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


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.

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