Wine Bricks – The Perfect Doomsday Prepping Product

How Henry Discovered that Wine Bricks are the Perfect Product to sell to Doomsday Preppers

A fake long print advert for Vino-Sano targetted at the doomsday prepper market, featuring heads on pikes, machine guns, a skull, a utility knife, two glasses of wine and a wine brick covered with packaging
A long-form copy advert made for printing in The Prepper to convince Doomsday Preppers that Wine Bricks are an important addition to their arsenal. If you manage to make one, feel free to use it, or why not try calling the number at the top to see what happens?

Buy or die.

No, this isn’t the tagline for Martin Shkreli’s AIDs medication, it’s a neat way of expressing how high impending apocalypses have raised consumer stakes. 

Welcome to the niche form of kleptomania-come-stupid-fantasy-realisation of Doomsday Prepping. It’s a burgeoning market in the United States, uplifting demand for AK47s, chastity belts and cable ties. But I’ve figured something out – it’s a really immature market (in at least three ways – can you guess them?).

This market consists of millions of ‘well-informed consumers‘ (gullible idiots) panic buying canned wieners and toilet paper (no, they think the bidet is a fancy urinal). Spending their evenings pinning all the local hotties’ houses onto paper maps. Well, what else are they going to do when peak paranoia hits? Slink down into their bunkers?

While less inspired people would call this lunacy, I call it opportunity. Survival Sullian (a crazy person named after Warner Bros’ cartoon characters) claims there are 3.6 million REAL gullible Americans preparing for the Attack of the Killer Tomatoes. Now correct me if I’m wrong, but that’s a lot of money diverted from Taylor Swift Real Dolls & Only Fans subscriptions.

That’s exactly why I have a fantastic business proposal for you. It’s time to start selling wine bricks to doomsday preppers.

Why It Matters To You

This great idea’s free. Why? Because if you’re thinking about starting your own private label coffee brand, or want to import cheap personal fitness products from China, you need all the help you can get.

That’s right. I’m trying to save the British economy by encouraging you to start a proper business instead of giving your money to the sellers of snake oil. More, I’m fed up of private label businesses tricking me into buying absolute shit on Amazon. (No, you can’t start a nonsense writing agency, I’ve already established impenetrable market dominance).

So let’s get to the product.

What The Hell Is A Wine Brick?

Wine bricks *were* cuboids of grape concentrate, developed and pushed by Fruit Industries Ltd in the first half of the Twentieth Century. They allowed buyers to home brew their own multiple gallon vats of ‘wine’, while circumventing nationwide bans on the sale of alcohol during the Prohibition (1920-1933).

They were really easy to use. So easy that someone with absolutely no survival training who thinks they’re going to star in a real life version of First Blood, could probably manage to not kill themselves while using them. Here’s how they work:

  • Step 1 – Drop the wine brick into 5-10 gallons of water
  • Step 2 – Let the brick dissolve and ferment for two weeks (without any supervision)
  • Step 3 – Say “Lizard People”
  • Step 4 – BAM! You’ve got a fermented liquid to pair with boiled shoes (this was Great Depression era America)

Great concept. Here’s the clincher – Fruit Industries Ltd don’t make Vino-Glo anymore. I’ve found absolutely no evidence that anyone does. 

The wine brick market is begging, nay, whimpering to be seized.

What Is A Doomsday Prepper?

But who would buy a wine brick when you could buy a perfectly good £3.99 bottle of shiraz instead?

Crazy people with cult fetishes, obsessed with recreating the final hours of the Seventh Day Adventists’ 1993 Siege. Aka, Doomsday Preppers.

Our prospective customers live in a universe where they’re so enamoured with unrealistic fantasies, they’ve convinced their spouses that Cybergedden is imminent. 

Meteor strikes, alien invasions, zombie apocalypses, whatever.

They’re planning to exploit humanity’s downfall by hoarding a load of weapons, food and other crap. Driven mad by the dream that they could finally become the type of cult leaders that they didn’t have the charisma to become in the real world.

The thing that distinguishes them from normal people, beyond the crazy, is that they’re so arrogant, they actually think they’d survive and thrive in this kind of situation. When in reality, they’d die.

Has there ever been a better customer than a ‘delusional customer‘?

Doomsday Prepping Market ‘Essentials’

Even better, let’s take a look at the state of the actual market. What do Doomsday Preppers consider to be essential bunker companions?

Tactical watches? Roller Skates? Bin Liners?

According to Inverse, a crapshoot website I just discovered, these are Doomsday Prepping essentials. However, as a non-doomsday prepper, I can tell you that these are not what you will need during the apocalypse. You’re going to need a strong stomach, thick rope and a belief that there will still be enough trees with branches that can support your bodyweight.

Take the tactical watch. I understand the importance of accessorising your Doomsday getups, while communicating to the surviving women that you’re really well endowed, but is anyone really going to be arranging apocalypse appointments? Do cannibals only prowl between 3:00 & 7:49 am? Are you worried that you’re going to miss the latest episode of Strictly Come Dancing with the Dead?

Or Roller Skates? Have you skated on unmaintained pavement? Have you cycled on a well maintained road? I’ve done both and fallen over a lot. Now imagine that there aren’t any refuse collectors, or Rod Stewarts to fill the potholes. Unless your Doomsday fantasy is to break your ankle and lie helplessly on the ground while dogs ravish you, roller skates aren’t a great idea.

Bin liners? Ok, I understand that. Clothes will obviously be scarce. You know. Everyone won’t be dead and not wearing their own clothes.

Like Shooting Zombies In A Swimming Pool

These items are obviously not essentials. So, through little to no research I’ve established that Doomsday Preppers base their assumptions on Zombieland: Double Tap, which is cliche-ridden crap.

Great, we understand the audience – No class. No taste. No imagination.

If they’re sold something that’s actually marketed by someone willing to do a very basic amount of research, they will buy it.

Why Doomsday Preppers Need Wine Bricks

Ok, it’s time to get the propeller on your expert marketer hat spinning. What are the main things Doomsday Preppers are worried about? How can wine bricks solve their problems?

1. Wine Bricks are MADE for stashing, stacking and living in the bottom of your bag

Carrying a bottle of wine in your rucksack? It glugs, throws balance off centre and hogs way too much space. Worse, a normal rucksack can only fit two to three bottles. 

Imagine – a mutant, cannibal, or your ex husband is chasing you:

Glug, glug, clank, moan, “Tasty morsel,” “Cindy, you bitch, I’m going to fucking flay your leather hide.

The last memory you have of your pride

What’s that sinking feeling in your stomach? Is it knowing that three bottles of wine isn’t going to be enough to forget about your lost humanity, foot or pride? Or is it all the sloshing around that’s holding you back?

A single wine brick makes a gallon of wine (6 bottles!), it’s a third of the size of a bottle and they apparently come in eight disgusting flavours. 

Carry more, faster, better, while living to actually drink your investment.

2. Wine Bricks Don’t Break (meaningfully) 

Glass is designed to break. What does normal wine come in? Glass. You’re going to break it and have a bad time. 

But like fingers, wine bricks can break and remain completely usable. What are you going to stick your fingers into?

3. Six Months Into The Apocalypse, Wine Becomes A Reproductive Necessity

In the midst of a real apocalypse, modern life probably looks comparatively great. Most of us remain reasonably attractive until our late thirties. 

But the hard living of the apocalypse is made to break you. Within the first year, you’ll barely recognise the women / men you kidnapped and keep chained to your now very cold radiator. 

The only way you’re going to manage to have relations with any of these captives is if you’re blind drunk. And how are you going to keep that up? That wine cellar and whiskey cabinet you carefully built in your bunker is already running dry. Damn, if only you’d bought wine bricks instead. 

You can store five gallons worth of wine bricks in the same space as a bottle. That’s 30 bottles of wine! 30x more booze that you could have otherwise had.

It’s literally the only way to delay the inevitable decline of your supplies. It’s also the only way of avoiding the embarrassment of all the people you now socially engage with knowing that you can no longer physically get it up.

4. Call Yourself A Professional Vintner

Grapes no longer grow. The process of plopping your wine bricks into a jug of water you collected as runoff from a former refuse site is the only way people can now remember that wine was made. 

You’re a master craftsperson. All of your favourite sexes and animals love you. 

Finally, your parents are smiling down from heaven, proud, knowing that their child achieved more than collecting useless junk for an imaginary apocalypse. Because you’re the master vintner. 

Pre-fermented wine never offered that kind of class.

5. Operation Dry Heave – “There’s A Secret Government Conspiracy To Confiscate All Of The Alcohol Before The Apocalypse.”

Right – we know Doomsday Preppers are morons who probably believe in Pizza Hut Paedophile Rings

What does that mean to us as the sellers of Wine Bricks?

Making up a stupid rumour about how *the Man* is going to steal all the alcohol will encourage Doomsday Preppers to buy wine bricks.

I mean, they’re not alcoholic until you drop them in water, so, the Government can’t confiscate them during Operation Dry Heave.

