Sunday, 29 May 2005

My Garden

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To me, gardening had always seemed much like holding in a fart, a futile and pointless attempt to halt the true course of nature. Much better, thought I, to let the land lie fallow and see what happens. As a result, when presented with a patch of land by my parents to garden as I pleased, it rapidly turned into something resembling a Viet Cong sanctuary. My old age has brought profound changes in my demeanour and I’ve finally begun to take an interest in the great outdoors, or more specifically, the tangled mess that confronts me every time I step outside to dump more rubbish in the back shed. Once this was a nice little garden, tended by a sweet old lady with an appalling taste in tacky garden accessories. Then, the rugby girls moved in, and the garden rapidly degenerated into an urban jungle, infested with snails, small bugs and weeds. When I first cast my eyes over the thicket at the rear of my property, I saw its potential. Like a pioneer settler could see myself carving something out of this wilderness, a place where I can sit out in the sunshine and be at one with nature. I learned subsequently that nature has other ideas.

My backyard contains several items I have selected for extermination. A small but offensive pond is the principal offender; once upon a time it may have contained goldfish, now it appears to have become infested with putrid green algae. Towards the rear of the garden are some bizarre multicoloured sticks that look much like psychedelic toilet brushes. These rated extremely high on the bad taste scale and I swiftly banished them to exile in the shed. The Peruvian wind chimes were scheduled for a similar fate but they seem to have grown on me. In one corner is a tall wooden seating arrangement that has clearly seen better days. A large section has fallen to the ground and, judging by the foul stench, I deduce that the local tabby has marked his territory on it. I repaired this structure with twine and sticky tape but the roof subsequently dropped on my head when I sat down to ponder the fruits of my labour. Having uttered several unpleasant, but original expletives, I came to the conclusion I should have paid far more attention in woodworking class and learned the basics, instead of making battleships out of plywood and staging mini recreations of the Battle of Jutland. Another object I’m not keen on is the ‘passion flower’ that dominates a small corner of my garden. It is supposed to be a moderately rare plant but it looks like something from ‘Day of the Triffids’ as it spreads its tentacles around the flower beds, suffocating all in its path. I’ve cut this back but it can’t be long before it stages a renaissance, if I does, the parrot beak is at the ready.

It may sound as if my garden resembles a scene from ‘Heart of Darkness’, but it’s a small corner of paradise compared to the awful backyards of my immediate neighbours. The people who live on my right were clearly inspired by Le Corbusier (; their garden consists of a square of cracked concrete, broken only by a large phallic washing pole, a motif presumably meant to convey ‘a complex understanding of modernity’s impact’. To the rear of the property, my neighbours seem to have gone for a mixture of bad taste and urban gothic. At first glance, their garden only seems to contain a couple of grotesque garden gnomes, concrete slabs and a small, unimposing flowerpot. Its main feature becomes only too apparent when I head out into my garden for some peace and quiet. The aforementioned neighbours appear to have a ravenous beast of Hades chained to my fence. I can hear it clawing at the wood, dying, no doubt, to launch itself at my testicles and tear them to pieces with canine relish. The barbed wire on the top of my fence –although aesthetically repugnant- is clearly there for good reason and I’m starting to appreciate the P.O.W camp chic. The neighbour to the left has gone for the wild look, and his hedge boundary is steadily uprooting my wooden screen and claiming more and more of my territory. Previously I marked out the snails infesting my garden as second-class citizens who must be subjected to a programme of forced emigration. I decided to retaliate against neighbour number three by pitching them into his garden; a primitive form of biological warfare you might say.

Katie and I have temporarily joined the ranks of the unemployed, this situation requires living on a budget and living off Tesco’s ‘value’ produce. The Tesco’s value bread must have unusual chemical properties. It goes stale as soon as it comes into contact with the air and deteriorates rapidly over the next 24 hours. By the following morning, it has transformed into a putrid block of fungus – very useful for medicinal purposes no doubt but scant use when you want to bake a cheese toasty. The milk, on the other hand, has provided good value for money -in fact it appears to have transformed itself into tuna over the past week. Upon opening the container this morning I was greeted by a fishy aroma. Efforts to pour the substance formally known as milk into my coffee proved fruitless, as it rapidly solidified and formed a layer at the bottom of my mug. ‘Value’ seems to be an inappropriate adjective, ‘shite’ would be a more worthy substitute.

