My thoughts on politics, if any?
To spare two lines would be too many
My thoughts on politics, if any?
To spare two lines would be too many
I thought my life was going well until I watched TV
Where some young thing in yoga pants screamed: Get off that settee!
She told me that I eat too much and ought to exercise
And should feel guilty every time I supersize my fries.
I changed the channel just in time because I got upset
Only to hear a psychic say he talks to my dead pet
I simply had to call him up and he’d unleash his power
Connecting me with Fido for just fifty bucks an hour.
Another channel change heard women speak of me with scorn
Declaring we’d be better off if no more boys were born
Apparently we’re toxic and we break a lot of hearts
I think these women, if they could, would cut off all my parts.
A cooking show chastised me for my love of microwaves
Ignoring their convenience and the time this gadget saves
I’m now to slow-cook every meal and simmer under lids
So suppertime’s now midnight – explain that one to the kids.
I’m also nowhere green enough because I still eat meat
Instead of chewing watercress whilst farming in bare feet
They warn our homes are killing us – we shouldn’t live indoors
Though living off-grid didn’t really help the dinosaurs.
Global warming, rising crime and famine ‘round the globe
Because I don’t like rainbows I’ve been called a homophobe
I won’t be blamed for everything the media imparts
I only turned on Channel 4 to watch a bit of darts.
Of Cleopatra it was said
Her loves were so prolific
Recording all their antics led
To six new hieroglyphics
“Trump’s building a Death Star,” Laverne announced whilst reloading. “Good for him.”
“For building a Death Star?”
“For keeping busy during lockdown.”
“Is it a family affair?”
“He’ll fly it and Melania’s going to serve the drinks.
“I imagine there’ll be a launch…”
“By invitation only in the Space Force Lounge at Mar-A-Lago Int’l Airport.”
“Tickets won’t be cheap.”
“You could just buy a hat.”
“There’s a Space Force hat?”
“And a ring.”
“How do you know all this?” I was amazed.
“Forewarned is forearmed,” Laverne replied coolly, smelling the air. “They’re coming for us, so you and me need a plan.”
“I just have one question.”
“Why are you firing anchovies into that tree with a catapult?”
“Because the squirrel currently residing in it ripped open our garbage bags during the night and left a putrid mess for me to clean up this morning.”
“Two can play that game, my friend. Now get me Mar-a-Lago on the blower because he’s going to need a Rear Gunner.”
“I think my dry cleaner’s been wearing my clothes at weekends,” Laverne announced.
“How do you know?”
“Last night she posted a picture of herself in a dress identical to one I dropped off two days ago.”
“How’d she look in it?” I asked tentatively.
“Want me to cut her?”
“We’ll swing by on the way home. On Saturdays, the old man leaves around noon so she’ll be on her own,” she gave it some thought, “but right now I need something to eat.”
We’d journeyed into Manchester for lunch due to a lockdown in our own town. Nacho Daddy was a tapas bar in the student quarter where, upon entry, all diners were required to sign in and leave a contact phone number. Reaching for the clipboard Laverne hesitated, her hand hovering over the sign-in sheet. Upon reflection, she dropped a business card and ordered me not to touch anything.
“Him over there,” she gestured towards a table of businessmen as we sat down, “the fat one. He was the last person to touch the pen.”
“How do you know?” I was intrigued.
“Because his food hasn’t arrived yet and the ink was smudged.”
“Are you saying he licked the sign-in sheet?”
“I’m saying fat people sweat more than normal people.”
“Normal people?” I balked.
“Sure. Ever stood behind one waiting to buy an ice cream?”
“Babies are born fat and they’re normal.”
“Some babies are born fat; the greedy ones. The rest of us come out as nature intended. All I’m saying is, he was the last person to touch that pen and there isn’t enough hand sanitizer in the world-”
“-you should have been a spy.”
“How do you know I’m not?” she countered, now scrutinizing the cutlery. “For all you know I might be in the Secret Service.”
“Which would mean that’s not a real watch.”
