reported by As A Dodo here.
12 October 2007
Men and women have set aside their differences and left their separate home planets of Mars and Venus to live together harmoniously somewhere betwixt their former residences(1) following the news that a study for the Archives of Internal Medicine have proved that Bad Relationships are... um... bad for your heart ... unless you're Heather Mills McCartney, in which case they are bad to the tune of £50 million (a pretty good return for four years being hopping mad with a Beatle(2)).
Whenever it was that man and woman (or man and man, or woman and woman, or man and woman and woman(3)) first drank too much and thought it would be a great idea to spend the rest of their lives together in a loving and fruitful relationship, passing blissful days, weeks, months and - oh God - years arguing about whose turn it is to do the hoovering and all I said was yes, she is attractive what do you want me say...? That your best friend is a moose...?
Ahem... Even Adam and Eve had their problems: Adam was always trying to get his hands on her ripe fruits and she thought he was a pain in the asp. Sadly, this set the template for many a subsequent relationship. While some found a way to co-exist despite his irritating habit of clipping his toe-nails in the living room or her charming grumpiness in the mornings, others struggled to accept that these lovable eccentricities were the bedrock of Good Relationships and embarked upon a rollercoaster of raised voices and sulky silences. And so Bad Relationships flourished in all areas of life wherever two or more (see (3) above) people came together and the world shrugged its shoulders and turned up the volume on the TV as the neighbours went at it hammer-and-tongs again.
But when lonely scientists from University College London spent 12 years "following" 9,000 people (a "study" ended prematurely by the issuing of a High Court injunction and the threat of an Asbo for the whole university) they discovered that people in Bad Relationships are more likely to develop heart disease than star-crossed lovers such as Romeo and Juliet or Diana or Dodi(4). And so it was that the lion laid down with the lamb and the land was freed from the sound of barbed remarks and door-slamming, yea, even unto the home of Jeremy Paxman and John Humphrys(5), and Bad Relationships were no more as hearts swelled with love rather than hardened arteries.
Bad Relationships will be buried at the Church of St Richard Burton and St Elizabeth Taylor of the Holy S&%t! You Left the Loo Seat Up Again! The service will be conducted by the very reverend Jeremy Kyle and the congregation will sing All You Need is Love... no... Love is All Around... No, you choose... No, after you... Oh for once in your life why can't you just make a decision...?! after which they will make the sign of peace then headbutt each other.
(1) that would be Earth then...
(2) far out-stripping Jeremy Paxman's paltry £11.50 for spending an afternoon with Ringo Starr (playfully chiding him for being unable to count up to four).
(3) the suggestion of which proved the origin of many a bad relationship...
(4) or any other lovestruck couple that didn't kill themselves or were killed by a) the paparazzi, b) the florists, c) Prince Philip or d) a secret cabal of a), b) and c).
(5) a home which had not been a happy one since John had grilled Jeremy about that afternoon spent with Ringo.
10 October 2007
The Music Business, that offshoot of capitalism that took one of the finest art forms ever created and turned it into a means of producing untold profit for a handful of tone-deaf accountants and Bono, has stuffed its last royalty cheque up its nose with the news that the members of Radiohead are allowing fans to download their new album, In Rainbows, for as little(1) as they like.
From the dawn of man, Ug the Yodeller was using his crude larynx and small brain to hum simple melodies to himself even before he could string a sentence together (a tradition honoured by many stars of the popular music scene even to this day). When he started banging rocks together he found a new way to keep warm - dancing to the new beat around the collection of kindling and logs still forlornly awaiting the emission of a single spark, while a Neanderthal with well-tailored animal-skins, a bigger cave and a much younger girlfriend went round with a hat collecting "contributions".
For millennia, mankind thrilled to the sound of a skilful melody or well-modulated chorus, or sobbed its heart out to a minor-keyed dirge - especially when they discovered that the rights to their minor-keyed dirge had been bought by a large corporation and used to promote a mobile phone company.
As classical composers relied heavily on wealthy patrons to finance their musical exploration, so modern musicians strove to make it to the toppermost of the poppermost, all the while investing their hearts and souls... in the financial security of their managers, music companies and drug-dealers. While many still made music for their own amusement(5) there were always those willing to capitalise on the fruits of introspective creative types ability to play G-C-D on the mastodon marimba / lute / Stylophone... namely managers, music companies and drug-dealers.