Tuesday, 24 May 2005

Richard and Judy and the 'Mail Order Bride Technique'

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One of the many things that keep me in a state of perpetual outrage is ‘The Richard and Judy Show’ on Channel 4. Its one of those programmes that always seems to be on the box when I take leave of my senses and turn the damn thing on. I hate everything about it, especially the self styled ‘first couple of television’, that smarmy Richard Madeley and his hideous wife Judy, whose face seems to get lumpier by the day. I even hate the title sequence; the camera sweeps across the landscape of Britain, through twee villages and small towns, over terraced houses and onwards into urban sprawl, until finally it zooms into an individual household’s television set. The inference –that the entire nation both watches and loves the show- I regard as a personal insult. This arrogance is unjustified when you consider the content of the programme. It consists of bullshit astrologers pontificating about ‘celebrity star signs’, the odd insane guest with a baseless claim to be the illegitimate son of Princess Margaret, and turgid discussion of current issues such as ‘can we hear the voices of the dead in the static from our T.V’ and ‘how is the war on terror going to affect middle England’. Surely there must be more important matters to contemplate than housewives superstition?. The last episode I watched featured the loathsome presenters sniffing the armpits of male guests to determine if they were gay or not. Needless to say this ‘experiment’ was an outright failure and achieved nothing except to provide further evidence of the death of modern culture.

A similar technique was adopted by one of Richard’s music teachers, a woman who by all accounts had well and truly lost it. At the beginning of each class she would make her pupils assemble in regimented lines and perform unusual finger exercises to ‘loosen up’. On one of these occasions an errant pupil decided that this would be an opportune moment to violently break wind and did so to much amusement. ‘Who was that !?’, screamed the teacher, her face turning purple with rage. Her question was met with silence. ‘Right’, she proclaimed, ‘I’m going to find out who it was if it’s the last thing I do’. To the amazement of the class, the teacher bent down and smelt the behinds of each pupil in turn. This unorthodox technique actually worked, and she was able to pick out the guilty party, although it’s questionable whether this triumph was worth the loss of dignity.

Déjà vu is mainly caused by a neurological anomaly, however, it commonly occurs as a result of going through the same tedious experience again and again. One of the more irritating side effects of having committed your body and soul to a person for the rest of your life –and beyond, existence of the afterlife permitting- is that you get subjected to interrogation on a regular basis. People ask all sorts of awkward questions about rings, wedding dates and all the other matrimonial accessories, forcing you to regurgitate the same subject matter time and time again. The fairer sex in particular, seem highly fixated in the whole rigmarole, often the questioning gets intense and it becomes incredibly difficult to extricate yourself from it. You go down under a flurry of enquires, ‘where is the ring’, ‘what does it look like’, ‘how did you propose’, ‘where did you propose’, all coming so rapidly that you barely have time to catch your breath. There is a way to avoid the whole unpleasantness completely by strategic deployment of what I call ‘the mail order bride technique’.

Mail Order

‘I hear you are getting married’, said one girl at a party I was at a couple of weeks back, I could see the whole process starting again. ‘Why yes I replied’. ‘Oooh, how exciting’ she said ‘where did you guys meet?’. ‘On the internet’ I answered, deploying the first stigma. ‘Oh.. really, in a chatroom or something?’. ‘No actually, I saw her advert on a bride website’. I was beginning to wring the romance out of the conversation. Seeing she was looking a bit deflated, and feeling slightly guilty about the whole thing, I decided to give the game away and delivered an implausible comment, ‘yeah… her name is Lo Wing Ping and she is from Thailand’. I looked over at my victim; I thought I had spoken with sufficient sarcasm for her to twig, apparently not. ‘Yeah’ I said, ‘she’s coming over from Bankok in a few days and then we can get married, Thai women are great you know’. I then went on a chauvinistic rant about how Thai women are less tainted by feminist values than western women and are more compliant when it comes to housework and child rearing. Surely she would understand I was joking. Instead she beat a hasty retreat to the next room, presumably to tell her friends that I buy women on the Internet. Again, it remains questionable whether this triumph was worth the loss of dignity.

