Sorry? No, no. This is the new-style column, the young, modern column to go with the young modern nation wha tha wossname Blair , tha Tone, ripe? e's pry minster, yeah? fu -
Say again? Ah. I see. That's my non-standard, English, as is only appropriate for a young, modern column. You wouldn't really want me to write in dreary old standard English, would you? I mean, even the World Service is going to be modernised, following intensive, scrupulous market research which showed conclusively that heeeheheheeeehooohohooooo AAAAAAHH hee hee he hahahahahahahah oh bugger me, so sorry, it's the words "market research", they always set me off, nothing I can do about it, sorry. Sorry.
No, it's just that the BBC, a young, modern organisation (headed by John Birt, a young, modern man who embraces the young, modern notion that everyone who wants to watch television must contribute to his salary or risk being sent to prison) has responded in a young, modern way to young, modern market research, revealing, inter alia, that:
! 31 people in Burkina Faso think that most BBC World Service producers are married to a chintz sofa called Marjorie,
! Six Polvotsian goatherds answered "Yes" to the question "Do you believe that some people think the BBC World Service is redolent of very English things like the Houses of Parliament and cheerful Cockney sparrers?" and
! A very old man picked at random from a party of retired Zimbabwean ophthalmologists on a day trip to Kariba Dam expressed the conviction that 57 per cent of World Service presenters wore bowler umbrellas and carried a furled clotted-cream bus whether or not it was raining London fog.
Can't have that, of course. Quite the wrong image. Guidance has come from on high; Blair, in between sticking up for the potato-faced Clinton, has made it quite clear that we are to present ourselves as a ... what? Come on: yes, a young, modern nation, and that means one thing to the BBC: a vile salmagundi of regional accents and pop music.
It's jolly clever, you must admit. First of all pull the wool over Johnny Foreigner's eyes by broadcasting to him in dialects he cannot possibly understand, then stupefy him with the repetitive imbecilities of Burp, Plod and other young, modern guitar beat combos, m'lud. The only problem is, we are not a young modern nation. We are a very old one, with a history of quite astounding distinction. This wet little island, dripping and shivering, has exported its science, its thought and culture and language and technology, throughout the world for centuries; our sheer power has been almost unparalleled since the Roman Empire; every breath we take, every step we make is instinct with the accretions of time; living in England is like inhabiting a great echo-chamber where our own words are picked up and whispered back to us by numberless immemorial ghosts.
And this - all this, which people from other, less distinguished countries admire and revere and dream of and come to visit us hoping to find - this is what we must destroy or repudiate in order to become young and modern. Yes! Hooray! We can be like America, ignoring the fact that America is at root just a sort of mass-market Bowdlerised supermarket version of us. We can throw out Mr Blair and get ourselves a proper leader, someone so innately touchy-feely that he simply can't stop wanking over anyone who comes within range. We can dispose of the BBC and get some proper, young, modern television, written by machines and acted by demographically- representative androids. We can start doing young, modern things like shooting each other and believing in angels and seeing the figure of Death at our bedheads ("He was like this like really like you know guy, nice haircut and all, and he was like 'Everything's going to be okay' you know?"). We can legalise pornography and outlaw sex, we can promote choice and restrict variety, we can stop bothering with ethical problems and never again consider the question: How should a man live?, but go shopping instead.
But this will not be enough. We will have to change ourselves. And the great question of our time must therefore be: how do I become a young, modern person?
Fortunately, again, we have guidance from above. The first step to becoming a young, modern person is to say you are a young, modern person. Practise it. Go on: tap your beloved lightly on the forearm - do it now - and say: "Honey, I am a young, modern person." Do it. Just do it.
See? That wasn't so hard, was it? The mockery and stupefied incomprehension: you can live with them, can't you? Of course you can. Now you must go on repeating it. Don't just say "Coffee, darling?" Say - preferably in the Nordic carillon plainchant of a deep Geordie accent, if you can manage it - "Here at [mention your address], we are in a young, modern beverage solutions market, adapting to your ever-changing needs in a fast-paced society. Customer profiling and an in-depth analysis of consumer needs shows clearly that coffee is the preferred beverage of that critical target-group which wishes to project a young, modern image. I feel your pain, [insert personalised endearment here, e.g., darling, sugarplum, studmuffin, etc] and I am responsive to your beverage-based desiderata, which is why I have a real sense of personal self-actuation in offering you a delicious cup- style container full of finest Arabica, freshly ground and drip-filtered for Flavor Without Bitterness. Young, modern and Mmmmm ... It's Smoooth. A-BOOM ching ching ching, a-BOOM ching ching ching.
A few months of this and, hey presto!, you will be young and modern. True, your darling, sugarplum or studmuffin will have smacked you in the mouth and done a runner, but not to worry; you'll be able to sit at your computer, deracinated, arid and woozy, frotting blearily over your digitised pornography; and, bless my soul, you don't get more young or modern than that. !