By Billy the Dog McGraw, Enfield Allotments, Middlesex.
I have rarely seen my old mate Tony Attwood as close to tears as he was when he approached me this morning on the allotment. I was just nattering to that Dennis Bergkamp who grows carrots next to my plot, when Tony rushed up.
“They’re all arguing with each other,” he sobbed. “I can’t stop them. Some of them are getting so negative I don’t know what to do. And I’ve just been arrested for writing a blog while driving on the A1.”
“Was that the Hertfordshire Police or the Met?” I asked, and he told me it was Herfordshire. I assure him I could fix the issue using the technicality that the law only prohibits using mobile phones, not laptops while driving.
But Tony was not to be appeased. “What do I do about the bloggers?” he sobbed.
“Well,” I tells him (I often say “well” because it makes it sound as if I am about to say something important, and usually I am), “well, we have to look at what the press is saying.
“Look at today’s headlines. ‘Gerrard hails Torres as best striker in the world.’ It is meaningless of course because nobody has hailed anyone as anything for about 200 years, but it makes the supporters who know their club is bankrupt feel good for five seconds.
“And then there’s ‘Drogba urges Chelsea to keep winning‘ which is a bit like saying ‘George Brown urges bankers to stop stealing everyone’s money.’ Nice thought, but not really much related to reality.
“Even that is better than the plainly meaningless ‘Strachan still wants Middlesbrough return for Bent.’ Or ‘Begovic urges Portsmouth to seize opportunity.’
“Or how about the funniest of all, ‘King predicts top four finish for Spurs‘. Except for maybe ‘Franco blames fixture pile up for West Ham injuries‘.”
Tony thought about those last two. “I didn’t know Prince Charles had taken over the throne,” he said at last, “or that the ex-dictator of Spain is still alive and supporting a club that is three stops from Barking. Where do they get these headlines?”
“From a game called ‘Man Bites Dog’,” I told him. “I got one in John Lewis’ last week. You have 200 cards with words on, take five at random and have to make a headline.” I put down my pitchfork, got out my pack of the game, and dealt out five cards. They read
Terror, Snubs, General, Cruel, Romantic.
“That’s not a headline,” protested the poor innocent lamb by my side. I noticed that Dennis had stopped digging also and was looking on with interest.
So I rearranged the cards and suggested, “Romantic general snubs cruel terror”
“How about ‘Terror general snubs cruel romantic’,” said Tony.
I told him that was the point. Five words and you get two meanings. Tony wanted to play the game again, but I told him there was more to this than a simple game.
“If you want reality you need to step outside the generated neo-transient by-modal accelerating black energy field of modern journalism and think for yourself, think hard and make it happen. When you are right, crow about it, when you are wrong, dig a deep hole, climb into it, pull the covers over your head, dig a tunnel and see if you can come out somewhere in Shropshire.”
“Why Shropshire?” he asks still obviously not getting it.
I look at the poor mite aghast. “You know nothing, do you?” I said. “Shropshire is where PG Wodehouse set some of his best books. In the writings of Wodehouse you can see that black is white, green is pink, turpentine is champagne, and Dubai is on the Isle of Wight. Just let your mind fly.
“So what do I do?” he asked.
I patted the poor goat on the head and gave my copy of ‘Man Bites Dog’ to Dennis who started translating it into Dutch. “You have three choices. First, you can play the headline game and see what comes up. ‘King predicts top four finish for Spurs’ has obviously been written in this way. Second you can be lazy and just repeat what everyone else says.
“Third you can think for yourself.”
“My goodness, that’s revolutionary stuff,” said Tony clearly taken aback. “I don’t think I have ever heard anyone say that before. Think for yourself. Bloody hell! If people started thinking for themselves…”
“MPs who fiddled their expenses would be arrested, bankers who stole our money would be hung out on metal spikes, children in schools would be encouraged to write poetry, draw and create music all day long, and people would start expressing original opinions.”
“But that’s against the law isn’t it?” said Tony. “Original opinion was outlawed in the Act of Union in 1707. We would all become cultural terrorists.”
“Indeed,” I agreed. “Fun eh?”
“Diaby kicks the ball so hard it goes into orbit, hits a Russian satellite, comes straight back down, bounces on the refs head and from there into the goal. After that it is one way traffic,” replied Tony, and I gave him a hug.
(c) Billy the Dog 2009