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The Friday Speed Read
Every week, The Friday Speed Read glues itself to week’s biggest stories and refuses to move until someone, anyone listens to what it has to say about the news agenda in the past five days; and yes, we’re crusty and yes we smell of hemp and what’s more we’re proud of being so.
On your first day at Satire School, once you’ve given your Mum a kiss at the gate and cautiously made your way to the main assembly hall where you sit with crossed, trembling legs alongside your satirical classmates and wait for the arrival of your satirical teacher, you are then funnelled into your classroom, at the front of which is a satirical blackboard on which “LESSON ONE” is written in chunky white chalk strokes. Your teacher, who you vaguely remember from early-period Channel 4, thwacks the board with a long cane and stares menacingly at his terrified audience. “If I teach you nothing else”, he barks; “if you fail to grasp bathos, parody, litotes, exaggeration, oxymoron or irony then I will be riven with regret, disappointment and self-loathing at my failure as a satirical educator; but. . . .”, he pauses, demonstrating his mastery of tension-building by giving the board another generous swipe before continuing, “If you fail to grasp the lesson I am about to teach then I will be so apoplectic with rancour that I shall visit you in the small hours and put a bat up your nightdress and yes that is a quote from Fawlty Towers”.
As I sit here twenty five years later, reclining in my leatherette armchair and dressed in a combination of smoking jacket, hairnet and board-shorts that would have both impressed and sickened my younger self, the words of my first satire teacher still ring in my ears and I’ve never forgotten the tenets of that first lesson: the lesson that changed everything . . . .
With the October 31st Brexit deadline drawing ever-closer, this week the divisions in our no-longer-United Kingdom grew wider as friends, families, colleagues were forced to decide what they believed and who they were for; the arguments were polarised, the levels of contempt on both sides reached dangerous levels and anyone foolhardy enough to express an opinion on social media was immediately set-upon by an army of rabid hate-trolls baying for blood. But this wasn’t the time to back down, it wasn’t the time for reflection or changes of mind, it was time to pin your colours to the mast once and for all: were you Team Coleen? Or Team Rebekah.
Somewhere in the dark of a dusty classroom, a greying teacher of satire nods his head and softly smiles. His efforts were not in vain.
Perhaps the dearth of other news these past months have made us slightly mad; perhaps this story is a fable for our times, a contemporary Aesop that somehow taps the central nerve of the human condition, perhaps the opportunity for PUNS was just too delicious to resist, but when even The Guardian calls the Colleen-Rebekah brouhaha “the greatest ever day on Twitter” then there’s definitely something in the water worth drinking.
If you’ve missed this (you’ve not missed this) then wife of Wayne, Coleen Rooney, laid an elaborate insta-trap for whoever was leaking her private stories to the Sun. She revoked access to her Instagram for all but one follower and then posted a series of fake stories, all of which then appeared in everyone’s favourite tabloid. And so, emboldened, angry and out for revenge, Coleen this week revealed the results of her sleuthing and via the best use of a long ellipsis since . . . . . . . . (that one) told the world the shocking truth . . . . . . . . . . it was Rebekah Vardy’s account.
Now, we should at this point say that Mrs Vardy has denied all knowledge of the “crime” and added that many people have access to her Instagram account. She’s also going to hire a team of “digital forensic investigators to clear her name; not that most people were interested, they were having too much fun. Coleen Rooney: the Poirot of Instagram. The papers exploded with joy: “WAGGRO!” (The Sun); “ROODUNNIT?” (The Mirror) and the internet did even better: “WAGatha Christie”; “WAGney and Lacey” . . . even Netflix tweeted that “we’re going to have to make a documentary about this”.
*sigh* We’re going to have to talk about something else now aren’t we? And you know what it’s going to be. Okay, let’s make it quick. The hopes of an acceptable Brexit deal ahead of the 31st of THIS MONTH seemed to have faded to sub-atomic size on Tuesday as Boris Johnson and Angela Merkel took part in a “full and frank exchange of views” via a morning telephone call. This is of course diplomatic code for “massive slagging match” and following the call, Number 10 put out a statement that the search for a deal had now been abandoned and it was ALL THE FAULT OF THOSE BASTARDS IN EUROPE (not a direct quotation). Wednesday’s papers said what everyone now thought: “Brexit deal now essentially impossible” (Telegraph); “That’s it then!” (The Express) and, pleasingly, “We’re going round in Merkels” (Metro, 7/10, good effort).
But just when everything seemed lost, Johnson went for a walk in the grounds of a wedding venue on the Wirral with Irish PM Leo Varadkar after which both said they “could see a pathway to a possible deal”. What does that mean? Who knows? But it sounds more positive (assuming you think a deal would be a good idea and we guess you do because you’ve read this far without smashing the computer) than anything we’ve heard of late.
The “other news this week” paragraph begins with Turkey’s bombing of the Kurdish forces on the Syrian border following the US decision to remove its troops; a whale got stuck the Thames and then was killed by a passing ship (this is all a bit bleak, we’re sorry); the US has refused to send the wife of a diplomat wanted for questioning about the death of a young motorcyclist back to the UK; Saturn can now add “more moons than a nudist camp” (70s joke) to its CV following the discovery that it actually has 82 of the things orbiting around it, 3 more than the previous “King of the Moons” Jupiter and on Tuesday the Times brought JOY to the nation with the (probably fallacious) revelation that CHEESE IS GOOD FOR YOU! Thank God.
Finally, a quick word for the Extinction Rebellion protests that have closed roads all around London this week. Our Prime Minister described the protesters as “nose-ringed crusties and their hemp-smelling tents” which tells you everything about the big heart of Boris Johnson and also about the impact that the protests are having. In 100 years’ time, these people will either be forgotten or they’ll be lauded as heroes. Our money is on the latter.
50 years ago this week, Monty Python’s Flying Circus was shown on BBC2 for the first time and comedy was changed forever. And in a rare exception for this column, that’s no hyperbole. Click on the dead parrot below for a classic sketch.