Why Wine Bricks Make Sense To Sellers

Right, so there are four pretty exceptional reasons why Wine Bricks are probably a great product to sell:

  1. Wine Bricks Are Easy To Post. Wine Bricks are bricks. You can post them to people in little boxes. They can be stacked economically and stuck in the back of a lorry. This makes them ideal for a direct to order business.
  2. Wine Bricks Don’t Incur Duty. The average bottle of wine incurs 297.57 pence per litre duty in the UK. In real person money, that’s a markup of almost £2.20 per bottle. So, if someone can sell a bottle of wine for £3.99 and still make a profit (even though they’re putting it into a super expensive glass bottle), if you’re not paying any duty on Wine Bricks you could totally sell each one for like, £2.00 and still make money.
  3. Wine Bricks Don’t Need Quality Control. Each year, winemakers are estimated to produce 11 million tonnes of pomace. That’s grape waste. It’s a mixture of seeds, stalks, grape skin and bits of fish (because it’s not wine unless it has gills). Nothing happens to this junk. It just gets thrown away. What if you were to take this waste and sculpt it into a brick? It’ll smell like wine and be the right colour. Real winemakers will probably pay you to take the stuff.
  4. Unless It’s The Apocalypse, Wine Bricks Don’t Need To Work. Think about it. Do you believe in the apocalypse? If it did happen, what’s going to happen to you if your wine bricks don’t work? Nothing, that’s what. Return policies don’t cover post-civilization scenarios. And no one’s going to ferment their precious wine bricks before the apocalypse. That’d be stupid.

What Are You Waiting For?

So, now you know your life’s calling – making and selling wine bricks to idiots. 

Start calling up vineyards and see if you can produce a modern wine brick. 

I’ve pretty much sorted out the marketing strategy for you though, so if it works, send me a few so I can show my friends how great I am at encouraging people to do stupid things. I’m sure we can all agree to raise a glass to that.

Audio Messages – Uncovering An Evil Conspiracy

How Henry Discovered That Audio Messages Are A Satanic Conspiracy

Satanic baphoment on a pentagram above a drawing of an answering machine. Blood red background.
“Leave the message after the tone.” Beep. “Hello, is that Satan? I’d like to reclaim the damned soul of the answering machine, and use it to possess Whatsapp to bring about Hell On Earth. Call me back when you get a moment.”

Tighten your chastity belt and smother your children. A nefarious occult group has summoned Satan to help them reanimate the answering machine.

Why? Because they’re demon spawn.

Today’s topic is audio messages and how they will single handedly destroy society.

You know, those cute snippets of audio you record on Whatsapp and iMessage and send to your vapid friends. Obligingly holding your phone horizontally to your mouth while pretending that you only drink bubble tea ironically.

While audio messages have featured on Whatsapp & iMessage since 2013 & 2014, they only started infiltrating my personal sphere recently. And I’m incensed. Why bring back the answering machine (because, yes, audio messages are virtual answering machines without the etiquette)? 

There’s loads of obsolete stuff that would be less torturous. How about the brazen bull or pear of anguish?

Sure, they’re an important assistive technology. But none of my friends are partially sighted, thumbless and or have forgotten how to write.

So here’s why my response to the next person who sends me an audio message is going to be a sympathetic, “Who performed your orbital lobotomy? Do they offer referral commissions?” Because if I don’t, who will?

Audio Messages Are Unjustified Voicemails

When did you last check your voicemail? It was 2013, wasn’t it? Why? Because the only people who leave voicemails are HMRC scammers claiming you’ve got a £50,000 underpayment, and time bending insurance companies with offers to transport you into last week’s most brutal car crash.

Still, they only leave a voicemail if you don’t pick up. And that’s the difference between audio messages and voicemails. The audio message is the voicemail without the justification. 

Try calling someone and they don’t pick up – leave them a voicemail as punishment. That’s fair. It’s justified. 

Don’t try to call someone, but send an audio message instead? Well, what are you punishing them for? Why should they listen to someone who hasn’t made the effort?

With this in mind, it’s obvious that people who leave audio messages are worse than HMRC scammers and rogue no claims agents.

Unstructured Thoughts & The Vice of Sloth

Sloths are evil. Does any other animal spend all of its time hanging upside down, with big, nasty claws? They’re also very lazy and live unstructured lives; key characteristics of being evil.

Audio messages are the same. They’re unstructured and quicker to send than emails, text messages and telegrams. Why? Because you don’t need to spend three seconds constructing an intro, summarising your issue and articulating a concise request.

My biggest gripe with them is when they’re used for communicating work assignments. Ten minutes of crap that I’m forced to listen to twice. Just to figure out what someone wants ME to do. Shouldn’t that emphasis be on them?!

Audio messages shift responsibility for structuring sent messages onto the receiver. How rich is that? You’re already asking someone to engage with your message. Surely there’s an unwritten social contract that effective communication is the responsibility of the person communicating?

What gives audio message senders the right to shift the blame for their blathering?

Continue using audio messages and you’re accepting stealing food from another’s mouth. Plundering their intellectual reserves. Audio messages are robbery.

Audio Messages Are Opaque

Want to know the gist of a message before you deign to read it? No chance with an audio message. There’s no way to determine what’s contained until you listen to it. 

Modern communication carries the clear expectation to come with a summary, or at least the ability to read the first line of a message before deciding whether you’re going to read the whole thing.

With audio messages, you can’t blank people.

Also, have you thought about the nefarious things people could do with this opacity? Someone could send you passages from the Necronomicon, forcing you to unwittingly summon the Kandarian Demon into your front room with a tap of the play button.

Audio messages are a platform of the occult.

Broadcasting Sexual Exploits Over Bluetooth

Scene:

You’re listening to Joan Jett’s version of Season of the Witch on your little Bluetooth speaker because you don’t like Donovan. The room is filled with friends. Tipsy, you check your Whatsapp messages and press play on an audio message from Bernard, your bit on the side. Holding the phone to your ear, you hope he’s recorded something dirty. Maybe a bathroom escapade. Suddenly, your face drops. The music’s stopped and you can hear Bernard’s nasal voice, explaining that while he’s had fun sharing you with your boyfriend, he’s met someone else and they’re getting serious. Previously unaware, your boyfriend picks up a fork, pushes it into a plug socket and fries himself. Thus commences the Season of the Bitch.

Pop quiz, who was the worst person in that scenario? 

You? 

No. It was Bernard for sending that damned audio message.

Audio messages ruin relationships, kill spouses and completely invade your privacy.

It’s A Non-Interactive Phone Call

What’s my favourite thing about pizza? Watching someone eating it? Of course not. I like touching all the slices and playing with the melted cheese.

How about phone calls? I like making animal sounds in response to legitimate questions.

“When are you going to have that report finished?”

“Neymoo.” (It’s the sound of a deer – a mix between a horse and a cow)

As non-interactive phone calls, audio messages remove my right to respond with these, important, constructive points at the perfect opportunity. They disempower me from my god given right to shut down conversations.

Clearly, audio messages are disenfranchising recipients of the right to respond. By extension, they’re a form of censorship.

Why Audio Messages Must Die

Do you want to live in a world of surprise demonic summonings? Boyfriends, girlfriends, mothers, daughters, fathers and sons forced to kill themselves? Do you support mass censorship? Forced engagement? All while sloths amble about junctions, blocking traffic and economic progress?

No?

Well there’s only one solution. Stop sending me audio messages.

A World Without Travel Time

Thoughts on ‘The Stars My Destination’ and parallels between metaverses and the consequences of instantaneous travel

An ink drawing of Scotty from Star Trek (fat version) with a teleporter effect and speech bubble reading "Jaunte me into Ms Bellatrix's Private Virtual Boudoir with your strongest bottle of synthetic whiskey!"
Star Trek’s Scotty’s favourite past time when the cameras weren’t rolling

My sister gave me a copy of Alfred Bester’s ‘The Stars My Destination‘ for Christmas. I belatedly thanked her by sending her a download code for Disco Elysium. Having read the book, I’ll admit that my gift to her was less inspired – no disrespect, Disco Elysium.

The Stars My Destination‘, previously titled ‘Tiger! Tiger!‘, is a work of science fiction by Alfred Bester, published in 1956. It’s a story of revenge, set against the backdrop of a world where almost everyone can jaunte – teleport hundreds to thousands of miles at will without technological assistance. Thankfully, there’s no room for Star Trek inspired arguments on whether that means life or death.

While there’s plenty to say about the book’s Count of Monte Cristo-esque plot, its structure and Bester’s choice of protagonist, I was taken by the treatment of teleportation and its consequences. It seems weirdly relevant against the impending arrival of metaverses and the slow erosion of distinctions between the physical and virtual world.

Not that I’m suggesting physical teleportation will happen. But the ability to access virtual locations, people and their possessions instantly will. Given that, perhaps some of Bester’s speculations are relevant to our future.

What Is The Stars My Destination?

It’s a science fiction novel set in the Twenty Fifth Century, where eleven million million people occupy all of the habitable planets in our solar system. All but a very few can jaunte, so vehicles are only required to traverse space (you can’t jaunte through space). The book’s protagonist is Gulliver (Gully) Foyle, an abnormally typical man with a dead-end future job as a crewman on a cargo ship.

The story begins with Gully as the lone survivor on a wrecked spaceship – the Nomad – stranded in space with no chance of survival. Luck guides another spaceship – the Vorga – to his location. Distress signal spotted, Gully’s salvation seems guaranteed, but at the last moment the ship deserts him.

Abandonment awakens dormant talents in Gully. He stops waiting for rescue and miraculously saves himself. The sole driving force – to enact vengeance on the ship and its crew.