“Well spotted, my friend. This gizmo’s actually a teeny, tiny voting machine.”
“And the brooch?”
“Emergency filler for Melania.”
“There’s not much of it,” I queried.
“Slovenians are notoriously small-boned.”
“Hey, you said Melania. I thought spies used code names while working in the field.”
“She goes by Lady Penelope because she starts every day with a bowl of Ferrero Roche cereal. Pure class.”
“And what’s his code name?”
“This month he’s Mr Whippy.”
“And last month?”
“The Mean Tangerine. He lets me choose them.”
“I love it. Got any survival tips?”
“Stay low and move fast. Oh, and stop chatting to strangers; it unnerves them,” Laverne chided. “Have you seen a waiter anywhere?”
“Right here,” a young man appeared. “What may I get you to drink?”
“Dark rum and Coke, please,” Laverne ordered. “Excuse me, but are you Portuguese?”
“I’m impressed,” he lit up. “Yes, I’m from Lisbon.”
“I’ve been to Lisbon. It’s beautiful.”
“I grew up there but my parents retired to The Algarve.”
“Can’t blame them. I wouldn’t want Madonna for a neighbour either,” I winced. “Crotchless panties flapping away on a clothes line just over the fence? No thank you.”
“The devil’s bunting,” Laverne’s eyes narrowed. “You weren’t warned about that in Fatima.”
“No, we weren’t,” our waiter laughed. “I did see her coming out of City Hall once. She looked straight at me.”
“Well, you be very careful because you’re just her type,” Laverne warned. “And while we’re on the subject: why are Iberian men so good looking anyway?”
“Because our mothers are all beautiful,” the waiter replied.
“Aww…” Laverne melted. “I’ll bet you go to church as well, don’t you?”
“St Joseph’s. I’ll bring your drinks over in a minute.”
“He seems like a nice guy,” I decided, watching as he made his way over to the bar.
“And that’s exactly what gets an agent killed on his first day. You’re too trusting.”
“What should I do?”
“I’ll taste-test your food before you eat it,” Laverne insisted.
“The last time you did that I hardly had any dessert left.”
“Rice pudding’s tricky. There’s a whole chapter on it.”
“So what are you going to do about your dry cleaner then?” I returned to matters.
“Mess with her head. I’m going to start dropping off dresses which are a size too small for me, but before I do I’ll change the labels.”
“Why bother going to all that trouble with the labels if she won’t be able to fit into them?”
“Because she’ll think she’s putting on weight and she won’t know why.”
“Whoa!” I sucked in my breath at the evil genius of it. “Most guys would just throw a punch and that would be the end of it.”
“Now where’s the fun in that?” Laverne purred. “Wouldn’t you rather watch your enemy slowly go mad?”
“Hey, would you ever mess with my head?”
“You’re not a Size 10.”
“Neither are you but answer the question.”
“What do you think?” she raised an eyebrow.
“I think you’re smart but I’m smart too.”
“Are you sure?”
“Yep,” I was adamant.
“So then, let me put this to you: have you ever ordered a dessert you know I don’t like?”
The new teacher entered the classroom and took her seat, greeting no one. Perpetua Tightwaters was having a bad day but her deportment made it impossible for the students to tell because she held only one expression in her armoury: disapproval. A fierce-looking woman with grey-blue eyes which devoured their prey whole, she could scan an entire school assembly at a glance over horn-rimmed glasses designed to gore enemies at close range. Thick, silvery hair which still held its lustre was meticulously hoovered up into a tidy bun, giving her the air of a grande dame of the Bolshoi who had long since exited the stage, but not the company. A smooth complexion required only a light touch from a modest palate; it was only her mauve lipstick which strayed into the adventurous, considered redundant by many because her lips were permanently pursed until they parted to issue a summons, reprimand or decree.
Perpetua Tightwaters loved crosswords, hated skateboarders, still bought her meat from the local butcher, donated to the Red Cross by direct debit, considered pet ownership overrated, knew her brother-in-law had a drinking problem before he did and stopped listening to Engelbert Humperdinck the day the singer made a joke about the Queen Mother during a live interview on Radio 4.
