Nadine “Mad Nad” Dorries MP, fervent anti-choice campaigner and former “celebrity” jungle dweller, said on TV yesterday that Theresa May should sack Philip Hammond as the Treasury were being “too negative” about the UK’s leaving the EU.
Once upon a time, there was a pied piper. He lived in a small town on an island just off the coast of Eutopia. He spent his days quietly, mostly staying at home playing tunes on his pipe. Children would pass by his house and hear the music through the windows. The children talked to one another and, slowly, his music gained more fame.
The piper’s most treasured possession was a large gold watch, given to him by his grandfather. His grandfather told him that the watch was given to him by his own grandfather. Usually, the watch kept good time. The piper wound the watch every day, and all was well. But then the piper began to notice that the watch was not quite so good at keeping the time. He tapped it and shook it, but it did no good. He became more and more angry. The tunes he played on his pipe became louder and louder, and more children gathered to hear them. Their parents were a little worried, but they thought to themselves: “What harm can befall our children by listening to a piper and his music?”
One day, the piper was really mad about his gold watch. In his rage, he threw the watch to the ground. When he picked it up again, the piper saw that the glass was cracked and there was a small dent in the side. But, most importantly, the watch had stopped. The piper wound the watch. No ticking. He shook the watch. No ticking. He shook it harder, but it made no difference.
The pied piper was still angry – in fact, even angrier than before. “I must find a clockmaker to mend my watch”, he thought. So he went down the road to the clockmaker’s shop. He told the clockmaker that he had dropped the watch. The clockmaker examined it carefully. “I can mend the broken glass quite easily” he said. “And can you just bang the inside of the watch with a hammer to fix the dent?” asked the piper.
The clockmaker opened up the watch and looked inside. “I’m afraid it’s not a simple as that” he said. He showed the piper the inside of the watch. It was full of delicate, tiny wheels and levers. “All of these levers and wheels are connected together in a complex way. It looks like there’s been a lot of damage. Mending all the wheels and checking they work together properly will take lot of time and skill”. The piper looked angry and snatched the watch back. “Experts!” he muttered and stormed out of the shop.
“I don’t need that clockmaker!” thought the piper. “I’ll find someone else to fix it in a trice”. So he went all around the town asking for anyone who could help. Nobody said they could. At this, the piper grew angrier still. He went back home and picked up his pipe. He started playing, louder and more strangely than before. The children of the town heard the strange piping and started to gather outside the piper’s house.
The piper found that playing the strange tune in his house didn’t make him any less angry. “I know,” he thought, “I’ll go for a walk: that will calm me down!” So he opened the front door and went outside, taking his pipe with him. He started to walk down the street, heading for the highest cliffs on the island. All the time, he continued to play his strange tunes. The children started to follow him down the street. We all know how that story ends, don’t we, children?
Imagine the situation. You have been living for a long time with 27 other people on the top of a high cliff. The sea at the foot of the cliff is often rough and stormy. You’ve kind-of got along with each other, but you’ve had your disagreements and rows. You’ve developed a reputation as being selfish, arrogant and a bit standoff-ish from the rest.
You suffer from mood swings. The 27 others have closely observed these over time and they have increasingly caused frustration and resentment all round. They have calculated your changes of mood in a statistical way. For the 16 hours a day when you’re awake, on average you spend six hours in an irrational frame of mind, ranting and shouting how much you hate all the others and how much better off you’d be on your own. For a further five and a half hours, you actually seem to get on rather well with the others. You realise how much you all have in common. But you seem to be too embarrassed to admit this to the rest. For the remaining four and a half hours, you frankly don’t seem to care either way.
The Bad Night
Not so long ago, you had a really bad night’s sleep. You woke several times after really scary nightmares, shaking and fearful for the future. You also had some other dreams, waking feeling strangely euphoric and slightly delusional. The morning after found you lacking in sleep, tetchy and fretful. In a moment of pique, you blurted out that you were leaving the clifftop to go and live on your own at the foot of the cliff.
The others all thought you were mad, but they had mixed feelings about your decisions. They were genuinely sorry to see you go. But, as a result of the bad feelings that had built up over your periods of anti-social behaviour, their sorrow was tinged with a sense of relief. There was genuine concern about how you would get on by yourself. No one had ever seen what it was like at the foot of the cliff: its shape blocked the view. And no one had seen any trace of a footpath or of a climbing route down the cliff face.
The 27 had a meeting to coordinate their position. They used as their guide a document you had all signed recently and for which you took the leading position in drafting. They offered to work together to help you find a safe route down the cliff. You had previously boasted that you were once world class at rock climbing. But everyone knew that you hadn’t done any since 1973. Your skills had gone rusty, your muscles flabby. And, frankly, your mood swings showed that your sense of balance left a great deal to be desired.
The Way Down
But the 27 also set two conditions to their help.
They would use their collective knowledge and experience to help you find a safe passage. But in the event of a dispute as to the next step, you must take the advice of their nominated expert.
They set a deadline. You had five days to discuss the best way to the cliff foot, pooling your collective knowledge. If, on the sixth morning, you had not reached agreement, they would push you off the cliff edge.
Things went badly at first after this. Your mood swings worsened. You shouted and ranted. You said you wouldn’t be told by some so-called expert what to do. Not for one minute. You asked for a vote of support from your followers, but this only made things worse. Two whole days passed with no progress made. Your own closest friends shouted conflicting advice. You hid in the mountains for several hours to try to sort out your thinking. Sometimes you think that, at the foot of the cliff, there lies a golden beach, calm seas and blue skies. At other times, you imagine there to be only the most treacherous of rocks.
