I was wandering towards the office earlier this morning with not so much a skip in my step as a pocketful of stones and a hankering to dive into the nearest canal, but since there are no canals around here, I popped into the newsagent to try and find something approaching food.
Inside, I knew there would be newspapers - and probably a Mail peeping out to try and catch me. Sometimes I imagine there are fiendishly cunning booby traps - you reach out for a Caramac and a tripwire sends a Mail spiralling into your face; before you know where you are, you've ended up reading how immigrants are to blame for temporary classrooms whereas the reality is a little bit different.
I'm a bit wary of these situations so I try not to even glance over in the general direction of the papers - but I wasn't prepared for the sweet old lady who was stumbling out of the doorway, clutching a freshly-minted Mail under her arm. Shit! What could I do? I couldn't go barrel-rolling around the pavement as I can in work, as (a) no-one notices me doing my Lewis Collins impressions at work, and if they do, they either don't care or mark it down as "the madness" finally having claimed me; and (b) the pavements around here are liberally sprinkled with dog-turds, which would have made the remaining hours at work slightly more unpleasant than they usually are.
With that option gone, I considered pushing the old lady over, but that would have just confirmed everything she already thought. She probably took one look at a young thug like me** and imagined I was going to mug her to begin with. That's what she buys the Mail for in the first place, I assume - to paint a picture of a world in which everyone under the age of 45 is going to beat you up, drop-kick your puppy into the river and the police can't do anything to stop you, because they're too busy meeting their diversity quotas, or Brussels has said that you have so-called 'human rights' or something, and even if you did get caught, the PC Brigade would put you up in a luxury jail with a 56-inch plasma TV and free beer on tap in every room and people feeding you grapes and giving you handjobs, and you can't even set fire to Golliwogs outside a black person's house any more without someone getting somehow upset about it, not like in the Good Old Days when there was rationing and near poverty, and everyone was prejudiced and sang songs and pulled together.
Me pushing the old lady over would just make her think: Well, the Mail was right, yet again, about Broken Britain*** and how things are all going wrong. And besides, I didn't really want to push her over. No, what I really wanted to do was distract her - perhaps by pointing at a slightly darker-skinned person across the road and yelling "ASYLUM SEEKER! They're off to take your pension away!" - then elegantly swap the Mail under her arm for something a little less venomous and a little more benign; perhaps a booklet of Geert Wilders speeches or a great big photo of Nick Griffin's wobbly face with a vandalised mosque in the background.
But I haven't the skills to do that. My eyes were drawn, instead, to that copy of the Mail and what was on the front page. And yet, a stroke of luck: she had the paper folded over so all I saw of the front page was the words "Daily Mail" and some big green unreadable panel trying to advertise something inside. Phew. I'd escaped. I'd seen the Mail, but it wasn't enough of the Mail to count.
A narrow squeak, though. I fear I'm not going to be able to hold out for much longer.
* In all the excitement I lost count. I think it's 13 - and not 14, as previous entries may have suggested.
** All right, the 'young' bit is probably pushing it a bit.
*** There's a Conservative Party poster up near my house in which someone says "We need to fix our broken society". Now I'm not saying that these aren't her words, but is there anyone in the world - other than David Cameron - who would ever use that phrase, ever?
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