Alert and self-assured, she made few demands of others and expected the same courtesy in return, preferring discretion at all costs. During her morning commute into the city, Perpetua remained vigilant lest she should drop her guard for even a moment and, in doing so, make eye contact with a fellow commuter just bursting to talk about his gifted toddler’s progress at Junior Montessori. She had nothing against the public, she simply regarded them much as she did junior royals: odd-jobbers whose pivotal role might one day involve organ donation. In an increasingly unrecognisable world where meat was murder, Drag Queen Storytime had replaced Show & Tell and a pope had wavered ever so slightly on the question of married clergy, Perpetua Tightwaters chose to anchor herself in work, God and country for everyone’s sake.
In her opinion, social distancing wasn’t overkill.
It was overdue.
Prince Harry chose to jet abroad
And start his life anew
Her Majesty had thought it odd
He’d given not a clue.
While chess has always been about
The move that’s unforeseen
No pawn has ever taken out
A well-defended queen.
The President was heard to say
I am not wearing a toupée!
And though they’d said it just to kid
It really made him flip his lid.
So we’re out of the EU.
Although I’ve lived in the UK over 30 years, I still play the role of casual observer even during times of great upheaval. This does not mean I’m short of an opinion or two, it simply means I know when to put up and when to shut up. Regarding the national catharsis that is Brexit, something that never fails to amuse me is hearing the British refer to the continent as Europe.
“Why do you want to leave the EU?”
“It’s Europeans… they’re all bonkers.”
“But aren’t you Europeans as well?”
“Are Canadians Americans?”
For some it’s much more straightforward while for others it’s a case of perspective. After years of soul-searching, many British have reluctantly conceded that they have no affinity whatsoever with foreign tongues, Carl Jung and snail croquette in vinaigrette. They genuinely enjoy visiting their European cousins on holiday but also enjoy returning home again, to the UK, where they believe good fences make good neighbours. So the guilt complex and hand-wringing need to end because Britain is no different from anyone else who decides to call time on a relationship that isn’t working.
Growing up in Toronto I had classmates from Italy, Greece, France, Ukraine, Germany, Poland, Spain, The Netherlands, Hong Kong, Jamaica, Japan, Vietnam, Korea and thought nothing of it. Everyone was from everywhere. I myself was the son of immigrants and knew what it was like to be a hybrid kid: Canadian-sounding with accented parents who ate some pretty weird food.
And a large portion of my diet back then was ethnic humour – not racist humour – ethnic humour. There’s a difference and even as a kid I knew an ethnic joke from a slur because I was raised properly in a good community. On TV I’d watch Joan Rivers tell Jewish jokes, Richard Pryor tell black jokes, Dean Martin tell Italian jokes and Don Rickles tell jokes about everyone. And everyone laughed because we all recognised our own cultural eccentricities within them, along with those relatives certain jokes described to a tee.
Tell these same jokes today and you’ll be arrested by the Fun Police.
The referendum was, of course, about more than Polish plumber jokes. There were serious constitutional and inter-governmental sore points between the UK and the EU which neither side could resolve. This, however, doesn’t mean we’re no longer friends who can share a laugh among ourselves.
We’re simply getting rid of the joint bank account and the in-laws.
So then, what about the future?
Well, my guess is that nothing will change because nothing ever does. The British will still holiday in Europe, continentals will still come here to take selfies with the pigeons in Trafalgar Square and the French, as is their way, will continue to dine on creatures we wouldn’t even poke with a stick.
Plus ça change, eh?
I think at times, oh yes, I think
That I would make the best Rat Fink
The sort who listens to friends’ tales
Then snitches, sending them to jails
For foolery and crimes and tricks
(those deeds which get you two-to-six)
But then again I’d better not
They are a vengeful, wicked lot
Who’d want to even up the score
For they know me and I’ve done more…