The story is about Gully seeking out the Vorga. As a character, his main characteristic is an unpleasant drive for revenge. The book’s brutal and unsentimental, but maintains a clear theme throughout – everyone can determine their own fate and shouldn’t be treated as children (that was my reading, anyway). Very democratic and individualistic.

An Overview of Bester’s Treatment of Teleportation

Surprisingly, the book’s pinnacle is the introduction. It starts with a seven page pop essay that explains how teleportation was discovered, taught to the masses and then explores the consequences of instantaneous travel.

Beginning with the chance discovery of teleportation, it focuses on the scientific community’s murderous efforts to harness the phenomenon. Initially, jaunting is only sparked by an absolute fear of death – i.e. drowning or burning alive. Suicide subjects are placed in fatal scenarios, with chemical reactions duly recorded against successful and unsuccessful jauntes.

Eventually teleportation can be taught. Disseminated to the masses, long thought extinct viruses cause pandemics, geographic borders no longer restrain invading species, while the geographically disenfranchised suddenly relocate at will. Enormous societal changes ensue. New hierarchies are established based on an individual’s ability to jaunte and drastic measures have to be taken to guard possessions and bodies from pillage.

There are a couple of areas that aren’t explicitly explored; how mass instantaneous transit could destroy natural geographic barriers and the fundamental concept of the nation state. Still, they’re alluded to through the implied collective unity across single planets and satellites.

What Does Teleportation Have To Do With Metaverses?

Teleportation and entering a virtual reality are different mechanisms with similar ends, depending on how the latter is implemented (ideally not as a closed garden). Realised, both share certain consequences.

Sure, it’s difficult to imagine how metaverses would compare to teleportation right now. There’s nothing inspiring about Meta’s most recent demos of Texas Hold’em and quarterly earning Powerpoint slides broadcast through VR headsets.

However, fully expanded metaverses could act as the platform to a world where pseudo-teleportation was realised.

The promise is vast. 

Instantly visit a virtual location, talk to someone face-to-face instead of sending an email, engage in virtual hookups with complete strangers, invest money in a completely new frontier, forget reality and start a new cult based on this whacked out Twitch stream

Both teleportation and immersive virtual worlds have the potential to turn long established social norms upside down.

But Aren’t The Physical & Virtual World Distinct?

Most people’s current conception of metaverses still supports a clear distinction between the physical and virtual world. But in the future, I think it’s a safe bet that the virtual and physical will be indistinguishable – a single entity.

I can think of three basic arguments for this:

1. Virtualised Services are Already Invading the Physical World 

At an extreme, imagine personalised adverts viewed through smart glasses. Or how about keeping an empty seat at the bar for your friend’s avatars to join you? 

Unlocking certain physical services already requires the use of digital platforms; from vaccine passports to using your phone to pay for shopping. This will increase, making individual interaction with a virtual world a non-optional necessity. When launching a metaverse, basic services will have to be integrated; payment systems, chat, video, encryption. The dominant platform is likely to dictate how these services eventually interact with the physical world.

2. Reduced Importance of the Physical World 

Activities that previously required us to step outside, handle goods and talk to people are being replaced with virtual alternatives. Have you ordered groceries from Gorillas or Getir? (Have you also wondered what the hell their business model is? I assume its based on Uber’s and doesn’t require profit)

With enough services moving into a virtual space, basic tasks in the physical world will become more abstracted and less obviously physical. Without clear differences, or at least differences you or I care to explore, the need for the unique aspects of the physical world will decrease.

3. Economic and Social Incentives Abound 

Bird flu, covid, climate change, waste. The ability for companies and Governments to track you more. How about selling virtual real-estate or crappy pixel art? 

Investors & companies are driven by profits. Governments by efficiency. And everyone likes big data. It’s in a lot of peoples’ interests to develop an alternative to the physical world and to force you to use it over the physical world.

But That’s Horrible

Sure.

The critical point here is the second – reduced importance of the physical world. Likely, you’re horrified by the prospect of a virtual world akin to JG Ballard’s ‘Intensive Care Unit’, a short story about a man who’s never met his wife or children and views the world through a screen. However, future generations probably won’t be, because the merits of the physical world won’t be the same as they are now.

I think the horror Ballard’s story inspires is generationally subjective. We don’t like the idea because we’re not used to it; we associate freedom of movement with freedom, but freedom is a complex concept. It doesn’t necessarily have to include physical freedom.

Imagine telling someone in the 14th Century that in the future humanity would spend most days staring at illuminated panes of glass. It would spark revulsion.

How’s It Linked To The Consequences of Teleportation?

While reading Bester’s piece, I felt three immediate consequences of teleportation jumped out as relevant to a mixed virtual / physical world.

1. Redefining Privacy

Right now, I’m writing in my room. The door’s closed. For someone to get in, I’d have to invite them or they’d have to force their way in. Physical action is required.

In ‘The Stars My Destination’, an interesting consequence of universal access to teleportation is how completely private and restricted locations are unlocked. Rape, theft, murder, arson, exhibitionism – they all ensue. The rich devise ways to create teleportation-free rooms, using complex physical mazes. While many apply Victorian constraints on the movement of women to ‘protect them’.

While virtual environments are typically secured with a combination of encryption and physical devices (take Microsoft’s Pluton security chip), data that would have been stored locally is now either duplicated or completely held on remote servers that thousands of users plug into for services. 

Programs will always have vulnerabilities. When more of your life is moved onto a virtual platform, either virtual property in Second Life, assets in the form of NFTs or explicit pictures for ‘your fans only’, it becomes more integrated. The distinction between the private and public sphere blurs. In these situations it’s highly possible that a short term reaction by some will be forcibly excluded from virtual platforms, for their own protection.

2. Death of the Nation State

Globalisation may be in full swing, but we’re all still connected to a specific geographic region through citizenship. This limits where we can travel, work and access public services.

In ‘The Stars My Destination’, instantaneous travel to any location is possible, leaving border control in tatters.

Already, you can work certain jobs remotely, transcending geographic boundaries without too many complications. As more and more necessary activities are moved from the physical world to a virtual one, the relevance of a geographic mother state will become questionable. 

While there will still be a need for Governments to provide certain basic services and infrastructure, the importance of said infrastructure is probably going to be rebalanced. Further, it will beg the question of how you can apply national jurisdiction and law across a stateless (virtual) world.

At present, if the development of metaverses continues to be led by private enterprises, where IP investment is largely in software, it won’t be long before people start questioning the relevance of national Governments and the arguments against devolution or some form of Anarcho-syndicalism.

3. Ownership of Physical Objects Will Become A Luxury

There’s an ongoing debate about whether in the future, objects will be rented or owned. The continued mass production of cheap goods in China says the latter, while a western drive for sustainability would suggest the former.

In ‘The Stars My Destination’, antique petrol powered vehicles are only accessible by the ultra-rich. Combine harvesters become status symbols.

Depending on how much resources start to dwindle, perhaps that’s foreseeable. From people paying ridiculous amounts for Pokemon cards, to trainers that were probably manufactured in a Vietnamese industrial free trade zone, the accepted value of many physical items is already highly abstracted. 

Moving to a world where physical items are less fundamental to existence though, will probably drive a similar impulse to peacock with ancient artefacts. So maybe don’t scrap that 1992 Nissan Prairie; leave it to your great grandchildren instead.

The End of Travel Time

Ultimately, the advent of metaverses won’t run train, bus or uber drivers out of jobs. Automation will get there first. Still, while there are plenty of nice moments for contemplation while sitting on the top deck of the No. 38, personally, I don’t think losing travel time is actually a loss.

Still, my thoughts here are purely speculative. However, I do think it’s pretty impressive that in the 1950s, Alfred Bester managed to write a pulp science fiction story that still appears to have synergies with the not-too-distant-future we’re staring at today.

NB: He even anticipated Doom’s Telefrag, a video game mechanic that allows players to kill enemies and other players by teleporting or respawning directly onto the same map coordinates. Funny, isn’t it?

Sue Gray’s Partygate Report Released

I’m a little late to the party, but this week I published a zine, ‘Sue Gray’s Partygate Report’, alternatively titled, ‘The Case of the Forbidden Jamborees’.

A Partygate Report you might actually want to own

It’s an illustrated, 44-page zine that’s a satirical parody of the Government’s actual report, ‘Investigation Into Alleged Gatherings On Government Premises During COVID Restrictions’. Unlike the real report, this one actually contains pictures and addresses the elephant in the room – why the hell does this report exist?

My version of Sue Gray’s Partygate Report is available for download here, and from today, for purchase in print on my Etsy shop, Your Dad’s A Tory.

What Is Sue Gray’s Partygate Report?

It’s a satirical zine about UK politics – specifically, the current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s Partygate scandal. Unlike Joe Lycett’s highly publicised parody, this one extends well beyond a six point executive summary. It’s a full, 44-page report.

The Party Animals – (L-R), Spuds MacKenzie, Dr Feelgood, Boris Johnson & Sue Gray

Unlike a traditional parody report, thematically and structurally, this report’s a bit abstract. The premise is a Murder Mystery Party, hosted at No10 by Boris Johnson, during which Sue Gray and various other characters are invited to solve a mystery – whether Ministers and Officials have been partying during national COVID-Sars lockdowns. The party takes place across rooms throughout No11 & No12 Downing Street (where the parties actually happened), with different party and investigation themed scenarios on each page.

