Toilet Reading: ‘Shooting Gazette’

In a regular series, Land of Dope and Tories is reviewing publications from the weird and wonderful world of specialist magazines. This week: Shooting Gazette

Tagline: ‘Driven Shooting’s Finest Journal’

Price: £4.10

Who is this magazine for? Now, if that lovely Peter Wilson chap who won a gold medal for GB taught us anything, it’s that shooting is a sport. Not something where animals or people get hurt. Just a nice sport. Like fencing. Or horse dancing. Peter shot clays, which have the heft and taste of a three-day old Greggs steak bake. What they most definitely didn’t have was a central nervous system.

Shooting Gazette is pitched towards a different type of gun enthusiast. To be clear – this not pitched at the Danny Dyer ‘ere, geez…’eez got a shooter!’ end of the market. No, this is a magazine for gentlemen. Gentlemen who enjoy blasting birds out of the sky.

What did you get for your £4.10? As you’d expect for a mag that is aimed at people who either own a country estate or are good mates with someone who does, production values are high. The 122 pages of January’s edition are glossy. The full-colour group photos of white men wearing identical green wax jackets and stout boots are plentiful.

shooting party

A typically diverse shooting party.

The writing is solid. The correspondents are called Will, Giles, Ben, James and Barney. This is a toilet read of substance.

The mag comes in four sections: gazetteer (regulars, news-in-briefs, and The Great Debate, of which more in a second), features (eight this month), reviews and a ten page supplement on gun dogs. Rather disappointingly, gun dogs are not guns shaped like dogs. Or dogs shaped like guns.

The tone and content of magazine is summed up perfectly by The Great Debate page. This is Shooting Gazette‘s take on a classic magazine trick, where you get two columnists to write diametrically opposing views about some trifle. Usually these are titled in emphatic capitals: ‘YES’ and ‘NO’ or ‘FOR’ and ‘AGAINST’. In Shooting Gazette the battle lines are ‘Yes please’ and ‘Rather not’. (This raging debate was on the acceptability or otherwise of woodcock shooting. The case against largely boils down to the fact that they’re a bit shit to eat.)

My favourite section is the reviews. Now I know review sections are usually for expensive, over-aspirational stuff that PR friends have lent to the mag’s staff for a jolly. But the fact that a 230 grand Ferrari, houses for a snip at under £2.8m and B&Bs kicking off at £145 per person per night might pique the readers’ interest is…well, I was going to say revealing, but what you actually feel is simply ball-aching resentment at these stonkingly rich bastards.

Features: There were two reasons I picked up Shooting Gazette for this week’s Toilet Reading. The first is that there was only one copy in my local newsagent, and I took great pleasure in denying N4′s only resident pheasant-potter his monthly periodical. The second was the cover promising an article on ‘Classic shoot day gaffes’.

It turns out that there are social faux pas lurking in every shoot. Some of the errors I had expected (shooting the host’s wife, forgetting your gun, tramping fresh dog shit through the gun room), but there were plenty I hadn’t even considered (having your dog gather up someone else’s shot birds, forgetting to thank the ‘beaters’, not taking any pheasants home with you at the end of the day because your pantry is already too stuffed with delicious, cold money). This piece was not quite  the You’ve Been Maimed comedy feast I  hoped for, but at least I now know what to do if I ever get invited to a shoot. Not turn up.

The other features were less amusing and comprised of travel brochure shots of verdant, frigid British countryside full of tweedy men pointing guns at the sky.

shooting, foggy

Lovely day for it.

Adverts: Guns are sexy aren’t they? Really sexy.

gun advert

Phwoar. It’s like a beautiful cravat. The cravat of death.

Interestingly, second hand guns are sold in a very similar way to second hand cars in local newspapers. One flattering photo in a good light, lots of dense text and obscure acronyms, and at least one vintage gem on the page that’s going for a truly fuck off price. ‘A pair of vintage Berettas, sir? That’ll be £110,000.’

Mind you, these are people with so much land that more than one company has placed classified ads for their services in building car parks.

Other than that, there’s all the wellies, dog food, 4x4s and gun cartridges you could hope for. Unless you want anything in a colour that isn’t green or brown, in which case, you can just jog on right now.

