Pissed-off Toff rants about assorted topics, but is relieved to come across a TV series in which, for once, there are no black actors.
I have two bank accounts, one of them with NatWest, from whom I recently received an email headed “We’re removing your overdraft limit.” It occurs to me that the headline of the email and the contents that followed perfectly represent these Orwellian times, in which deceit, lies and propaganda are the order of the day.
Take the language, first of all. Spelled out in bold, “We’re removing your overdraft limit” would appear to mean that NatWest were proposing to offer me an unlimited overdraft. Obviously that is not the case. What they mean, and what they should have written, is: “We are withdrawing your overdraft facility.”
Straight away we have one of the essential precursors of the totalitarian world: misuse of language. And the misuse of language – lying, to you and me – continues.
“Hello, Pissed-off,” they start out, making annoying use of my Christian name, rather than addressing me by my surname. “We want to help you manage your borrowing and ensure your overdraft limit is right for you.” And how are they going to ‘help’ me ‘manage my borrowing’? Easy: by making sure I can’t borrow anything at all. “Why are we doing this?” they then ask, rhetorically, before explaining that they like to “help keep [their] customers financially secure.”
Here, then, we have withdrawal of a service presented, entirely mendaciously, as an enhancement for which we should be grateful. It puts me in mind of a notice I saw in the window of a local Post Office a while ago, just when lies were beginning to permeate public discourse. “This Post Office will shortly be closing in order to improve our service,” it read. I can’t prove this with a photo, but believe me, that’s what it said.
It also puts me in mind of a conversation I had, a while ago, with a manager at Coutts. He was trying to persuade me to close my account there, on the basis that it was not ‘appropriate’ for me to bank with them. “I know I don’t have much money,” I replied. “But banking with you is a luxury that I enjoy and that I am willing to pay for.” After which, we went round in circles for a while, before I said: “Listen, Mr Smith, if you no longer want any customers who aren’t rich, please say so, and I’ll close my account. Otherwise I’ll suit myself.” Unwilling to state the plain truth, Coutts soon found other ways to get rid of me.
And now the same is happening with NatWest, so that for the first time in twenty years I have no overdraft facility. For my own good, they say. Whereas the real reason is that like every other bank, they clearly see the approaching storm and are battening down the hatches. Claiming, all the time, that they are ‘here to support’ us.
As we have learned, almost every corporate statement and almost every corporate and government advert nowadays means the exact opposite of what it says. Thus we see the sovietisation of our society – a process that has been massively speeded up by the Coronavirus. Or rather, by our hysterical reaction to it.
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I have just acquired an official badge which exempts me from wearing one of those hateful face-masks. I am not sure how I achieved this. It was in the early hours of the morning, and I might have been drunk. All I remember is that a google search took me to a government website from which I downloaded a PDF bearing the legend “I am exempt from wearing a face covering.”
Excited by this small victory over the tyranny under which we now live, I printed off two copies and posted one to a friend. Who, imagining that I had obtained the exemption in an underhand manner, rang me not to praise my resourcefulness, but to give me a bollocking. So I explained that I had made no false declaration and had told no lies, and that anyone who wants it can get this badge. It’s there for the asking.
Anyhow, here’s a photo of it, along with one of my solid 18-carat gold pens … a Parker Premier, since you ask. Hallmarked N for 1987, it contains just under one troy ounce of pure gold, giving it the highest gold content of any pen that Parker ever made.
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The most depressing aspect of the Coronavirus is not the collapse of the economy or even being locked up at home. It is the way in which this not particularly serious disease has shown us to be a nation of nosy puritans, gutless serfs and scowling proles, with a mean and vicious streak itching to express itself by reporting our neighbours to the police, or just by indulging in plain ordinary nastiness.
Thus when I stepped out into the road the other day, having failed to notice an oncoming van which was invisible from where I stood, the driver immediately vented his spleen. “Thanks for stopping for me, mate,” he yelled, before speeding off in an aggressive burst of acceleration. An unimportant incident, you might think. But symbolic.
I’d move to France or Italy if I could. Either one would do, since I speak the languages fluently. But I’m stuck here.
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Yes … stuck here in a country compared to which Cromwell’s England was a funfair. Increasingly, I take consolation from memories of a happier past, and I spend hours in front of the TV … watching not the news, but anything that takes me back to the pre-Covid 19 world.
I have therefore watched two or three episodes of Us, the new BBC drama series … and could hardly believe that there were no black actors in it. Since blacks are over-represented in adverts and on the telly by a factor of roughly ten in terms of the proportion of the population they make up, this is a notable development, most especially for the ultra-PC BBC.
The main attraction of the series, though, is not the absence of black actors where they have no place, but the fact that it stars Tom Hollander, whom I adore. However, it’s a disappointment. The theme of the series is a mid-life crisis involving Hollander and his wife, and his difficulties with his late-adolescent son. It is not made clear why the wife now thinks she wants to leave him. Certainly not infidelity or alcoholism on his part, or any identifiable fault. And as for the charmless, over-indulged boy who wishes only to stare at his smartphone, even less reason is given for his alienation from his entirely decent father.
In the end, one loses interest. Not even Tom Hollander can carry something this dull. Plus, was it wise of him to inform us, in The Sunday Times Magazine a fortnight or so ago, that he enjoys a spot of self-abuse from time to time? “If it’s raining, I might masturbate and doze,” he writes. Do we wish to know this? I think not.
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Perhaps to confirm my initial impression (unimpressed), I watched another episode of Channel 5’s All Creatures Great and Small, the remake of the great 1970s TV series. And yes, I got it right the first time. This new production commits the crime – all too common nowadays – of imposing the idiom and mindset of modern Britain on a bygone era.
“I’m offended,” says someone, entirely inappropriately for a drama set in the 1930s, when the culture and language of victimhood had not been thought of. “Don’t touch anything,” says the vet, when showing visitors around his surgery; thus grafting the modern obsession with health-and-safety onto a period which knew nothing of it. Similarly: “It was creating a serious trip hazard” … this with reference, I think, to a rake left lying on the lawn. Then we have “There’s a pint or three with your name on it [sic]” and “Moving forward in hope, that’s the key” and “I shall love you and leave you.” I could go on. It’s just awful. Don’t bother with this series.
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I continue to nurse my dislike of the Markle woman (I refuse to call her the Duchess of Sussex), which grows with gratifying speed. And why, I sometimes wonder, do we not hear from the former husband of this awful female? He must have a story to tell, and it must be worth millions. I’m pretty sure that I would cash in if I were him. Or perhaps he’s been bought off …
Similarly, I have occasionally wondered at the decency and discretion shown by Boris Johnson’s various ex-wives and ex-lovers. But are they breaking ranks? Petronella Wyatt spilled a few beans recently, in The Spectator. And now we hear from his first wife Allegra Mostyn-Owen, a sublime beauty whom I met in Paris in the early 1980s and then saw from time to time at Oxford. One suspects that Johnson treated her appallingly; and we learn that she has spoken to Tom Bower, who specialises in writing biographies of people who don’t want to be written about. In this case, our own prime minister.
But back to Meghan Markle. Until her former husband comes up with the goods, I’ll have to do it for him. Watch this space.