The main narrative is prefaced with a fake excerpt from a psychological journal, in a similar theme to JG Ballard’s experimental 1968 piece, ‘Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan’. This is to provide criticism around the premise of the actual ‘Investigation Into Alleged Gatherings On Government Premises During COVID Restrictions’ – an investigation that really wasn’t necessary. Instead, it became a highly publicised waste of time, because the Prime Minister is a liar.

What Qualifies You To Write This?

Here’s the funny bit. I worked in Whitehall for seven years. Although I walked out well before COVID, I’ve been to a lot of parties at Downing Street; either as a Private Secretary or in a comms role. Further, I worked in a couple of Permanent Secretaries’ offices, which in practice means I’ve worked directly with Sue Gray and her former office when she was Director General of Propriety & Ethics at the Cabinet Office.

For a long time, I embraced the culture. I can attest that Whitehall does have a drinking problem. I can’t think of a Thursday or Friday when there wasn’t at least a case of opened Prosecco in the office. Office managers expected staff to come in with a hangover on Friday. It was a given. Hell, I used to end up at the Red Lion or Champagne Charlies on Villiers St almost every night of the working week.

I can also tell you that Cabinet Office and No10 were way boozier than other Departments. That’s why when the investigation was launched, the idea that Whitehall was boozing during lockdown really didn’t surprise me. It’s completely ingrained into the culture.

Why Did You Bother Writing It?

To be honest, I’m not sure. I went for a drink with some former Private Office colleagues a week before the actual early report came out. We were talking about Sue Gray’s investigation and agreed it’d be funny to produce something similar to the political zine I made in late 2019, called ‘Watch Out! Your Dad’s A Tory’.

However, it ballooned significantly beyond the initial scope, a weirder narrative blossomed and in the end, it became a much grander piece than it was intended to be.

What Is The Political Context of Sue Gray’s Report?

For those reading this who don’t understand the context, here’s a brief rundown. Evidence was released that proved that Officials, Special Advisors & Ministers had parties in Government buildings during periods of National Lockdown.

National Lockdowns

In the UK, from 2020 to 2022 during the global COVID-Sars epidemic, the British Government enforced a series of national lockdowns. These lockdowns significantly curtailed the public’s right to socialise and closed down a huge number of businesses.

At the height of these lockdowns, individuals were unable to see friends, family, visit other peoples’ houses under the penalty of a substantial fine (up to £10,000). Even pubs were closed, which in England is sacrilegious. However, these lockdowns were justified and largely supported by the public to prevent the spread of COVID-Sars, reduce pressures on the NHS and protect vulnerable individuals.

Allegations That Parties Were Held In Government Buildings

In late 2021, rumours and limited evidence leaked showing that parties had taken place on Government property during these national lockdowns. They were alleged to have happened in Downing Street, the Department for Education and HM Treasury. Government wasn’t exempt from lockdowns and neither were Ministers. These alleged parties were illegal gatherings.

Conga Line of Partygate Events – styled to mimic the Conservative’s famous ‘Labour Isn’t Working’ campaign material

Worse, evidence was released showing the Prime Minister at these functions. To deflect responsibility and stave off his forced resignation, Boris Johnson first requested Simon Case, the Cabinet Secretary to conduct a review into the alleged events. When it was discovered that Simon Case had attended these parties, he was taken off the investigation and another Civil Servant, Sue Gray was pulled onto it.

The Findings

Sue Gray’s Report is a pretty dull read, but it found evidence that at least 12 ‘gatherings’ had taken place in Government Buildings during national lockdowns, that Ministers knew about it and that there was a culture of drinking in Whitehall.

What Happened?

Despite the real report’s rather damning findings, nothing’s happened.

Boris Johnson remains the Prime Minister (because seriously, who’s going to replace him?), some Civil Servants were forced to resign and the No10 Press Office’s wine cooler was removed. Right? The wine cooler was removed? Why didn’t they just buy an under the counter fridge? Who is so pretentious that they need a wine cooler? Particularly at work.

The public’s attention has (rightly) moved onto the on going Ukraine Crisis. More, while I hate to be a cynic, I’d wager that the outcome of this geo-political crisis will save Boris Johnson, as the 1982 Falkland’s War arguably secured Margaret Thatcher’s second term as Prime Minister.

But that hasn’t stopped this being a completely farcical episode of British politics. One of this Government’s many farcical episodes – from slashing benefits during a period of unprecedented rises in living costs, fighting to keep disadvantaged children hungry and knighting a man who is unable to distinguish one black man from another.

If you haven’t already given up on British politics or the traditional two party system, I’d suggest that you do now.

Download Sue Gray’s Partygate Report Now

So here’s my gift to you. A free, high effort parody report about the Partygate scandal. Because really, what else could I have done? Stayed working in Government and gone to one of the many parties there?

Download it now.

Why Tony Blair TOTALLY Deserves a Knighthood

How Henry learned that the Knights of the Garter should really be called the War Criminals’ Club

A drawing of Tony Blair, former British Prime Minister, weilding a flamethrower with the text, 'Tony Torch 'Em'
Introducing the War Criminals’ Club’s newest member – Tony Torch ‘Em. That flamethrower has ‘atrocity’ written all over it!

Britain’s collective conscience has been shaken – suspected war criminal Tony Blair, like every other former UK Prime Minister, has been appointed Knight of the Order of the Garter. Honestly, the reaction is less surprising than the time it’s taken to happen.

Thankfully, actual white knight Angus Scott has come to the rescue, launching a petition to get Sir Blair’s Knighthood rescinded. Great. It’s already attracted over 700,000 signatures. Well done Angus Scott. Fingers crossed you’ll join fake King Arthur & Co. next year.

Still, I’m compelled to argue that Tony Blair totally deserves to be a Knight of the Garter. Why? Because historically, the Order of the Garter was actually a club for war criminals. No worries Angus, it isn’t immediately obvious unless you know about this crazy thing called wikipedia.

What’s A Knighthood?

Apparently, a Knighthood is acknowledgement from the Queen that you’re a stand up lord or lady. It’s also an hilarious endorsement from the establishment.

Right, that’s an endorsement from the same establishment that has been protecting a suspected paedophile, cut working age benefits by almost 30% during an unprecedented rise in the cost of living and the same establishment that had a jolly good time partying after they told everyone else to go to bed.

Are you following? 

So, it’s like getting an award from Skeletor and joining the Order of Evil Warriors?

No. Skeletor & the Evil Warriors never managed to do anything that was actually evil. Look at Skeletor’s abs. They were total posers. The Order of the Garter is actually evil; Heart of Darkness style.

What’s the Order of the Garter?

It’s an old English chivalric Order founded by Edward III, to support his dubious claim to the French throne under the guise of reviving the Round Table. It’s been dodgy from the outset.

Even better, I think its motto ‘Honi soit qui mal y pense’, means, “If you think it’s bad then you’re evil.” Now that’s a motto that even NAMBLA could use, isn’t it? Also, apparently in French today it’s used ironically, to insinuate someone has hidden, evil intentions.

That lines up with my ancient war criminals club theory, doesn’t it?

What Kind of Person Accepts a Knighthood?

It’s easier to explain the type of person that declines one:

Who delcined the Order of the Garter? Clearly only the cool Prime Ministers – Neville Chamberlain and Harold MacDonald. Chamberlain? Wasn’t he the one who used the Vulcan method of diplomacy to stop Hitler? And Harold MacDonald was the alter-ego of Super Mac, the first British Prime Minister to wear latex after hours.

How about the Knight Batchelor? You know, the one for ordinary people. Didn’t David Bowie, Joseph Conrad, Aldous Huxley and Lawrence of Arabia all reject their Knighthoods? Wasn’t Lawrence of Arabia’s justification for rejecting the honour because it was going to be awarded by the slimy bastards who double crossed Arabia (the British Government)? And didn’t Kipling write some poem about how it’s super lame? 

If Kipling thought it was lame, then it must be like starting a club with your friends to discuss the merits of your smelly pen collection, because Kipling didn’t do anything but write poems and make cakes.

And now, who’s been trying really hard to get a Knighthood? Wasn’t it David Beckham?

Right. So we’ve established that everyone who hangs out on the smoker’s bench declines them, and everyone who goes to parties at No10 unironically wants one. 

War Criminals Club.

Shut Up! The Order of the Garter Isn’t For War Criminals

Fine. I’ll retract it to (almost all) assorted criminals club.

Wasn’t Sir Winston Churchill a Knight of the Garter? Oh yeah. And didn’t he brag about actually killing Sudanese natives with his bare hands? And wasn’t there something about him enthusiastically endorsing the use of concentration camps in the Second Boer War. And that very vocal desire to drop poison gas on Kurdistan?

Or doesn’t he count because he’s dead?

No, Who Else is a Knight of the Garter Now?

Fine. Isn’t the Grand Old Duke of York a Royal Knight of the Garter? Too easy?

Fine.

How about Lord Luce? Doesn’t he like arguing about how great the British Empire was? Or what about Jock Stirrup, the man responsible for the lack of appropriate body armour for front line troops in Afghanistan? Not to suggest that also his part in the War on Terror was as deplorable through collaboration. Or even Mervyn King, former Governor of the Bank of England who followed Greenspan’s example of do nothing economics during the 2007 Financial Crisis? Or even Mary Peters, who argues against the professional competition of transgender athletes (if you’re not willing to accept that this is a very complex issue).

Is that enough for you? Does that club not seem like the perfect place for War Criminals to lean back against a roaring fire, smoke cigars and share stories?