Record companies became increasingly adept at maximising their return from musicians. If legendary bluesman Robert Johnson had walked on past that famous crossroads to the big house on the hill with the jacuzzi full of models he may have come away with less talent than the Devil offered him, but he would at least have been offered a small advance which he would never be able to repay to record an album of duets with Elaine Paige.
By the 1970s and 80s music lovers were ignoring The Music Business's warning that home-taping was killing music, preferring to believe that Peters and Lee, The Goombay Dance Band and Milli Vanilli were murdering music without any need for assistance. By the noughties, as more and more artists dared to seize control of their own work, fans were able to cut out the corporate middlemen and keep the music fresh and real, buying or downloading their favourite tracks direct from bands' websites(6) - or even cut out the bands as well by downloading from their peers' hard disks with Napster, Kazaa, Limewire et al. As The Music Business began to whine about being ripped off, bands even began to offer their music for free on MySpace thanks to the generosity of notoriously hippyish, not-for-profit flowerchild Rupert Murdoch.
Despite a last-gasp attempt to milk the final few millions from the musical cash-cow with televised karaoke contests in which the bullying to the point of tears of the mentally-ill, tone-deaf and celebrity-obsessed was confused (for money) with the abstraction and analysis of the human condition through organised sound, the Last Post had been illegally ripped for free and sounded.
With everyone now able to knock out a new choon on GarageBand and post it on t'internet where it could be lovingly ignored by millions, The Music Business began to resemble an over-developed dinosaur, with poor eyesight and under-developed teeth, sadly munching on a few leaves in the moments before the giant asteroid struck Earth. So when Radiohead decided to give their album away for free - aided only slightly by the squillions the band had already earned from conventional releases - The Music Business held its last A & R convention in the Bahamas and choked to death on its own vomit in the wee small hours of the morning whilst listening to a loop of the opening instrumental bars of Pink Floyd's Money mixed with the opening bars of the late, great Ronnie Hazelhurst's theme from Are You Being Served?
The Music Business will be buried at the Church of St Matthew the Accountant. The service will be conducted by the Reverend Simon Cowell and the congregation will sing The Sound of Silence by Gareth Gates, just as soon as the lawyers can work out who owns the rights. The Music Business is survived by Music. And Simon Cowell.
(1) or as much...(2)
(2) or they can buy the box set for £40 / $80...(3)
(3) if they're sad obsessives with no lives...(4)
(4) what's that you say? "They're Radiohead fans"? I take your point.
(5) in James Blunt's case the "laughing at the tone-deaf and cretinous nature of his fan base all the way to the bank" kind of amusement.
(6) the most popular download of all time being the 23'19" version of Mike's Fallen off the Stage Again Jam by Phish, recorded in the third set of the second night at the Timothy Leary Amphitheater, Berkley, CA - rendered totally different from the previous night's version by an angry shout during Trey's fifth solo of "Hey, you played that last night, man!" followed by the sound of a man in his late 30s in a tie-dye T-shirt being beaten to death with his own glowstick for "Like, ruining the mellow vibe, dude".
08 October 2007
Friends of Gordon Brown were today weeping into their glasses of puritanical water and Conservatives laughing into their jubilant champagne following news of the death of The Prospect of an Early General Election, which slipped under the psephological waters over the weekend with the Prime Minister's confirmation that he will not be seeking a mandate(1) from the electorate until 2009 at the earliest.
Despite having been born so recently and having spent so much of its time in the eye of the media, the parentage of The Prospect remains uncertain to this day. Those close to the Prime Minister insist that it was the child of a series of drunken liaisons between political journalists eager for a story and a few overenthusiastic Labour MPs intoxicated by Mr Brown's enormous success in looking dour but responsible while plague, pestilence, famine and death chose the first hundred days of his premiership to visit the country. The dark mutterings of others(2), however, would suggest that The Prospect was actually the child of Mr Brown himself, born on the wrong side of the bedsheets after Mr Brown's attempts to screw the Conservative party and get his own supporters to toe the line by making a General Election seem - like an object in the wing mirror - to be much closer than it really was.
Whatever the truth of its origins, The Prospect certainly grew quickly. With political correspondents tired of their stories only appearing as the third item on the news bulletins, below shark sightings off the British coast or the latest prurient and unfounded speculation about a child abduction, it was soon being touted around as the great hope of political journalism. Before long it was impossible to turn on a news programme without having to face a twenty minute dissection of The Prospect's prospects. Soon discussion of The Prospect was drowning out all other news (save in The Express which continued to deal at length with the most important news of the day, though the day in question was usually 31 August 1997).
