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Knights of the Vine RUSSIA

Old Blighty

The View from Misty Albion
Text by Anth Ginn

s the nation crawls out of its festive hangover, a bill for the party has landed on the mat and it doesn’t look good. The UK is over a trillion pounds (£1,000,000,000) in the red and we’ve entered the era of fantasy economics. Nobody is sure how much the debt is, who it is owed to and who’s going to pay it back. And nobody really cares.

What the nation did care about was the death of Percy, despatched from this mortal coil, by a hit and run driver in sleepy Dorking. Percy was a popular character, loved by everyone. A shrine has been set up to his memory in St Martin’s churchyard, near his home. A local pub is selling T-shirts and mugs with his picture on, and the local council are checking to see if the trillion pound national debt can be stretched to a trillion and five hundred pounds, to pay for a statue in Percy’s memory.

The Chamber of Commerce in Olney, Illinois offered to ship an American replacement for Percy across to the UK, as they have over 200 Percy lookalikes in the town. Percy was an albino squirrel, and there is a fierce debate raging about whether Dorking’s ancient cockerel emblem should be replaced by a squashed squirrel. The cockerel was killed by a Saxon hit-and-run hay-cart driver in the fourteenth century.

The residents of Dorking weren’t as lucky as nine-year old Tasia Hadfield, member of the South of England Hamster Club, whose beloved pet, Claudia, rose from the dead like a hamster Jesus. Tasia found Claudia, stiff and cold on the floor of her cage. She was placed in a cardboard box with a couple of biscuits, a ring and a plastic bracelet, and buried in the garden.

Claudia, however, wasn’t ready for the big exercise wheel of eternity, and after a period of subterranean samadhi, she regained consciousness, tried on the bracelet and ring, munched a biscuit, then gnawed her way through the cardboard box and tunnelled back to the surface world, where she wandered back home, and was proclaimed the “messiah” by fellow hamsters. An official from the National Hamster Council said hamsters often go into shock and appear dead. Apparently, just before she went into a coma, Claudia watched an item on the BBCs Newsnight, which claimed that hamsters contain so much of the heavy metal antimony that they are too toxic to be held by children.

Mr Squiggles the toxic hamster.

The news item, of course, was referring to Mr Squiggles, the battery powered “Go-Go Hamster”. The US consumer information group, Good- Guide, found Mr Squiggles had 93 parts per million of antimony in his coat and 106 parts per million in his nose. Antimomy causes headaches and dizziness. However it has been estimated that a child will have to eat at least six toy hamsters, including batteries, before noticing any ill effects. Mr Squiggles’s heavy metal content further inflamed UK-US relations in the world of make-believe, already badly damaged by the international Harry Potter Feast row

Muggle lawyers, acting on behalf of Warner Bros, banned a woman, known as Ms Marmite Lover, from holding a themed Harry Potter evening in her restaurant. She runs the restaurant in her home, and planned to take guests down the side of her house, renamed “Diagon Alley”. At the back door, they would be asked for a password by a portrait of “the Fat Lady”, before entering for a meal which included dandelion wine, pumpkin soup and Dumbledore’s favourite mint humbugs. Warner Brother’s network of international spies heard about the event and it wasn’t long before Ms Marmite Lover had a letter from their muggle lawyers, telling her she was infringing copyright, and suggesting she changed the name from “Harry Potter”night, to “Generic Wizard” night.

Restaurants in people’s homes are a new trend in London. They are known as “pop-up restaurants” and are advertised by word of mouth and on internet sites like Facebook, which is where Warner Brothers spies found out about the illegal wizard’s feast. Ms Lover had a better response when she organised a “Marmite” evening, when every course contained the oozing brown paste. Far from setting their lawyers on her, the manufacturers sent her a free case of Marmite. Fortunately the evening was over before GoodGuide could test the Marmite, or indeed Ms Marmite Lover, for antimony content.

Restaurants and pubs are closing everywhere. Those not going out of business because of copyright infringements are suffering from the recession as people discover it’s much cheaper to eat and drink at home. Edinburgh is bucking the trend, where the latest social event is the divorce party. Divorce parties, like wedding parties, have their own cakes. They feature sugar diaoramas of brides standing on the top tier wielding axes, and the grooms, three pink layers below, dead on the strawberry jam-splattered marzipan rocks. Edinburgh is famous for being a liberal, broad-minded, party town. In the festival season, it’s impossible to go out to the local pet-shop to buy a hamster, without bumping into a stag or hen party on every corner.

A gay friend at this year’s Edinburgh festival was stopped by a security guard at a pub door, to have his hamster’s antimony level checked. The doorman said, “So you’re gay. Nae problem. Weer modern nooadays. Nae mare prejudices. So, are ye a gay protestant, or gay Catholic?”

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