So, now, what do you do?
Jump off the cliff straight away, shouting “I told you it would be all right” repeatedly until your head is smashed on the rocks below?
Carefully plan the safest way down in cooperation with the 27 others and agree to their terms?
Continue to dither for another three days until you are thrown off the cliff by your exasperated companions?
The Real World
I’m pleased to see that the Labour Party has come off the fence and chosen option b. The Tories continue to be divided irreconcilably, with the likes of the deluded Liam Fox in the “a” camp (abetted by the rump-rabble of UKIP and the usual suspects in the press) and more economically-literate Tories like Anna Soubry and Philip Hammond in the “b” camp.
And above it, but not really in control of it all, sits Prime Minister Theresa May, still in the “c” camp. Journalist and former Tory MP Matthew Parris is right when he condemns the absolute recklessness of the Tory Party in getting us into this mess, putting futile attempts at party unity ahead of the national interest.
For goodness’ sake, will somebody please save us from this bunch of clowns?
Recent evidence has emerged about a forgotten civilisation during the second century CE in the eastern Mediterranean. Historians and Archaeologists have been engaged in a five-year study on the small island of Kaos (capital: Mayhem). The inhabitants of the island were mainly Greek speaking, although there was also wide use of the Latin tongue, as we shall see soon.
A short distance to the north-east of Kaos was the even smaller island of Antikos (capital: Duplicity), so called because the ideas of the Antikossians seemed very old-fashioned to the Kaotics.
The Tribes of Kaos and Antikos
Kaos at this time was a warlike place, with tribal rivalries and skirmishes all over the island. The largest and most warlike tribe was called the Tauries. This was because, when they went into battle (which was often), they wore masks in the shape of bulls’ heads on their faces, to make them look more ferocious.
Almost as large a tribe were the Lavories. They saw themselves as morally superior to the Tauries, partly because they weren’t quite as warlike in their approach. In battle, they demonstrated the purity of their thoughts by each wearing a soap-on-a-rope around their necks. This was less effective as a battle tactic, but the Lavories all agreed they felt better for doing it.
There were a few smaller tribes, too. No one was really sure what the Liberalies stood for, but everyone agreed they were very nice people. There is some sketchy evidence that an extremist, fringe breakaway group from the Tauries existed for a time. Called the Kippies, a combination of inbreeding and infighting led to their extinction almost as soon as they were formed.
Confined to the north of the island, the Peskies were so named as all their leaders were named after fish. Across the waters in Antikos, two arch-rival tribes occupied the north-east corner of the island: the Dupies and the Shinbonies. The Dupies were usually known by their nick-name: the Little Willies. This was because the Dupies worshipped an ancient, but tiny, god called William, who was only the size of an orange. The Dupies wanted to be considered part of Kaos, whilst the Shinbonies thought they should all join in with the larger tribe in the south of Antikos: the Begorrahs. (Cultural note: lazy racial stereotyping was all the rage in the 2nd century, under the so-called Davidson Doctrine. This was named after Jacobus Filius Davidus, a first century CE troubadour who lived under the shadow of a bigger tree than anyone else. )
Although the Tauries constituted well under half the population of Kaos, they generally held the upper hand in ruling over the affairs of the island. Although all the other tribes, except the Dupies, broadly agreed on matters of policy, the Tauries successfully applied a game of “divide and rule” to get their own way.
It has already been emphasised that the Kaotics were a warrior race. Their weapon of choice was the Three-Pronged Fork. This was originally developed as an ideal tool for scraping the fast-growing moss from the rocks and cliffs of the island. During the wet season, these mosses grew rapidly, blocking tracks and access around the island. During an early skirmish between rival clans, the Kaotics soon discovered that Three-Pronged Forks were also good for killing people, and their use as weapons quickly spread. They came to be known as the Weapons of Moss Destruction.
The Elders of the tribes often told of the times of the Great Manufacture of the Three-Pronged Forks. The Forks were made of iron, and there were no deposits of iron ore on Kaos itself. Instead, the ore needed to be imported from the island of Ferros, a two-day journey away by their primitive sailing boats. The Ferrotics were a hard-nosed people, always ready to strike a hard bargain. Their island was rocky and barren, and their crops often failed. The only commodity they would trade for their iron ore was food, and lots of it. Just before the Great Manufacture of the Three-Pronged Forks, the Kaotics had traded so much of their own food with the Ferrotics that there was widespread famine throughout the island. Many people, mainly women and children, died. The women, of course, didn’t matter. (Cultural note 2: misogyny at this time was, of course, de rigueur.) But the sorrow at the death of so many children stayed in the people’s memories for many generations.
One tribe, the Peskies, had adopted a different weapon from the rest: the dirk. This was named after the legendary Thespian called Dirkus, an erstwhile leader of a troupe of travelling players, who was born in the north of the island. He was often known – particularly by the womenfolk – as Dirkus Beauregardus, on account of his legendary good looks.
His troupe, the Circus Dirkus, travelled widely in the Mediterranean, performing their plays. (Eat your heart out, Will Shakespeare! Dirkus had a “Theatre in the Round” a millennium and a half before you were strutting your stuff in the Globe.)A favourite play was Medicus et in Domo, in which the great actor played Hippocrates, the legendary First Doctor. (No, it wasn’t William Hartnell.) For stage props, they had the surgical knives used by Hippocrates, which were soon nick-named “dirks” after the great actor.
