Monday, December 31, 2007

Buyer beware! You're heading for the buffers

THERE’S SOMETHING about an imminent New Year that makes people do daft things. A lot of people give up drinking or smoking. Others cut back on the Findus Crispy Pancakes and Gregg’s Pasties. But some people are even weirder than that – they’re the ones who sign up to lunatic magazine part-works.

Last year we had Build Your Own Miniature Clock. This season’s belter is a weekly, piece-by-piece, build-your-own model of the 1928 Flying Scotsman.

Now it might at first look like an attractive proposition. After all, whose cocktail cabinet wouldn’t be enhanced by an O-gauge scale model of a steam engine? And look, the first issue with the first parts is only 50 pence! What a bargain!

But buyer beware. Because after that first issue, you’ll be charged £2.99 for the second one, and then – hold your breath - £4.99 for the subsequent 123 parts. Yes, 123 parts. Now even I can have a dabble on the calculator and work our that that adds up to an astonishing £617.26, not to mention 2.4 years of your life. That’s almost enough to buy a first class return to London.

So tell me, you ask, still not completely convinced that you’re being taken for a mug, how fast does it go? Err … it doesn’t. If you want an electric motor to make it go, then the piratical publishers will sell you one at a later date at a “special price”.

Now I’ve had a look on that interweb thingy and it seems that Hornby, a damn fine British company that deserves our support, will sell you a Flying Scotsman train set with passenger coaches and track for just £120. The engine on its own costs just £49.99.

As the Yanks would say, go figure.

WHILE WE’RE on about dodgy commercial affairs, there’s something just not right about the Full English Breakfast as advertised on a blackboard in the Roy’s Rolls café in Coronation Street.

The price is right at £2.95, but there’s something dreadfully amiss in the list of ingredients: Bacon, egg, sausage, beans, black pudding, tomato, toast, fried bread and a pot of tea.

Toast AND fried bread? And no mushrooms? The poor chap wouldn’t last five minutes in the Dragons’ Den with a business proposition like that. Which is a shame really, because other than that glaring error, Christmas night’s Coronation Street was 60 minutes of sheer class.

Lust, violence and lies; humour and rumour; pathos, bathos and betrayal. I don’t think I’ve seen a better-written hour of telly all year. An absolute tour de force. It’s often said that if Charles Dickens was alive today, he’d be writing for the soaps. Well on current form he’d struggle to get a job at Granada.

REMEMBER THAT story about Prince Harry slaughtering a pair of rare hen harriers on the Sandringham Estate? The one where the alleged incident was witnessed by a warden and two visitors at a nearby nature reserve? The one that led to Norfolk police finding time to interview the Prince and estate staff before sending a report to the Crown Prosecution Service? The one that could have left the royal redhead facing a £5,000 fine or six months in jail?

I said at the time that I thought it a load of nonsense. The fact that the whole thing has now disappeared without trace suggests that I was right.

But we should examine a few facts that subsequently emerged. No bodies were found, suggesting that whoever shot the hen harriers had some very smart dogs at hand. More to the point, no stray feathers were found, suggesting that whoever shot the hen harriers had access one of those portable, hand-held Dysons that look like a science fiction ray gun.

It gets dafter. There are reportedly only 20 breeding pairs of hen harriers in England, so what are the chances of 10 per cent of that population turning up in the same place at the same time? Indeed, wildlife experts say that hen harriers rarely hunt in pairs, with many bird-watchers never having seen two together in 25 years of squatting in damp bushes with a flask, a Tupperware box of lettuce sarnies and a signed picture of Bill Oddy.

So what of the so-called witnesses of this imaginary atrocity? Will Norfolk police find time to interview them in connection with possible charges of wasting police time? Don’t hold your breath. Bleating bunny-huggers are apparently immune from prosecution.

YET NOT all members of the Great British Public have had their brains dissolved by too much exposure to the Guardian and a diet of low fat tofu. When viewers of local TV news programme London Tonight viewers were asked to name a new-born lamb that featured on the show, 95 per cent all plumped for the same name.

Can you guess what it was? Yep, Mohammed. Predictably, the producers inadvertently muddled up the results and went for the name just five per cent of viewers wanted – Mistletoe.

I’D GOT so bored with turkey that I insisted that we should have goose for Christmas this year. Big mistake.

I swear I carried seven roasting trays full of fat out of the kitchen while the beast was in the oven (yes, of course you can rub it on your chest when you get a cold – if you’re certifiable), the whole house is now clad in a clammy emulsion of goose, and the damn thing didn’t really eat that well – too rich and still, unbelievably, too greasy.

Next year it’s a suckling pig. Stuffed with a duck.


Blogger Peregrine's Bird Blog said...

I usually agree with nearly everything you post to your blog. I also agree the Hen Harrier story was probably bullshit as well, but in the winter months Hen Harriers do tend to roost at the same spot so not unlikely that two could have been seen at the same time. There is a roost site on the Isle of man where as many as 80 birds can be seen at one time. if you are interested just google for the info

12:24 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

Nah, the hen harrier story is bullshit...

... as for the build your own train/battleship/new world order bunkum in fortnightly parts is just daylight robbery in all but name.

And perfectly legal!

12:54 PM  
Blogger Auld Greetin Face said...

Who gives a shit about Hen Harriers anyway, give it a couple of years and the gamekeepers will be asking for a cull because they are stealing lambs or some such nonsense.

2:41 AM  
Anonymous skydog said...

''It gets dafter. There are reportedly only 20 breeding pairs of hen harriers in England''

Not so fast Baz ... according to the RSPB (PC Div) there are approximately 15 pairs of hen-harriers living in 'civil partnerships' and seeking to adopt orphaned cuckoos.

6:14 AM  
Anonymous Rev. Hugh G. Rection said...

Mr Beelzebub,

I find I must take you to task.

In these dark days of ZaNu-Labour, with the insidious fingers of political correctness and nanny statism increasingly violating the gussets of our national identity and culture, I often find myself, in my despair & especially at this time of the year, turning to your pages for much needed comfort and a reminder of what it once meant to be British.

You usually offer a wonderful mixture of old fashioned common sense, British humour and traditional values, so I was, to say the least, disappointed to find this year that you have not made a single mention of the Christmas Stilton!

Another great British national tradition, sadly consigned to history (and the back of the fridge).

They've got to you haven't they Barry.

1:29 AM  

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