But Is A Knighthood Appropriate For Tony Blair?

Hmm. Actually, now that you mention it, I understand that the Victoria Cross and George Cross outrank the simple Knighthood. 

Now let’s be fair to Blair. He was an exceptionally well behaved lapdog for George Bush. So, given he was Prime Minister for a decade, I think it’d be only right to award him the equivalent of the Victoria Cross. You know, the Dickin Medal. 

The honour awarded by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals that’s made out of dog biscuits.

Would that make everyone feel better?

What Rescinding Blair’s Honour Will Do

So, we’ve established that honours are stupid and that all the cool people reject them; so logically, if Tony Blair accepts his honour, that makes him a total lame ass.

However, there are three obvious consequences of removing it from him:

  1. It sets a precedent to remove other Prime Minister’s honours (wouldn’t that be a funny game?).
  2. Boris Johnson and the Conservative Party will use it to undermine an already weak opposition.
  3. It endorses the false assertion that, empirically, being a Knight of the Garter is a good thing.

So, no, rescinding Tony Blair’s knighthood is not going to clean up the Knights of the Garter. It’s removing a rotten apple from a bowl of liquidised fruit.

Maybe instead, someone should start a petition to change the Order’s name or get the whole thing cancelled. I’ve already suggested the War Criminals Club. Or, instead, how about we all just let all those old, sad people fellate each other in peace?

Bottom of the Barrel – Why I’m Not Drinking In 2022

Everyone having a really great time at the pub

Excessive drinking and my twenties were intertwined. Most evenings I’d have a couple of solitary beers and a bottle of supermarket own-brand shiraz – after a couple of hours in a pub – any pub with any people.

The next day, aboard an empty No. 76 to the Strand, I’d be hungover. Horribly hungover. And I’d ask myself, “What is drinking too much?”

Dry mouthed, I’d reply, it’s embracing artistry (self destruction). A way to establish common ground with others (ensure mutually assured destruction). And a guaranteed route to sleep (sleep is always self destruction). I was lying to myself about every point except the last one.

And it continued. An unflinching habit between promotions, flatshares, relationships and all the other sentimental crap it’s better to forget. Between awful and bad drafts. Missed opportunities. Athlete’s foot. Regret upon regret. Drinking was always there.

I wasn’t blind to the issue. I knew I was drinking too much. But I didn’t give a shit.

Honestly, I didn’t give a shit until now.

Why? Because I’ve finally realised that I’m tedious. More tedious than an actuary. More tedious than an overused left-wing slogan. More tedious than you.

That’s why I’m not drinking in 2022.

Well done. If only you’d been less exciting.

Why Do You Think You’re Tedious?

I’m writing about quitting drinking. Can you think of anything less inspired?

Actually, maybe you’re right.

Maybe it’s not my fault.

Maybe everyone else is tedious. Maybe something happened to me. I was abused into thinking it was my own fault. I mean, it doesn’t change the substance of quitting drinking, so let’s go with it.

The pub got tedious. Parties got tedious. Exposure must have made me tedious.

How Will Not Drinking Make You Less Tedious?

Not drinking is a great excuse to avoid going to the pub. Going to the pub is making me tedious. How? 

It’s all about the conversations that dominate the ritual:

  • The Past. Oh, do you remember when I could see my toes? They wiggled, I giggled. Now I’m depressed.
  • Technical details about your job. I put the paper in the photocopier or else I get the hose again.
  • Marital aspirations. I finally understand the meaning of love. It’s settling down because I can’t do better. Certainty. Marriage is possession.
  • Children. Thirty years from now, I want my children to repeat this conversation.
  • Mortgages. Are you sure Help To Buy properties are sold at rates 20% average prices for the size of property in an area? No, of course they aren’t. Negative equity is a myth.

I didn’t believe the people I knew would ever start talking about this crap. But they have and do. And now they won’t stop.

It’s lame as hell. I used to like going to the pub. Sitting outside. Smoking cigarettes. Now everyone wants to sit inside, eat food, chat, invite people I don’t like. It’s like they’ve all evolved and I haven’t.

Why did everyone have to ruin it?

So, maybe I haven’t quit drinking. 

Maybe I’m just boycotting drinking.

Aren’t Those Excuses? It Actually Sounds LIke You Have A Problem

What? Why would I make up excuses? This is the opposite of an excuse. If anything, the social point is proof enough that I’m not drinking excessively.

How does that make sense?

When you’re drinking for the sake of drinking, you don’t meet people. I’ve clearly met people, or I wouldn’t be able to recant such a frank summary of ‘people’s’ favourite topics.

You’re thinking that list of conversation topics makes me sound like the whiny kid, Holden Caulfield, who gets his penis flicked by a pimp in Catcher in the Rye, aren’t you?

Got you.

Proof enough that I am really tedious. Now we can continue in earnest.

If You Don’t Have A Problem Why Quit?

I do have a problem. I didn’t quit because I have a problem. I quit because I started caring that I have a problem. There’s a massive difference.

Also, I want to strike from the record that this has anything to do with Dry January. I’m not part of the nation’s annual post-Christmas purge. This is a unique revocation of alcohol.

Maybe it’s because I’m broke and the prospect of living in a flatshare at forty is suddenly looking a lot less romantic than it did in 2021. 

Weird, I know. 

Maybe the aforementioned conversation topics were only boring because I’m in no position to contribute.

But Peak Alcohol Consumption’s Already Been Passed

I never said this was prompted by hitting rock bottom. 

It hit peak alcohol consumption in my late twenties. 

I’d drink two bottles of wine a night, pass out on the sofa and wake up at 5:30 the next day. It’s sad, but I admire how little I used to sleep. 

I also don’t think that compared to a lot of other people I knew, I had that much of a problem. I’ve never liked day drinking, spirits make me queasy and I’m still a healthy 90kg.

After that and some sketchy run ins, I calmed down a lot.

Why Write About Quitting Drinking?

I’m going to write about it twice. Once now. Once at the end of the year.

I’m not sure why I wrote this. 

I felt inspired. 

I also feel that quitting drinking means I’m sacrificing something. And sacrifice calls for documentation. 

I don’t really want to quit drinking, but I do. The desire to see this through is in a strange state of limbo. I thought writing it down might help clarify why I actually want to do it, and make the people I know realise that I have an unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

Still, I’m going to weigh up the pros and cons of the decision.

Why I Should Renounce Quitting

When I think about quitting drinking, I worry that I’m going to lose the following advantages:

  • Ability to drink more than you. If I stop, I probably won’t be able to drink more than you any more. That depresses me. It’s one of the few things I’m better than average at.
  • Entertainment. I find refraining from drinking is super fucking boring. I was round my girlfriend’s for Galette des Rois, a stupid French holiday about dancing around a cake. I think it’s how they used to decide who to guillotine. Still, both my girlfriend and her flatmate were both laughing a lot while drinking vodka (a French staple), while I consoled myself with a vat of fruit tea and read Philip Roth. Turns out drinking = fun. Not drinking = reading Philip Roth. I can’t even do something about it. That’s my sober personality. My sober personality is reading fucking Philip Roth.
  • Watching cartoons. I like cartoons. Yes, I’m a twelve year old. When I’m super hungover, I stream Ugly Americans again and again and again. Why? I have no idea. Cartoons are bright and vapid. Without a hangover, I can’t justify to myself time spent watching cartoons.
  • Maintaining relationships. I find myself boring. I find people boring. It’s not as much of an issue when I’m drunk, but when I’m sober. I can’t see myself maintaining an already lacklustre collection of relationships.
  • Damaging my liver and kidneys. I don’t want to be in a position where my parents can guilt trip me into giving either of my sisters a kidney or a bit of my liver. Damaging them more would prevent that.

Why I’m Really Quitting Drinking

Really, the only reason I’m quitting is summed up below:

  • Ability to maintain a writing routine. Hangovers and hard engagements wouldn’t get in the way of my pre- and post- work writing routine. So I can finally discover that failing to write anything good was entirely my own fault; not the booze. Perversely, I’d like to have that clarity.
  • Creaseless clothes. If I’m not hungover, I might be so bored that I actually iron my clothes. Clearly, this is only a secondary advantage.

Why I’ve Still Quit Drinking

Really, I’m fed up. I’d already significantly cut down on drinking in October last year. I don’t want to, but I couldn’t see another viable route and I still can’t.

Last year, I spent a lot of time working on a host of projects that never saw the light of day. It didn’t help that I was busy. But I think the only thing I could have changed the outcome of that would have been by completely cutting out drinking.

So that’s why I’m not drinking this year. To chase pipe dreams.

It’s Time To Move Christmas

‘Twas the night after Christmas, 

And all through the house, 

All were perplexed,

Even the mouse.

A really bad rhyme about Christmas 2021
Drawing of baby jesus in a steel drum manger on a tropical island with two palm trees decorated with Christmas decorations and a flame collaged sun in the place of the Star of Bethlehem
The soon to be classic, baby Jesus in a steel drum on a festive tropical summer Christmas Manger Scene

Two Mrs Brown’s Boys Christmas Specials. Everyone has COVID. It’s raining. Need I say more? I hated Christmas 2021. You hated Christmas 2021. Everyone hated Christmas 2021.

How did it come to this? Christmas used to be great. Is there any way Christmas 2022 can be saved?