Working Man

I don’t know Ali Mbomba, but I detest the blighter. At the time of his birth in the war torn jungles of Angola, it was by no means evident that our paths would cross. Then he made the decision to leave, and somehow made his way across the dark continent, sailed the clear blue waters of the Mediterranean sea and arrived on the shores of Britain. At the end of this long journey Elizeu ended up amongst the red brick terraces of Rottingham-on-trent, far from his native land. Having tried unsuccessfully to find work he decided to apply to the Council for funding. Meanwhile, in another corner of the same city, a lowly temp by the name of Humphrey Clarke struggled unsuccessfully to input his badly drafted personal information into a poorly designed database. The form before him looked as if it had been filled out by Guy Fawkes after a lengthy session with the torture rack. Having stared quizzically at this illegible document for a good hour -partly in an attempt to decipher its contents, and partly to waste as much of the working day as possible- I concluded that I had incorrectly spelled his name when I had entered his records earlier in the day. This meant I was going to have to go back through the entire system and painstakingly correct every single entry.

Fate had offered a limited range of options, either stay unemployed and lose brain cells watching ‘The Trisha Show’, find some explosives and blow myself up in the name of Islam, or whore my services out to a temping agency and earn some much needed cash. I now work in the Economic Department of the main council building.

Working for Rottingham-on-trent council provides a startlingly relaxed atmosphere. Looking around my office I can see a half dozen people whose only role in the team is to play solitaire and read ‘The Metro’. However, the work does involve a hideous amount of bureaucratic nonsense. In the real world, if I fancy going to the pub, I simply pick up my coat and my wallet and head down to the local brewery for some much-needed sustenance. Were I doing this as part of my employment with the council, I would first have to submit a ‘Pub application form’ to the economic department stating my reasons for this action and a financial breakdown of all the money I intended to spend. This form would have to be produced in triplicate and sent to other departments on special headed notepaper, with one photocopy retained for filing in the records. The entire request would then have to be logged in two separate computer databases in case of an Audit, and could only be acted upon after being the subject of a departmental meeting. By the time the request had made it back from head office, it would probably be closing time and too late to go to the pub anyway. Newton’s third law of motion states that ‘every action has an equal and opposite reaction’; when you work at the council, every action creates a mountain of paperwork the size of the Eiffel Tower.

In theory, my job is to help people with no skills or qualifications find employment; in practice, I tend to sit around looking baffled and confused, attempting unsuccessfully to avoid becoming the ‘Office bitch’. This isn’t easy when you have an Admin role, as part of your job description is to perform any task that a member of permanent staff feels is too demeaning, dull or downright futile for them to do themselves. The aim is to train ‘disadvantaged people’ by offering courses in an area like Admin or Taxi driving, at the end of one of these courses we guarantee them a job interview and hopefully get the poor buggers into employment. Easier said than done. Despite offering them free travel to the college, complete funding for their course and £100 gift vouchers if they make it to the end, even then, some of them still can’t be arsed to turn up. This leads me to conclude that Jesus was a tad naïve when he said ‘blessed are the meek’, some of them are clearly scum.

Last week I attended an employment assessment day. The aim of this event was to put some of our clients through a series of tests to determine whether they would be offered a job interview later in the week. I found myself sitting awkwardly in a meeting area, surrounded by unfriendly faces. I began to wish my colleague hadn’t left the room; years on the dole had seemed to foster a demeanour of resentment amongst some of these people and they looked on at me with distrust and antipathy. I realised with horror that I was running out of things to staple. This had been my pretext for avoiding eye contact, now I was going to have to take the plunge. Looking up from my files, the whole room appeared to be staring at me, as if they expected me to juggle for them or perform an assortment of amusing card tricks. A rather twitchy looking chap was sitting close to me and I decided I should make some sort of an attempt at conversation. ‘Where have you come from today?’ I said. By the look of disgust on his face you could be forgiven for thinking I had asked ‘are you in the habit of fornicating with your sister?’. ‘Where..have I come from?’ he replied. It had seemed a simple question, It wasn’t as if I was asking him to reveal his entire ancestry. ‘Er….what part of Rottingham?’ I replied, seeking to clarify what I had said. ‘Brexstowe’ he said, as if he were delivering a cutting insult. Conversation is a two way process, if the other person isn’t willing to play ball then there’s not a great amount you can do. After saying ‘Oh…’ I decided not to continue talking and looked for other things to staple.

