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Speed Read – For your queues only

Every (okay, not every but most. Not most then. A lot. I’ve been really busy lately and Fridays have been wall-to-wall actual important things to do so the Speed Read has slipped a bit but I am trying. Believe me. I am trying to write it each week) week The Friday Speed Read arrives in your life but what you choose to do with is up to you. 

Fade up.

In the gloaming we see the seated figure of a man.

In close-up we’re given only clues as to who it might be: large, work-worn hands; immaculately tailored trouser department; hair thinning and greased flat against the head; lips twitching, anxious, on the cusp of irritation. Via a mirror we’re then given the eyes: blue, cold and ringed a dozen times by a life of threat, booze, poorly-managed love affairs with questionable sexual politics and yet more booze.

The figure lets out a sigh like when you unscrewed the top of a soda stream bottle, post-carbonisation, in the mid-70s.

Man                    Come on. Come. On.

The camera pulls back and we see we’re in a car. A good car. An expensive car. A car with a parade of knobs and buttons all labelled with bespoke modifications: “Ejector seat”; “Missiles”; “1980s Eastern-Block Intervention”; “Birds”; “Cream crackers”; “Shoe horn”; “Actual horn”.

The figure bangs on the steering wheel as his frustration grows.

Man                    I didn’t vote for this. Everyone assumes I did. But I didn’t vote for this.

We pull back further and we see legendary spy and philanderer James Bond dressed in crushed-velvet dinner suit behind the wheel of his Aston Martin. The camera leaves the car and pulls upwards to reveal that Bond is about 59th place in a queue for the Shell garage on Goldhawk Road in Shepherd’s Bush.

After a few more excruciating moments. Bond grabs his Walther PPK from the shelf marked “Gun” near the glove box (beneath the one labelled “sandwich”) and leaps out of the car without adding so much as a ripple to the lustrous landscape of his suit.

A small man in a high-vis tabard quickly approaches him. He has an absurd, non-specific foreign accent.

Tabard                I’m afraid you’ll have to get back into your car sir.

Bond                   Do you expect me to wait?

Tabard                No, Mister Bond I expect you to . . . .  actually yes, I expect you to wait. Although to be honest, by the time you get to the front, we’ll have probably run out.

Bond                   But I’ve got to save the world from an overly-complex web of terrorists, plot lines and product-placements.

Tabard                What do you want me to do about it? It’s not like I voted for it either.

Bond gives the man an icy stare and climbs back into his Aston Martin. He tunes the radio to Heart FM. It’s playing an advert for a payday loans company followed by the iconic James Bond theme.

Cue titles:


After the titles (a stylised mix of lorry drivers crawling in their pants along empty supermarket shelves) have finished, Bond receives a call on his portable communications device (a phone).

Bond                   Hello M.

M                         How did you know it was me?

Bond                   It’s in the script.

M                         Talking of scripts, is this one still going? It was basically one pun stretched out 400 words and I think you’ve reached the limit of people’s tolerance.

Bond                   Do you expect me to . .

M                         See? That’s the second time you’ve used that gag. You’re washed up 007. You’re yesterday’s news. You’re New Labour not Global Britain. Bond? Bond . . . .?

James Bond is asleep at the wheel of his stationary car. He dreams of swimsuits and fiction.

Credits roll.


So that was that.

To be clear, I am massive Bond fan (even the rubbish ones) and I will definitely be “flocking” (if one can flock alone, which one can’t, now I think about it) to see Daniel Craig’s final performance as the anachronistic, eponymous hero of the franchise. Best Bond ever? Not even a discussion to be had. Although I do hold candle for Brosnan (I wish he’d take it back to be honest, the hot wax is scorching my skin).

And if all this feels like a massive piece of nonsense to avoid talking about the world as it actually is on the 1st October 2021 then you’ve rumbled me. But in fairness, have you looked out of the window recently? It’s AWFUL OUT THERE.

Where do you want to start? Fuel shortages. Why not? They may have provided a convenient pun for the skit above but let’s be honest, it’s a pretty shocking state of affairs. We’re so reliant on our cars that to be denied the means to run them feels like a big deal in the 8th richest (or something) country in the world. HGV drivers have endured decades of poor pay, terrible working conditions and guess what? Nobody wants to be an HGV driver anymore. And even if several government ministers have told us that it’s too simplistic to blame the current crisis solely on Brexit (and it is true that there isn’t a single cause of the problem) you don’t need a degree in advanced mathematics to, er, do the maths. 16,000 EU drivers no longer work in the UK. Let’s just agree that it really, really hasn’t helped.

The government has of course tried to tempt these drivers back with a work visa valid until the end of the year, no pay increase and still the need to often poo in laybys. The phones in the application office, apparently, have not been ringing off the hook.

So with much newspaper chat about whether or not Christmas is “cancelled” (The Daily Express says it’s not; Daily Mail says it was but now it isn’t; The Star says it’s definitely off) we just need to all hunker down in our homes, wait for things to improve and keep warm. Except that with soaring gas prices, millions more won’t be able to afford to put the heating on.

Welcome to 2021. At least we have vaccines.

A word, of course, for the conviction of the man who brutally murdered Sarah Everard, a man whom I’m not going to name. The details of the case were horrific, the words of the bereaved parents were utterly devastating to read and the fact that the ex-policeman was sentenced to remain in prison for the rest of his life is irrelevant. An evil act was justly punished but its consequences, its dark echoes sound a dreadful warning to our society.

If you’ll permit a bit of degree-flexing, this is a quote from John Webster’s C17th revenge tragedy The Duchess of Malfi:

“Do you not weep? Other sins only speak, murder shreaks out: The element of water moistens the earth, But blood flies upwards and bedews the heavens.

And that’s about it for this week. It’s been a bit all over the place I realise and if you’ve got this far then I do honestly appreciate the effort. Let’s end with an amusing story supplied by my good friend and colleague Ben who always does an excellent job of scanning the media for notable moments of silliness. This time, the tale of a Turkish man, somewhat worse for wear on booze who joined a search party sent out to look for him. He searched for some time in a wood before realising that the name everyone was shouting was his.

Here’s a song. Thanks to resident taste-maker and colleague Shaun “the rhythm” Hickman: “A dreamy, 90s-esque concoction to start the weekend and lift your spirits!”



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