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DEAR HUGH 19

DEAR HUGH,

If I was the sort of ex-PR chap who had written or was writing or had a yen to write a novel that national newspapers had predicted would be a dark satire on rock stars and the cult of celebrity (I may have used the wrong consonant in “cult”), I would be very bothered by the story in Sunday’s Independent which revealed that the Government has banned books by spin-doctors. So I’m writing this under an alias.

Apparently the Government’s Cabinet Secretary has forbidden publication of the memoirs of former No.10 press officer Lance Price on the grounds that they are “completely unacceptable”.

Hmm. So I don’t suppose I’m going to have much luck with a tome entitled The Way-Hey Of Yesterday, then.

Not, you understand, that any such book exists, has ever existed or shall ever yet exist – as, under the terms of a confidentiality agreement the mere idea of the existence or non-existence of such I am not at liberty to allude to, let alone discuss, I of course do not have the slightest idea what you are, may be or will ever be thinking.

But just say, for the sake of argument, just pretending, that such a book did or might possibly exist – just playing, ‘cos it honestly doesn’t, really, I swear, really, you can look – then where’s the right in that?

I mean it’s all very well and OK for every bloody Prime Minister to publish his diaries and go tromping on tour across the USA lecturing about the time he pissed in the coffee when meeting the TUC, but if some poor assistant press officer wants to earn a bit of cash doubtless because he’s saving up to have his peculiarly-warlike forename changed by deed poll, then the shutters come down.

There’s New Democracy for you. Not, obviously, that this Draconian censorship will affect me; especially as I’m quite plainly writing just this, The New Gentleman’s Grumpy Old Cookbook.

Bit of a mouthful, I admit, but then I’ve been told that I usually am. But it has to be a long title because my book agent advises me that we have to get all the buzz-words in, like “new” – apparently “new” is good for the growing population of Alzheimer enthusiasts, it helps to persuade them they’ve not read it before. And of course “grumpy” and “old” is all the rage – in both senses of the word.

However, I think my agent is either not on the case or is on the gin because I don’t think people want grumpy old books anymore.

No, ever since The Da Vinci Code, god-bothering books are poised to be the new big thing.

You can scoff but I bet you a quid that following the claim in the papers at the weekend that Da Vinci author Dan Brown has earnt $140 Million from the 25 million copies that he’s flogged, as we speak there are novelists all over the planet rushing to knock up anything with a religious theme to it.

In fact I understand that Penguin is already repackaging Jack Kerouac’s On The Road To Damascus, Sebastian Faulks is editing up Bird Evensong and Delia Smith is filming a new series for the BBC to accompany her forthcoming guide How To Bake Communion Bread.

Even I consider it entirely prudent to re-title this here publication to

Christ! It’s The New Gentleman’s Grumpy Old Codebook.

I am fascinated by The Da Vinci Code. I haven’t read it, of course, but I take my Homburg off to Mr. Brown for having the inspired idea of claiming that Jesus somehow dodged crucifixion and married Mary Magdalene instead. I always thought there was something going on between them after I heard about that foot-washing business.

Mind you, I’m not so convinced by Dan’s other claim that the Jesus bloodline has continued down over the ages through Europe’s royal dynasties because if that’s true, then judging by our current lot over here there has plainly been a mix-up at the transfusion unit.

No, what fascinates me is the Catholic Church getting in such a tizz about the likelihood of Christ getting married. I don’t know if you’ve knocked about St. Peter’s Square of late but apparently there’s hell going on about this down there.

Call me a heathen, but I’m puzzled by this. How is it that the cardinals have a problem with Joseph standing up at the wedding reception and saying “As you can imagine, there was a bit of a row when Mary told me she was pregnant…” and yet they completely take it in the stride of their cassocks that there was this chippie who created a bit of a stir by walking on Galilee and caused havoc by interfering with the water at the Nazareth meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous?

I’ve always quite liked Christ. I thought he was what we used to call dead cool. Well, dead, obviously. But you know what I mean. For starters he pretty much inspired Our Look in the Seventies. In my teens, I fancied being like Jesus; all that healing with the laying on of hands stuff seemed fab.

In fact it wasn’t until I first put my hand inside a pair of knickers at the back of the cinema that I realised that being a healer possibly wasn’t the blessing that it was made out to be.

But, all in, Jesus was the guv’nor; he didn’t shave his head like some gods we’ve known and he didn’t seemingly over-eat like that permanently-squatting Buddha (it’s no wonder you’re fat, get up and walk about a bit). And, unlike some of his Indian equivalents, Jesus had the advantage of not seeming to possess an implausible number of additional arms and legs.

And I always found that him not having the face of a green elephant was a bit of a bonus too.

No, I’ve long had a bit of a quiet thing about Jesus; good with words – in fact, for a bloody carpenter, brilliant with words. Never sitting about just asking for tea or saying “you’ll be needing an RSJ for that”. No, it’s “Do unto others as you would have done to thyself” – top stuff! “Love one another with a pure heart” – good one.

In fact it has always irritated me that just as soon as some twat invented the Church as a haven for dodgy blokes who only want to get togged out in skirts on Sundays, everybody seemed to forget about the love and peace stuff. Shame, that; life could have been what I believe is popularly known as a gas if the men with rules hadn’t moved in.

They’re buggers, men with rules.

_________________________________________

But before we sort them out, can I just interject to make the say for common sense after just listening to a fucking idiot Home Office minister talking gibberish on Radio 4.

Cabinet member Hazel Blair was interviewed on the Today programme about the alarming new rise in the number of violent crimes and the association of the increase in the drinking of alcohol.