My colleague returned, ‘Humphrey is just going to take your photograph for our files’ he informed the assembled company. I, looking embarrassed, picked up the camera and motioned the first person over to the wall so I could take a Polaroid of them. To my dismay, I tugged on the film too hard and the contents of the camera spooled out onto the floor. ‘You should take that out of his wages’ said the twitchy chap, helpfully; deciding to stay professional I contented myself with muttering, ‘I hope you never get a job you bastard’ under my breath.

The day having drawn to a close we began the process of selecting which candidates had made it through to the final stage. This yielded a chance to see affirmative action at its very best. Having spent a while sorting the candidates into ‘yes’ and ‘no’ piles based on their test results, we came to the sudden realisation that most of the ‘nos’ were ethnic minorities. A swift reshuffling, and political correctness was restored. A tad unfair perhaps, but very ethical.

There was one fellow on the assessments who I could tell was slightly mad and this fact became steadily more apparent when looking over his in-tray exercise. In reply to the question ‘A female co-worker has cut her hand badly, what priority should this be given?’, we were expecting our candidates to simply regurgitate a load of health and safety stuff. The mad fellow had written ‘this situation may require some personal diplomacy, but all will be right in the end, at any rate it is not in the least bit urgent’. Beside the scenario ‘The chief executive has arranged a meeting, what priority should this be given’, he had simply written ‘You ignore the word of the chief Executive at your peril!!!!!!!!’. We decided, on reflection, to let him through to the interview stage. Sadly he failed to make it through because during the interview he refused to discuss the questions at hand and instead went on a bizarre rant about ‘crystallisation’ and ‘energy flows’. I don’t think he is the maddest person to ever be on one of our courses. Whilst flicking through one of the files the other day an application form drew my attention. It was filled out in a large, erratic scrawl; under ‘why should you be considered for the course’ it read ‘I WANT JOB’; under disabilities it read ‘SCHIZOPHRENIA’. Attached to the back of the form was a letter, which read ‘during the course, this students behaviour has been unusual. He sits in class, writing on himself in biro and mumbling, some of the student have complained that he often tries to steal their chocolate’. Getting such miscreants into work is going to be challenging to say the least.

Disclaimer: All characters and events in this story are fictitious, and any similarity to a real person or city council, living or dead is entirely coincidental and unintended by the author.

Sunday, 8 May 2005


Eighties revival is in full swing. Duran Duran have reformed, stupid haircuts have once again become de rigour, and now bomb attacks in central London are back with a vengeance. Yesterday morning, with the better half safely off to work, I settled down for my customary diet of daytime television. To my dismay I discovered that ‘Houses under the Hammer’ had been cancelled in favour of that curious phenomenon of the modern age, a death and destruction T.V marathon. A bunch of terrorist rascals are evidently bent on destroying my way of life once again. Since my way of life currently consists of sitting on my fat arse watching ‘The Trisha Show’, a part of me feels this isn’t such a bad thing after all.

There is a British code of etiquette for these occasions, perhaps best encapsulated in one of the concluding scenes of ‘Carry on up the Khyber’. Whilst under siege by the angry forces of the Khazi of Kalibar, Sir Henry Rough-Diamond and his entourage decide to carry on as if nothing is happening and hold an impromptu dinner party. With parts of the room exploding and spear wielding tribesman rushing into the room, they maintain a stiff upper lip and carry on as if they are oblivious to the events unfolding outside. The advice given by President Bliar, was to ‘maintain our resolve’. Unhelpfully, no explanation was given as to what this entailed. I decided the best recourse was to keep my upper lip as stiff as possible, to which Katie retaliated by stiffening both lips in a bid to out-stiff me. The competition having reached a stalemate, we settled down to watch the many hours of news coverage.

It seemed as if a lot of the sound bites had been robbed directly from one of those Pathe Pictorial newsreels from the nineteen forties, a sort of a modern rekindling of the Blitz spirit. After a while the endless Churchillian rhetoric got rather wearing. I knew I had watched far too much of it when I uttered the moronic words, ‘Isn’t it a bit unfortunate that that news reporter’s surname is ‘Bombs’. I had mistaken the news title for the reporter’s name, and had been under the foolish impression he was actually called ‘London Bombs’. Too much suffering on the box evidently has the effect of frying the brain.

