Tuesday, 14 April 2020

A Modern Biblical Tale

And so it came to pass that a herald was sent to speak to the multitudes. But there was a ban on multitudes in place so the herald said, “Nobody told me.”
The herald was nothing if not clever and decided to set up a video conferencing network, determined to speak to the people. So a link was created to ‘nosdra-damus/armourgeton.org. When it was done and thousands had logged on, those ‘working’ from home, Government Ministers and ‘clergypeople’ amongst them, the herald began to deliver a message to the multitudes.
“Have none of you learnt a lesson from the Golden Calf?”
“Don’t know that one,” said an attendee. “I usually drink in Wetherspoon pubs. What’s it like?”
The herald frowned. “This ignorance is what I have come to expect. You have strayed from the path, your eyes focussed on self gratification and false houses of worship. The Golden Calf, Exodus thirty-two, the worship of false idols.”
“Wait a minute. Exodus Thirty-Two. That’s a night club just off the Edgware Road, innit?” the Minister for Arts, Heritage and Tourism said.
The herald rolled his eyes and ignored the remark, knowing that such a job was completely irrelevant with the banning of multitudes. “Exodus, thirty-two point four, to be precise, tells you what happens when you turn from the path and worship false idols. You, all of you, people, politicians, priests... you have set up your gods of Mammon, your false worship of wealth and gratification, your smart phones, laptops, games consoles, your pubs and bars, your box sets, your Love Island and Eastenders drivel and even your churches where you hang false images and listen to messages from people who claim to represent the true path but peddle only their own control agenda. And now you are reaping what you sow... I mean sewed. A plague has been sent amongst you and until you repent and turn your face back to the path, it will continue to...
As the herald’s voice grew louder and more intense, he began to rent his robes.
“Uh... why are you renting your robes?” said a female voice.
The herald focussed his gaze on the camera. “I’m not. These are my own robes. I need no other clothing. Turn away from the falseness of such things, fashion and bedecking yourselves in the finery of gold and silver and ye... I mean, you, will be saved.”
“Hang on, why should we believe you?” said a former MP of a minor party. “You’re a footballer. Just because you ain’t playing at the minute, you’re just attention seeking.”
The herald looked puzzled. “What? A footballer?”
“Yeah, you’re Nosdra Damus, the Real Madrid defender.”
Again the herald rolled his eyes. “That’s Sergio Ramos, you fool. Yet again you demonstrate that your focus is only on false idols. I warn you, turn away from the true path and more plagues will be sent amongst you so that you will be smitten –”“I already like you,” said a high ranking bishop.
“... Smitten from the face of the Earth.”
“Bit harsh,” a voice shouted out. “I mean, if whoever you represent thinks that the only way to get respect and regard is to force people to follow the path you talk about with threats, they can’t be much of a nice guy. I mean, freedom of choice works better, doesn’t it?”
The herald leant forward to say something and then sat back, nonplussed by the remark.
And then, as if by divine intervention, the network link crashed, a computer virus infecting the whole system and rendering it useless.