Many a fair lady fainted at the sight as Beauregardus pulled out his dirk on stage and held it aloft, glinting in the evening Mediterranean sunlight. (Cultural note 3: It’s well known that, in Classical Greek theatre, gratuitous smutty jokes were hugely popular. Just ask Euripides. “Euripides, I rip-a yours!” Who could forget – or even remember – the classic line by Chico in the Marx Brothers’ tribute to Classical Greek Theatre, A Night at the Hippodrome?) But I digress… (Cultural note 4: Whilst performing a particularly tricky surgical procedure, Hippocrates once pricked his thumb on his surgical knife. This was the moment of creation of the world-famous Hippocratic Oath. Yes, yes, I know! What did you expect? Wit and sophistication? We are talking second century here!) Dirkus died whilst on tour in Venice. Meanwhile, back on Kaos…
On Land and Sea
At first, the inter-tribal battles took place on land. The various tribes fought and slew each other with their Three-Pronged Forks, trampling all over the crops as they fought. The women of the island, who did all the hard work in the fields, cooked all the meals and cleaned and tidied up after their menfolk, got extremely annoyed by this needless destruction. So, gradually over time, the battles took place more and more in the shallow waters all around the island. They found their Three-Pronged Forks were quite good for catching fish, too.
The Tauries, at great expense, commissioned two great galleons with giant oars and galleys filled with captured slaves from the other tribes. The galleons were to transport the weapons to different parts of the shoreline for battles. But they found they only had enough Three-Pronged Forks to fill one galleon. Worse still, prolonged use of the Three-Pronged Forks in the salty seawater had gradually corroded the iron. Bits started falling off the now-rusty Forks and they became less and less effective as weapons. The Tauries were strongly committed to replacing the Forks. The people of Kaos were fearful of this. The great famine following the last trading with Ferros was still strong in their memories. All the other tribes, apart from the Little Willies, were against the idea of renewing the Three-Pronged Forks.
The Tauries called all the people together, to get them to vote on who was best to lead them, thinking that they would consolidate their position once and for all. Unfortunately for them, the vote was ambiguous and left them weaker than before. It’s here that the historical record gets patchy. It seems that there was some other momentous decision that the leaders of Kaos had to make. What is known is that the Tauries themselves split into two camps, known as Brexitus Maximus and Brexitus Minimus.
Some historians believe this was to do with some Alliance with other islands in the area. But no record has ever been found of any plan by the Tauries to deal with this issue. One dissenting historian also believes that the Tauries were so desperate that they were led for a period by a woman! An even more unlikely tale is that the woman tried to cling on to power by holding fast on to the Little Willies. But mainstream opinion is that such tales are simply too implausible to be true.
Whatever the cause of the split, the Tauries were fatally weakened. This created the opportunity for the other tribes (except the Dupies) to forge an alliance and take over the running of the island. This alliance was known as the Koalition of Kaos.
Notwithstanding the lack of information about the true meaning of the mysterious “Brexitus”, archaeological records are clear as to what happened next. Under the rule of the Koalition of Kaos, the renewal of the Three-Pronged Forks was cancelled, famine was averted, and peace and tranquillity reigned over the Island of Kaos for the next two hundred years. Such a long period of peace was, of course, of absolutely no interest to historians. This probably explains why the history of this early civilisation had fallen into obscurity for well over 1500 years.
(Literacy SATs Question: Why is Koalition spelt with the letter K? The answer is because the people of Kaos were GreeK, but they did not actually live in GreeCe. I would have thought that was obvious. You clearly haven’t been paying attention! Please see me after school for a remedial session of “Spelling and Punctuation for Idiots”. )
It has been some time since we heard about the Mr Men. Lots of exciting things have been happening! But first, there are some new Mr Men and Little Misses to introduce.
Mr Custard lives in another land over the sea. His brain is made out of custard. You know, custard is sometimes a bit runny. Sometimes it’s thick. Mr Custard’s custard is thick. Very, very thick.
One day, when he was a little boy, his teacher wanted to teach him a new word. It was an adjective: a describing word. Mr Custard only knew five describing words: great, bad, fake, false and failing. When his teacher tried to teach him the new word, Mr Custard’s brain got hot. Very, very hot! Some of the custard boiled over out of his brain and flowed over the top of his head. Oops! Because it was so thick, it set very hard on his head. It has stayed there ever since!
The fright of the boiling custard made other changes, too. Mr Custard’s hands stopped growing and stayed very, very small. And Mr Custard could no longer say the word “cat”. From now on, he could only say the word “pussy” instead.
Apart from his brain and hands, the rest of Mr Custard’s body kept growing until he looked like a grown-up. He had a job building big buildings. He tried building them out of custard first, so that he looked better standing in front of them. But, slowly, slowly, the custard buildings sagged. They sagged more. Then, slowly, slowly, they fell down, until they were just gloopy puddles of custard on the ground! The people who lived in the buildings were not happy.
Then he had an idea. His daddy was very rich and had a lot of gold. So, Mr Custard made his buildings out of gold. Hurrah! He stood in front of the gold buildings. His custard head looked less silly. And the gold was all shiny too! Mr Custard smiled and waved his little hands in the air.
Mr Custard lives in a land called Merry-Ka. Which is a funny name, because it’s not really merry. Every 16 minutes, someone in Merry-Ka shoots someone else dead. No so merry!
Mr God knew everything. He was so clever that sometimes he thought he was three people! Funny Mr God! But there was a problem. The people couldn’t agree what he looked like. Some people thought he looked like a cloud. Others thought he looked like a slice of burnt toast. Others even thought he looked like a dog’s bottom!