Though once closely associated with Mr Brown, The Prospect now seemed to be electrifying everyone. At the LibDem party conference Sir Menzies Campbell became so excited he was seen by at least one witness to twitch his left eye briefly before slipping back into his habitual coma. At the Conservative conference, young Dave "David" Cameron was moved to bounce around on stage calling for Mr Brown to "bring it on" - causing alarm to local hoteliers and restaurateurs who remembered that, in his Bullingdon Club days, such a phrase was normally the preface to thousands of pounds worth of damage being done to a local hostelry or eating establishment.
Mr Brown, meanwhile, found himself increasingly enamoured of The Prospect. Impressed by the attention granted to it by the media and assured of his own performance after an injection of good polling returns, he sought to woo the Prospect - bringing forward announcements he had promised would be made to Parliament, demanding that TV stations prepare for a major statement to be made and (in no way cynically) attempting to upstage Mr Cameron by (in no way cynically) rushing off to Iraq to double count (in no way cynically) the troop reductions he was planning there. The Prime Minister's amour fou for what many believed to be his own child was now obvious to all.
Such a liaison - straight out of the worst 19th Century melodrama as it was - was, of course, doomed. No sooner had the Prime Minister's enormous desire for an early election become clear than The Prospect itself was set upon by Shadow Chancellor George Osborne with a loaded Inheritance Tax cut. Severely wounded by the Tories' plan to enable feckless children to inherit up to a million pounds tax-free from their hard-working parents, The Prospect became a mere shade of its former self. Where once it had been attractive to all, now it was an embarrassing, shambling figure, capable only of inspiring pity. Thus it was that, horrified by what had happened to his former love, Mr Brown chose to steal out of Downing Street at the weekend and drown The Prospect under a sea of unfavourable opinion polls.
The Prospect of an Early General Election will be buried at the Church of St Bob Mckenzie of the Broken Swingometer. Conservatives, LibDems and Labour MPs in southern marginal seats will celebrate loudly into the night, while Mr Brown himself will stand silently at the graveside, a much-diminished man.
(1) younger readers are advised that "mandate" here means the commission as to policy granted by electors to their elected representatives and is in no way a suggestion that the Prime Minister was looking for a romantic liaison with a member of the male gender.
(2) not to mention "the facts".
05 October 2007
The death of Political Speechwriters is today being reported in blogs, in newspapers and on the television - but not in any political speeches - following the barnstorming, "unscripted" performance by Conservative leader David Cameron at the end of his party conference.
There have long been disagreements between the experts over the dating of the birth of the first Political Speechwriter. Some have suggested that speechwriting goes back to the very dawn of humanity itself, with Ug the Chieftain's brilliant "Ug smash!" oration(1) actually being written by Ug the Speechwriter - though the fact that Ug the Speechwriter could not, in fact, write anything at all and usually contented himself with trying to rub two rocks together in a futile attempt to create fire admittedly militates against this theory.
Others claim the Political Speechwriter was born during the Roman Republic, suggesting that Julius Caesar could not have "come, seen and conquered" without considerable help from his favourite Greek slave - though whether this theory refers to Caesar's famous "Veni, vedi, vici" report to the Senate following his battle with Pharnaces at Zela or merely to the Roman leader's activities at a particularly eventful orgy is still disputed.
There have, of course, been suggestions that the first Political Speechwriter was born during the time of the Tudors. Many believe that Queen Elizabeth I's announcement that she had "the body of a weak and feeble woman(2); but ... the heart of a king, and of a king of England too" was in truth ghost-written by William Shakespeare ... though given that many believe that Shakespeare himself was ghosted by Francis Bacon, Christopher Marlowe, William Stanley, 6th Earl of Derby, Edward de Vere and/or Dr Who mean this theory advances debate very little.
What is certainly true is that even by the middle of the 20th century, many politicians still felt it incumbent on them to write their own speeches. Any doubts as to Churchill having dictated his most famous speeches to his secretary were recently allayed by the discovery of the first draft of his first speech to the Commons as Prime Minister, which reads "I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and ... oh bloody Hell! I've knocked over the Johnnie Walker".