Letters page: There was a letters page. Unfortunately it was quite dull, and made you feel as if you were stuck at the bar of a country pub listening to Don telling his story about the last pheasant he ever shot for the fifth time. 

More entertaining was columnist who huffed out 700 words about the needlessness of health and safety guidelines, blustering to the conclusion: ‘I blame the lily-livered schools.’

Rating: 5/10

Shooting Gazette is a polished magazine. But it’s a hard one to love, and not because of  the hobby it cheerleads for. It assumes the reader has deep knowledge of the highly elaborate social hierarchy of the shoot, and regularly descends into Quidditch bizarreness with talk of ‘beaters’, ‘keepers’ and ‘picker-uppers’. There are a total of three woman pictured in it. There is not a single non-white person anywhere.

It’s a dying sport. But the Gazette is a fine obituary.

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In praise of Harringay Market

There’s no point in denying it. I’m a definitively middle class person. I’ve got a myWaitrose card. I know what my favourite brand of hummus is.  I’ve been known to wear those jumpers with a collar and cuffs sewn in to give the impression I’m wearing a proper shirt underneath.

Stupid jumper with collar sewn on

But I’m not! It’s bare skin under here bitches!

One of the other big giveaways is my love of the local market. Traditional British markets were something of an embarrassment for years. In Europe, markets have always been full of wooden stalls selling delicious things and traditional toys (by which I mean the type made before toys were designed to be fun), manned by ruddy-cheeked honest tradesmen. In the UK, your standard market was a hotchpotch of creaky trestle tables offering tea towels, Soviet-era pants, and hot dogs made from mashed-up pigeon, overseen by men in string vests sucking on menthol fags.

Crap market stalls

Here, by the way, are some classic examples of the traditional Market font, which by law must be used on all vegetable pricing.

These days, markets have of course gone upmarket. Rather cleverly, people running them have realised two things. The first is there’s nothing the honest middle classes love more than giving back to the local community in a way that salves the conscience without expending too much effort. The second is that to have a proposition that will appeal to the whole family, you should completely forget about the unpleasant shopping element and just focus on food.

lobster

Nothing too fancy mind you.

Harringay Market is a perfect example of the type. Set in a primary school – so a big tick on the community front.

Harringay market

It even borrows the school’s chairs, so you can revel in nostalgia / realise how much bigger your arse has got in the last two decades.

Very sensibly, it offers very little that can’t be eaten or drunk. No mashed-up pigeon either; for about seven of your pounds you can take your pick from a cheeky gnocchi with venison ragu, a Korean-inspired burger with kimchee, or (the favourite) a prawn katsu curry. Sadly the katsu people don’t turn up as much these days, which I’ve chosen to take as them sulking about us not buying their accompanying gyoza dumplings one week (it was one time guys! Come back!).

Yes, it’s completely the ponce de la ponce, and yes, it doesn’t have the same sweaty authenticity of the Green Lanes kebab houses just a homemade brownie’s throw away.

But it’s a very pleasant place to wear my collared jumper.

And when all's said and done, who doesn't want a mulled ginger beer?

And when all’s said and done, who doesn’t want a mulled ginger beer?

Toilet Reading: ‘Your Chickens’

In a new series, Land of Dope and Tories will review a publication from the weird and wonderful world of specialist magazines. This month: Your Chickens

Tagline: ‘All You Need To Know About Keeping Chickens at Home’

Price: £3.50

Who is this magazine for? Now, the first thing to be clear on is the name. What we don’t have here is a copy of You’re Chickens; a monthly periodical to help aid the recovery of hallucinatory battery hens.

Your Chickens sets out its editorial stance on the very first page with the stand-first: ‘When chickens become family’. This is a magazine for souls who hold their own flesh and blood relatives on a similar level of affection to flappy, animated throw-cushions. We’re talking serious chicken devotees here. Or people with smelly, erratic family members.

However, throughout the magazine there is an uneasy balance between speaking to those cold, heartless bastards who see their chickens as little more than breakfast-shitting machines, and those who truly believe in the way of the chicken. The former no doubt bring in most of the magazine’s revenue, but it’s clear where the writing team’s heart lies.