But they all agreed on two things. First, he must have long arms. Very, very long arms. Because he could hold the whole world in his arms! Clever Mr God! And they all agreed he was good. Very, very good. Even though, if he was so good and clever, he let bad things happen. Oh dear!
Little Miss I-Know-Best
Little Miss I-Know-Best had a daddy who was a vicar. Daddy’s best friend was Mr God. Daddy had told her that Mr God was born in a stable. When she was small, Little Miss I-Know-Best wondered about Mr God. When he was born, did he float down like a cloud from the sky? Or did he just pop up, like out of a toaster? She tried not to think about her third thought about how Mr God was born.
Daddy wanted to be more like Mr God. So he knocked down his house next to the church. In its place, he built a stable. He did not want it to fall down on their heads. So he built it strong. A strong stable. And he didn’t want it to be blown over by the wind. So he built it stable. A stable stable. Little Miss I-Know-Best lived in a strong and stable stable.
Daddy told Little Miss I-Know-Best about how clever Mr God was. As he was Daddy’s best friend, she listened to everything Daddy said, so that she knew best. Then she wouldn’t need to listen to what other people thought ever again! She would know best. And she wouldn’t have to keep meeting people. She hated that! Unless, of course, it was just to tell them what to do. She knew best!
Mr Fox-Up lived in a den. It was a special den where all the clocks were a hundred years slow! In Mr Fox-Up’s den, the people in Room Number Nine were still the rulers of the whole world. They had big ships, big guns and went around telling everyone else what to do. More often than not, they had told him where to go!
Mr Fox-Up had a special friend, Mr Ferrity, who was a ferret. Mr Ferrity followed Mr Fox-Up wherever he went. He also ran up drainpipes and up trouser-legs and went into all sorts of places he shouldn’t go. Mr Fox-Up didn’t seem to mind. He had an important job working for Mr Two-Face. He was in charge of one small rowing boat and a pop-gun. This was all that was left of the great armada in Mr Fox-Up’s den. But Mr Two-Face said Mr Fox-Up had broken all the rules. So Mr Fox-Up had to go. Nobody expected to hear from him again!
Mr Breaks-It is one of the Nasties. Most Nasties are Posh. Mr Breaks-It isn’t Posh. He grew up in a place called Cow-n-Silly State. The Nasties think is a wild and lawless swamp. A long time ago, Mr Breaks-It and Mr Two-Face fought to be leader of the Nasties. Mr Breaks-It lost. (Mr Fox-Up was, true to form, knocked out earlier in the fight.) Mr Breaks-It didn’t do much in our story for a long time. But we will meet him again soon.
Little Miss Traffic-Light
Little Miss Traffic-Light’s favourite colours are amber and red. Sometimes, but not very often, she pretends to like green, too. Some people who really like green said she had fibbed to people in the Voting House about liking green. Little Miss Traffic-Light is Posh, like most of the Nasties. She was given a present by her sister: a money-making tree. But this and some other money-making trees died while she was looking after them. Little Miss Traffic-Light is a bit like a mini version of Little Miss I-Know-Best, as you will see soon.
The Other Mr Men
You may be wondering by now: what happened to the other Mr Men from our earlier story? When we left them, Mr Two-Face had just sulked off as leader of the Nasties in Room Number Nine. At the end of the story, we asked the question: “Will there be more creeping and back-stabbing?” Oh yes, there was!
After Mr Two-Face sulked off, the Nasties needed a new leader. Mr Look-At-Me was the favourite, because he had been shouting “Look at me!” for so long. Mr Look-At-Me thought Mr Mad was his best friend. Everybody was very surprised when Mr Mad said he wasn’t, and stabbed Mr Look-At-Me in the back and said he wanted to be leader himself!
So, five people put their hands up to say “Choose me please!” Mr Mad, Mr Fox-Up, Little Miss I-Know-Best, who we’ve met before, all put up their hands. And there was Mr Crab, who nobody had heard of. So he walked sideways all the time so people would notice him. And finally, there was Little Miss Loathsome. All you need to know about Little Miss Loathsome is in her name. Yeugh! Enough said!
When the Nasties voted, nobody was surprised when Mr Fox-Up had hardly any friends and was told to go. Mr Crab and Mr Mad were nearly as unpopular, and off they went too! Mr Crab scuttled off sideways. And Mr Mad sneaked off in the middle of the night. This just left Little Miss Loathsome and Little Miss I-Know-Best. All the Nasties were very excited! There were now just two Little Misses left in the contest! Then Little Miss Loathsome said something loathsome about Little Miss I-Know-Best. So, she had to go. That just left Little Miss I-Know-Best to lead the Nasties.
What Little Miss I-Know-Best Did Next
First Little Miss I-Know-Best said “hurray!” Then she chose her team of helpers. She told Mr Pale-And-Thin and Mr Mad to go far, far away. Mr Mad went to work as a writer for Mr Monster. But Mr Pale-And-Thin set about getting lots of jobs. He didn’t mind what the job was, as long as it paid LOTS of money! Greedy Mr Pale-And-Thin! Just a few weeks ago, he got ANOTHER job as well! This one is writing for a newspaper. There he can say lots of nasty things about Little Miss I-Know-Best, because she sacked him. Nasty, spiteful Mr Pale-And-Thin!
The New Helpers
Little Miss I-Know-Best chose some new helpers. She chose Mr Hammond-Organ to replace Mr Pale-And-Thin. Mr Hammond-Organ spent all day playing sad songs about how we had no money. These songs were often in a different key from all the other Nasties. This made Little Miss I-Know-Best cross. She thought she would get rid of Mr Hammond-Organ soon.
