Grace Dent: It's been a long time coming, but at last they're reining in the chuggers, the scourge of our high streets

The girls extract money through tactical simpering, the boys favour an Elizabethan fool-style jiggle

Share

The laws are to be tightened on "chuggers". "Charity muggers". Those floppy-elbowed girls in friendship bangles and fractal leggings who lurk outside Boots feigning fascination in thirtysomething men in return for credit card sort-codes. The boys tend to be 18 to 25 years old, oddly handsome, failed TGI Friday waiters, the sort of men who dry their mildewed underpants for seven to nine days on a turned-off radiator while they read earnestly from Paulo Coelho's The Alchemist.

While the girls tend to extract money through tactical simpering, the boys are more assertive, favouring an Elizabethan fool-style jiggle on the spot and the warcry "How are we doing folks!?". The answer, of course, being: "I was better before you produced a picture of a sad donkey in leg calipers and guilt-tripped me into £5 a month to buy it fresh dandelions."

Chuggers: they're a social nuisance. I'm not a fan. I already give cash to good causes at least once a week via the plethora of my friends' mid-life crises masquerading as "charity work" – treks, cycle rides and marathons. Every daytime TV ad-break, every time Twitter refreshes, every time there's an unexpected knock at my door, someone is wanting money.

The chuggers, well, they can chug right off. I'm sure this will win me no friends among the chuggers and they'll probably stop talking to me. Result. I've spent years honing my "50-yard Baltic stare of Beelzebub". Maybe I won't have to walk along having pretend conversations into my mobile phone.

New laws specify that chuggers can't follow you more than three steps. They're also forbidden from hanging out within three metres of shop doorways, stations and cashpoints. Three metres? Not draconian enough. They could make it three miles and not one office worker on Tottenham Court Road in central London would sign a pledge to help them, not even if "Chuggers4Justice" sent Scarlett Johansson out there chugging clad in just toupee tape.

Another clause says chuggers cannot approach people who are drunk, which gives some defence to those hapless blokes who pop out for a lunchtime pint only to end up pledging £20 a month to some saucer-eyed ingenue "to help Ai Weiwei" even though they can't remember if Ai Weiwei is a rainforest or a type of llama. Or women like me, conned by some handsome messianic-eyed, hessian-clad pong into "Saving the Pandas" when I have already thought hard about pandas in light of last year's "Love Tunnel" disaster and those useless, indolent furry-faced gits aren't worth helping.

Chuggers are also now barred from approaching people who are visibly going to work. Cue the high street full of commuters resembling The Village People, carrying tool boxes and dressed as cowboys. Brilliantly, one of the anti-chugging rules says they can't take money off anyone who "isn't sure what they're doing". Well, that covers almost all of us on a daily basis. Perhaps the trick is when stopped to hit Moonsparkle and Peregrine in their hi-vis tabards with a massive dose of existential angst. "Why are we here? Is this all there is? What if God was one of us? Just a slob like one of us?" I might say, reaching out for a hug.

"Oh, but they're doing a good job! Their hearts are in the right place" some folk reading this are saying (that is, chuggers' mums who are glad they're out of the house all day so they can open a window and waft a Glade Spiced Apple candle about). But, as a chugger, if you've set out in life to work for the forces of good and ended up in a job whose nickname is a play on the word for violent assault, perhaps you should re-examine your strategies.

There's only one reason to approach me in the high street – aside from asking the time and asking directions, which I will dispense cheerily – and that's if my skirt is trapped in my knickers displaying my bum cheeks to the nearby traffic jam. I speak for large swathes of the Great British Antisocial Public who just want to be left alone. I can't get worked up about the thought of chuggers' move towards extinction. Like those lazy bamboo guzzlers Tian Tian and Yang Guang, they've only themselves to blame.

All human life is contained in 'Friends'

I've a long running theory that almost every human emotion, social situation and dilemma has been covered at one stage in the 90's sitcom Friends. It may sound berserk, but not a day passes during which the endless repeats I've soaked up don't offer up a parable. "It's like that bit in Friends where someone throws away Ross's sandwich!" I'll say or "It's like that bit where Rachel puts beef satay in the English trifle!". And most people get it.

With this in mind, I wonder if the cast of BBC1's New Tricks, namely Dennis Waterman, Amanda Redman and Alun Armstrong have watched the episode of Friends (season 2 episode 18) where Joey gives an interview to Soap Opera Digest, gets carried away with bravado and claims to have written the scripts for Days of Our Lives. It's oddly similar to the New Tricks stars claiming in Radio Times this week that not only is the show "more bland" now and they'd all rather be "in Copenhagen to do some extraordinary television", but more pressingly, according to Armstrong, "If we felt that a story didn't work, or that bits of the story could be improved, then – if the writer wasn't around – we would set about re-writing it ourselves." New Tricks' writers reject this claim strongly. It's like that episode of Friends where the writers gang up on Joey and kill him off. Maybe that'll liven things up for the poor thesps.

Come on, Elton, don't burden the little chap

Being fully aware of the sort of media/showbiz abundant private schools to which some of my friends send their children, I'm finding it hard to understand Elton John's worry about his poor 19-month son Zachary's future. Elton appears to think his son, who'll have two dads – one of whom is a celebrity – will be some sort of pariah. "At school, other children will say, 'You don't have a mummy.'" He frets on: "We've come a long way, but there's still homophobia and will be until a new generation of parents don't instil it in their children." Oh, pull your finger out Elton, don't make the strongest negative influence on the little emperor right now you.

twitter.com/@gracedent

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Case Handler

£15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Trainee Case Handler is requi...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Sales Apprentice

£15000 - £19000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £20,000 - £60,000

£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Team Leader

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

If I were Prime Minister: I would ramp up Britain's spending on science

Paul Nurse
A family remain in the open for the third night following the 7.8 quake in Nepal  

Nepal earthquake: Mobs of looters roam the camps and the smell of burning flesh fills the air, but still we survive

Bidushi Dhungel
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence