As Time Goes By (Dec 82)

So, now you suckers know what they meant when they promised us a stable government. They're going to tax us so much we all end up living in stables. Only thing you can afford to eat is hay. We in the Spontaneous Aggravation Party did our best to warn you but you made your bed and now you'll have to lie in it - shivering, when they cut off the electricity.

Austerity is the order of the day. Butter your bread - and then scrape the knife across the top of the slice, removing as much butter as possible, save it for the next slice. This is the New Patriotism. A bit galling though, when you know that the guy in the big house across the river (the one with the barbed wire on the wall, the minefield in the garden and the weapon-slits in the blocked-up dormer windows) has just gone for a winter holiday in the Swiss Alps, flying there in his private jet and bringing along a hundredweight of the best Kerrygold to grease his skis.


We must all cope with the New Economic Order as best we can. Lazy Pete Maguire has gone all angry, as he tends to do, and is writing a scathing political tract on the immoral nature of austerity policies drawn up by people riding around in Mercedes. Lot of good it will do him - or the kids without remedial teachers or the pensioners trying to decide whether to chance replacing the shoes that have fallen to pieces or maybe they should say the hell with dignity and eat this week instead.


Fingers Kavanagh considered going back into the banking business but they've increased security so much these days that you couldn't even make a scrape on the new vaults with an oxy kit - and you wouldn't believe the price of a thermal laser. And Fingers never did approve of the more direct way of making a withdrawal - a sawn-off is so noisy it could leave a ringing in your ears for days. So, he's decided to do a bit of bookmaking on the side, reckoning that in hard times people go for the long shot. He's opened a book on which Coalition TDs will retain their reats at the next election (which we in SAP have pencilled in for next October). At the moment you can get 30/1 Gemma Hussey, with Alan Dukes 27/1 and even money that Garret FitzGerald gets a thump in the face from an angry passer-by before September. (Fingers reckons that we'll have a hot summer and that FitzGerald is absent-minded enough to forget to roll up the window when his Merc stops at traffic lights.)


Only the other day I was contemplating the sorry state of my own bank account. (Actually, it was more like the week before last, but I wanted that sentence to begin with an "0", for reasons which will soon become clear.)


Money and I have never been on the best of terms. Much as I try to form a deep, intimate and longstanding relationship with it, the folding green is fickle. Every time I think this is going to be The Big One it waltzes off with some bartender. The only time I felt like a winner was when those automatic money machines first started appearing at the banks. Great stuff. You stuck a bit of plastic in the wall and phutttttt it spit money back at you. Magic. It removed money from the realm of reality. Feel like a one night stand with a tenner? Whip out the plastic.


There was just one machine which regularly rejected my advances - the one in College Green. Mostly it would just spit the card back at me - but sometimes the affair developed into a right royal row. On one occasion it half-swallowed the plastic and held onto it. Wouldn't give it back, wouldn't swallow it. A queue built up behind me while I argued with the machine. I took out a plastic calendar and tried forcing the thing to swallow the magic money card. No go. By now a busker had come along and was entertaining the queue with all thirty-six verses of American Pie. Finally the thing swallowed the magic card and just as I turned to the queue and flashed a macho grin phutttt, the card came spitting out, sans money. The shame of it.


Finally, the magic money card was swallowed for keeps by a machine in O'Connell Street. The one in College Green must have passed on the word about me.


Now for my own method of rising above the New Economic Order. I'm open to bribery. When I first got into this racket I set my face against joining the band of backhander hacks. No one could buy me. I composed several cutting replies to have handy when the lads with the plain brown envelopes came around. I'm still waiting.


There's nothing more depressing than integrity untempted. (Well, there is. Try standing in a queue at the Labour Exchange - but let's not bring reality into this, we're talking about journalism.) After all, pick up any paper and you'll find someone selling something on the offside. Restaurants, holidays, whatever - the property pages are usually really good at it. Why should those hacks get all the gravy? I finally decided that the people who want things plugged, those who'd like nothing more than constant approving mentions of their products and services, are somewhat shy. Maybe someone told them I used to be honest. Well, that was the old days, before they started taxing the ice cubes in the Jameson. For the benefit of the shy ones, let me make it explicit: this page is for sale.


You've got something you want to sell? Okay, tell me about it in a brown envelope thick as a TD's skull. Two hundred quid for a hundred words of unqualified praise on this page for your product, whatever it is. Can't say fairer than that.


Yogurt. Okay, let me tell you about an extra added service. There are usually several natural breaks in the copy and in these the production folks insert decorative devices known as "drop caps". These are the bold capital letters you see studding the page. You may notice that the drop caps on this page spell the name of a leading manufacturer of hi-fi and video products. Now, this is a freebie, just an unsolicited example of what I can do for you if you're willing to pay. The suckers read the page and unconsciously absorb the name of your product. Cute, huh?


The rate for this subliminal form of advertising is two hundred nicker per letter, with a 25% surcharge for any name over five letters. (You can see how much extra work I'd have to put in if the product was, say, Weetabix.)


Any enquiries about this service should be addressed to me - the advertising people don't need to know a thing about it. I can get it for you wholesale.