Mr Hammond-Organ was a bit boring. Little Miss I-Know-Best wanted to make things a bit more exciting, like running through wheat. How exciting was that! So she had a thought. “I know”, she thought, “I’ll choose some helpers that no one could have guessed!” And so she did.
The people in the other 27 rooms of the Big House bought most of the things the people didn’t buy themselves. After she burns the bridge across the little stream – which hasn’t happened yet – the people would need to find some new people to buy them instead. She needed someone to help. “Ah!” thought Little Miss I-Know-Best. “I’ll choose someone that no one will ever trust again! That would be fun!” So she chose Mr Fox-Up for the job! Funny Little Miss I-Know-Best!
But her fun didn’t stop there. Oh no! She needed someone to make sure the bridge across the little stream was well and truly broken. So she chose Mr Breaks-It! “He has the right name”, she thought. “And it would teach Mr Two-Face a lesson for leaving me with all this mess to clear up.” Funny, funny Little Miss I-Know-Best!
But her best fun was still to come. She needed someone to talk to all the other leaders in the other lands, so that we could still be the best of friends. So she chose Mr Look-At-Me! Funny Little Miss I-Know-Best! What a joke! All the people in the other lands saw the joke too! They laughed and laughed until their sides ached and their heads turned to jelly! What fun!
Little Miss I-Know-Best smiled. What could possibly go wrong?
Next time, we will find out how Little Miss I-Know-Best got on with her new plans. Will it all be easy, like Mr Fox-Up and Mr Mad said? Would we still be friends with everyone? Will everyone think Little Miss I-Know-Best knows best? Watch out for the next topsy-turvy part of the story!
I can now reveal the eight records Theresa May has chosen for her appearance on Desert Island Discs. They are:
Should I Stay or Should I Go? – Clash
Go Now – Moody Blues
Sling Your Hook – Jez and Labour
Our Day Has Come (original 1688 mix) – DUPey and the Rome-antis
No Woman No Rights – Bob M’arlene and the Wailers
Unsteady As She Goes – The Saboteurs
Is There Anybody Out There? – Barnier and Juncker
Give Jez a Chance – John and Yo-go
(May was forced into a U-turn on one of her choices when the BBC Record Archive could find no trace of The Laughing Policeman.)
Book chosen to take to a desert island: The Desert of Wheat by Zane Grey, “to bring back those happy memories”.
Luxury item to take: a spade, to bury all her hopes and dreams, and ours, too.
A song for Theresa “No Mates” May: no mates in the Tory Party, no mates in the right-wing press, no mates in Europe…
If you stir up a storm, build your hopes up high,
But show you’re afraid of the Mail
At the end of the storm, we all say “bye-bye”
And tweet that you’re wrong and will fail.
Plod on: you won’t win
Plod on, say again
Till our screams are crossed with groans
Limp on, limp on, no hope in your heart
You’ll forever walk alone
You’ll forever walk alone.
Limp on, limp on, you won’t tear us apart,
You’ll forever walk alone
You’ll forever walk alone.
The scene: President’s Inaugural Ball, Washington DC, 20 January 2017. The new US president and first lady take to the dance floor.
And now, the end is near
And so you face the final curtain
The world, it stands in fear
The civilized: well they’re just hurtin’
I’ve lived a life that’s full
I bullied all, in a tough-guy way
And more, much more than this, I did it my way
Regret’s not what I do
My past mistakes, I’ll never mention
Regret is just for you and those I screw without attention*
I lurched from boom to bust, from bust to boom, a do-or-die** way
It’s mostly luck, don’t give a fuck, I did it my way
Yes, there were times, I’m sure you knew
When I would grope and I would screw
But through it all, when there was doubt
I shut them up and spat them out
To ease my itch, just grab a bitch and do it my way
I’ve loved; myself of course
It’s what you call self-adulation
And now that I’m the boss, I’m gonna fuck up every nation
I’ll build a wall, and that’s not all
The world will glow, that’s in a fry way
If I feel heat, another tweet, I’ll do it my way
America, I’ll make it great
I’ll show you all just how to hate
The weak, the poor, and millions more
If I feel sore, I’ll start a war
To darkest times – at least *that rhymes!
I said “unite”, that all was shite, just do it my way.
Regular readers of this blog will have worked out by now that I’m essentially a rationalist. I approach the world using logic and reason, checking of facts (as far as it’s practicable), updating my views in the light of new information. I’ve no time for superstition, religious or otherwise, in forming my views of the world around me. Or so I say.
So, just for a change, let’s put that all to one side for the moment. Let’s talk about magic. Or, more specifically, magic numbers, and one magic number in particular.
Magic Numbers in History
Over the whole of recorded history, and probably before, numbers have held mystical powers for people. The most mystical number to the Pythagoreans was the number 10. Pythagoras (580 – 500 BCE) himself thought numbers had souls and magic powers.
The most magical numbers in religion are three, four, seven, ten and twelve.
In Christianity, we have the Holy Trinity, Jesus rising after three days, the latter borrowed from pagan moon-worshippers. (Have you ever wondered why Easter wanders all over the calendar: the phases of the moon are the answer.) We have four Gospels and four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. The creation myth (also in Islam and Judaism) famously uses the number seven: hence the days of the week. Then we have the Ten Commandments and Twelve Apostles.
The hajj in Islam requires pilgrims to walk seven times around the Kabaa (a pre-existing pagan ritual adopted by early Muslims). And there are many examples in other faiths. In fairy tales, we have three wishes and seven dwarves, to name just a couple of examples. An interesting overview is available on the Mystical Numbers website.