Passport Control

So 'lockdown' at this time is preventing global travel but it won't last forever and soon it will be time to dust off the passport and get moving again. Something to look forward to, sure. But... it’s the coming home that fills me with trepidation, specifically the dreaded passport scanning control!
It’s not so much the ‘Hampton Court Maze’ of a queue that confronts you when you get to the control area (what happened to straight line queues? I blame the post-office for starting that palaver) with their eye contact issues - you know, you pass the same people twenty-five times as you criss-cross the hall, so you try not to look at any one individual too much but you are surrounded by people so there’s nothing else to look at unless you stare at the floor (if you do that, the customs control people will pick you up on CCTV as a very dodgy person of interest who warrants a full body strip search) and in the end you almost feel obliged to invite some of your new found acquaintances round for tea later. So, no, I can almost handle the ‘maze’. It’s actually the scanning machine that concerns me.
There’s that moment when you are now in the last line behind the poor suckers who have already had to step forward and enter the scanning gate. You’ve watched the ‘how to scan your passport’ video at least ten times. You fumble with your passport to make sure it’s open at the right page. You step forward, the last step before you have to commit to a scanning gate. You are very aware that there are 2,759 people behind you, all travel weary and wanting to get home. You check the video again. You stare at the yellow footprint images ahead in the gate, the footprints that make the automatic assumption that you are stupid and total trepidation sets in. You feel the perspiration on your brow as your mind says, ‘please let me get this right’ and you begin to overthink a simple task so much so that you fail to see a gate become available. You then become aware of the muttering behind you and one of the officials ushering you forward. Your mind kicks into urgency mode, not wanting to hold up the show and hoping you can look like a slick, seasoned traveller.
You step forward and drop your passport. You grab it off the floor, hoping nobody noticed. You step into the gate, the moment of doom, the point where you will be judged by the crowd at your back as the cool traveller or the total dickhead from Dicksville. You position your feet on the markers, aware that the sliding glass barrier in front of you is fixed closed and you’re going nowhere until you get this right. You focus on the display that has a ‘look, it’s this bloody’ simple instructional graphic on how to scan your passport... and then you go for it. You slap your passport onto the reader and stare at the camera, trying your best not to look like a gangster but in doing so, you create an expression that has you marked out as ‘Britain’s Most Wanted’... and nothing happens. The glass barrier stays closed; the graphic keeps telling you you’re a ‘dickhead’; you check your passport and realise that you’ve got it on the wrong page; you find the right page and slap it back onto the reader holding it in place as shown and hoping your hand isn’t being fried by radioactivity... and again nothing happens - wrong way round; you can feel the stares of the 2,759 burning a giant ‘D’ on your back, but you daren’t look round. Then you become aware of the official approaching and realise you have qualified indeed as the ‘Dickhead from Dicksville’ but in that moment, knowing that you are already branded, your fear evaporates and you manage to swivel the passport round, the camera scans your mugshot and, like the gates of heaven, the sliding glass panels ease apart and... you’re in!

Crisp Culture

I have been thinking about ‘crisp culture’ for some time. Crisp as in ‘potato’ crisps, as opposed to some sharp custom or tribal practice.  

We all know that crisps taste of absolutely nothing at all, and are probably made from some burnt piece of leftover spuds that would normally be discarded in a waste bin. It makes it cheap, ‘shut up and eat’ fodder that satisfies an appetite. If you don’t believe me, ask mummy and daddy who used to have to bribe their children to stand outside pubs for three hours in minus 2 degrees (but never got prosecuted by the social services). Or maybe ask the clued up manufacturers who tumbled the fact that their burnt product tasted of bugger all and decided to bung a blue wrap of salt into the bag to dupe the punters. This had a double effect – firstly, entertaining the kids who spent time searching for the blue wrap and, secondly, having consumed so much salt (child abuse in the modern era) the kids experienced an overwhelming thirst that the pissed parents, who had forgotten they’d even had kids, had to manage by buying gallons of lemonade once they realised the small people licking the ice off the windows, were actually their children. The crisp manufacturers then copped on and realised they could not be associated with human abuse, like the cigarette companies were, (and future sugar companies) so they ditched the blue salt wrap and invented completely bogus flavours. A giant laboratory was formed where scientists chucked pools of liquified stale food into a number of large VATS and cooked it, ‘Breaking Bad’ style, to produce gallons of glutinous liquid. They experimented with different concoctions which they then poured over their burnt crispy products. After testing on gangs of monkeys who had been retired from the Tobacco Experiment Laboratory and getting the thumbs up (well, in the cases where the monkeys had lost thumbs due to smoke inhalation they accepted a ‘toes up’) they produced several new flavoured crisp products which they branded ‘Cheese and Onion’, ‘Bovril’, and ‘Smokey Bacon.’ (Smokey Monkey was rejected after much deliberation). The thing was, they still tasted of absolutely nothing at all but the marketeers decided that as long as the branding was good and they stuck them in different coloured packets, the public would lap it up, plus, if they could get the pubs to let kids inside so they would no longer die of hypothermia outside, it was a win win.

