Thursday, 7 May 2009

God's Rioja?

Service is the basic form of communication. As children we are taught to serve. Everything from ladies first to putting yourself last in a list. But this has changed. Now we have to queue up in the rain for the privilege of getting our own money from a hole in a wall, and we are told that service has never been better. We squeeze into our local Tesco, fight our way around, queue for half an hour and when we get home much the worse for wear, we read the story that they have just won an award for service excellence.

We are gullible. We believe what we are told, despite the evidence of our own experience. People complain about the gullibility of the religious, but I, for one, would much rather believe in God, than the modern deity, Tesco.

We have made Gods of our buying. The Holy Ghost has become The Wholemeal Toast. The Son of Man, a Pound of Ham. The Holy Trinity’s three persons in one has been out-done by Two for One, Four for a Fiver. Just taste the value!

The divine Tesco doesn’t give a damn for me but rather likes my money. I feel it would be preferable to have a deity that didn’t give a damn for my money, but rather liked me. And I would rather worship in a Cathedral than the modern equivalent – today’s out-of-town hypermarket. These are buildings so vast that Zeppelins would be lost in them.

“Zeppelins? Aisle 390, sir. Watch out for our special on all dirigibles.”

Assistants move like cowled monks among the deep freeze units. Endless queues forming at the few operating checkouts, the confessionals de nos jours, which calculate, enumerate, and measure the cost of our digested sins. We shuffle forward reading the litanies on our packets: ‘…of which sugars, 3.5 grams. emulsifiers, E470, salt, water. Amen.’

And so it was with triumph that I walked away from Tesco Metropolitan Cathedral, New Malden, the other day having spotted an error in their pricing. Four bottles of superb (and usually very expensive) Rioja for £5. I snaffled them and headed for the checkout, where, after I had waited 25 minutes for service, I had the privilege of paying.

I conveyed my wine safely home, but, after the minor frisson of triumph had passed, I felt unclean for I had worshipped at the altar of a God in which I didn’t believe.

I can, however, report that he does produce some excellent Rioja.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

A piece of the action

I have decided to take over.

With the financial world going mad (for example, I now seem to be the sole owner of The Royal Bank of Scotland), I have decided to scare the government by declaring a redundancy package that guarantees me £1 squillion, unless my toxic assets are quantitively eased and forthwith. Obviously, they will cave in as soon as they realise I know what I am talking about.

I once convinced my bank manager to give me a vast overdraft at next to no interest by firmly using a phrase I learned from a P.G. Wodehouse book. In it, the impecunious main character is touching a rich friend for a substantial loan. “Credit is the life-blood of commerce,” he reasons, “without which, the marts of trade lack elasticity.”

I remember the bank manager looking at me with what I took to be reverence, but might, I now realise, have been pity. Either out of fear or wisdom he signed off the rhino immediately.

As the heads of world governments gathered in London the other week to posture and bluster I sensed that these bank managers of the world’s economy have no more idea than my b.m. of what is afoot. Some, half admitting it, say that the situation is new.

But it is they who have created a financial world in which there are no fixed points, where all financial definition became fluid. Concepts that were once fixed to a defined quantity or essence for two or three hundred years, now roam around the place stretching their muscles and looking dazed. It’s as if your living room furniture had suddenly learned to waltz. Too late, the bank managers are realising that once exposed to the joys of free movement fiscal entities will not voluntarily chain themselves back to the oars. As the World War One song put it about soldiers exposed to the delights of the city: “How you gonna keep them down on the farm, After they’ve seen Paree?”.

But to come back to the beginning. I have decided to take over. Capitalism has clearly run its course. What we need is something to replace it. The following are my proposals – a simple Five Year Plan.

1) Year One. Introduce democracy. It has not been tried before. The people will vote legislation directly, using small voting computers the size of a remote control, releasing politicians from the necessity of fiddling their expenses and telling us that honesty in public life is critical.
2) Year Two. Build tumbrils and plenty of them. I don’t know why, it just seems prudent.
3) Year Three. Spangles will be reintroduced, and Opal Fruits will have their name restored.
4) Year Four. Those in favour of capital punishment will be guillotined. I knew we’d need those tumbrils.
5) Year Five. I finally succumb to pleas from many notable figures in the community to emerge from my private life in New Malden where I tend goats. My refusal to accept the title His Majesty, Roger, the Lord New Malden and a tax free pension for life of an undisclosed sum, is drowned out in a tumult of praise. Although much against so many of my principals, I am forced to accept the generous will of the people who wish to express their profound gratitude. A place of honour is prepared for me in the Pantheon. I die of a surfeit of Spangles, which are consequently outlawed, though some feel sure it was a conspiracy among Opal Fruits. Posthumously I am decorated with the Garter and made a Knight of the Goat. I am remembered with love and affection for minutes by a flock in New Malden. In time my legacy is reviewed by historians who agree that my single greatest achievement was the resurrection of the tumbril industry.