What did you get for your £3.50? It would be misleading to describe Your Chickens as a thick tome. Weighing in at 58 pages for the February 2014 edition, this is a single or double toilet visit at best. That said, what it lacks in heft is more than compensated for by the number of different font colours deployed.

You get seven or eight short feature pieces, a kid’s puzzle page, a regular column or two (including the brilliantly-titled ‘Chicken Nuggets’ news-in-brief section, and a separate column written ‘by a hen’), and the obligatory letters page. There is also a Reader’s Wives-style ‘Chick Pix’ section, which is absolutely not packed with fowl-based erotica.

Your Chickens

Red hot chick and bitch action.

Features: There’s plenty to enjoy here. ‘Cockerel’s secret life with a harem of hens‘ is as steamy as you’d expect. And the article examining how so many of the influential chicken-keeping ‘movers and shakers’ were inspired by their grandparents was fascinating, not least for the unexpected revelation that there are ‘movers and shakers’ in chicken-keeping.

My favourite though, was the piece entitled ‘Mummy, can I have a pet…’ which tells the highs and lows of a chicken keeping family in Northamptonshire. After six year old Abigael gets over her initial suspicions of keeping four pet chickens instead of rabbits (‘I don’t know what chickens do.’), a Tarantino-esque scene unfolds as Sherbet pegs it and the other three start eating her lukewarm remains. Fortunately, Abigael isn’t too bruised by this. Mum Sally then gets angry because the brood is destroying her tomato boxes. But all’s well in the end, with Abigael concluding the article: ‘Now I’m pleased that we got our hens, because I now know what they do!’ (Yeah, cannibalism and shitting up your mum’s garden mostly.)

One of the slightly unsettling things that crops up regularly in the magazine is the description of chickens as ‘girls’. When the feature stories actually include young girls. confusions between human and chicken abound.

Adverts: Christ, you can buy a lot of stuff for chickens. About a third of the mag is adverts.

I thought you could just shove a load of chickens in a shed and let them get on with it, but no. There’s a bewildering array of coops on offer, plus space-age egg incubators, feed, electric fencing, stuff that kills ‘red mite’ (which I imagine is a bit like Marmite), tube feeders, wet pluckers, and, ahem, ‘humane dispatchers’.

Advertising techniques vary here, but you’re basically looking at a lot of Office 97 clipart, Comic Sans and tag lines like ‘Healthy Chickens. Happy You.’

Letters page: The chicken-keeping world is not one riven by ideological debate sadly, or at least, there’s no signs of internecine struggle on the letters page.

Correspondence tends to be on the vague side (‘My hens are brown and really skinny. Is that normal?’), which receives amusingly passive-aggressive replies from the experts (‘It’s very hard to bring my extensive knowledge of Warren-type birds without knowing the breed or age.’)

Your Chickens

One of the experts even has a chicken-based surname. Hats off Laurence.

Rating: 7/10

Chickens are tasty. However, I have no desire whatsoever to keep them, unless for some reason I didn’t want to see my sister for quite some time. So the chances of me buying this magazine again are pretty slim.

Putting that to one side, it’s hard not to like Your Chickens. These are people with a lot of love for their birds. The writing is clear, and doesn’t lapse into fowl-based jargon too often. And the letters page covers off questions about how to stop these stupid birds crapping all over their nest boxes. Good luck to them.

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London’s hidden Spanish quarter

Before I moved to London, I abhorred what it did to people who went there. Having once been sensibly sceptical about the capital’s influence and cocksure arrogance, new residents would become the most awful, sneering cheerleaders; looking down their long, smoke-smutted noses at the fetid provincials they once considered peers.

Provincials in London

This is what Londoners have in their mind’s eye when they are told to picture an out-of-towner.

Having lived here for seven years now, I am now one of those people. This is brought home to me whenever I leave London, and find myself being surprised by amenities and courtesies (things like good 3G connections and running water) I assumed would not yet have percolated through to the unwashed bumpkins in Where-The-Fuck, Bedfordshire. And for that I apologise.