It all went swimmingly to plan but then an Aussie factory worker raised a question. Given the job of disposing of all the ‘Breaking Bad’ style cooking waste, he asked, “You know what, cobber, we’re spending a mint on ditching all this fuckin’ pink slurry. I got an idea.” The manufacturers were interested, since waste regulations were beginning to hit them in the pocket. So, they wanted to hear the idea. 

“Simple, sport! We pour the pink waste slurry all over the crisps, dry ’em out and sell ’em as Prawn flavour. The punters’ll love it.” The manufacturers were ecstatic. Cut costs and increase profits in one simple manoeuvre. The employee was made ‘Employee of the Century’ and elevated to the board, and ‘Prawn Cocktail’ flavour crisps, which still tasted of bugger all, were introduced to a gullible public. With prawn cocktail having an air of sophistication in the 70’s, the manufacturers upped the game and ploughed money into TV marketing, even persuading ex-footballers to endorse a product that had no definable flavour whatsoever. Soon, the gullible public immersed themselves in ‘crisp culture’ and the children who had stood outside pubs dipping their fingers into a flavourless bag of greasy burnt offerings, grew up and elevated crisps into a shared experience, ripping open bags of the product on pub tables to share with their friends who could dip in and indulge in some sort of tribal ritual. Yet nobody would say, even to this day, “Err... don’t mind me, but I can’t taste anything at all.”

ATM Rage

Anybody else suffer from ATM rage? You know, when you're in a hurry and some dork is fannying about at the cashpoint.

Yesterday, the bloke in front of me was looking at the ATM as if it was some type of space craft that had just embedded itself in a wall after crashing through the earth’s atmosphere from a distant galaxy. “It’s a cash machine, fella. Just get on with it,” I'm thinking. He then proceeded to try and put his card in the wrong way and, when the machine rejected it, pulled it out and began staring at it as if it was the card's bloody fault. My feet were now doing an impatient shuffle as if the scraping on the pavement might alert him to the fact that there are other people on the planet and that he hadn’t just found his own personal ATM. (My sense of urgency was driven by the need to get money for a parking meter, knowing that I would then also have to change the notes into coins by buying something completely useless that I didn't want before some officious uniformed Dr Martin-booted wardengestapo geezer noticed my vehicle had not ‘paid and displayed’).

Finally, when he had eventually managed to insert the card the right way round and miraculously get his PIN right, albeit only because he entered each number in such a laboriously deliberate fashion it was not that surprising (even a Panda with boxing gloves on could have managed the same feat in that time frame), he then began to stare at the screen. My shuffle had turned into the sort of ‘dance’ a toddler does when he’s busting for a wee... and my mind was raging, “Mate, what were you expecting to see? The Top 20? A documentary on The Great Wall of China? It's a friggin’ cash machine. You never used one before? It’s not as if you’re twelve. Somebody has entrusted you with a cash card so you must have a modicum of intelligence. Just choose how much cash you want...’cos that is ALL it does, dispense cash...and then sod off before my car is lifted off the street and towed away to a compound where they’ll charge me more than I originally paid for it to get it back out again.”

After several more seconds deliberation, he made a decision and his card re-emerged. “Go. Go. Go,” my brain is screaming as he turned, removed his card from the machine and placed it back in his wallet in some sort of formal ritual. Then out popped his cash. A tenner! A bloody tenner for all that palaver. Again, my mind blazed as he examined the tenner like he was a sniffer dog looking for traces of coke before sliding it into his wallet. “No way. Surely not. If you do, I’m gonna take a running leap and Kung Fu kick you, Cantona-style, through next door’s butcher shop window.”

But he did. He topped it all off. He waited for the cash slip...

