I WAS so livid I couldn't get the sentence out. 'W-w-what is happening this to once of great country ours?' I spluttered. I took a deep breath and tried again. 'Th-th-this once what country of ours to happening great is?' Again, no luck. My blood was boiling, albeit proverbially. 'I'm terribly sorry,' I said. 'You'll have to bear with me.' At last, after a couple of stiff whiskies, I managed to stammer it out: 'What is happening to this once great country of ours?'

I was sitting in what has come to be known as 'Wallace's chair' in the snug bar at the Garrick Club, trusty pipe to the fore, attempting to set the world to rights with some very dear friends. 'Whatever happened to the good old Scotch Egg?' asked my old friend and quaffing partner Sir (if you will]) Kingsley Amis. 'I remember the days when the good old Scotch Egg was everywhere,' he added. 'No gentlemen would ever think of going into town without a halfway decent Scotch Egg about his person. Far from it] He'd carry a couple in his waistcoat pockets, one in his trouser turn-ups and perhaps three or four in his hat.'

The immensely affable Mr Godfrey Smith chipped in: 'In addition to one in his back trouser pocket, so that it would be flattened for immediate consumption by the time he arrived at work.'

'Quite,' boomed Kingers. 'But now the Scotch Egg is no more. The only way you'll get a Scotch Egg these days is if you are hit over the head with one by a masked man in a dark alley] Gone the way of the Steam Tram, I shouldn't wonder.'

'You've hit the proverbial nail on its uppermost protuberance there, Kingers, old man]' I exclaimed. 'Do you know, it must be quite literally yonks since I last saw a Steam Tram wending its way jovially down the Mall, carrying its full quota of merry passengers, each avidly reading the latest Dickens while reciting Kipling by heart.'

'But now all we have from the lower orders is whine, whine, whine]' boomed Kingers.

'Red or white, sir?' asked Alfred, the club servant.

'Both]' barked Kingers. 'And another thing - whatever happened to the penny-farthing? It must be years since I last set eyes on one. Now it's all cars this, cars that. And it's encouraged by this 'Tory' government. When was the last time you saw Mr Major on a penny-farthing? Eh? Eh? A good three years, I'll warrant.'

'Mr Major? Mr Major? Mister Major?]' It was my old quaffing partner Mr Paul Johnson, just woken from his post-prandial slumbers. 'That man has brought mayhem to our streets, he has ravished our daughters and dispossessed our sons and now he plans to sell our birthright for an ecu]'

'And I'm told he's unsound on badger-baiting, too,' I ventured, taking a goodly puff on the old pipe. 'And what's more he's kicking his heels over the return of their rightful names to such plucky old counties as Rutland]'

'And what, perchance, of the Great British Banger?' It was my old mate and quaffing-partner Mr Keith Waterhouse, who had just entered the Garrick snug, and was busily removing his flat cap, Scotch Eggs and all.

'When the faceless boffins have got us knee-deep into Maastricht, you'll find there's no such thing as the Great British Banger any more, you take my word for it, lads,' continued Waterhouse. 'At the moment, there's nowt I like better than pointing the old gnashers in the direction of a Walls Pure Pork Banger, with it's good old British plastic skin and traditionally preprocessed inside. But, come Maastricht, we'll be force-fed Frog, Eyetie and Jerry sausages, with their disgusting REAL skins and REAL meat, full of so-called 'continental' flavour, you mark my words.'

'And it's donkey's years since I last saw a good, old-fashioned hand-powered dentist's drill,' added Kingers. 'These days it's all this electric nonsense, with wretched painkillers beforehand.'

'And it's donkey's years since I last saw a donkey,' added Godders.

'It's the French,' opined Keith. 'They turn 'em into Scotch Eggs soon as look at 'em.'