Which is a long way round to saying that one of the things I like most about London is the hidden pockets of specialised excitement it has, usually around a concentrated influx of immigrants to a small area. There are lots of famous ones. Brick Lane for curries, and a mostly Bangladeshi flavour. Kingsland Road for Vietnamese restaurants. Green Lanes for Turkish kebabs. Then there’s the obscure trades that cluster together. Denmark Street, the holy grail of teenage explorations, is where all the guitar shops hang out. Chancery Lane is the last bastion of tobacconists.

Discovering a new one of these is always exciting, because it reveals there’s enough people in the city that are so enthusiastic about something that it needs a whole street of shops, cafes and other businesses – and you never knew it existed at all.

My latest is London’s mini-Spanish quarter, which is based in Hanway Street. Hanway Street is just off the eastern fag-end of Oxford Street, before Tottenham Court Road tube station. It’s the point where the chain stores thin out to be replaced by scaffolding, questionable wristwatch shops and blokes hawking ‘free perfume’ through a loudhailer to a small crowd of credulous and confused tourists.

Hanway Place

Barcelona, this ain’t.

xx

It was mid-morning, so I couldn’t tell you whether actual bullfighting takes place in the evenings or not. The longer you look at this bull, the shorter the legs become.

Spanish music shop

We’re not just talking restaurants here. Hanway Place offers all the flamenco cassette tapes you could want (which is to say perhaps one, for about four minutes). This is where tapas restaurants across Britain buy their background music.

The best thing about these little enclaves though, is how they always have been Londonised to a degree. And often, it’s some fantastically inspired way that could never have be imagined in the original culture they were taken from.

Bradley's Spirish bar

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you the world’s finest Sp-irish bar. In England.

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The 20th Century in Mr Men

1900s: Mr Slow

Mr Slow

In my mind, Mr Slow sounds like a benign Brian Blessed.

1910s: Mr Uppity

Mr Uppity

Mr Uppity’s poo-like complexion and shape played a large part in shaping my class consciousness that is now difficult to explain.

1920s: Mr Skinny

Mr Skinny

The Great Depression was a tough time for a lot of families, but people back then knew that a stylish red hat was a reasonable substitute for many basic food groups.

1930s: Mr Fussy

Mr Fussy

Herr Fussy couldn’t help but tidy up some of those ragged European borders and inconvenient minority groups, the scamp.

1940s: Mr Brave

Mr Brave

‘Never have so many owed so much to someone with such a silly hat.’

1950s: Mr Happy

Mr Happy

Mr Happy had dinner on the table waiting for him, kids that didn’t answer back and all the asbestos he could eat.

1960s: Mr Daydream

Mr Daydream

It was a crazy time, maaann.

1970s: Mr Silly

Mr Silly

The shoes. The brownness. The ridiculous hat. No Mr Man is more of his time than Mr Silly.

1980s: Mr Wrong

Mr Wrong

Rocking the Culture Club look here. I’m sorry to say there was never a Mr Mullet.

1990s: Mr Oizo

Mr Oizo

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LandofDopeandTories.co.uk clearly does not own copyright for any of the Mr Men.

2014: A year of train hate and death races

Happy New Year!

I, for one, am very excited about 2014. It’s a World Cup year. My homeland could be ripped asunder by a smug wee bawbag. And the UN has declared that 2014 will be the International Year of Family Farming and Crystallography. Hang on to your hats – HATS FROM THE FUTURE.

Hat from the future

Made from 95% future-lon, 5% natural fibres.

The start of a new year is a fine time for making resolutions (this will be the year I learn how to make breadcrumbs) and predictions. Here are my prophecies for the next 364 days. Remember, you heard them here first.

1. Train companies will replace energy’s Big Six as public enemy number one. 

From 2009 to 2011 it was the bankers and their filthy, ill-gotten bonuses that were grinding everyone’s gears. In 2012 and 2013, it was quisling energy companies boiling the nation’s collective piss. In 2014, the narrative will pivot once more.

British trains have been shit for years. For so long in fact, that British Rail jokes sprouted, flowered, became ubiquitous, got appropriated by 3rd-rate comedians, became boring,  disappeared, hit ‘ironic’ status, got appropriated by 4th-rate comedians, and disappeared again.

FCC rolling stock

First Capital Connect unveils some new rolling stock for 2014.

