Names? I could call them a few

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The Independent Online
DO YOU think we could all join the Lloyd's hardship fund? It sounds such a generous charity, so much better than the measly dole. The only difficulty is that you have to qualify at the beginning by proving that you are very, very rich, worth at least a quarter of a million not including your main residence, but after that you can spend several years pocketing the rewards for your wealth. This is known as 'making your money work twice' - the use of 'work' in this context being slightly baffling to mere wage slaves like me, but that is why we are not rich.

While your money is working double overtime on your behalf, you don't need do anything so vulgar as take a job, but you might like to devote your ample spare time to becoming an MP (Tory, bien entendu) by way of insurance. Then if, by mischance, your money ever fails to 'work' you can rely on the party calling up its nameless benefactors to save you from bankruptcy. And if things ever get really sticky, so that you might risk having to take a child out of Eton or being forced to sell one of your estates, there is always the Lloyd's hardship fund to fall back on. Isn't it funny that when the Establishment feels the financial pinch - when Windsor Castle burns down, or when Tory MPs over-extend themselves - there is always a little pot of gold somewhere to bale them out, whereas when it's merely a question of closing a hospital, every penny counts.

Presumably, when Parliament first passed its rule about not accepting undischarged bankrupts as MPs, there was felt to be a stigma attached to bankruptcy. This was in prehistoric days when there was a fuddy-duddy notion that borrowing far more money than you could ever be worth, or ordering goods and services that you had no means of paying for, was somehow dishonest. Mrs Thatcher taught us to think differently: we now understand that bankruptcy is a sign that you are unlucky, not that you are greedy or improvident or bad at business. And if, like Asil Nadir, you should have the extraordinary misfortune to be charged with fraud, well 'Don't let the buggers get you down', as the MP Michael Mates would say. What a wonderful thing is John Major's classless society.

'HOW TO Make Your Lunchbox Look More Tasty' said the Sun - though, oddly enough, this feature had nothing to do with food. Instead it was about a new brand of men's knickers called Jockey wonderbriefs. 'It's a modern- day codpiece, designed to make a man stand out in a crowd,' said their designer, Victor Herbert. 'It works like a shepherd, rounding them up and pointing them in the right direction.' The men in the pictures certainly looked pleased with themselves, one might almost say cocky. But whether their girlfriends would be so delighted to find their lunchboxes full of tasteless padding is more open to question.

HOORAY for Michael Winner] Did I really write those words? Yes I did because he has struck a great blow for a cause dear to my heart - complaining about poor service in restaurants. He believes in it, he does it all the time, he does it not shamefacedly a l'anglais but with much shouting and foot-stamping a la russe. He favours waving a handkerchief at waiters who fail to catch your eye or hissing 'Middle', which, he maintains, always stops them in their tracks. If they don't collect the plates fast enough, he stacks them up himself and takes them to the manager. My hero] I know of only four London restaurants where the service is remotely professional: the Ritz; the Ivy; the Caprice; and Harvey's. Joe Allen's is not bad considering that it is relatively cheap, whereas its more expensive sister, Orso, is hit and miss, as are Langan's and Quaglino's. I could go on, but it's too boring.

During the foodie boom of the Eighties restaurateurs adopted the attitude that customers were lucky to be entering their temples of gastronomy and eating their precious pictures on plates: anyone who complained would be shown the door. Now that the recession is beginning to bite, and there are plenty of unemployed youngsters eager to train as waiters, we might reasonably hope for better service. But somehow I doubt we'll find it. The love of amateurism and muddle nestles deep in British hearts: it makes the notion of good service seem 'impersonal' and therefore unattractive. And perhaps, too, there is a puritanism that dictates that eating an expensive meal should not be an unalloyed pleasure. At all events, I have often noticed that diners seem to prefer watching one harassed waiter dashing between 20 tables and waiting hours for their food, then sitting with uncleared plates because, 'Poor chap, he's only doing his best'. Naturally this gives restaurateurs every incentive to continue their present habit of employing one waiter to do the work of six. It is not until we all learn to complain - rudely, madly, publicly and often, like Michael Winner - that there is any hope of making restaurant- going a truly enjoyable experience.

THERE IS a new car called a Kia Pride from Korea which, for all I know, might be quite a good car but I don't think there's any danger of any women buying it once they've seen the ads. 'Jan and Gill Evans are sisters with lots in common,' it says under a picture of two women with identical cars. 'Both live in Hampshire, work as schoolteachers and, until recently, owned Fiats. Each girl, however, has always been her own woman. Jan went for a model her father had read reviews about in the motoring press . . . (Gill, to cut the tedium short, bought the same car.) From the girls' point of view, everything's fine.' To think that manufacturers' pay people to write these ads - to call women old enough to be schoolteachers 'girls' and to suggest that they have to turn to Daddy for advice] 'You could have something in common with Gill and Jan,' it threatens at the end. Yeah? You mean we could all be retards with crappy cars and a taste for being patronised by halfwits? I'd rather buy a Skoda.

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