PortaShrine - ideal for all your instant grief needs!

One of the great joys of this job is the feedback from readers. I can never be sure how you are going to react. There’s no point a columnist straining for effect, trying to appease an imaginary focus group or provoke a phoney controversy.

All I can do is call it as I see it and hope for the best. Of course, it’s gratifying when you think I’ve got it right. As Keith Waterhouse used to say: ‘I’m always in for praise.’ But it would be a mistake to second guess what the reaction will be.

Sometimes I touch a raw nerve. On other occasions something I might have expected to generate either friendly or hostile return fire is greeted with a collective apathetic yawn.

So I’d like to thank all of you who wrote in support of my column on Tuesday deploring the outbreak of self-indulgent vicarious grief that gripped the ‘football family’ in the wake of Bolton player Fabrice Muamba’s collapse at Tottenham on Saturday.

Absurd: Tributes and get well messages laid outside the Reebok Stadium. This one of many 'shrines' erected around the country, despite the fact Fabrice was not, in fact, dead

Absurd: Tributes and get well messages laid outside the Reebok Stadium. This one of many 'shrines' erected around the country, despite the fact Fabrice was not, in fact, dead

For a while I wondered whether I’d horribly misjudged the mood of the nation, as the rest of Fleet Street and the broadcast media clambered on board the ‘Pray 4 Muamba’ bandwagon.

I needn’t have worried. When I turned on my computer on Tuesday morning, my inbox was already filling up. Almost every email began with a variation on: ‘Thank goodness someone has written exactly what I’ve been thinking . . .’

Fortunately, not everyone in Britain is seized by instant emotional incontinence whenever a misfortune befalls someone they didn’t know.

I’d like to think that the ghouls who turn out on such occasions and insist that we all join their ghastly, exhibitionist sobfests are actually in the minority.

Contrast: The dignified repatriation of the six servicemen killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan

Contrast: The dignified repatriation of the six servicemen killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan

So keen were some people to associate themselves with the tragedy that befell Fabrice Muamba that they completely missed the absurdity of setting up a shrine to someone who is still alive.

Many of you contrasted the tasteless ‘tributes’ to Muamba with the dignified return to Britain of the bodies of the six soldiers who were killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan recently.

The good news is that Muamba appears to be making a remarkable recovery, thanks to the expert intervention of the medical teams and cardiologist Dr Andrew Deaner, a Spurs fan who left his seat in the crowd to assist in the player’s treatment and ensure he was taken to the right hospital.

They thoroughly deserved the applause they received at White Hart Lane before this week’s home game against Stoke.

I had wondered what reaction I might get from my fellow supporters on Wednesday night. After all, watching the Muamba incident unfold was distressing for all of us in the ground on Saturday.

But everyone I spoke to agreed with me. While they had been moved by what had happened to the player and hoped sincerely that he would recover fully, they all deplored the ‘Pray 4 Muamba’ circus that followed.

In fact, the legendary British spirit of meeting adversity with humour was much in evidence.

Secure in the knowledge that Muamba was on the mend, we agreed that he had chosen the right place to have his cardiac arrest. Shout ‘Is there a doctor in the house?’ at White Hart Lane and you can take your pick of cardiologists, urologists and every other strain of ‘ologists’ sitting in the stands.

Deserved: The crowd applauds before Tottenham's match against Stoke on Wednesday

Deserved: The crowd applauds before Tottenham's match against Stoke on Wednesday

If any player needed emergency root canal work, he’d also be in luck. The Lane probably has more dentists per square yard than any other ground in Britain.

When Gareth Bale went down clutching his foot on Wednesday night, a fan who had to be restrained from running on to the pitch could be heard telling the stewards: ‘Let me through — I’m a chiropodist.’ So, to all those of you who wrote to me in support of Tuesday’s column, I can assure you that you’re not alone. My favourite email came from a reader who drew my attention to an idea for a portable roadside shrine. The commercial potential is so huge that I have decided to invest in it.

The PortaShrine can be stored under the stairs and erected in minutes. It contains all you could ever need to demonstrate your empathy with everyone from road accident victims and murdered prostitutes to dead celebrities.

Retailing at just £49.99 plus 20 per cent VAT, and weighing a mere 5lb, every PortaShrine comes loaded with wilted flowers, a tatty teddy bear and a badly written note of sympathy.

Just imagine: you’re sitting at home watching the news and you learn that a young woman you don’t know has been reported missing on a nearby council estate. You can be round there in minutes and have your shrine up and running before the TV crews arrive.