The time has come to get angry. I take a train almost every day. They are the least appealing form of public transport. Even National Express buses are less sticky and abused, and they sometimes cost £1 a ticket. Trains cost more per mile than placing oneself in a solid gold box and being posted. They frequently don’t turn up because of staff shortages, a problem akin to a shop not opening because the sales assistants couldn’t be fagged to turn up. The entire network collapses at any hint of weather, inclement or placid. And the management thinks that naff etiquette campaigns are what’ll get the public on side.

The backlash begins here.

2. Britain will remember it’s supposed to be crap at sport.

The 2010s have so far been a golden age of British sport. Two consecutive Tour De France winners, after missing out on so much as a podium finish for over a century. A first men’s Wimbledon win in 76 years. Three Ashes series on the bounce. The best national Olympic performance since 1928.

Wimbledon victory

Against the natural order.

Expect the wheels to come off spectacularly this year. All the ingredients are in place. The English cricket team Down Under is crumbling like a tiramisu in a sandstorm. The two major international sporting jamborees in 2014 – the Winter Olympics and the World Cup – are events where we always combine high expectations with no talent. A British city with a poorer life expectancy than Soweto is hosting the Commonwealth Games. Murray can’t win his tennis matches any more. We’re still crap at rugby compared to the southern hemisphere.

Typical British sport

The natural order.

But in our lowest moments, unlikely heroes emerge. Remember when everyone briefly cared about curling? Skeleton? That was simply because we were too crap at everything else to cobble together a 30-second highlight reel for the ten o’ clock news. So the stage is well set for a national love affair with a totally unloved sport. I predict showjumping will get far more attention in 2014 than it ever truly deserves.

3. Trouble at the top

After those few early wobbles, the coalition government has been remarkably stable in terms of its personnel. But with an election less than 18 months away, any pretence of getting things done will slip further down the agenda to be replaced by shouting and manoeuvring.

The odds are reasonably set on a thin Labour win. But despite all they’ve been through, the Lib Dems could bizarrely end up as the kingmakers again in 2015. And if Labour do get the most seats, they’d struggle to maintain the ConDem status quo with any kind of legitimacy. So cosying up has to slice both ways. A tactical resignation from a senior Lib Dem – perhaps one who’s not a friend of Nick – could be a helpful play towards getting a plum job in a new red-yellow coalition. Can’t think of any obvious candidates that fit that description though.

Vince Cable

‘How about you Vince? Can you think of any?’

4. Another Royal baby

Bound to happen. Kate’s looking well, isn’t she?

Kate M

Incidentally, I wonder how many tabloid readers in the 1930s were fapping away over the current Queen? The Sun really has brought so much new and precious joy to this country, bless it.

But of course that’s all a distraction, because this new baby will have Harry’s name all over it. Whether this baby will actually become public knowledge in 2014 is an entirely separate matter.

5. No heartening stories will come out of America. 

The place is all over the shop to be honest. Can’t even produce a decent Eminem album these days.

Ineffectual in-fighting will restrict America’s global impact in 2014 to internet memes, a couple of school shootings and a baked goods craze that rocks east London for about 72 hours.

Cronut

And anyway, Greggs has been making more outlandish creations than the ‘cronut’ for years, as anyone who’s tried their sausage and baked bean pie will testify.

6. North Korea will struggle on. 

The world’s most comi-tragic regime will remain depressingly erratic over the next twelve months. Expect more nuclear threats and photoshopped hovercraft.

7. Television and popular music will improve immeasurably.

Hahahahahahaha. Lolz.

If we’re really lucky, Cowell will see the writing on the wall and throw his lot in with a dramality show where teenagers on a housing estate in Grantham will be forced at gunpoint to eat pureed bat scrotums whilst bashing out Autotuned versions of George Michael’s back catalogue.

8. Fitness steps up a gear

Races like Tough Mudder – long, long assault courses where men who work in offices run through fields whilst being beaten around the face and neck with rusty pieces of agricultural equipment – are a prelude to 2014′s biggest craze – the death race.

Tough Mudder

You have to pay actual British pounds to enter these races. They have waiting lists. I have no words.