But I want to concentrate on a different number from all these. There’s a spoiler alert already in the title: it’s the number thirty seven.
2010 General Election
Most people know by now that, in 2010, David Cameron won a small majority of 12 in the Commons on 37% of the votes cast. Ever since the 1950s, winning parties in UK general elections have never commanded more than 50% of the vote. I think the lowest figure for majority rule was by Tony Blair’s New Labour in 2005. An attempt at a fairer electoral system, a favourite of the Lib Dems was, of course, scuppered by Cameron and co during the coalition government 2010-15.
The magic number 37 crops up again in the EU referendum result. This can be summarized as follows:
Did not vote
One of the key requirements of government in a democracy is to defend minorities from “the tyranny of the majority”. May’s government seems to be doing a piss poor job of this right now, against the hysteria of the usual media suspects in particular.
As my earlier blog post Two Gamblers and a Pint of Lager explained, our magic number makes its appearance in one stark view of how lopsided the UK economy is. In round terms, the UK has:
of the world’s population
of the world’s income
of the world’s financial transactions.
Financial institutions around the world trade sums equal to the entire global annual output every 14 working days. In the UK, we trade our annual output every day and a quarter! I explained in my post The City: Paragon or Parasite? that this kind of trading is “socially useless”. (The then chairman of the Financial Services Authority used this phrase in 2009.) It’s a major source of financial instability and will inevitably lead to another large 2007-8 style crash one day. It leaves the UK uniquely vulnerable of the western democracies to an economic shock such as Britain leaving the EU or Donald Trump as President of the USA.
Talking of which, I did analyse the US election result to see if our magic number 37 dropped out of the voting statistics. Sadly, it didn’t. But I did learn that the voters of America split as follows:
did not vote
voted for Clinton
voted for Trump
voted for other candidates
Hillary Clinton leads Trump by 2 million votes in the count. In the whole history of US presidential elections, five winning US Presidents have lost the popular vote, Trump by the third largest margin ever. (There were larger margins in 1824 and 1876.) Perhaps more shocking is that fact that Trump is not unusual in becoming President-elect with the endorsement of only about a quarter of voters.
So, no 37 here. But hang on… the share of the American voters who did not vote for Trump is (almost) exactly double the share of British voters (37%) who voted to leave the EU. Or, if you add the percentage of the UKIP vote in 2015 (10) to the percentage of Americans who supported Trump in 2016 (27), you get, yes, (hurrah!) our magic number 37. Phew!
OK, the more observant of you (which is, of course, all of you!) will have spotted what I’ve just done here. I’ve scratched around and selected some arbitrary “facts” from a greater whole until I’ve got the answer I want.* Which is basically what evangelical religious apologists do when they’re trying to “prove” the will of God or Allah behind some natural phenomenon. Tsunamis, for example, being God’s wrath – that sort of thing.
But here’s just one thing more I’ve remembered. What’s the body temperature of a normal, healthy human being? Why, yes! It’s 37 degrees! Spooky, or what? (What, probably…)
*and mixed “percentage of votes” with “percentage of electorate”.
Chancellor Philip Hammond recently spoke about making Britain’s economy “match fit” in preparation for the shock of leaving the EU in the near future. In the spirit of the recent decision of the American people and of Donald Trump’s suggestion for UK ambassador to the US, here are some predictions.
The former popular figure of John Bull is to be revived. He will be responsible for trade negotiations with the People’s Republic of China, with the view to making our trade deficit with them even larger. To ease negotiations, Mr Bull’s office will be located in adapted retail premises in Beijing.
Retailers were pleased when, in a recent poll, 37% of turkeys voted for Christmas, thereby ensuring their annual mass slaughter. The French Government has made an offer to take any of our turkeys wishing to escape this fate, in exchange for the remaining child refugees in Calais. The European Parliament voted to suspend – by the neck – any turkeys found within the EU “before Christmas”. A spokesbird for the turkeys complained: “We’re damned if we do and dinde if we don’t”.
Church of England
Following a recent decision by the C of E to remove the requirement for all churches to hold a weekly service, a further innovation will be introduced to make better use of these much underused buildings, especially in rural areas. British zoos will be required to transfer any lions they hold and relocate them to a convenient church. This will provide the lions with more space to roam around. A Church spokesman said he expected this to reduce the need to hold services in these little-used buildings almost completely.
In a shock move no one expected, the present Head of State is to be replaced by a Mr Charles Windsor, a 68 year-old pensioner and serial violator of the “no political interference by royalty” convention. As a result, all Government Ministries are to be amalgamated into a single Ministry of Black Spiders. All current civil servants will be made redundant and, in their place, a small group of keepers will be appointed to look after the arachnids. In addition, a secondee from the British Homeopathic Association will be deployed to formulate all Government policy based upon interpreting the shapes of the spiders’ webs.
As a result, the redundant Mr Liam Fox will be put in charge of the chicken run, egged on by a Mr Adam Werritty. One other deposed Minister said that this announcement had “certainly ruffled a few feathers” in Westminster.
In a move designed to save millions of pounds, the entire water supply network – pipes, pumps, reservoirs and all – will be closed down. It will be replaced by a promising new enterprise consisting of two small children and a bucket. The boy and girl said in a statement: “Any help from the British public to find a hill with a well on top would be much appreciated”. Share prices in water companies took a tumble on the release of this announcement.