The atrocity is apparently set to become the new 9/11, yet the date is a bit unfortunate; 07/07/05 doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue in quite the same way. The easy solution is to jumble the date up so that it reads 007/05 and forms a more stirring rallying cry for the struggle ahead. I attempted –briefly- to do my bit for Britain by finding Osama Bin Ladin’s cave on Google’s new satellite imagery program; after about half an hour of staring at badly pixelated Afghan hillside, I decided my efforts were better directed elsewhere.

It appeared that the best thing to do under the circumstances was to head to the brewery to sink a few patriotic pints down at the Castle Lock Brewery. Things were fairly normal until a strange man dressed in a cowboy costume strolled up to the bar. His dress rather reminded me of Chevy Chase in ‘The Three Amigos’ and he appeared to be completely insane. ‘Look mate’, ‘I’m not going to serve you!’, shouted the indignant bar manager. The man stared back at him like Clint Eastwood in ‘The Good the Bad and the Ugly’; ‘Why won’t you serve me?, because I’m a cowboy!’ he replied. He then concluded that the chap behind the bar did not exist because he wasn’t smiling and left the pub to be mad elsewhere. I love nutters, they add colour to a drab neighbourhood.

During the odd free moment I have been scouring the Internet to find out what some of the fuckwits of the world are saying about the attacks. The neds on gave a characteristically sensitive response to events in London

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‘it wisnae terrorists it wis me, GIT THEY ENGLISH CUNTS TAE FUCK.. they terrorists arnae daein it fir ther beliefs, ther daein it as a favour fir us’

The conversation then turned to what the ned response would be to a terror attack on their Glasgow hovels.

‘fukn paki bastards!…..aye there durty fukin cunts,see if the even think about any bombins up ere,theres about 30 ov us going on a rampage dunn the shaws n govenhill n banglashields,every fukin mosk hing is gettin it’

I'm getting the impression that the message of the 'One Scotland, many races' campaign got lost somewhere along the line.

‘The government have no one to blame but themselves for yesterdays bombings, if they hadn't let the paki bastards in the country in the first place this never would have happened. Get the pakis out to fuck, couldn't trust the dirty wee bastards as far as i could throw them….. were gettin sum spray paint n hittin banglashields at the wkend’

The Nazis on Stormfront seem to have a very similar mindset

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‘The white race traitor lemmings are just as much to blame for this as those who planted the bombs. Those lemmings that have sat by for the last fourty years on their rear ends and done nothing constructive while our country was flooded by the turd world.’

Lemmings are actually very active creatures that shun hibenation, you would be very lucky indeed to find one 'sitting on his arse'

‘David Duke spoke again today in his broadcast, that the muslim problem is only as a result of jews controlling our governments and media. But wow, some dickheads continue to dismiss what David Duke is on about and they further dismiss the jewish problem as 'conspiracy theory'. People who dismiss the jewish problem are shabbos goys, and they play into the jewish hands with their 'anti-muslim' rants. The more you bash the muslims, the more laws our traitorous governments will introduce to ban WN.

* The jew in his daily media rant says - "o'h look at these nasty islamic terrorists, their bombing your'e White people!"

* The dickhead says - "get the muslims, burn them out!"

* The WN says - "hold on a minute, it was you jew who let them in the first place! GET OUT OF MY COUNTRY JEW!"’

Ah, so the Jews are behind it somehow, glad they cleared that one up.

Saturday, 7 May 2005

Ikea, Reading on the toilet and Live H8

‘Life is a mixture of suffering and boredom’ wrote Nietzsche; I presume he was assembling a piece of Ikea furniture at the time. Over the years I had managed to avoid this thankless task. I loathe those adverts the Ikea company puts out, urging the population of this Sceptred isle to ‘be less British’. Being Swedish evidently involves exhibitionist nudity in saunas, being cowardly and neutral in major conflicts and selling iron ore to the Nazis. I’ve long been suspicious of the Scandinavians since, during a documentary about pagan culture, I noticed a piece of Swedish cave art that depicted a man on skis having sex with an elk. This view became further entrenched when my cousin Tammy began dating one, a delightful chap named Ulrich. During one awkward moment at the dinner table he uttered a particularly memorable anecdote. ‘Der vere zese three students who vent camping in der vilderness and they camped down for der night….. then a polar bear came and ate them’. He then broke into a big booming laugh, which was greeted by a bit of a stunned silence from the rest of us. I guess you had to be there. Taking all this into consideration, I think I shall stick to being British and intensely Xenophobic. None of this changes that fact that the stuff is cheap and more convenient to install than anything else on the market.


