A 21st-century story book

'The leader of the British helped the Americans to invade a certain Middle East country ruled by a tyrant who wasted money on palaces'
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The Independent Online

Today I am bringing you a trio of little stories suitable for our twisted times.

Today I am bringing you a trio of little stories suitable for our twisted times.

Story One

Once upon a time there was a humorous journalist who liked to go on television and talk about the human condition, that is to say, he liked to turn things he had seen and observed into humorous observations. He did this so well and so regularly that he became famous for his sardonic yet kindly reports on his fellow men.

One day the interviewer asked him a question which the man had asked him to ask in advance, namely: "Do you ever think that women are better off than men?"

"Sure I do," said the humorist. "I'll give you an example. When I was getting in the bath last night, I noticed that my little toe had caught on the bath mat, so I had a look at my toe to see what was wrong with it and noticed that the nail had split down the middle. In fact both my little toes had split down the middle, leaving the nail divided and liable to catch on something."

"Ouch !" said the interviewer. "But does that make women better off?"

"Certainly," said the humorist. "When they say they have got split ends, everyone knows they mean their hair. When I say I have got split ends, nobody knows what the hell I am talking about. That's not fair. I'm not saying it's a huge unfairness, but it's a start."

A few days later the humorist got a letter from a doctor who said he had been watching the programme and he didn't like to interfere, but in fact split little toe-nails was the symptom of a rare condition called Spangler's Disease, a kind of degenerative wasting disease, and he should have it looked at. The disease, the doctor added, was incurable.

Thereafter the humorist not only felt ill every time he looked at his toes, but he lost his sense of humour, was fired from his television job, became embittered and went quickly downhill. If he had retained his sense of humour he might have realised that bogus doctors do not just put on white coats and parade round hospitals – they also write letters with fake diagnoses to television celebrities.

Story Two

The leader of the British once decided to help the Americans to invade a certain Middle Eastern country. This land was ruled over by a tyrant who wasted his people's money building vast useless palaces.

"Thank you!" the British leader told his people. "You have all helped defeat this dictator with his mad and vainglorious ideas!"

"Never mind about that," the people responded. "When are you going to do something about the Millennium Dome?"

Story Two

In far-off Hong Kong in the early 21st century there appeared a new variant of influenza which appeared to be absolutely fatal, even to nurses and doctors, and nobody could even work out how it was transmitted.

So immediately the medical fraternity got together to thrash out the first, vitally important question: What should it be called?

Very often a disease is named after the discoverer. Such as Parkinson, or Alzheimer.

Occasionally it is named after its place of origin, such as German measles or Asian flu.

But in this case, as there was no very clear origin, they decided to give it an acronym, along the pattern of Aids, and they came up with the suggestion of Sars, which stood for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome. At the adoption meeting everyone was in favour except one young doctor who said he wished to object.

"And what is your objection?" said the venerable chairman.

"My objection is that Severe and Acute mean roughly the same thing. The name of the disease is a depressing tautology."

"We have already thought of that," said the chairman. "The trouble is that the press and media demand an acronym you can pronounce, so we couldn't call it Severe Respiratory Syndrome, as you can't say SRS in the way you can say Sars."

"Then why not call it Acute Respiratory Syndrome?" said the young doctor.

"Because we don't think we can get people to be serious about a disease called ARS," said the chairman drily. The young doctor withdrew his objection.

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