Following recent staff unrest about prison overcrowding, new incentives are to be introduced to instil a more positive attitude from warders. Staff will be encouraged to profit from prisoners by selling them a variety of services and to charge rent at “affordable” (i.e. unaffordable) rates. Free prison meals are to be abolished to help in this enterprise. A City analyst said: “I’d put my money on Class A drugs. The prison warders and the City could really make a killing in this exciting new market.”
In a bold initiative to raise standards further, new minimum standards of attainment will be adopted for school pupils. Entitlement for continuing state funded education will be dependent on achieving at least 2 good passes in A levels at the age of seven. Successful students will then complete the remaining years of education learning the history of Triumphs of the British Empire and in declension of irregular Latin verbs. They will be known as “Class A”. A City analyst forecast promising joint enterprises with the prison service.
Children who fail to meet this standard will be required to fill the empty pews in our little-used churches, developing their athletic prowess by avoiding getting eaten by the lions. A spokeswoman for Sport England enthused: “This presents a great opportunity for Team GB 2024. Although we do expect that, in those Olympic Games, we will field a bigger squad for the Paralympics than the main Olympic Games. I’m proud to be part of another world-beating initiative for Team GB!”
Meanwhile, the Conflict of Interest policy for School Governors is to be revised. In future, all Governors who do not profit personally from decisions at Governing Body meetings will be dismissed, for showing a lack of the new British entrepreneurial spirit. School rooms where Governors hold their meetings must be adapted to include a revolving door affording easy access to local and regional companies in whom they have an interest. An Education Department press statement said: “This change has been made following studies of Best Practice in the Ministry of Defence and in new policy initiatives in the White House”.
In a related area, the screening of jobseekers working with children and vulnerable adults, known as DBS checks, will be changed. The checks will be replaced by a short practical exam, known informally as the “grope test”. Candidates will be required to show dexterity and physical strength in sexually assaulting women and children. Oral examinations, including verbal abuse, will be necessary for the most sensitive appointments.
The focus of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse will be repositioned to examine case studies to be used as role models and for training candidates lacking in these key skills.
Administration of Justice
In a shake-up in the magistracy, the Ministry of Justice has announced the closure of all its Advisory Committees across the country. These are the bodies that interview and select candidates to be appointed as magistrates. In future, released prisoners serving a minimum of five years in gaol will be automatically placed on a shortlist for the magistracy. A simple written exam will be used to sift from the shortlist. Marks will be awarded for wrong answers. Bonus marks will be added for evidence of cheating. In the event that too many candidates reach the required standards, priority will be given to convicted fraudsters, sex offenders and child abusers. A Justice Ministry spokesperson said: “It takes a thief to catch a thief”.
In a controversial move, NHS England has announced the resignation of its Chief Executive. He is to be replaced by a vial of anthrax. Under its new leadership, the NHS is planning a series of “breakout initiatives” right across the health service: hospitals, GP surgeries and drop-in centres (to be renamed “drop dead” centres). The vial announced: “This is doubly-good news for the NHS. We expect to eliminate all waiting lists and the massive budget overspends by NHS Trusts in a matter of weeks.” He added “will the last person standing please turn out the lights, pull up the drawbridge and close the door. Thank you.” The Prime Minister commented: “This is really excellent news. It will certainly trump our other recent policy announcements. Under my government, Britain is at last taking back control of our borders. By turning Britain into a toxic wasteland, uninhabitable for 10,000 years, I confidently expect that immigration will immediately fall to zero”.
UKIP protested that 10,000 years is far too short a time for this to be an effective deterrent against our “invasion by foreigners”. The Daily Mail agreed: “These selfish, so-called ‘death tourists’ should continue to go to Switzerland where they belong”, it said.
No one from the Labour Party was available for comment.
This is a story bringing you news of the antics of some of the Mr Men today.
Mr Monster was an ogre. Mr Monster was the most evil man in the world. He owned lots of newspapers and made himself very rich. With all his money, he was able to tell politicians around the world to do what he wanted. How did Mr Monster do this? He used some of his money to pay policemen to reveal secrets about the politicians. Then he threatened the politicians he would tell unless they do what he wanted. What he wanted was new ways to make himself even richer. That way, he could afford to bully more politicians. Clever Mr Monster!
Mr Mad was mad. Mr Mad was delusional. He once worked for Mr Monster, so he knew ways to please him. He dreamed many dreams. These seemed very clever to Mr Mad. So he set about trying to make those dreams come true.
Mr Mad was put in charge of all the teachers. He went to their meeting, and they all laughed at him. This made Mr Mad madder. Mr Mad dreamed about how to get his revenge. He introduced many crazy schemes into the schools. He allowed people who, like him, knew nothing about teaching run schools. Some crazy things happened. How Mr Mad laughed! After a while, Mr Mad found that people did not want to become teachers any more. He also found that the teachers were leaving their jobs. Mr Mad scratched his head. What had he done? Silly Mr Mad!
Mr Look-At-Me liked to be the centre of attention. Mr Look-At-Me found a good way to do this. He would say silly things, the first thing that popped into his head. People laughed at his silly things, so he would say more. Sometimes he would contradict the last silly thing. People still laughed and nobody cared that nothing he said made any sense. Funny Mr Look-At-Me!
When he was a very small boy, Mr Look-At-Me had birthdays like other children. When he was four, he decided he did not want to get any older. So he stopped having birthdays. Despite being big and the size of a grown-up, Mr Look-At-Me is still four years old. His mummy even failed to get him to learn how to comb his hair. “Look at me! Look at me!! Me! Me!! Me!!!” he said. The people stilled laughed. Funny Mr Look-At-Me!