Convenient but not easy. Last nights shenanigans quickly resembled the jigsaw puzzle from hell. To save time and money the Ikea company has decided to dispense with producing proper written instructions and has instead provided a series of obscure drawings showing bland robotic figures going through the motions of assembly. They remind me very much of those imaginative ‘Home Safety’ manuals from the Cold War, which showed you how to construct a nuclear shelter out of a couple of bin-bags, a door and a bucket for ‘human waste’. Working out just what these figures are doing is incredibly difficult for many reasons. The screws are numbered to allow them to be easily identified, the trouble is the numbers are eight digits long and about as easy to memorise as the bible translated into binary. This resulted in serious delays while I attempted to recall which hole screw 01998485 goes into. Having assembled the base of the sofa, I was directed by the instructions to flip it over and, to my horror and disgust, the entire thing then collapsed faster than a democracy in West Africa. This happened a further three times, before finally I realised that screw 12949598 was in the wrong hole. After a further hour of heaving, straining and issuing of expletives I finally managed to complete the damn thing. It was tempting to deconstruct the thing with a sledgehammer for putting me through blood, toil, tears and sweat. Luckily I restrained myself. I need somewhere to plant my oversized behind when I’m watching Big Brother.

It has been suggested in some circles that if you work hard to build something then you feel a sense of fondness for it. This is simply untrue. Right now I hold about the same amount of affection for this sofa that Allied P.O.Ws must have felt for the Burma Railway.

A few years ago I was disgusted to read that more people voted in the Big-Brother election than in the General Election. This year I failed to vote for any of the parties in the election because I was too lazy to walk to the polling station. Last night I voted to evict Maxwell from the Big Brother house. I hate becoming part of an embarrassing statistic, but I despise that egotistical cockney bastard and I’m sick of him polluting my television screen with his repulsive presence. I only wish they would hold a similar referendum on ‘Diagnosis Murder’ so I might expunge that from the airwaves as well.

The household is something of a minefield of humiliation. I have taken to tripping over the futon with appalling regularity and end up hopping around the house like a landmine victim. On another occasion, I was enjoying a refreshing drink of Fanta from what I thought was a trendy glass. Katie helpfully pointed out to me that I was drinking from the top to the carpet cleaner. She disapproves of some of my habits, most of which I not only believe to be normal, but fundamental elements of an Englishman’s daily routine. The foremost of these is reading on the toilet. For me, going to the toilet involves far more than answering natures call; it is an intellectual experience. Most of my books at some time or another, move from the bookcase into a haphazard pile next to the W.C. I see nothing undignified in this activity, and yet every tome I read on the toilet is referred to my better half as a ‘poopy book’ and regarded as if it is somehow tainted. You have a choice when wasting precious seconds of your life straining to relieve yourself. Either stare blankly ahead of you, or dip into a good P.G Wodlehouse; I prefer the latter and I am better educated because of it.

I viewed Live 8 with a mixture of youthful idealism and outright cynicism. For the odd moment, I felt myself drawn into the energy of the event. ‘Surely’, thought I, ‘if we all band together in one glorious purpose we can achieve a revolution in global trade and save the dark continent from barbarism and poverty’. Then my idealism evaporated. ‘Nah, never gonna happen’. This sea change in my attitude was caused by the idiotic statements of the artists, who got a bit overexcited by the occasion and began seeing themselves as world statesmen instead of moronic imbeciles who can bang out a good tune occasionally. The word ‘historic’ was used with infuriating regularity, and while I appreciated having something to listen to while I painted the kitchen, the concert certainly wasn’t ‘the greatest achievement of humankind’. One comment annoyed me immensely. Some chap –I think he must have been a drummer- stared into the camera with intellectual conviction and said ‘you know what, if it was the other way round and the west was in need, then Africa would come to our aid'. I tried hard to imagine Mugabe, Gaddafi and the rest of those tin-pot African dictators holding a benefit concert on our behalf, but it seemed to be stretching credibility somewhat.

