Sunday, November 26, 2006

High visibility trousers and the Sunshine Bus

TO TESCO, on sufferance. It is late in the day and, over by the sell-by-date reductions, gangs of starving pensioners fall upon boxes of ready meal lamb shanks like those lions eating the elephant on Planet Earth.

This is a curious place, lit like an intensive care ward and equally determined to provide all that’s needed to sustain life. As well as food, there are clothes, household goods and televisions; a post office and a lottery terminal. Drooling youths prowl the aisles, grateful for the opportunity of minimum wage employment. The Sunshine Bus from the local nuthouse makes regular visits, providing lively entertainment for both inmates and shoppers.

And there, next to the tills manned by resentful, slack-jawed Pollards, there are collecting tins, asking for spare change on behalf of the mug punters who have “lost” their Christmases due to the Farepak scandal. I am momentarily stunned, then outraged.

Excuse me, but the last time I looked, the Great British Public wasn’t to blame for the Farepak collapse. The Great British Public hadn’t used that money to shore up other failing companies. The Great British Public hadn’t done a runner to their foreign villas with suitcases containing millions of quid. So why should we be asked to bail out the poor mugs who’d fallen for this scam? Because that’s what it was.

In my day, a man used to call at the front door every Friday evening (after the rent man and just before the bloke from the Pru) to collect from my mother the Christmas Club sixpence. Each contribution was scrupulously entered into a little book, which was then kept in a kitchen drawer along with other essential household paperwork like the Green Shield Stamps book and the Co-op divi number.

Then, in early December, there’d be a day of neighbourhood madness when money would be thrown about as if a coachload of drunken Scotsmen had pulled up outside the local shops. Satsumas and chocolate money were bought, along with crackers and a small bottle of sweet sherry for Auntie Mary, who used to occasionally overdo it and then hurl vile abuse about Wallace Simpson at the black and white telly during the Queen’s Speech.

Sure, we had the occasional scandal. Every five years or so the current Christmas Club treasurer would suddenly go missing in late November only to be found hiding in a Blackpool B&B with a peroxide mill girl called Doris. It got to the point that minders were appointed around Bonfire Night who would then “accompany” the treasurer every time he left his house. Should the clanking of massed sixpences heard about his person, he’d be quickly escorted back home to reconsider his behaviour.

It’s a shame no-one did that for Farepak, but I’m still confused as to why people sent them money in the first place. From my understanding (and, not being one of the Underclass, that’s limited) people didn’t earn interest on what they gave to Farepak. They didn’t get cut-rate goods – indeed, the contents of some hampers appeared to cost far more than they would have done at the shops (and how many tins of Olde Oak ham do you want?). The fabled “High Street shopping vouchers” were just that, only you didn’t get change from your £20 voucher for your £18.99 purchase.

All in all, it seems like gross stupidity on the part of the customers. They gained nothing and lost everything. A savings account, a credit card or those savings stamps you can buy in supermarkets would have achieved the same thing without the risk of losing it all. Not to mention the man from the Christmas Club.

DID I tell you I’d been to Tesco? It’s my own fault. I’m just another victim of middle class posturing.

It had been decided that we should bake our own bread. Don’t ask me why. Back in the days of Christmas Clubs, only poor people baked their own bread. The rest of us walked all of 30 yards to the local baker, who served up a very nice farmhouse loaf, usually warm. Now it seems that it’s the poor who snap up the supermarket sliced white while the Sunday supplement reading classes labour over a vile mound of brown sludge studded with shards of indeterminable cereal pieces combined with gravel chippings.

This yeast-infested, bosomy concoction – by then I was calling it the Quatermass Sliced - slowly inflated until it had filled all available worktop space; it was like having Faith Brown sprawled across your granite. We cut (or wrestled) a piece from its mass and baked it, as per instruction. Reader, it’s still in the oven, having expanded to the point that it cannot be prised free.

Hence the last-minute trip to Tesco. Those baked beans were calling and would not be denied …

IT’S SHOUT at the telly time again. A BBC1 programme called Traffic Cops shows us how effective the bullies who police our roads actually are.

A harmless if simple girl was fined £30 for driving down a bus lane, while a career criminal caught with £6,000 of wacky baccy in his car was released without charge because no-one could prove the drugs were his. The genius behind these events was a policeman who was so dedicated to his job that he ran out of fixed-penalty tickets halfway through his shift and actually wore his high-visibility trousers as well as his high-visibility jacket. And probably in bed.

Meanwhile one of the Underclass was caught driving with no licence, no insurance and no road tax. She’s been fined £200 and banned for six months. And tomorrow – you know and I know – she’ll be back behind the wheel again. It’s enough to make a cat laugh.

ARE WE past the watershed yet? I ask because the Debate of the Week, prompted by starving male contestants on I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here, is: Would you let Myleene Klass wee on you in exchange for a piece of cheese?

Hmm. What kind of cheese?

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’s ever gone up to Heather “Go On Cut All My Limbs Off” Mills in the street and given her a hug, of anyone even remotely surprised that it costs taxpayers £91 in admin charges for every £45 collected in on-the-spot fines, or of anyone who says they’re taking “Annual leave”. What’s that all about then? You’re not in the bloody Army – you’re an accountant from Penge.


Blogger sky_dog said...

Fuck-me! The spammers are getting everywhere these days!

3:51 AM  
Blogger BarryBeelzebub said...

I should point out that I removed a spam posting from the top of the list, therefore sky_dog isn't barking mad.

10:24 AM  
Blogger Jimmy McTourette said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:27 PM  
Blogger Jimmy McTourette said...

"Would you let Myleene Klass wee on you in exchange for a piece of cheese?"
I'd pay her handsomely to do it!!!!!

12:28 PM  
Blogger Jimmy McTourette said...

Nothing wrong with a golden shower.

12:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Golden Shower.

A Chinese restaurant in Edgware isn't it?

4:37 AM  
Anonymous John Bull said...

No mate, that's the Kosher-Noor you're thinking of.

5:06 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

And I thought it was a grizzly mess in the US? You have our sympathy and admiration.

1:48 AM  
Blogger Al said...

Barry - well said re the people who lost out because of Farepak. I can't help but feel some sympathy, but when you compare their loss with the loss of the Mirror Group pensioners, Rover workers and others etc, you get some perspective. The Farepak vitims are facing ONE Xmas without a tin of spam and a bottle of Harvey's Bristol Cream, whereas the other groups I have mentioned face long term unemployment and/or little or no pension, despite dutifully paying into one. I know who I'd feel more inclined to contribute to.

8:16 AM  
Blogger Laban said...

Barry - any chance of adding an RSS feed to this blog ? Then I'd know when you've produced a new post.

3:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Love it.

4:15 PM  
Anonymous Carlo said...

Good Job! :)

11:35 PM  

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