Comic verse: Sales and philosophy

As notorious as our gales

Are the January sales,

Where you always – yes you do –

Find a bargain, if not two.

When an urge within you surge,

Your account you swiftly purge

(It’s now down to but a dime)

And have jolly, jolly time

Buying all that lovely stuff

Until husband says, “Enough!”

Then you wait, all tense and pale,

Till the February sale,

When you go, with joy and glee,

On another spending spree.

It’s now March – the sale is on,

Blimey, how the time has gone.

Then it’s April, May and June;

All those sales – oh, what a boon!

(Don’t you love the current trend

With the sales that never end?)

When your hubby grabs your purse,

You protest: “It could be worse:

If you think about it, honey,

I am saving lots of money!”

At which point, you hear a groan

And see hubby lying prone;

This prevents a likely scrape,

And you make your bold escape

With a ponder that goes thus:

Why can’t men be more like us?

Miscellaneous: my irreverently satirical book An Alien in a Madhouse

Just to let you know that my irreverent political – and grammatical – satire, An Alien in a Madhouse, is now available in both electronic and paperback format (at £1.96 and £6.99 respectively).This jocular book satirises the bureaucracy rampaging across quango-land, the vagaries of office life, the comicality of jargon beloved of officialdom, political correctness gone mad and the mind-boggling assortment of language blunders perpetrated by fully paid-up members of the educational establishment. The book, which also attempts to defuse some of the usage booby-traps strewn across English, is interspersed with humorous ditties which make light-hearted political and grammatical points and which underline the irreverence of the narrative voice. Below are given both links and the initial section of the first chapter.



An Alien in a Madhouse

“I beg your pardon?”
“Fart here.”
“Just like that?”
“Just like what?”
“Well, I am not sure I can manage to … manage it just like that.”
“Manage what?”
“What you’ve just told me to do … ”
“You what?”
“Well, you’ve just told me to … to … you know.”
“I haven’t told you to do nothing.”
“Well, you did say to … to break wind.”
“No, no – fart; that’s, like, what we are.”
“That’s what you are?”
“It is.”
“Terribly sorry, but I’m not with you.”
“That’s what we are, like: the Fore … Forest … umm … Foremost Authority for the Regulation of Transformation.”
“O-o-o-o, I see: FART.”
“That’s what I’ve been saying, like.”
“Yes, no … I mean, it’s obviously an acronym.”
“No, no, it’s an authority.”
“No, I meant … oh, never mind. And what do you do exactly?”
“We deliver and stuff.”
“You deliver? Like in a maternity ward?”
“How do you mean a maternity ward?”
“Well, that’s what a maternity ward does: delivers babies.”
“We don’t have no babies here.”
“So what do you deliver?”
“Oodles, like.”
“Oodles of what?”
After what sounded like a deep sigh at the end of the telephone line, there followed a slight pause, itself followed by some rustling accompanied by several more sighs. “Just a sec; where’s the blinking list? That’s it, we … we deliver directors … umm, sorry, directives, police … oops, no, policies, reports, guides … no, no, it says guidelines, circles, umm … circulars, surveys, degrees, no, no, decrees, handbooks, app … appen … appendices, annexes, schedules, memo … randa, pre … pre … oh shucks, precepts?”
“Yes, it would be precepts.”
“ … specifications, explanations, ex … exhortations and …. and im-plo-ra-tions, like.”
“You deliver them all?”
“That’s what all them people say and stuff. And we deliver statements. And certificates. And, like, customer focus.”
“And customer focus? Wow. So you are some sort of delivering organisation, is that right?”
“That’s what all them people say and stuff.”
“But what’s that about regulating? In your name?”
“’Cos we also regulate and stuff.”
“Wow, you must be busy. You deliver and regulate.”
“All the time. And on overtime.”
“And on overtime? Wow. So you regulate transformation?”
“That’s what all them people say and stuff.”
“What sort of transformation?”
“I don’t know, do I? They didn’t tell me nothing. I‘m on work experience here. I’m doing an Intermediate Certificate in Handling the General Public, like. Stage Two.”
“Stage Two?”
“Yes. Stage Two comes after Stage One.”
“Does it really?”
“It does, it does! I’ve, like, got Stage One already.”
“Congratulations. You handle the general public very well.”
“That’s what all them people say and stuff.”
“I’m sure you’ll sail through your Stage Two. You’ve made FA … your organisation sound very intriguing: I’d love to find out more about it. Do you think I could speak to your manager?”
“You could – if he wasn’t in a meeting.”
“Is he in a meeting?”
“He’s, like, always in a meeting.”
“Maybe I could phone him when he’s finished?”
“When he’s finished, he’ll go to another meeting.”
“He must be terribly busy.”
“That’s what all them people say and stuff.”
“What about his manager? Is he available?”
“Is she available?”
“That would be a first.”
“Would it? Why?”
“Every time Callum is in a meeting, Fenella is in the same meeting, like.”
“I see. So how could I find out more about FA … about your organisation?”
“Go to our website, like.”
“Good idea. The address is … ?”
“Of course – could have guessed. You’ve been very helpful.”
“No worries. We pride us … ourself on delivering customer focus and stuff.”
“Evidently. Thank you.”
“Wait, wait, there is a survey.”
“A survey?”
“There’s customer satisfaction surveys on our website, like – will you do one about this call and stuff?”
“With pleasure. Good luck with your Stage Two.”