I fully expect athletic events to appear where only one competitor can finish, having successfully killed or immobilised the rest of the competition. Participants will largely come from single, thwarted office workers in Reading and Guildford who are desperate to just feel anything again.

So, there you have it – 2014 is going to be a blast. Unless you’re taking the train.

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The pick of the sales!

Yes! Jesus and Santa can butt out – it’s not Christmas any more, so you don’t  have to pretend to be interested in anything but naked consumerism.

Landofdopeandtories.com has done the hard work of shopping for you, finding the very best of this year’s online Boxing Day bargains!

Sliver collar stiffeners

You know those bits of plastic you get in a new shirt? The ones that you throw away? The free ones? Turns out they’re a gift that’s worth more than all of my shirts. Noah, you’ve been had sunshine.

Inflatable piranha

Now, an inflatable piranha is a perfectly excellent present for a small boys. Imagine the gales of laughter at the leisure centre. This is in because of the excellent 1-star review accompanying it.

Piranha review

Ah now, you see, what you’ve bought there, right, is a box. Incidentally, what shop was he taking it to? A fish inflating shop?

Jamie Oliver cookware set

Eighteen pounds off a cookware set endorsed by Jamie Oliver, wearing the pained look of a man who has just snagged his scrotum on a towel rail and is trying to avoid displaying that fact to his wife.

Sexy purple witch

All those sexy green witch fetishists can jog on.

Silver business card holder

For the American Psycho in your life.

Classy telly

Now THIS is a fucking classy telly. It’s described as ‘chic’ in the Argos sales blurb. Chic being a French word for ‘soiled’. Only plays ITV.

Hard skin remover

For those seeking a gift to bring a swift end to their relationship.

I was going to do more, but I got sucked into a vortex of Amazon and ASOS which could only be escaped by ordering some new black shoes and a pair of monogrammed silver earplugs.

Merry Christmas!

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The Turing test

Alan Turing, one of the 20th Century’s greatest scientists, was given a royal pardon today.

Alan Turing

That sentence might make some sense had he been a serially reckless driver, or was responsible for the creation of a large subterranean death ray for his personal use. But no, the pardon was required because Turing was convicted of homosexuality and handed a criminal record by the government in 1952. He was chemically castrated and publicly humiliated. Two years later he was found dead, aged 41.

Turing’s treatment by the state was breathtaking because that state owed him so much.  He gave the intellectual edge to Britain during World War II through his work in the Bletchley Park codebreaking team. He wrote papers that placed the foundation stones of artificial intelligence and computer science. He got an OBE. He made GCHQ, Deep Blue and Lolcats possible. And for having a consenting relationship with another man, he got handed a Hobson’s choice of imprisonment or injections. For a psychologically troubled mind, the level of persecution was too much.

Has that state absolved itself through this stuffy piece of benevolence? Of course not. Turing has been dead for sixty years, and did not appear to be a man for gestures anyway.  His legacy is admired the world over, without anyone considering the blemish on his record to be the fault of him but that of a repressed, reactionary society that was terrified of Soviet wiles turning British agents. So is this pardon of any value at all, given that it ignores the 50,000 men and women who were convicted under the same laws?

Perhaps it is. There’s some value – I think – in showing the last bastions of prejudice that even the Establishment is moving on, albeit clumsily. You can hear them already, trolling away on the rabid message boards, the Have Your Says, the post-cheese Christmas discussions, the Daily Mail comments. It’s a slippery slope so it is, they say, if we’re pardoning things that were actual crimes then, do we just go ahead and pardon all sexual offenders from the 1950s shall we? And isn’t this all commie-loving, leftist, PC, wishy-washy apologism anyway? And why are we forgetting that God said, very clearly mark you, that homosexuality is a great big sin? And why must we change stuff? Change anything at all, when it’s all so clearly ok?

This pardon matters only to those who dislike the fact that it forces them out of their  narrow minds and to judge a great man on his great virtues. It forces them to acknowledge that his sexuality is a patent irrelevance to his capacity to making a lasting and profound contribution to the world. And for making their hidebound position a little more uncomfortable, I think it was worth it.

Leaving is such sweet sorrow

I left my job last week. (For those of you that don’t know, I was working in the paramilitary wing of Matalan).