I understand your despair, but hold off burning your stockings. This year’s disappointment brings radical hope. For I can now explain why it’s the perfect time to move the secular holiday formerly known as Christmas to the summer and rename it, Super Cool Summer Day.

Here are my thoughts on why Christmas should be moved from December 25 to June 25.

Why Move Christmas To Summer?

Consider everything this radical plan would solveavoidable viral outbreaks, mulled wine, your daughters spewing on your best cushions, affairs, war & me having to go to Suffolk when it’s raining and no one wants to hang out.

Excited?

Now think of the opportunities. Reimagining St Nicholas for the summer. A more Scream-inspired Krampus. A great excuse to banish The Holiday and Single Santa Meets Mrs Claus. Burning Christmas jumpers and wanton consumerism. A funky new soundtrack based on surf rock and cliche stripped songs. Or how about Bank holidays for when it’s actually nice outside?

Inspired? Great!

The concept’s environmentally sound, culturally acceptable and would probably ‘level-up’ the economy.

Here’s my (actually serious) argument for moving Christmas from December 25 to June 25.

Wait, Why Do You Want To Move Christmas?

Right now, sitting within the tender age range of 29-34, Christmas is only good for one thing – visiting pubs near my parents’ house to ‘randomly’ bump into former classmates.

Why?

To show everyone how much I’ve grown. And to drunkenly laugh at how, even though objectively, my achievements are shitter than theirs, in my head, I’m still winning.

“What? Robert’s had a baby? How could anyone live so conventionally? I’ve been experimenting with loneliness since 2017.”

Henry circa Christmas 2019

Well, this was all ruined by COVID (and my unlikeable character).

Instead of putting my least favourite former classmates into imagined headlocks, I found myself caged at my parents’ house. The confinement would have broken someone weaker, but I found hope.

An angel came to me and said, I doth decree Christmas must be cancelled and replaced with Super Cool Summer Day on June 25. It was like, totally spiritual, but also not.

How Would You Move Christmas?

Easy. Cross out Christmas and Boxing Day in all the calendars and then rewrite it on June 25 and 26 respectively. 

Keep New Year’s Eve on December 31 and move Valentine’s Day to December 14. Why move Valentine’s Day? So the uncoupled still have a reason to be depressed this winter.

Wait, I bet you’re thinking I haven’t thought this through, aren’t you?

Isn’t Christmas Jesus’ Birthday?

Right, so your first problem with this plan is that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday. Well, you’re wrong.

Jesus’ birthday is disputed. Everyone used to think it was January 4. Why did they change their mind? Because some Roman Christian historian Sextus Julius Africanus calculated that if Jesus was conceived on March 25, he must have gestated for exactly nine months and definitely been born on December 25. It’s suspect isn’t it? How can we feasibly believe something someone called Sextus said? We can’t. So no one has any idea when Jesus was born.

Also, the established thought on Jesus’ birthday being on December 25 was developed by people who thought the earth was flat. Need I say more?

If anything, Jesus is probably really pissed that everyone’s been celebrating his birthday on the wrong day for the last two thousand years. It’d be safer to just not celebrate it.

You don’t want to go to hell, do you?

What About The Winter Solstice?

Every idiot knows that the Romans grafted Jesus’ birthday onto an existing pagan holiday, now lovingly known as Winter Solstice. This was to trick the stupid Engish people into contracting their polytheisic tendencies to boring monotheism.

But wait. It’s 2022. 

I think we can all agree for all the Celts that the celebration of Christmas amounts to the celebration of Celtic cultural genocide. It’s pretty insensitive to celebrate a Christian holiday on one of their holidays.

I Don’t Believe You

Who cares? Jesus was a martyr. Do you know who else is a martyr? Think about it (your sister when she forces herself to eat your home made mince pies). Would you have a holiday on the other martyrs’ birthdays?

Ultimately, I respect your right to believe whatever you like.

I don’t care if you’re theistically wed to 25 December being Jesus’ birthday. 

However, I do think it’s selfish to force everyone else to celebrate that date through a nationally prescribed bank holiday, whether the Church of England exists or not. Particularly if it means that I’m obliged to visit my parents’ in the dead of winter.

Any more problems? No? Great.

Christmas Spreads COVID, Flu & Genital Warts

The main problem with Christmas is that its current date coincides with transmission spikes for viral infections. Now don’t get defensive. It’s time to accept that we live in a post-non-pandemic world.

Right now, Christmas is positioned bang in the middle of the most infectious time of the year. Why? Because we live in England (if you’re reading this and don’t live in England, why?). It’s really cold and rains all the time, even more so in December, January and February.

Also, from whence did COVID emerge in Europe? How did it get to England? From a ski resort in Italy. Can you think of anything more stereotypically Christmas-y? The evidence is pretty clear. In its current incarnation, Christmas = COVID = Death. Want to keep Christmas where it is? Fine, but you need to accept that you’re a murderer.

The Government decreed that when COVID’s about, it’s better to mix socially outside. So it would make way more sense to move national family-orientated holidays to a time of year when you can go outside. 

Unfortunately, the only time of year for that in England is the summer. And we all want to protect the NHS. Don’t we? So why not move Christmas to summer?

Christmas Birthdays Are Unfair

Do you have a birthday near or on Christmas? Do you know someone who has a birthday near, or on Christmas?

Well, I can tell you that these people have suffered. They need someone to speak up for them, because like all people born on Christmas, they’re martyrs (ha – see what I did there?)

It’s not fair that all those born on Christmas Day, or around Christmas, are constantly having their birthdays ruined by Christmas. Statistically, those unlucky enough to be born on the 24, 25 and 26 December receive 57% less presents and merriment than those born on other days. They’re also 78% more likely to go bald.

As a nation, it’s only fair that we shift the pain to another set of birthdays. Haven’t those born around Christmas suffered enough? It’s time to fight for the rights of those with Christmas birthdays.

Consider those born on June 25 – Ricky Gervais, Bartholomeus V. Welser, George Orwell. Haven’t they had enough success because they were born on June 25 already? Totally. Let’s move Christmas there then!

Rebranding Christmas To The Max

Who’s Christmas’ spokesperson? A fat, old white male, whose parents were probably rich. How else would he be able to afford to live in the North Pole as a genteel? Even more troubling, what are his pastimes? Giving children presents, sneaking down chimneys and deciding who’s been naughty and nice.

If that was a description of your weird uncle or Prince Andrew, what would you conclude? Exactly.

A great reason to strip Santa down. Could Coca-Cola find a more appropriate mascot than this hog-roasting hottie?

It’s high time St Nicholas was cancelled and replaced with someone relevant. I’ll leave it to Coca Cola to figure out exactly what they should look like, but why not make them a little more diverse? And instead of holding absolute authority on who deserves presents, why not delegate that to Twitter? I mean, if they’re already doing the work, why duplicate it?

Going beyond the spokesperson, why not change the colours too? Red, green, white and gold? It’s tacky. What about an ironic, second-hand Hawaiian shirt and some pineapples. And instead of mulled wine, which isn’t exactly a brand, how about getting Red Bull and Bacardi to sponsor a very summer Christmas?

Killing Christmas Adverts

Do Christmas adverts still excite you? Of course not. Here’s what I gleaned from 2021’s batch of Christmas adverts:

  1. John Lewis’ alien spaceship thing was weird and appeared to be about how it’s ok for fully grown space women to seduce underage human boys.
  2. Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot appeared to be subliminally pushing the wholesomeness of vibrators. 
  3. Marks & Spencers‘ think it’s seasonally appropriate to push pigs’ cannibalistic tendencies.

While I appreciate that these were a little subversive, they’re scattershot and don’t really work. 

It’d be cooler to see what advertising houses could do with summer Christmas adverts. Imagine New Santa rubbing Boots’ Soltan Sun Block onto whoever won I’m A Celebrity or Coca Cola running a reimagined classic Diet Coke dusty petrol station ad.

You’d probably buy way more crap, thus saving the economy.

Revitalising Christmas Content

It’s a well established fact that all the good Christmas movies aren’t about Christmas; Evil Dead 2, Hook & Escape from New York. Watching these classics in the summer instead of in December wouldn’t diminish viewing pleasure.

Further, most of the Christmas short stories revered today were cynical commercial projects:

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer was commissioned by the US Department Store Montgomery Ward in the 1930s.

“Nothing says Christmas like a maverick British lieutenant bayonetting a dirty Frenchman in the face.” – Insights from a survey into Daily Mail Reader’s thoughts on Xmas

And don’t get mad at me for revealing this, but everyone’s favourite Christmas fable, Sharpe’s Christmas by Bernard Cornwell, the epic tale of how Major Richard Sharpe and the Prince of Wales Own Volunteers escaped from a dirty French Prison in time to get back for Christmas, was commissioned by the Daily Mail

Both are keen examples of wonderful stories built on black hearts. They’re not filled with the true spirit of Christmas, they’re insides are sticky with miserly capitalist gain.

Think, if Christmas was in the middle of summer, all those struggling writers would have the chance to write, ‘The Very Naughty Drone‘ or ‘How Dare You Say Mistress Claus’ Red Bikini Is Too Small, She Can Wear Whatever She Likes‘.

An Effective Scheme To Save The Hospitality Sector

This year, major brewer Adnams reported that they made only 50% of their usual takings this Christmas. As all the pubs were emphasising in the run up to Christmas 2021, takings over the holiday usually keep them afloat for the slow months over the rest of the year. So, as emphasised already, given that the Government has absolutely no idea when the COVID pandemic will be over, there’s every possibility they’ll face the consequences of a soft lockdown next Christmas.

