Sunday, February 22, 2009

Six out of seven dwarfs aren't Happy

THE MARVELLOUS Mr Keith Waterhouse, that distinguished journalist of these parts who has just turned 80 years old, has come up with many wonderful inventions during his time toiling at the typewriter. The fabulous Billy Liar; Sharon and Tracy, the indolent shop assistants; Clogthorpe District Council, where members argue in circles before adjourning to nearby hostelry The Limping Cockroach; and, perhaps the best of all, the Department of Guesswork – now the privatised National Guesswork Authority – where Waterhouse’s brother-in-law Arnold works tirelessly to provide the country with nonsense statistics and meaningless facts.

This government agency – slogan, “Inaccuracy is our Middle Name” – performs a vital function in these simplistic times when the media demands simple ways of explaining simple stories to a stupid public. That’s why every new skyscraper is so many times “the size of Nelson’s Column”, why every new building site would “cover four football pitches”, why anything liquid would be enough to “fill five Olympic swimming pools” and why obscure African countries are “the size of Wales”. (Only a far more attractive place to live.)

This statistical twaddle has now spread to everyday life. Rarely does 24 hours pass without an idiot survey turning up in our newspapers. Only this week we were told that “Children are the main victims of the recession as their parents lose their jobs, pocket money is cut and school trips are deemed too expensive”.

This insight into our modern world came courtesy of research group Nfp Synergy (never trust a company with a lower case letter in its name) which claimed that seven per cent of children between 11 and 16 said one of their parents had lost their job. Fine, so that’s 93 out of a hundred who haven’t. Good news, I would have thought.

More than a quarter of 11 to 13-year-olds said they had had their pocket money cut (so three-quarters haven’t) while 20 per cent said their parents had told them they will not be going on holiday this year (but 80 per cent will).

And one in 12 children said their parents could not afford to send them on school trips. Well boo hoo. That means that 11 out of 12 families can still afford to send their children on school trips.
Most of these so-called surveys are just a marketing exercise, a way to get free editorial space from an over-worked newsroom. Thus a holiday company (whom I refuse to name) announces that the favourite activity of children on holiday is to spend time in the swimming pool, with 92 per cent of them in the water every day. Funnily enough, this company is currently pushing holidays at resorts with super pools, slides, wave machines and all.

A dating website announces that 65 per cent of men think that it’s OK to have sex on a first date while 65 per cent of women think that it makes them look “easy”. I’m not great at maths, but I suspect that based on those figures, 35 per cent of women are very busy indeed.

And then there’s the truly execrable. “People from the South West love to warble while they wash”, according to a shower company … based in the South West. It’s just nonsense.
I do wish they’d stop insulting our intelligence with this gibberish. The only statistic I’ll ever believe is that six out of seven dwarfs are not Happy.

IT IS Shrove Tuesday next week, a time when we’re all supposed to be giving something up for Lent. But surely they’ve got this wrong? January is when we give things up; February is when we start doing them again.

All those people who gave up smoking are back on the fags; the non-drinkers are walloping it down like a squaddie on leave; and the exercise fanatics have long since given up on exercise and are lying on the couch eating oven chips dipped in brown sauce while watching Come Dine With Me along with the rest of us.

Here at Beelzebub Mansions we have invested many pounds in what I call “January equipment”, most of it already redundant. There’s the stepper, a blue bikey-type thing that you walk quickly on. It has been used twice. There is a blue trampoline, which has been used once. There is a blue exercise ball thingy, which has been used less than once, being responsible for an immediate bad back. (I’m noticing a trend here. Why are all these instruments of torture coloured blue?)

Similarly, the gym membership now lapses unused, although the direct debit goes out of the account once a month, the bookshelves groan under the weight of diet tomes and the expensive trainers that make you walk like an African warrior (why would you want to?) have been consigned to the utility room cupboard, never to emerge again.

A QUICK Christmas Stilton update: it’s still there at the back of the fridge, belching Port fumes at the Branston Pickle and trying to get the Dairylea to join it in “roasting” a carton of Philadelphia. I’ll keep you in touch.

THE FORMER head of MI5 has accused the government of exploiting the fear of terrorism to restrict civil liberties. Dame Stella Rimington says people in Britain feel that they’re living under a police state.

Excuse me, but when even the Spooks think that we’re under the cosh, isn’t that time to get really, really worried?


Anonymous One-eyed Scottish Idiot said...

It's true about the recession (what happened to the Credit Crunch?) hitting children the hardest. Why, only last week, I saw a few of the little angels playing in my local park when they should have been at home trawling the internet for porn, illegal music downloads and pirated games or bullying each other with nasty text messages.

100% of this reader is convinced that this shows that some parents can no longer afford to provide the near-essential computers,
X-boxes, Nintendos, Sky+, Sky HD, mobile 'phones, DVD recorders etc. of a normal childhood.

Such poverty has not been seen in Britain since the 1930's.

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Scotch is a drink not a drunk said...

The Credit Crunch went the way of Global Warming, which is now called "Climate Change" in view of the snow storms which keep appearing inconveniently for the professional alarmists among us. These prophets of doom never get it quite right and often have to modify their language appropriately.

12:34 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said... says...
(can't be bothered to log in so..)
Anonymous says;

I enjoy your stuff immensely and I am glad I found it - thank

Trouble with online grumbling - Have I got News 4U, Spitting Images and all the other fun pokers - is - none of it makes a flying f***'s difference. Jock Mc Brune is a c*** - Cameron is a toff and hasn't worked out what the f*** he'll do when he gets in.

I like that Vince Cable but I'm not joining the Lib Dems on my own...the old saying when they were the Liberals was - 'I'll be buggered if I do that' Not fair but funny. Seriously if all sensible like minded people joined the Lib Dems and voted them in.. (saves money on stationery)..then chuck out all their crap ideas, allow smoking in pubs again, drop petrol and diesel to 70p a litre and rescue the economy, make it equally against the law for immigrants to be rude to, steal from or shoot guns at anglo saxons - force admission that a 'gollyw**' (see?) is a loveable child's toy and shared an equal social footing in my bedroom with threadbare, down at heel one eyed teddy bears (equal minorities)and then shared a slap up tea of ginger beer and sandwiches with some bankers...oh...George Orwell already did it using a more sophisticated metaphor? F***!

1:53 AM  

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