THAT was it; the last straw, the
spanner in the works, the fly in the ointment and the worm in the root.
Britainís nuts and bolts, I believed, were coming apart: hospitals were
failing, waiting-lists increasing, pension values plummeting and
lunar-surface pot-holes were appearing on more roads.
fabric was also unravelling, with Britain labelled as the most violent
country in western Europe. Soon, there may be a shortage of Britainís
brains to drain since, according to a United Nationsí survey, almost half
of Britainís teenagers are unable to do the most basic sums and, by the
time they reach early adulthood, millions are likely to have the attitude
outlined in a recent finding by Mintel, market research analysts, which
reveals that todayís young men and women have so many financial worries
they have no time for politics and show a pervasive lack of interest in
current affairs. Added to that sombre scene, is my exclusion - again -
from the Honours List.
This was the time for meaningful gestures and
personal sacrifice, so, once more, I went to the place where you complain
about such things and to the man behind the counter, I handed a small
"Whatís this then?" he asked, opening it. "My bus
pass," I said simply. "Iím handing it back in protest against the
ingratitude of a government that persistently refuses to recognise the
merits of a downright, upstanding, middle-brow, fair-to-average man at the
top of a middle-of-the-road Edinburgh omnibus.
"There are millions like me who
should get a medal merely for living in this overtaxed, inefficient,
burgeoning Bedlam of Britain." The good fellow, writing furiously, seemed
to nod in unofficial agreement.
"Let me say that, as an ex-Wolf
Cub, Boy Scout patrol leader (retd) and former Army Cadet Corpsí temporary
private, I was one of those who stood alone in 1940 when Britain was
menaced, armed only with the ability to tie a running bowline, take stones
out of horsesí hooves, tell what side of a tree moss grows on and port
arms for inspection. I wonder how many of the honours cronies, showbiz
so-called celebrities and over-rated sports personalities could do the
same in times of national emergency."
"Too true, sir," said the man
flicking a page.
"Furthermore, a lot of these awards go, all too
predictably, to people of questionable educational attainments. What, I
wonder, do they know of the repeal of the Corn Laws, quadratic equations,
the sum of the square on the hypotenuse of a right-angled triangle, or any
one of Lavoisierís gaseous, not to say nauseous, experiments?
"I am one
who has personally determined the specific gravity of a given substance,
has devoted unpaid decades to the study of the subjunctive and the
rectifying of fused participles as well as explaining the correct use of
oxymoron, the latter sometimes under active-service conditions, to rude
and rough soldiery while operating a manual, air-cooled typewriter in the
Royal Army Mobile Stationery Corps.
"If Britainís back is to the
wall, who will it turn to - some pop singer with the voice of a sea lion
with emphysema, some stick-insect-thin dancer moving like a mad butterfly,
heavyweights only adept at kicking and clutching a rugby ball or someone
who is familiar with English-usage terms ranging from anacoluthon to
zeugma and, who knows, an example of litotes when he sees one?"
"No need to
ask," responded the man feelingly.
"I am disappointed that, with so
many people having rejected honours, there are not a few spare ones lying
around to give to deserving cases. I donít ask for much reward for a
lifetime of dedication to the purity of the simple and compound sentence -
perhaps only a CMG, known in Whitehall as "Call Me God", a KCMG - "Kindly
Call Me God", or a GCMG - "God Calls Me God".
"I regard myself as the
Renaissance Man of the honours rejectees, ready to place my grammatical
knowledge at the nationís disposal should the call come.
As the man
regarded me with what seemed admiration, I said, "It may appear a strange
request, but could I have my pass back? I need it to get home but I will
hand it in every time I come here to protest."
"Promise?" he asked.
honour," I said and, with no gong in sight, beat it.