Mr Slime was made completely out of slime. Dark, green, gooey slime! Yeugh! Mr Slime hated everybody who was not like him. He wanted them all to stay where they were and not come close to him. Mr Slime’s slime smelled, a slimy sort of smell. The smell made people hate other people after they had smelled it. Mr Slime smoked all the time, to try to disguise the smell. Mr Slime drank beer. A lot of beer! He drank the beer to try to forget about the smell. People kept away from Mr Slime because of the smoke and smell. Slimy, smelly Mr Slime!
Mr Slime wanted everyone to think like him. Seven times he asked the people to vote for him. Seven times they said “no”. Mr Slime thought he had better find another way.
People thought Mr Two-Face had two faces. But it was not really like that. Mr Two-Face just wanted everybody to like him. So every time he spoke, he tried to tell the people he was with what they wanted to hear. So Mr Two-Face kept changing his appearance. He was a bit like a chameleon, except he didn’t change colour. Only he did a bit: his face went pink whenever someone told him he was wrong. Mr Two-Face thought he was never wrong. He was, after all the leader of all the people in his room.
Mr Pale-And-Thin was pale and thin. He was thin because he ate only a special diet called austerity. He was pale because spent nearly all the time indoors. He spent some of his time in his counting house, where he counted all the money. But he spent most of his time in his plotting house, where he plotted clever schemes to outwit the other people. He only ventured outside to visit places where people made things. There were so few of them now that it was getting harder and harder to find one. He wore a yellow jacket on these visits, to make him easier to see, because he was so thin. He also wore a hard hat, in case any of the people he had plotted against crept up behind him and hit him on the head. Poor, worried Mr Pale-And-Thin!
Mr Slightly-Grumpy was slightly grumpy. When he was younger, he had been very grumpy, and shouted a lot at his friends. Now that he was older, he had grown slightly less grumpy. But his friends were still wary of him. He said sensible things. But because he was grumpy, people didn’t take much notice. This made him a bit more grumpy. Grumpy Mr Slightly-Grumpy!
All the Mr Men were the best of friends, except for Mr Slightly-Grumpy, who just sat in another corner of the room and looked slightly grumpy.
The Big House
All the Mr Men in this story lived in a Big House. A very Big House! It had twenty-eight rooms, all of them big. What a Big House! All the Mr Men lived in the same room, Number Nine. This room had once been a tiny cottage on the other side of a little stream. A long time ago, a bridge had been built across the stream and Number Nine became part of the Big House. At this time, the Big House had only nine rooms and the people were happy. Over time, more rooms were added and the Big House grew bigger.
At first, all the rooms in the Big House had big, strong locks. They made the people feel safe, but the locks were big and clumsy and took a long time to open. The people grew cross waiting for the doors to be opened. The people in some of the rooms took the locks away, so they could move about the house more easily. The people in Number Nine kept their lock, which was big and strong.
To make the Big House work properly, the caretaker had set some rules. One of the rules was that anyone could move to another room as long as they had work to do there. Where there were locks, these had to be undone to let in the people with work. There were other house rules, too. The leaders in Number Nine didn’t like some of them and asked if they could be excused. The caretaker said yes to some of these.
Before The Big Vote
After Mr Two-Face became leader of a group of friends called the Nasties, he found that some of his friends were really very nasty rather than just nasty. Mr Slime had his own friends, The Stinkies, who were nastier even than the Very Nasties. His own friends kept arguing and some were saying they would leave the Nasties and join the Stinkies instead. The arguments covered many things but, above all, they argued about whether to take away the bridge over the little stream and make Number Nine a little cottage again.
Mr Two-Face had a very clever idea. He would ask all the people in room Number Nine whether to keep the bridge and that would settle it and they could all be friends again. Clever Mr Two-Face! But Mr Two-Face had a problem. He had been telling everyone in all the other rooms for so long just how wrong they were with everything. Very suddenly, he said that they were all really his good friends and that he wanted to keep the bridge over the little stream. Straight away, Mr Mad and Mr Look-At-Me crept up behind Mr Two-Face and stabbed him in the back! Mr Two-Face was very cross and went very pink in the face. Oh dear!
Over the next few weeks, Mr Mad and Mr Look-At-Me shouted at Mr Two-Face and Mr Pale-And-Thin. And Mr Two-Face and Mr Pale-And-Thin shouted back. Mr Two-Face and Mr Pale-And-Thin made up lots of scary stories and Mr Mad and Mr Look-At-Me told lots and lots of fibs. They all got crosser and crosser. All the people got very confused. Mr Slime joined in by showing a picture which made people feel very sick when they looked at it. The people were even more confused!
The Big Vote
In the end, the people were so confused that just over half of them said they wanted to tear down the bridge to the other rooms. “Hurrah!” they said, “We won!” and rushed off to tear down the bridge. Some people brought matches and tried to burn down the bridge. But, whoops! What’s this? The wind changed and the fire spread to room Number Nine. There was lots of damage. Everybody blamed everybody else! Mr Two-Face said he didn’t want to be leader any more. Mr Monster smiled quietly to himself. His monstrous master plan was working out very nicely…
What will happen next? Will the fire spread to the other rooms in the Big House? Will there be any bits of room Number Nine left to live in? Who will lead the Nasties? Will Mr Mad and Mr Look-At-Me still be friends? Or will there be more creeping and back-stabbing? Will Mr Slime crawl back into his slimy hole? Or has his oozy, stinky smell made too many people into Stinkies too? Watch out for the next exciting part of Mr Men 2016!