Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Why I want to kill matey Mike, the loan shark

I AM SOMEWHAT aggrieved that neither ITN nor the BBC have been round to Beelzebub Mansions to interview me regarding my narrow escape from last Thursday’s dreadful terrorist attack in London.

True, I was 120 miles away at the time – groveling at the feet of an Inland Revenue tax inspector – and was therefore nowhere near the scene of the attacks. But that hasn’t stopped them interviewing myriad other people whose connection with the appalling events was tenuous to say the least.

You know the sort of thing: “Well I usually catch the 07.32 to Paddington, but that morning the dog had been sick in my handbag so I was late and when I got to Edgware Road station Mr Patel had run out of Guardians so I had to buy an Independent and then I spilt my double decaf fair trade Guatamalan frappacino which added another three minutes to my journey and normally when I get downstairs to the platform I always wait just where the doors on the second carriage will stop but this time I was scared by an errant pigeon so I turned right and got into the fourth carriage instead. So I was very, very lucky. Plus I was at home throwing a sickie anyway, but it could have been me …”

ITN managed to hit a new low on Tuesday lunchtime, interviewing one of their own girly reporters about the “trauma” she suffered on having to report on the incident in the first place. That’s what you’re there for, love. Nasty things happen, you then go out and tell us about them. You are not the story: the facts are the story. It’s enough to make Kate Adie spin in her grave.

Incidentally, much has been made of the forbearance of Londoners in the wake of the bombings. Blitz analogies abound. “If we stay at home, the terrorists have won,” was the message. So where were they all on Friday?

Faced with getting out of bed and struggling into work on a disrupted transport system, or sun-bathing in the garden with a pint of jellied eels, a party can of Watney’s Red Barrel and a copy of the Daily Star, they displayed that famous fighting spirit by … err … staying at home. Marvellous stuff.

AS WELL as being the natural environment of dole scum, fat women, alcoholics and ex-Blue Peter presenters, daytime television is also home to some of the most irritating adverts on Planet Earth.

I suppose a 30-second advert in between an item on how wearing slippers can give you cancer and someone plugging a book about the drug-fuelled depravity of Kenny Ball’s Jazzmen is now so cheap that any fool can afford a slot, but that’s no excuse for the endless repetition.

My favourite hate-ad at the moment features a cuddly-looking cheery chappy talking on the phone to his mate Mike about football while his equally perky wife, for reasons I cannot fathom, follows him around the house with a video camera. But wait … it turns out that Mike isn’t actually a mate at all, but is a telesales drone from a loan company.

“How much do we want to borrow?” says the cheery chappy. “£25,000 … and how much will that cost me? Wow … that’s less than we pay now!”

What the grinning idiot doesn’t seem to understand is that his “friend” Mike has just turned him over big time and that £25,000 will eventually end up costing him and his perky wife a massive £42,147 in repayments and interest.

One can only hope that his “mate” has the decency to bail him out when the bailiffs come kicking the door down.

WALKING THROUGH town on Saturday afternoon I am accosted by a very nice elderly lady who is collecting on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Society.“But I gave you a fiver just ten minutes ago,” I tell her, as she waves her collecting tin at me.Fear, panic and confusion flash through her eyes as I walk away, whistling. I know it’s wrong, but sometimes you just have to do it.

THINK BACK to when you last sat an exam. What was the pass mark you were expected to get?

Seventy-five per cent? Fifty-five per cent? Both sound reasonable enough. But no more. For 14-year-olds taking a national curriculum maths exam this month can get a pass mark even if they get three-quarters of the questions wrong. Yep, that’s right. Marks of a measly 22.5 per cent are now deemed good enough for a pass in the subject.

Meanwhile pupils who get top grades in their GCSE exams are proving to be so poor at English and maths that they have to be tested again by prospective employers. Many can’t write a simple letter or do a simple sum, and some firms are even testing teenagers to make sure they know the alphabet and are therefore able to do mundane tasks like filing.

Now we’re not talking about thickies here. We’re talking about kids who have got A grades. And Mr Blah still denies standards are slipping. Edukashun, edukashun, edukashun, eh Tone?

NANNY STATE update: There’s been an outbreak of killer hanging baskets in the Somerset village of Norton Fitzwarren. The landlord of the Ring of Bells, who decorates his pub with dozens of baskets every year, has been found guilty of infringing the minimum height restriction of 8.2 feet, therefore endangering the passing public.

It matters not that the Ring of Bells display has won Prettiest Village Pub on four occasions, or that tourists flock to see the floral display. The rules is the rules.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people who are eight feet six inches tall. That bloke who plays Darth Vader, perhaps, or maybe the odd stilt-walker. So unless Norton Fitzwarren plays host to the annual Tallest People in Britain contest or gets visited by a circus on a weekly basis, it seems unlikely that anyone is going to get lashed by a lobelia or interfered with by an ivy.

Still, the health and safety Nazis at Somerset County Council will be polishing their clipboards with pride. Another victory for small-mindedness and red tape.

A LAST word on Live8, which has now disappeared from the radar thanks to the Olympic bid and the terrible events in London.

One of the most irritating images of the whole extravaganza was Sir Bob Geldof snapping his fingers every three seconds to signify the loss of another African child’s life.

It occurred to me that if someone was to take a lump hammer to Sir Bob’s digits, so rendering them unclickable, hundreds of children could be saved at a stroke. Simple, isn’t it.

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone who doesn’t think that we should have British Bulldog and fox-hunting as Olympic sports, of anyone who hasn’t given up caring whether or not Shelly ever again comes down the bloody stairs at the Rover’s Return, or of anyone who hasn’t been voting to get the personality-bypassed oxygen thief who is Vanessa out of the Big Brother House.


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