Matalan

‘Up to the minute fashion and homewares at prices up to 50% below the equivalent High Street prices: Never surrender.’

I’ve left quite a few jobs in my time. I don’t have a fixed time rule, but about 18 months seems to be plenty. You know it’s time to move on from a job when:

  • people in the office come up to you when they can’t find specific stationary items,
  • jokes about you wearing your ‘Thursday shirt’ are standard practice,
  • it’s far too late to change anyone’s opinion about your level of competence,
  • you work for an erratically racist fruiterer.

Leaving a job for the first time is much like breaking up with somebody for the first time;  traumatic, unpleasant, and generally put off for as long as possible. I can’t precisely recall the moment when I announced my dignified resignation from Top Banana, made on the not unreasonable grounds that me having to wrap one more cauliflower in clingfilm would have indirectly caused a fairly major conflagration in Buckden’s buzzing retail district.

Buckden shops

Buckden’s buzzing retail district. Top Banana is no more these days, having fallen foul of the recession, poor customer service and selling crap fruit at high prices.

But I do remember that there were few more joyful moments of my teenage years once it had passed my lips. To return to the previous analogy, it was like breaking up with a abusive, needy partner who needed constant attention and was undermining you at every possible point.

Saatchi and nigella

Top Banana’s manager out for a bite. ‘I say Terence, you couldn’t get the satire klaxon out for me again could you old chap?’ *SATIRE*

This time round, things were a little more bittersweet. On the one hand, I am leaving a place where I met some quite frighteningly able people. There were also precious few occasions on which I was required to ensheathe root vegetables in an airtight plastic coating. On the other hand, it did drive me to two months of disappointing malaise, and I had to occasionally argue with a Mr Faill (nominative determinism in the raw right there).

The best thing about leaving at this time of year is that you can finish on a drunken high. December is an ideal time to leave a role – the professionally-sanctioned drunkenness at Christmas parties to whip up a fog of nostalgia, the inevitable process of winding down as people sneak out for kid’s nativity plays and to pick up Amazon parcels that Yodel has dispatched to a windswept warehouse somewhere on the Isle of Sheppey.

New year, new job. The folks at TK Maxx don’t know what they’ve got coming. But at least they know I won’t hang about.

How much would I need to pay you to eat a spider?

Come on, it’s a very simple question. How much actual cash money would I need to exchange with you to bear witness to your consumption of one spider?

You need more information, you say?  Fire away.

How big is the spider? We’re talking about a reasonable sized spider here. Body about the size of a fifty pence piece. Usual complement of legs, maybe half an inch long.

Bath spider

A bit like this one.

Is the spider aliveYes. But you are permitted to kill the spider before eating it.

Is the spider poisonous? Will it have dramatic or irreversible health effects? No. It may make you sick, but it won’t be any more dangerous than, say, taking a brief swig of gone-off milk.

Is the spider hairy? No. This isn’t an Amazonian tarantula, just a common or garden bath spider.

Can I cook the spider? No. You may not gently sautee it with butter and garlic. You may not include it as an ingredient in a soup or smoothie. You may not deep fry it in crispy tempura batter. You may not bake it as part of a delicious meaty pie.

OK then, can I cut it up, or turn it in to some kind of paste? A good question. The rule here is that you may cut the spider up in to pieces, but those pieces must be recognisably spider. So pastes or purees are not permitted.

Can I wash it down with anything? You’re allowed a glass of room temperature water. No flavoured drinks.

What does the spider taste of? I don’t know. It may taste rather wonderful, like a peppery roquette leaf or perhaps a particularly crunchy pork scratching. On the other hand, it may squish like a cooked tomato and taste like the inside of a hoover bag.

I’m a vegetarian and I find this entire hypothetical exercise deeply offensive. Go away.

Enough questions! Put your money where your mouth is. And once you’ve named your price, for extra credit you may wish to work out how many spiders you would need to eat on a weekly basis to earn your current salary.

Why is this important? Well, the early evidence reveals that contrary to my expectations, (and across a sample size of four people) women will charge much lower prices for spider consumption than men. I’m not telling you what the prices given so far have been, for fear of influencing your decision.

Answers in the comments!