Actually, I had no intention at all of approaching the Foremost Authority. For a start, I had no idea of its existence. I was merely trying to report a non-collection of my rubbish. You know how it is: those refuse collectors tear round the neighbourhood like demons, tattoos flashing, nose rings dangling, attitude oozing, and, invariably, they miss some bins. This has been happening more often recently, actually. So you call the council, and they put you on hold and play you some soporific music, and, after fifteen minutes, they put you through to a nice lady, who says sorry, you’ve got the wrong department, whereupon she puts you on hold for another fifteen minutes (by which time the soporific tunes have rendered you somewhat torpid), after which you do get through to another nice lady, who is, mercifully, the right lady.
The right lady asks you whether you are sure that your rubbish hasn’t been collected, to which you, having now perked up, reply that yes, you are quite sure. She then asks whether you left your bins in front of your house, to which you reply that you did indeed leave your bins in front of your house. The right lady then enquires whether this was on the correct day, to which you reply that it was. The right lady then questions your general recollection of events, suggesting that you might be new to this address and not familiar with how things are done, to which you offer your assurances that your general recollection of events is entirely correct and that you have lived at the same address for the past 27 years and have always left the bins right in front of your house on a Tuesday evening for a Wednesday morning collection, this occasion being no exception.
There then follows at the other end a moment’s silence, after which the right lady says, “I see.” But just when you think that you are finally getting through, she plays the trump card. At least you think she thinks it’s her trump card because there is no disguising a triumphant note in her voice, “But our contractors haven’t reported any non-collections this morning.” You then say that of course they haven’t reported any non-collections because they can’t have noticed that they have left your rubbish behind. After all, if they had noticed that they were leaving a full bin behind, they would have emptied it, wouldn’t they? But, as you are saying this, the surrealism of the whole scenario suddenly hits you hard, and you actually start doubting your own sanity. Luckily, the right lady cannot see your bewildered expression and finally concedes defeat. “All right then, I will log your non-collection and notify the contractor.”
“So are they going to come back for my rubbish today?”
“Today? No, no, no.”
“Why not? It’s not even 10 o’clock yet, so they must still be in the area.”
“That’s not how it works.”
“How does it work?”
“You have to give it 48 hours.”
“But why?”
“Because you have to give it 48 hours.”
“And what if they don’t come back within 48 hours?”
“You will have to wait till the next collection.”
“But, look, it’s beginning to smell already. By next week, it will have stunk the whole neighbourhood out.”
“Well, if they don’t come back, you could call again, I suppose.”
When the refuse collectors fail to turn up within the next 48 hours, you call the council again, and they put you on hold and play you some soporific music … you get the picture. The script will be slightly different this time – but not much. So, anyway, I had been trying to call the council but obviously misdialled the number, and now I was seriously intrigued by the Foremost Authority with its mysterious regulation and transformation. And delivery, of course.

Mini-rant 1: The mangled apostrophe

NOTE: This is the first in a series of my “rants”, which break up the narrative sequence of the posts and are shorter than them. The rants (divided into: maxi-rants, midi-rants, mini-rants and micro-rants) will be interspersed with “proper” posts, more of which will follow, of course.

The Apostrophe Protection Society should be delighted: not too long ago, a local newsletter notable for its highly creative use of English carried an article entitled ‘Women’s’ (sic) World Day of Prayer 2014’ – I kid you not. Who says that the apostrophe is endangered? The correct form is, of course, women’s – simply because women is an irregular plural, i.e. a plural not formed through the addition of the suffix -(e)s. While women’s’ might well be a world’s first, the apostrophe is a much abused mark. But, as this is supposed to be a mini-rant, I will recount only one other example: a teacher I once worked with demonstrated a remarkable consistency in spelling peoples’. All my assurances that it was, in fact, people’s fell on deaf ears, my learned colleague insisting that “the apostrophe goes at the end because people is a plural form”, and no amount of elucidation vis-à-vis irregular plurals would persuade her otherwise. What did she teach (and examine)? English as a Foreign Language. I wondered whether I had stumbled across a hitherto unreported reason why some immigrants from non-English-speaking countries trying to learn English in Britain failed to make sufficient progress. I still do …