Idi Amin

I’ve read subsequently that Idi Amin actually set up a ‘Save Britain’ fund when our economy was in difficulty during the oil crisis of the early seventies. By this time Amin was feeling a bit miffed with Blighty and was calling himself ‘The conqueror of the British Empire in Africa and Uganda in particular’ and, bizarrely, ‘King of Scotland’. In 1973, seeing the potential for a wind-up, he sent a telegram to Britain saying

‘In the past months the people of Uganda have been following with sorrow the alarming economic crisis befalling on Britain. The sad fact is that it is the ordinary British citizen who is suffering most. I am today appealing to all the people of Uganda who have all along been traditional friends of the British people to come forward and help their former colonial masters.’

Amin was not deterred by the lack of response and went as far as to organise food aid to be sent to Britain. In a further telegram to Whitehall, he said

‘Today, 21 January 1974, the people of Kigezi District donated one lorry load of vegetables and wheat. I am now requesting you to send an aircraft to collect this donation urgently before it goes bad. I hope you will react quickly so as not to discourage Ugandans from donating more.’

Perhaps I was being too hasty in dismissing the philanthropy of African

Thursday, 5 May 2005

Sod the Children

Save the Children

As I looked into the mirror this morning, I saw the faces of the children I’d left behind. They were no longer smiling and laughing; their once happy countenances were now forlorn and sorrowful. Horrified by this spectacle of abandonment and, with feelings of shame washing over me, I was forced to turn away. My selfish actions had ruined everything.

On a pleasurable jaunt through Nottingham city centre in the midday sunshine, I was waylaid by an earnest looking woman armed with a clipboard. She had long flowing blonde hair, and large eyes that seemed out of proportion to the rest of her face, she reminded me rather of a rabbit with myxomatosis. ‘Do you mind if I ask you a few questions?’ she said, and I decided that, for once, I wouldn’t rush past and ignore her. ‘Sure, why not’ I said, deciding on reflection that I had nothing better to do. She then told me a heart-wrenching story about some village in the Sudan -or some other god-forsaken sun baked wilderness- that had no water supply, forcing the inhabitants to walk over miles of desert every day for a cup of moisture. The settlement was on the brink of starvation, until at the last minute, a British charity had stepped in and rescued them. Two thoughts occurred to me at this juncture, why the heck would anyone build a village out in the desert with no water supply in the first place?, I should have thought it was a necessary pre-requisite. Secondly, what did all this have to do with me?. I could sense I was getting drawn into a ‘guilt ambush’, but it was too late, I would just have to ride the blows as they came. ‘Anyway, if I could just have your bank details, then we could set up a direct debit to Save the Children’. I retreated in horror, how had it come to this?. ‘Its only 70p a day’ she proclaimed reproachfully, seeing that I was trying to slip away from her grasp. A surge of guilt came over me, had I not just spent £1 that morning on a short bus ride when I could just as easily have walked?, had I not spent a tenner last weekend getting sloshed in ‘The Orange Tree’. Moments later I found myself filling out a purple form and signing away my hard squandered wealth on starving African children. ‘Thankyou so much’ the wide-eyed lady beamed at me, and I continued on my merry way.

Two weeks later I signed up to Internet banking and inspected my accounts. The direct debit had not yet came into effect and was sitting there in my ‘transfers section’. ‘SAVE THE CHILDREN’ it read, but to me it seemed like a big bloodsucking leech, sipping away on my bank statement. £15 pound a month, £180 a year…. I reflected on what other uses I could put that cash to, and my mind turned to an image of me and Katie sitting in the beer garden of ‘Ye Olde Trip to Jerusalem’ holding pints of real ale –the very image of happiness. My inner cutthroat capitalist had spoken, and I quickly purged my account of the evil presence. Later on, I imagined a throng of Somali children sitting at the side of the road, waiting expectantly for the help that never came. Slowly they realised that they had been deserted in their hour of need, and trudged off miserably back to their mud huts and an uncertain future.

It’s a terrible shame, but I’m no longer in a position to give handouts to charity, Bill Gates I am not. Save the children is all very well, but feeding the fiancé is far more important.