Think about it. Could you handle it, if by Christmas 2023 all the pubs in your parents’ town have been forced to close? Where would you go on Christmas Eve? How would you find school friends to put into imaginary headlocks? You wouldn’t.

The only realistic and proactive measure that anyone can take to prevent this outcome is to move Christmas to June 25. With New Year’s Eve remaining where it is, the hospitality sector will get a double boost (probably).

Moving Christmas To Summer – The Gift That Keeps Giving

Even better, moving Christmas to the summer time would mean two more bank holidays over summer. 

That’s perfect for people with real jobs. Even better, there’s a sweetener.

If you don’t move the school summer holidays, teachers would lose two bank holidays. This makes the change much easier to sell to readers of the Sun and the Daily Mail.

What Could Go Wrong?

Nothing. 

I’d have a better Christmas. You’d have a better Christmas. We’d all have a better Christmas.

The only disadvantage would be that I can no longer bask in the heating at my parents’ house over December. But ultimately, I truly believe that’s a very small price to pay for banishing this shitty tradition.

NB: Henry developed this policy proposal on his phone while at his parents’ house, while obstinately refusing to watch reruns of Dr Who and Amazon Prime’s Wheel of Time with his father. Policy officials at DCMS are invited to plagiarise this proposal and present it to their Secretary of State as soon as possible. Should this plan be realised, an angel prophesied that it would become the most innovative policy to emerge from DCMS ever.

Peppa Pig’s Plan To Level Up Britain

Hands up who hates Peppa Pig! You all do?! Great.

Well thankfully, the obnoxious brat’s finally done something useful. She’s provided the trotters and snouts needed to make Britain ‘great again’. And no, that’s not in a Greggs sausage roll kind of way, despite flaky pastry being the closest thing we have to a national treasure.

It’s a relief, given the Prime Minister’s recent, rather honest admission that “No Whitehall civil servant could have conceivably come up with [a plan as good as] Peppa’s.” Perhaps forgetting that Peppa Pig is actually a cartoon for children conceived by the unwashed & unemployed (apparently anyway)

So it’s no wonder that Michael Gove’s new Department has drawn inspiration from the little swine’s theme park to set out exactly how they’re going to level up the UK. There’s a rumour that she even helped name his new department. Really? Well, who else but a pig would think the Department for Levelling Up would be responsible for anything but rubber stamping DnD character progression?

While I recognise that now would be a good time for a gammon joke, they’re as lazy as Daddy Pig, so make one up yourself (actually, how about, oh you Gammon? – I know, it’s funny. Don’t wet yourself).

What’s This About Boris Johnson Hiring Peppa Pig?

For anyone who missed it, this weekend the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson’s breaking announcement about his plans to remodel Britain in the image of Peppa Pig World. And what better place than the Confederation of British Industry’s weekend conference

So now it’s all out in the open, I thought I’d spill the beans. Don’t worry, I won’t get into trouble. Like all those other leaked announcements, everyone important already knows responsibility sits with Special Advisers or Dominic Cummings. 

What Is Peppa Pig World?

It’s a dreary theme park in Hampshire, where estranged single fathers take their teenage children to one up their former spouses. It’s also a beacon of hope and an architectural marvel, eclipsing the majesty of Great Yarmouth’s Merrivale Model Village.

Now that we’ve covered all the details, I bet you’re dying to know exactly what’s in store for Britain. 

Let’s dive into the trough and discover exactly how Peppa Pig’s going to change the course of British history.

Levelling Britain Up into a Pig Pen

Innovative, sensational & sexy. Here’s Peppa Pig’s Levelling Up Strategy: 

The Prime Minister’s ‘Policy’ Paper – ‘Peppa Pig’s Plan to Level Out Britain’, developed by lab rats at LUHC.
Officials tabbed it up for easier consumption

Right, so we’ve covered fishing disputes, covering up sleaze, mass transit projects, a way to send away the immigrants, a way to get everyone healthy, some stuff about space and a sanitised national anthem. Surely that’s enough experience for a level up?

Incredible that I wrote this tripe in half an hour.

What’s Going On?

I don’t know. However, it does seem like a better strategy to level up Britain than the current one. So maybe cut Boris a little slack. There’s no harm in talking about Peppa Pig at a business conference. I mean, had anyone in attendance managed to sell the rights to their crappy cartoon for £3.6 billion? No?

Coucou President Macron #1 – The Breakfast of Champions

How the President of France Became My Penpal

Did you know that Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, is my penpal? 

Probably not. I don’t think he does either. 

Yesterday, I sent a letter to him and it’s a masterpiece. It’s probably going to fix Brexit. 

I even put three second class stamps on it, so if you don’t see him this weekend, it’s because he’s working on his response.

I recently told someone that the Royal Mail was going to go bust after Brexit because it’s kept afloat by junk mail sent from mainland Europe

It’s such a great story that I had to share it.

Get ready for an epic episodic tale of brotherly love, political espionage & learning French.

I’d wager you’ll enjoy this even more than the Hunchback of Notre Dame. Even that bit when the train crashes and all those people’s face’s start melting.

Here’s how it happened.

How I Started To Feel Like French Toast

Imagine you’re French toast. Damp, sticky and filled with intrigue – at least when I make it.

That’s how I felt at the start of this adventure.

Despite achieving a commendable C in GCSE French, today, I can’t hold a conversation in the language.

You’re spitting your coffee out right now, aren’t you? Exclaiming, ‘Why’s that a problem?!

And you’re right.

If you’re English it’s your birth right to assume that everyone else can speak your language. 

However, I had a predicament. 

You see, at least four of my friends are French and sometimes they speak French to each other (for those who doubt I have four friends, they’re called Jean-Pierre, Jean-Claude, Jean-Renault and Jean-Bic). 

While I’m pretty sure I know what they’re saying, I don’t.

I’ve worked out that it’s one of these three subjects, but I need to know which one:

  1. Who fancies me the most
  2. How they’re not as handsome or successful as me
  3. What they’re having for lunch at the studio burger van. Probably breaking the fourth wall in French, while picking apart my lead role in the half-scripted reality tv show, Ultra Warrior (have you seen my abs?)

I’d quite like to know what they’re talking about. If it’s no.3, I’d be really interested in whether I have a clothing line of oversized print t-shirts. If I do, maybe I will make rent this month.

How I Paid To Learn French

When I had a job, I was enrolled on a French course for children at the Institut Français du Royaume Uni in South Kensington. 

It was great, except everyone else in the class was twelve. They weren’t from England and they were much better at French than I. English too.

However, despite these formidable challenges, I made a lot of progress on the course. 

I learned great phrases like, ‘tu est mon petit chou,’ which is how all students should address their teachers. I also learned that ‘why’ is pronounced ‘i-grec’.

But at £340 a term, after reneging on my job, I didn’t have the cash to start Baby-French-Plus. 

Yet I needed to learn more.

You see, after the course there was only one verb that I understood: ‘manger,’ to eat.

Je mange une orange

Je mange un ordinateur

Je mange un petit chat

Je mange la rue

You get the idea.

It was the linguistic equivalent to being a one year old.

I was unable to do anything except stick things in my mouth.

How To Master French For Free

No one gives out baguettes or visits to Élysée Palace for free. So I’ve had to devise my own ingenious strategies to master the French language with limited resources. 

It’s a pretty great three pronged strategy:

  1. Point at something, then ask your French girlfriend what it is in French. Ignore her response. Repeat
  2. Repeat the same lesson on Duolingo again and again and again (yes, I am calm & rich)
  3. Trick a very important French person into becoming your pen-pal so you can move to Paris and fully immerse yourself in the language. Finally, I’ll have that column in Le Monde. It’s the only thing that’s going to raise my Grandfather, the great Francophobe, from the grave.

So that’s it! This is point three of my master plan to learn French for free.

Why Write To President Macron?

Why ask? 

In France, there aren’t any monarchs. They got rid of them during that revolution. According to Napoleon, that makes the president the king. Writing to a king is WAY better than writing to someone in jail.

Also, President Macron fits a lot of important pen pal criteria:

  1. He can speak French at least as well as I can
  2. French people hate him, so he doesn’t have many friends
  3. We have a lot of common interests. He’s advising the EU on Brexit, and he like I would like to watch the UK burn
  4. He has to reply, because he’s a public servant
  5. He wants letters. Check it out. This website says that if you’re interested in current events & would like to share your thoughts you SHOULD write to President Macron. So he kind of had this coming

He’s the best person I could have written to.

A Breakfast of Champions

But what could I write to him want to be my new bosom?

Inexperienced at friendship, I figured it was probably like life. Everyone’s always saying that you should start things with the most important meal of the day – breakfast. So why not start there?

I was in luck too! At this stage I knew how to say most things about breakfast in French.

That’s why my first letter to President Macron begins with our favourite meal of the day:

I’m told ‘bisous’ means ‘yours sincerely’

Read on. It’s delish!

Coucou President Macron #1 – The Breakfast of Champions

Cou Cou Presidente Macron

Le petit déjeuner des champions

Je suis Henry, et je suis anglais. J’ai trente ans, et je ne travaille pas parce que je n’ai pas le droit de traverser la route. C’est trop dangereux !

En ce moment, j’apprends le français, et je pense que j’ai besoin d’un ami de crayon! Un correspondant et un ami très important ! 