Not unreasonably, the interviewer asked her how this sat with the Government’s bizarre obsession with extending the drinking hours in Britain (currently 11.00 am to 11.00 pm) to 24-hour knocking it back.

This is what she said (and before reading, please contemplate that this woman is expected to be intelligent): “Why should the vast majority of people who go out to enjoy themselves, and who want to be able to get a drink after they’ve been out somewhere else, be penalised because of the behaviour of a small minority?”.

Cretin. The “vast majority” of people don’t drink after 11.00 pm because they have families to go home to/jobs to hold down in the morning. Twelve hours allowance of constant drinking is enough for the “vast majority”.

The only people who will continue to drink if pubs are open all day is this “small minority”. As a consequence of the extended licensing hours, the “small minority” will simply get more drunk (and therefore more problematic).

In other words Blair, you fool, by extending the licensing hours you are merely creating the conditions for the “small minority” to act even more anti-socially. 24-hour drinking is for nobody’s benefit other than drunks – because “normal” people don’t need/won’t want the facility.

It’s like leaving a pile of coke on the kitchen table at a dinner party; only the junkies will use it (well, I will).

But the point is lost on the moronic Minister because (get this, it’s classic) she claims that by extending the “flexibility” of opening hours so that you can drink around the clock, that will lead to “less trouble” (her claim) because it means that “not everybody will be leaving the pub at once, and it’s that (all leaving together at closing time) that causes the problems”.

No, it is not. It’s too much alcohol that causes the problem. And if you extend its availability you are merely exacerbating the problem.

Nobody “normal” regularly needs a drink at four in the morning. I would especially like to ask Ms. Blair (and, by the way, how come Tony is handing out Cabinet posts to his relatives?) and her mates in Whitehall , when was it, precisely, that you last felt the urge to go out to the pub at 4.00 am ?

And here’s another fallacy; I have heard Parliamentarians claim in the House that the British licensing laws need to be extended “in order to bring them in line with the opening hours of bars in other parts of the European Community”.

Crap. During the past three years I have visited Florence , Paris , Rome , Vienna , Moscow , St. Petersburg , Barcelona , Prague , Oslo , Copenhagen , Dublin , Stockholm , Budapest , Munich , Dortmund , Hamburg , Rotterdam , Lisbon and a bunch of Greek islands and lesser German cities besides, the combination of which is relatively representational of the EC.

With the exception of Barcelona (where they are mad) I have NEVER found bars open beyond 11.00 pm in any of these cities.

Yes, I am sure that if you ferret about for long enough off Broadway in Gdansk or scout around the housing projects of Tirane in Albania you can probably find some weasel who might grudgingly open a bottle of an ether-like local liqueur for you (if you pay enough and promise to marry his pig-looking daughter) but surely the drinking habits of a whole Continent cannot be represented in the anarchic practices of flea-pits.

As I have warned before, the Government is up to no good with this elastic licensing. They want more people pissed on the streets because that will cause public uproar and then they’ll be given the excuse to implement their real intention, which is to introduce identity cards.

And I think you’ll find that the Government’s fetish for ID cards is probably just because Gordon Brown and Blair have secretly gone halves on privately purchasing a factory that will knock out each card for a tenner. Got to think of the retirement, folks.

___________________________________

Mind you, this is all entirely academic because I learnt yesterday that there are moves afoot for Britain to be made a partially-dry state. This will be the consequence of calls, reported in The Independent, from the Luton Angry Young Muslims Association.

According to the leader of this group, an accountant called Sayful Islam, apparently, Britain should be made a Muslim caliphate.

The Independent did not bother to explain what a caliphate is, so I looked it up, as I prefer not to live in intellectual ignorance.

A caliphate is where things are run by a caliph. Caliph is the title given to “a successor of Mohammed as ruler of the Islam world”. In other words, the likes of the late (but honorary Grumpy) Ayatollah Khomeni.

Personally this does not bother me as I do not drink, virgins don’t offend me and I reckon chaps like us would have got on with King Khomeni like a house of fire because, as I say, he always struck me as being as grumpy as fuck. One of the club, then.

But I’m wondering how this move to institute a segregation of power is going to sit with the boys in the pin-stripes in Westminster . What sort of protests are they going to howl when they discover that they no longer have any jurisdiction over Luton , Leeds and the Ladybrook Road in Birmingham ?

To me, it makes perfect sense to extend assemblies much as we already have in Scotland and (risibly) Wales; everyone who is Christian (or at least trots along drunk to Midnight Mass at Christmas) gets to be ruled over by QEII and our esteemed MPs and everyone who is Muslim gets to be ruled by this Caliph chap.

But does this mean that those who live in Buddhist hotspots have to be ruled by Tina Turner? I’m not sure that would work because the State Opening of Islington (man) would be constantly delayed by her indecision of which wig to wear.

However, in celebration of Buddhism (which I like); here follows the epicure Michael Stone’s suggestions for a vegan feast. You may think this to be a contradiction in terms, but you’ll be surprised.

Best,

BG (blinding alias, eh?)

Comments

Dear G, sorry but I have to disagree, bars in Italy usually close from 12.00 pm till 2 p.m, but it's our culture, we usually go out at night at 9.30 pm..Above all in Rome! They eat at 8.30 pm!

Ah, BG, just a question, will we ever read your bloody book??

In Milan (Italy), quite all bars are usually opened till midnight....but if you go in the city centre, you can find different bars opened till 1 or 2 in the morning. There is a lot of people around by that time, drinking is not forbidden and there are no troubles at all. But, of course, if people drink all day....easily to understand there is a problem there.

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