By the Presidency of John F Kennedy however, the Political Speechwriter had come to the fore. Without the work of his Special Counsel and Adviser, Ted Sorenson, the President would never have asked the Americans to "Ask not what your country can do for you (3), ask what you can do for your country(4)" or informed the people of Berlin that he was a doughnut(5).
Soon Political Speechwriters were informing us that Margaret Thatcher was "not for turning", Ronald Reagan wanted us to "win one for the Gipper" and John Major wanted to "get back to basics" (such as losing elections). At the same time the dangers of not employing a Speechwriter were also being made clear, not least in the notorious speech by former Labour leader Neil Kinnock, which reached its second day before it closed its first sentence(7). So it was that the Speechwriter came to dominate the political scene. Brilliant words and phrases were focus-grouped and honed before being permitted to issue forth from the lips of great communicators such as Bill Clinton and Tony Blair. Verbs were abandoned, "people's Princesses" were born. All seemed to augur well for the Speechwriters.
And yet, and yet. Some time in the noughties, people across the globe began to tire of the slick and well-honed phrase and began to question the sincerity of those who delivered them. Matters came to a head in Britain in September 2007, when - during his scripted speech to his party conference - Prime Minister Gordon Brown seemed to have been taken over by dark forces, calling for "British jobs for British workers" and the instant deportiation of "newcomers" who "sell drugs to our children or use guns" ... though, fortunately, he managed to stop himself before mentioning that, "like the Roman, I seem to see 'the River Tiber foaming with much blood'".
Political Speechwriters might perhaps have limped on even after this debacle, had it not been for the arrival of that knight in shining armour, David Cameron, who sought at one stroke to do away with political spin and deception by delivering his speech to the 2007 Conservative Conference unscripted and aided only by a few notes and an arcane process known only as "learning by heart" - a process which enables any politician to bestride the political stage like a colossus, exhibiting unspun sincerity and deep engagement with the issues of concern to the British people even as they dole out the same bland platitudes, feel-good-phrases and dog-whistle buzzwords that they have studiously workshopped with their presentation teams for the past three weeks.
With the country enraptured by Mr Cameron's performance and the new "learning by heart" process becoming all the rage, there was no more room for Political Speechwriters. They passed away, unloved and unmourned, with not even a single memorable phrase to mark their departure.
Political Speechwriters will be buried at the Church of St Soapbox on the Speakers' Corner. The funeral oration will be entirely spontaneous and unrehearsed, which is to say ill-thought-through and rambling and the congregation will sing Hymn 117 A Little Bit of Politics (Music: Andrew Lloyd-Webber; Lyrics: Ben Elton).
Political Speechwriters are survived by a bounce for the Conservatives in the polls and a worried Gordon Brown.
(1) Later shamelessly plagiarised by The Incredible Hulk during a stump speech to a large number of tanks he was, er, smashing.
(2) believed to be Mary, Queen of Scots
(3) definitely not provide affordable medical care, for one thing.
(4) if you are poor, this will conventionally involve dying in a foreign country of which you know little.
(5) Ich bin ein Berliner(6)
(6) There is, of course, no truth in the myth that the phrase translated in context into "I am a doughnut" but, dammit, it's funny.
(7) Though cf. John Prescott, for whom Speechwriters did their best best but were sadly thwarted by Mr Prescott's insistence on trying to read out a minimum of three separate lines of his prepared text at the same time.
03 October 2007
The Sabretooth Tiger's Fearsome Reputation, which once struck fear into the heart of mammoths, Ug the Hunter and the easily-excited readers of fantasy fiction, has tragically bitten the dust with the discovery by Australian scientists that the mighty feline's Simpsons-like overbite was about as frightening as a "raw prawn's granny" and its powerful jaws "couldn't crush a wet Pom".
The Reputation first reared its ugly head and flashed its supposedly-mighty gnashers 33 million years ago on what was to become the North American continent. It roamed the grasslands and pine forests bragging loudly about its powerful jaws and claiming to make its living by ripping apart bison, deer, elk, mammoths, mastodons and hunter-gatherer orthodontists with its Herculean jaws ... when it actually knocked them over with a paw and slashed their throats with its weedy but mighty sharp canines while they were busy searching through their wallets for the number of a personal injury lawyer.