Skiing Giraffes

It was snowing heavily. Drifts several metres deep. Too difficult for humans to cross on foot. Ahead lay miles of mountainous terrain. Hannibal looked out across the snowy peaks, his view limited by the ever thickening cloud. But he knew it was the most direct route to reach his objective and was undeterred by the difficult task ahead. He had a mission.
He turned to his men. "Right, what we’ll do lads is take the Romans by surprise by coming straight over the mountains and attacking them that way... yeah?”
“But how we gonna get across, Han?” said a soldier at the back. “I mean they are seriously high fukoff mountains with snow and that.” 
“Elephants? Wot, them big grey things with long noses wot lives in Africa?” 
“Yep. Them’s the mumble, yeah.” 
“But elephants ain’t never seen no snow, Han. They live in hot places... like... like... you know, Africa.” 
“Yeah and India,” another voice piped up. 
“India?” said the first soldier. “Where’s that?”
“Dunno, but wot I heard is they got smaller ears.” 
“Who? Indians?” 
“Nah, nob! The elephants.” 
“How’s that help ’em in snow then?” 
“Dunno, do I? I ain’t no expert on elephants. Just sayin’.” 
“Well, if you ask me elephants is a stoopid idea for crossing mountains.” 
Hannibal strode forward. “Listen soldier. I’m gonna ignore the fact that you just called my idea stoopid if you can come up with a better one.” 
The soldier realised he’d shot his mouth off and tried to save the situation. 
“Uh... I didn’t mean elephants was a stoopid idea, I meant it would work better with giraffes.” 
Hannibal raised an eyebrow. “Giraffes? Why giraffes? You reckon they’d be better to cross these mountains with and attack the Romans? Why's that then?” 
“Err, yeah... because... well they got longer legs than elephants, for a start which means they can get through deep snow better. They got longer necks too which means they can see over the highest peaks and spot danger. Oh, and there’s no lions.” 
Hannibal rubbed his chin, deep in thought. “No lions? Wot’s that gotta do with anything?” 
“Uh, well giraffes, nervous bloody lot. Always on the lookout for danger, always craning their necks to keep an eye out for... you know, lions and things. So...uh, they're used to... you know, spotting trouble.” 
Hannibal waved a hand in the air. “I like it, soldier. Right. Saddle up as many of them giraffe things as you can find. We’re gonna surprise the crap outta them Romans.”


29 March 2079

“Hey, mate, you okay? You’re out of breath. What’s up?”
“Forgot my bloody Citizen Pass. Had to go back and get it. And you know what they’re like about all that.”
“I do, but it’s cool. You got it now, yeah?”
“Yeah, but after I got fined that two hundred and fifty EuroCredit last year for not being able to show it on demand, I’m taking no chances. Bloody SSP are everywhere.”
“I’ve had no real bother with them, to be honest. I keep my head down, show my pass hen required, turn up in the work zone when I have to and just follow the rules. It’s the only way to get by.”
“Maybe, but don’t you ever get fed up with it? Rules, regulations, diktats, articles. You know what? Word is, back in the day, it wasn’t always like that but since they don’t teach history no more in schools and there’s no books, nobody really knows any of that stuff.”
“Funny, you should mention that. You know what today is?”
“Uh... yeah, Wednesday.”
“No, the date, I mean. It’s the twenty-ninth of March.”
“Well, we’re not really s’posed to know this stuff but my dad told me that his dad was around before the European Empire.”
“Yeah... and sixty years ago, on the twenty-ninth March the UK had –” 
“The what?” 
“The UK... United Kingdom. It was what this place was called back then before everywhere was divided up into Sectors.” 
“Blimey, I didn’t know that.”
“Anyway, the UK which was made up of England, Scotland, Wales and a bit of Sector 74... called Northern Ireland back then, had a chance to walk away from the European project but they didn’t take it.”
“Walk away?”
“Yeah,not allow themselves to be absorbed into the project... ruled by the Empire.”
“You’re joking? They had choices? They could choose to live as a free state?”
“Not only that, the people had the right to choose how they lived. They weren’t numbers back then. They used their proper names too.”
“Eh? You mean they weren’t... like Citizen 8956.A7ENG23 Sector 71?”
“No, you wouldn’t be known as that. You could use the name you use at home... Jack. You didn’t have to have the label you have now. You wouldn’t have been chipped at birth either.”
“Not chipped? But, that’s just normal, innit? For your ID and knowing where citizens live.”
“It might be normal now, mate, chipped and carrying a Citizen Pass, but back then it was only dogs that got chipped. Citizens... I mean, people, could move around as they pleased. All they needed was a passport if they wanted to go to other sectors... they were called countries then… but otherwise they chose where to go when they wanted.”
“Wait a minute. So, this UK place could have chosen to stay out of all that... the controls, the rules, the direction... but they chose not to?”
“Well, not exactly. They blundered into it. They should have left on twenty-ninth of March in 2019 but made a right pig’s ear of it and got trapped so they could never get out. Once that happened the EU got on with their plans to build the Federal State.”
“Did they not realise what the plan was?”
“Some did and they were determined to leave but a lot of others were banging on about their children’s future and how they would not benefit from –”
“But, I am their bloody children! And I’m now just a number in a controlled state. What was wrong with them?”
“Dunno, mate. Indecisive, selfish even... worried about their mobile telephones, their holidays, the price of their houses... only concerned about themselves, I guess. Didn’t look to the future. Didn’t see the big picture. And today is the sixtieth anniversary of the day it could all have been different”
“What’s a mobile phone, anyway? For that matter, what’s a holiday?”
“It’s a... heads up, one of the SSP’s coming.”
“Good morning, Citizens. I am Officer 912 of the State Security Police. Your Citizen Passes please.”

