"I thought George Best's death was a bit of an anti-climax", said the man with the dog, buying himself a pint, his wife a glass of wine, and the dog nothing. "All those farewell tributes, all those old photos, all those football clips - all wonderful! And then he quietly slipped away and it all stopped. Bit of a let-down, really."
"Would have been even more wonderful if he had suddenly bounced back and made everyone foolish," said the resident Welshman. "One last nutmeg."
"Nutmeg?" said the lady with the green hairdo. (She has a green hairdo because she is still drinking Stone's ginger wine, and is coiffed accordingly. "I coiffe as I quaff," is her motto.)
"It's a football term, dear lady," said the Major. "Don't bother your pretty little head about it."
How he gets away with it, nobody knows.
"What surprised me," said the dog-owner's wife, "was the sheer coverage they gave Best. He hadn't played football for years and years. He hadn't done much but drink for years and years. My children didn't even know who he was. So why all this overboard treatment?"
"I'll tell you why," said the resident Welshman. "And I take no credit for this theory. It was passed on to me by a nephew who works in TV. But he says that the media are controlled by a group of people who are all roughly the same age. Anything from 45 to 55. Maybe 60. And they all have the same generational memories of growing up with people like George Best as a hero, so they commission all these dreary programmes on their icons."
"What other icons?" said the green lady.
"Bob Dylan," said the Welshman promptly. "They're all Dylan fans. That's why we had a Bob Dylan overload a few weeks ago. And John Lennon. And Johnny Cash. And Princess Margaret, sort of. And Myra Hindley ...
"Myra Hindley?" said the green lady. "What albums did she make?"
"No, she was the villain of that generation," said the Welshman. "Every generation needs a figure of evil. In the old days it was Dr Crippen. Or Aleister Crowley. Or Hitler. For this lot, it was Myra Hindley. Every time they wanted to make people's flesh creep, they would concoct stories about Hindley being let out of prison. Or never being let out of prison. Or being taken back to the moors to point out more bodies."
"So who is evil now?" said someone. "Jeffrey Archer?"
There was laughter.
"Actually, I don't think it is individuals who are evil these days so much as groups," said the Welshman. "We invest groups with evil qualities. Racists. Paedophiles. Rapists. Elitists. Britart ..."
"Men," said the green lady. More laughter. "No, seriously," she continued, "there is an American called Maureen Dowd who has written a book called Are Men Necessary?"
"Ah, but it's only the target that changes," said the Welshman. "Many years ago, Thurber and E B White wrote a book called Is Sex Necessary?. Now it's men. Next it will be, well, I don't know ..."
"It will be people," said the man with the dog. "There's a feeling growing that without human beings the world would be a better place. David Attenborough virtually said so the other day. In fact, he did say so."
"All his programmes say so," said the Welshman. "The thing that unifies all Attenborough's programmes is the complete absence of humanity. Nature, for him, is better untouched by human footfall. Hundreds of hours of wildlife footage and not a human face to be seen. Except, oddly, Attenborough's own."
"Bit like what P G Wodehouse said," said the man with the dog.
"What did Wodehouse say?" said the green lady.
"Someone asked him one day if he knew that the great powers now had enough weapons stockpiled to wipe out the whole of humanity. And he said: 'I can't wait'."
There was a sudden chill in the pub; then someone changed the subject to pensions and we all got even more depressed.Reuse content