As the Ice Age encroached upon the North American continent, the tigers' natural prey began to freeze to death faster than British pensioners in January. Soon, only the woolly mammoth survived to shiver, not only from the cold, but in mortal fear of the sabretooth's big-mouthed boasts. But as the mammoth rarely ventured far from its living room, preferring to spend the millennia-long winters knitting itself another warm layer (unfortunately from its own wool) - it too was soon extinct - and the starving sabretooth was reduced to leafing through the brochures for dental remodelling and howling "ice headache!" when it clamped down on a passing glacier.
Yet even with the demise of Smilodon fatalis(1) itself, The Reputation lived on in the imagination of Homo sapiens, who often woke screaming in the middle of the night terrified by images of the great beast snapping at his pillow, only to find that their one-size-fits all supermarket dentures had been knocked off the bedside cabinet by the cat. Thus it was that scientists at McHenry University were moved to end once and for all the Top Trumps debate which had raged back and forth in the Uni bar for decades ("Your sabretooth versus my marsupial lion") - their tests proving that, at about 1,000 Newtons (the force required to crush 1000 Cox's Pippins), the sabretooth tiger's bite was only about a third as powerful as the modern panther and infinitely weaker than an average Osmond's. With the news that its miaow was much worse than its bite The Reputation put its jaws together in a sulky pout and bragged no more.
The Sabretooth Tiger's Fearsome Reputation will be buried at the church of the Bleeding Janet Street-Porter. The service will be conducted by the Very Reverend Snagglepuss and there will will be some wailing and much gnashing of oversized teeth.
The Sabretooth Tiger's Fearsome Reputation is survived by the Fearsome Reputation of Bad English Teeth.
(1) literally "Esther Rantzen".
01 October 2007
Bond lit his first cigarette, one of the Balkan and Turkish "Morlands' Specials" they blended for him in Grosvenor Street. There were three gold bands on the filter, signifying his rank of Commander. They were the only gold bands Bond wanted in his life. He raised the long white tube to his lips. He had no need for women. They were for recreation. Bond needed action and he needed it with men. With a woman there was too much emotion, fogging everything with love and hurt feelings. If Bond had to have anyone under him he wanted it to be a man. He wanted someone as hard and strong as he was. And yet ...
He sipped at his coffee - strong, black, the way he liked it - as he looked out across the plage towards the little boats that bobbed in the sea. He thought about her. Moneypenny. She was different to all the rest. He could rely on her.
They had been together for more than 23 years. Bond still held a precise mental picture of her appearance when they first met. Her hair was a rich chestnut, artfully cut and set to frame her elegant face down to her firm, slightly mannish jaw. She had a good, strong nose. Her eyes gazed back at him amusedly from beneath her carefully arched eyebrows. Her lipstick was rose, picking out lips that indicated to Bond a pleasing mixture of sense and sensuality. Around her neck was a teal scarf, tucked into a sleeveless shift in Navy blue, which showed off her long and well-formed arms to good advantage. Her voice was deep and rich, with a Canadian twang that sat uneasily for an ostensibly English civil servant, just as the strong Scots accent and shlight shpeech impediment Bond affected in their early years together had gibed with his Eton and Fettes background.
Bond had little use for reflection - it was a womanly way to pass the time - but he thought back now to the years they had spent together. He knew he had changed a lot. He had put on weight and lost hair. He had been an Australian male model, a saturnine Welsh Mancunian, a suave Irishman and for several years he had been little more than a quizzically raised eyebrow on a wide-lapelled safari suit, but throughout it all Moneypenny had remained unchanged and unchanging. Wherever he had been, whoever he had been and with whomever he had been, Moneypenny had always been ready to greet him with a warm smile, a clever remark and a fond sigh. Bond knew he had used her badly, as he used all women badly. He could only hope that she forgave him.
Moneypenny was dead. Bond pushed away his breakfast plate of three scrambled eggs and bacon uneaten. As he lifted his cigarette to his lips once more his thumb grazed his cheek, discovering an unexpected wetness. He looked down. The copy of The Times that had brought him news of her death showed the damp evidence of many tears. Bond shook himself, leapt from his chair and reached for his holster. It was time to shoot someone.
The As A Dodo Editors add: Lois Maxwell, born 14 February 1927, best known among her many other roles on stage and screen for playing Miss Moneypenny in 14 James Bond movies, died on 29 September 2007. She will be remembered fondly by anyone who ever thrilled to the sound of the Dr No theme or whose heart ever leapt at the words "James Bond will return".