Cattle Courtship

I was on a train the other day returning from London and I saw some cows. Not on the train... they don't let them on. Although if they bought tickets then why not? But anyway, they were in the fields as the train sped by and it got me thinking about cattle. Every field we went past had cows all doing the same thing. It seems like there are  plenty of cows in the country and, for that matter, bulls too. So clearly they are a very successful species. So, as I stared through the window I got to thinking about how it works with cattle courtship.

A bull approaches a cow, a bit tentatively, hoping his 'A' game is going to swing it.
Seen you around here a few times. You live locally?”
“Oh... um... yes. In that field just there.”
“Uh... okay, cool. S’alright round here, innit?”
The cow stares around for a moment and then says, “S’okay.”
The bull pauses, not sure of his next chat up line, then says, “You get out much?”
The cow’s eyes widen. “Out? I’m out all the bloody time.”
The bull feels that his line of patter isn’t cutting it so goes straight to the question he has been wanting to ask. “So, you... uh... fancy going out sometime? I mean out out... not just out like you said, all the time. I mean... out.”
The cow turns to the bull and says, “Out out? What’s that? Is that different from out? What you trying to say?”
The bull shuffles his hooves and tries to gain a bit of composure. He had a feeling this might be difficult. “Uh... I mean out... like you and me... for, I dunno... dinner maybe?”
The cow raises her head and stares at the bull. “Dinner?”
“Yeah, dinner,” the bull replies. “What d’you like to eat?”
The cow laughs. “What do I like eat? What d’you think?”
The bull is taken aback but tries not to show it. “Well... I dunno... grass, I s’pose. I just thought –”
“Yup, spot on Billy Big Bullocks. Grass. Yeah, so I’m out to dinner all the bloody time.”
The bull feels he’s losing face and tries to rally. “I just thought... maybe you and me could... you know, go somewhere different and have dinner.”
The cow smiles. “Somewhere different? Like where? A different field? And have more grass. It’s not as if we can sod off to South America and try some Pampas grass  or maybe get a flight to North America and dine on Kentucky Blue. I fancy a bit of swamp grass to be honest but that ain’t ever gonna happen is it? Maybe even a bit of Bermuda grass but unless you’re gonna tell me you got your own private jet then I’m stuck with this bloody meadow stuff, ain’t I? So why not cut the bullshit and if you want a shag come right out and say so!”
The bull takes a step back. “Uh, what about a takeaway?”