Or you hear that an American pop singer you’ve never met has died of a drugs overdose.

Just grab your PortaShrine and rush down to a HMV store to join the mourning.

In addition to the basic model, our website www.PortaShrine.com offers an exciting selection of football scarves and T-shirts, which can be printed with a glossy photograph of the dead celebrity of your choice, or the slogan ‘Pray 4 . . .’ followed by the name of someone you’ve never heard of until now.

The website will also give directions to designated central grieving points and the address of the nearest petrol station selling floral tributes.

This could be just the British-made innovation to revive the economy and create thousands of jobs. This time next year, Rodney . . .

Then again, you may not agree. ‘Oi, Doris, that Littlejohn’s gone right over the top this time.’

I look forward to your emails.

 

By now you’ve probably had your fill of the squabbling over the 50p tax rate and the new ‘granny tax’. I know I have.

So I’ll confine my Budget analysis to a couple of measures that have received less attention from the pundits and professional politicians. The Chancellor has extended VAT to hot food bought from bakeries and supermarkets. It means an immediate 20 per cent hike in the price of pasties and balti pies.

Budget 2012: Cartoon by Gary for the Daily Mail

This would suggest that Boy George has given up any hope of winning seats in Labour’s heartlands. Up North, slapping 18p on a Greggs’ sausage roll will cost the Coalition far more votes than cutting the top rate of tax to 45p.

VAT is also being imposed on ‘larger holiday caravans’ and ‘static holiday homes’. This may also be a mistake. The Chancellor takes on Britain’s militant caravanners at his peril. The Treasury also claims that levying VAT on caravans will mean that ‘travellers’, such as those recently evicted from Dale Farm, will have to pay the tax.

No, they won’t.

 

Who have you come as, then?

What is it about fancy dress parties that always brings out the worst in people?

We’re all familiar with those embarrassing photographs of junior royals and politicians dressed up like members of the Waffen SS.

I don’t do fancy dress. It’s not big and it’s not funny. But I have to confess I doubled up with laughter when I read about the fancy dress party held by the rugby club at the University of East Anglia in Norwich.

'Bad taste': The UEA rugby team has been disbanded after dressing up in obscene costumes on the night out. Here a number of players are pictured on the night out - including one (left) who is allegedly in a Klu Klux Klan outfit

'Bad taste': The UEA rugby team has been disbanded after dressing up in obscene costumes on the night out. Here a number of players are pictured on the night out - including one (left) who is allegedly in a Klu Klux Klan outfit

Who do you think some of the players came as? Delia Smith? Alan Partridge? Not even warm.

One arrived in full Ku Klux Klan kit; another claimed to be Gary Speed, the Welsh football manager who hanged himself; and yet another was togged up as Joseph Kony, the blood-soaked Ugandan warlord currently starring on the internet. The bad taste biscuit, however, has to go to a student who turned up dressed as Baby P.

Where did he get the idea that dressing up as a baby tortured to death under the noses of the police and social services in Haringey was appropriate behaviour for a fun night out? I am assuming strong drink was involved.

You will not be surprised to learn that the club has been disbanded after the players were found to have brought the university into disrepute.

A spokesman for the students’ union said: ‘We have received consistent claims about the club for a number of years, including serious criminal damage to a hotel last Christmas.’

Fancy that.

 
Not alone: Tesco is joined by other companies like B&Q in accusations that they are overly strict on ID

Not alone: Tesco is joined by other companies like B&Q; in accusations that they are overly strict on ID

Tesco has been in the spotlight recently over its aggressive interpretation of the proof of identity rules. But the supermarket giant isn’t the only one.

Ken Wright, from Manchester, went to B&Q to buy a barbecue gas cylinder. He was asked for photo ID.

When he asked why, he was told it had been company policy since Islamist terrorists tried to blow up Glasgow Airport using a vehicle packed with bottled gas.

He produced his company ID card and his Water Authority Approved Contractor card, but both were rejected. Had he got his passport?

‘Like I always bring my passport to shop at B&Q,’ said Ken. Eventually they accepted his bus pass — and Ken left the store ‘fully equipped to blow up an airport’.

Edwin Humphrys also went to a B&Q  in Manchester (I don’t know if it was the same branch) to buy a few decorating items.

After deciding to scan his purchases through the self-service tills, he discovered they’ve even managed to programme this idiocy into their machines.

When he passed a can of turps across the scanner, the machine bleeped and up popped a request on screen: ‘WHAT IS YOUR AGE?’
Edwin is 76.