Vous connaissez beaucoup de politique et moi aussi! Et je pense que vous avez besoin d’un ami de crayon aussi pour vous aider avec le Brexit et pour les affaires domestiques des français ! 

Toutes mes félicitations ! Je suis votre nouvel ami de crayon !

Parce que nous sommes amis maintenant, je vais écrire “tu” et non “vous”.

Comme toutes les belles amitiés commencent avec le petit déjeuner! 

Maintenant, le petit déjeuner des champions commence avec Henry (moi) et toi (Président Macron)! 

Je te promets que ça sera savoureux, très intéressant et délicieux.

En général, je mange un petit déjeuner traditionnel ! En anglais, ça s’appelle “English Breakfast” !. 

Dans le “English Breakfast” il y a deux saucisses, un œuf, des haricots de fuer, trois tranches de bacon, du pain frit, une tomate de frite et des champignons! C’est parfait, parce que les champignons sont pour les champions !

Mais, aujourd’hui je n’ai pas mangé de petit déjeuner traditionnel, parce que nous prenons le petit déjeuner ensemble et nous ne mangeons pas la nourriture ! Nous mangeons de bonnes idées !

Et toi ? En France, quel est le petit déjeuner traditionnel ? Je pense que c’est différent.

Je sais que tu parles avec le Premier Ministre du Royaume-Uni sur les achats préférés de la population. Et tu veux le meilleur prix ! Je sais qu’il adore manger du cochon. Tu dois lui dire, “Les cochons français sont bien meilleurs que les cochons anglais !”

Ces informations sont très utiles pour ta discussion sur le Brexit !

Hier, j’ai lu que les photographies de la police étaient interdites. Pourquoi ? Est-ce qu’ils sont très moches ? Je sais que les gens très moches gâchent les photographies, mais ils doivent se sentir très mal maintenant.

Peux-tu les prendre en photo pour moi et me les envoyer ? Je vais à savoir si c’est trop mauvais !

Quel super petit-déjeuner ! Je suis très content que nous soyons amis. Passe-moi le jus d’orange s’il te plaît !

Ecris-moi vite !

Bisous,

Henry (ton ami préféré)

Londres, Royaume-Uni

What I Think It Says

It’s a masterpiece, isn’t it?

What a beautiful friendship (L – Henry, R – President Macron)

For everyone who can’t speak French as well as I can, here’s what I *think* it says:

To break the ice, I begin with a lighthearted joke about how I don’t have a job because crossing the road is dangerous. Now Emma’s warmed up, he’s now ready to hear about the exceptional political expertise I have to offer him. 

I’m confident that we’re going to be friends, so after introductions, I drop the formality and start using ‘tu’ instead of ‘vous’.

Next, I explain the complexities of British culinary habits and how a deep understanding of them can and will improve Brexit deal outcomes for everyone.

Ever the caring friend, I invite him to tell me what the French people usually eat for breakfast, even though I already know it’s nesquik.

I then engage him directly on the Assemblée Nationale’s lower chamber’s recent passage of the Global Security Bill, which proposes to circumvent journalist’s ability to publish photographs of policemen and women online. Now, I’m worried that this wasn’t his decision, as he’s French and loves liberty. I assume because of this, he must have been kidnapped by someone who didn’t want their photograph taking. So, I help him alert me of his captor with a clever ploy – I invite him to send me a picture of them, in confidence.

Finally, I congratulate him on a superb breakfast and implore him to write back soon.

I have every confidence that he will.

The Exciting Next Episode of Coucou President Macron

Next week we’re going to take an imaginary trip to the countryside for a relaxed weekend.

We might also talk about why French cockerals say such stupid things.

I can’t wait. Can you?

Afterthoughts

What would you do if President Macron was your penpal? Stop dreaming. He’s mine. 

Still, this week I learned that it costs the same amount of money to send a letter from the United Kingdom to France, as it does to send it to Azerbaijan. 

Incredible. Maybe you can find someone to talk to there.

Why Russia’s Not The Hottest Potato

The biggest threat to UK democracy probably isn’t Russia. It’s probably disinformation peddled by the UK Government, political parties and campaign groups.

Yesterday, the Intelligence and Security Committee (ISC) published a breezy report about how the UK Government “took its eye off the ball on Russia.

The report identifies that Russia poses a significant threat to the UK security, in part due to state-funded, malicious cyber campaigns targeted at the UK. These offensive attacks have allegedly attempted to influence every major democratic vote in the UK since the 2016 Scottish Referendum. 

It concludes that disinformation campaigns spearheaded by adversarial foreign states pose a threat to democracy in the UK, recommending that an appropriate defence against this threat would be new regulations for advertising on Social Media and a new set of powers for the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster.

Even redacted, it’s a fun read; highlighting some of the current challenges faced in international relations. 

However, the recommendations at heart of the report highlight the UK Government’s continued lopsided stance on tackling disinformation in UK politics.

So What’s In The Russia Report?

Not a lot. 

It says Russia’s not a nice place, Russian’s hate the West and the Secret Intelligence Services should have done more about the threat from the mid-2000s.

On the whole, it portrays Russia as the misunderstood nihilist. You know, the one who sits at the back of the class, setting fire to things and misquoting Nietzsche.

The report then recommends that to establish the framework to address the situation, new Ministerial powers should be given to the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster (Cabinet Office), empowering them to protect “democratic discourse and processes from [international] interference.” While the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) must establish a protocol with social media companies to ensure that they take covert hostile state use of their platforms seriously, and ‘name and shame’ those that don’t.

So What’s The Problem?

Delivering powers to prevent foreign interference with elections will not address the most potent challenges to democracy in the UK. 

Instead, reports like this arguably divert attention from serious domestic issues with UK politics that the UK Government should be actively addressing rather than just paying lip service to.

Briefly, here are some of the actual domestic challenges faced by UK democracy:

  • The Unchecked Ugliness of Electioneering. Take the 2019 General Election Fact Check UK scandal and well documented factual fallacies in the campaigning material used to support the 2016 EU Referendum Leave and Remain campaigns. In both instances, note the significant lack of consequences faced by those who benefited politically from misleading the public. Right now, during an election, there’s no effective punishment for those who don’t play by the rules. That’s a licence for anyone to lie their way into Government.
  • Prevailing Public Mistrust of the UK Government and Political Parties. There are plenty of reasons people don’t trust the Government or politicians; but it’s not helped by the UK Government’s continued reliance on misleading statistics. This could be anything from the continued use of heavily caveated unemployment and disability figures, misleading R&D investment totals to frequent misclassification of old funding as ‘new’. The same goes for political parties who misquote their record in Government. The average person is never going to verify claims like this themselves, and when they see claims that they are wrong in the Sun or Guardian, why should they continue to trust politicians.
  • The UK’s Failed Citizenship Test. The persistence of a relatively poor national understanding of how laws are made, how Government works and how MPs are voted into office. How can people actively participate in a democracy when they don’t understand it?
  • Continued Constitutional Failures of the UK Electoral System. How can every vote matter in a system in which every major party has endorsed some form of tactical voting during a national election? Or is willing to rewrite electoral boundaries without the check of Parliamentary scrutiny? Or is a vote in a country that still employs the first past the post system? What was the argument for it again? Namely that more often than not, it delivers a stronger Government than those ‘awful’ coalitions mainland Europe has to suffer.

However, unlike an international aggressor, these issues are pretty boring. Every time I try to force a conversation about constitutional politics with my friends, they call me a Lib Dem and ask if Nick Clegg’s my boyfriend.

But still, what’s the point in protecting a democracy when the electorate do not have the right to make informed decisions

Can you even protect a democracy when the electorate do not have the right to make informed decisions?

I’d argue not.

What Do You Do?

Whether the political system works is always going to be dependent on your definition of ‘works’. My definition of ‘works’ is that the electorate know what they’re voting for, and understand as best they can, the consequences of what they are voting for.

I really hate it when people write about issues, but don’t suggest how to resolve them. So, here’s how I think you’d go about rectifying some of these challenges:

  1. Proper Consequences for MPs and Parties Promoting Disinformation. Give the Electoral Commission the powers and resources necessary to assess when political candidates and their parties have lied or purposefully misled the electorate. Also give them powers to enforce adequate punishments on said parties. Parties and campaigning groups don’t care about monetary fines. They don’t work. Instead, why not force a reduction in the number of voting MPs that party can have at any one time; so the consequence is potentially the loss of majority, but not the complete loss of representation.
  2. An Independent National Research Unit. When there’s a General Election, political parties rely on their own research units to provide statistics for their campaigns. The electorate then has to rely on Fact Check UK, the BBC and other unaffiliated organisations to assess whether politician’s and party’s claims are factual. There should be a state funded, independent organisation that provides accurate information to those running for election, and debunks figures that have been manipulated for the electorate. This responsibility should not be given to Big Data companies, as they should not be part of a national election. This organisation’s definition of truth should not be influenced by possible commercial or political gain.

On the topic of education, I don’t think there’s a simple solution here. Specifically, I do not believe mandatory classes at secondary school would really increase anyone’s understanding of the system.

On the boundaries issue, as long as there’s no way to create laws that are immune to amendment, beyond actually introducing a written British Constitution, I don’t see how this could be achieved effectively.

However, on the whole, I’d argue that these two actions would do more for democracy in the UK than any action on Russia will.

Disagree with me? Great. Tell me why.