I was in London last week. Passing along Cheapside, I saw a Pearlie King and Queen dressed in all their costermonger finery, inducting Brad Pitt, Jimmy White and James Blunt into the cockney rhyming slang dictionary. A proud moment for all, Im sure.
Pregnant women in South Yorkshire are to be paid to stop smoking. The 12-month scheme is being piloted in Rotherham and will reward pregnant women with £20 in shopping vouchers if they can kick their cigarette habit. The women must stop for three weeks and will be rewarded with an extra £20 if they can give up for a month. Ker-ching. Fuck me. What next? Seriously. Come on. What about an initiative where shoplifters are paid not to steal? How about we give alcoholics hard cash not to get absolutely and completely bladdered before noon? What sort of society are we living in? Why this public guilt over the life choices of some feckless fucker who cant even put the interests of their own unborn child before their need to spark up a fag? But its for the child! I know it is. But is that the point? Is this a solution to shit parenting? What sort of precedent is this? It makes me feel uncomfortable. As uncomfortable as if I were to wear a white suit and sit in my own shit and piss on a National Coaches trip to London, via Aberdeen, listening to Black Lace on a loop at 120db while being repeatedly poked in the eye by Timmy Mallet who is sat next to me for the entire fucking endless bastard journey making me listen to every shite twatting joke hes ever told, only to get within the sight of Buckingham Palace to think to myself, Hmmm, did I lock the front door? It doesnt feel right. What sort of green light are we giving with initiatives (a contradiction in terms if ever there was one) like this? Where is this leading to? And where, by the way, is the woman who doesnt smokes twenty quid? Of course, she doesnt need our help, does she? She can soldier on. The smug, clean-living fucker. Its yellow-fingered, 60-a-day Janice that we need to take care of. Janice with her teeth like cribbage pegs made from rotten cheese. So what does the coughing, emphysema-bound, cancer-harbouring, smelly, spineless, flem-hawking individual involved actually gain from the exercise? Other than, obviously, a £20 voucher to blow on microwave ready meals and gallons of ice cream. Will they learn anything? Yeah, they will: that someone else will always be there to pick up your shit for you. To wipe your wobbly, scabby, flatulent, tobacco-reeking arse when youre too idle to do it for yourself. Have a child because at the end of the day youll not be responsible for it. Crack on. And youll get paid! Bargain! And even be ENTITLED to a FREE HOUSE! Bingo! Will it make anyone stop and think about the consequences of their own actions? Well, when I was carrying you I thought about stopping smoking, Jay-lo, you know so you didnt end up with deformities from any one of the four thousand poisons in cig smoke or brain damage from taking on board degraded oxygen, but Ive got to have my little pleasures, havent I? Thats not too much to ask, is it? It wasnt until I got a twenty quid voucher for Netto that I finally summoned up even the anorexic vestige of will power to knock it on the head for a week or two. Mmm-mmmm, I had a right crisp and Special Brew binge that week! Will it challenge anyones responsibilities to others? Others including their own children. Will it cause anyone to query the effects of nicotine and the smoking-related poisons on a foetus? Or like Pavlovs dog is this another bell whose come and get it chime will have them slavering for more? Will we reach a point where we have some pasty-faced cider whore holding a huge knife to her offsprings throat screaming: Get me some Frosty Jack and a packet of twenty right now or Ill cut his fucking head off and wear it like a glove! I swear down! OK, love, Im sorry youre running dry, Ill run down to the Rhythm & Booze and get you four litres in. Do you want a bag of Haribo while Im going? How about some Lemon and Scampi Nik-naks? I can grab you a kebab on my way back if youd like. Doner all right? Chilli sauce? And then what? Were fucked. What happened to people doing something because it was the right thing to do? Because you had a responsibility to do it. What happened, for crying out loud, to conscience? Ah, but, I forgot, personal choice. The freedom to fail. We must coddle the unthinking individual and let them have their own selfish, festering way. We must cherish their cheap proclivities to keep them on side. To control them. This is a scaled down version of American foreign policy in the 1970s and 80s. Pregnant mothers are the Contra rebels of the Pot Noodle generation. Jamie Oliver is the ranting, thick tongued Manuel Noriega of home cuisine, secretly backed by the insidious support and black budget of the Government Foods Standard Agency. The recipe for a Top Secret variant on Welsh Rarebit made with genetically modified Soya exchanged at the Woolley Edge service station. Fifteen minutes, Gas Mark 3, just let it simmer. Thankless teenagers on Incapacity Benefit because of acne (recruited by the government to fiddle the unemployment figures) are the DWP backed Mujahideen of 21st Century British society. We are nurturing our own nemesis. We are the architects of our own downfall. We are watering the Triffids. And you aint seen nothin yet.
The news channels are reporting something before its happened again. Predicting the resignation of Michael Martin as Speaker of the House of Commons. Predicting the reactions of other MPs. Predicting the reactions of the newspapers. Predicting the reactions of the public. Martin will be the first speaker to quit in 300 years.
I actually felt sorry for Michael Martin yesterday. Gorbels Mick. Despite his £4,000 taxi fares paid for by the tax payer. Despite his grace and favour flipping. Despite his apparent attempts to snuff out enquiries into MPs expenses claims. I watched the live Commons debate before I left for work and thought hed been served up to the public as a scapegoat. Martin cut midway through his prepared speech by the self-righteous. Heckled and brow-beaten. He looked disorientated. He had nothing to say. He shambled out his words. He halted. He was lost. Live on TV. In front of the nation. He was suddenly being held to account for the venality of the entire House and he knew he had no come back. It was like watching a bear, tied to a post, being pulled to pieces by dogs. The very dogs that hed tried to protect.
And so the hypocrisy rolls on.
Im finding the trailer for the new Michelle Pfeifer film Cheri, mildly annoying. Its not so much Pfeifer, who is definitely worth an hour, but the flash moments when Kathy Bates appears on screen barking out a laugh like a constipated seal. Two of the three times shes featured in the trailer have her in the throws of some kind of apoplectic fit. Head thrown back, cavernous mouth open, feet off the floor, belly, boobs and chins straining with hilarity. Im sure Bates has enormous range as an actress, she was brilliant in Misery, I think shed probably make a fine Gertrude in Hamlet (lets face it, with Lenny Henry in Othello, anythings possible. I cant way to see Bobby Davros Julius Caesar opens at the Barnsley Metrodome this Autumn) but I imagine Bates casting sessions these days consist of little more than a brief run through of the script and some Hollywood exec going, Thats great, Kathy, you really tapped into the emotional depth. Now, can you do that laugh for us. You know, the one where you look like youre choking on a pretzel. The one you did in Fried Green Tomatoes and Annie and Titanic and every other bloody film youve ever been in. Come on, give us that trademark bellow. Fancy, as an actor, being typecast not only by a role but by a bodily expression? And Harry H. Corbett thought he’d got it bad being tagged as a comic turn following his brilliance as Harold Steptoe. But to be pigeon-holed on some bodily tick alone. That must make for hard work. It never happened to Laurence Olivier, did it? You never saw Peter Brook at the Old Vic shout out to Olivier from the wings, Do your fart, Larry, like the one in Richard III! You know, where you raise one knee and pull down on an imaginary chain! No. Gielgud was never called upon to belch loudly and expressively at any given cue. Still, I cant hear Eddie Murphy complaining. Or Kathy Bates. Come on, Kathy, one more time. With feeling.