Saturday, 3 January 2009

The Economic Crisis Finally Hits The People That Matter

Dark days, my friends. These are dark days. You don’t need Bryan Appleyard to know which way the wind blows. The signs are more ominous than that. Last night I saw an Elberry with cloven hooves. He was riding a horse and his name was Discount and Bargain Buckets followed with him.

You might wonder about this apocalyptic talk. There is a reason for it. I saw ‘Fathers & Sons’ discounted at Borders yesterday. ‘50% off cover price’ was a wounding blow and I was lucky to have Judy there to catch me before I cracked a brow on a stack of hardbacked Jamie Olivers. I know we’re going through difficult financial times but I never thought it would get as bad as this. Japan’s economy might have collapsed, along with the world’s banking system, but the readership for heartening tales of families hasn’t diminished. In fact, it’s probably grown as people look to invest in the old favourites such as love, friendship, and all things that come with the Richard&Judy seal of approval.

To make matters worse, as I lay on my back and Judy dragged me heel first from the shop, I looked up at the passing shelves of bargain books and saw Bill Oddie’s new autobiography piled high.

‘Bill,’ I said, some hours later when the pethidine had kicked in. ‘You’ve been discounted. You’re 50% off at all Borders stores.’

There was a thud on the line and some minutes of silence.

‘Bill?’ I said. And then I repeated myself with a few more urgent ‘Bill’s.

Finally, there was a sound of some movement and the phone made a scraping sound as Oddie’s weak voice came back on the line.

‘Sorry, Dick,’ he said, ‘I seemed to have blacked out there for a moment. You said my book has been discounted?’

‘Not only yours but mine as well. 50% off “Fathers & Sons”, that beautifully crafted tale of family relationships, that has had reviewers writing odes of praise to its goodness. Half price for a book that highly valued is a crime. In fact, it’s so good, I wouldn’t even send a complimentary signed copy to sympathetic bloggers who might have spent years working to help my improve my image among the British public. I say they can queue up with the rest of Normality Street and pay at the counter for the honour of reading my words.’

‘As they should, Dick. As they should. It makes me think that books as good as ours should have price protection. I can’t believe they could have been discounted so quickly. This is terrible!’

‘Yet it’s not all bad news,’ I said, trying to ease Oddie’s concerns. ‘They were discounting all the celebrity autobiographies. O’Grady was marked down, so was Jonathan Ross, Dawn French, Julie Walters, and that Alan Carr, who, between you and me Bill, I wouldn’t cross the road to hit with a claw hammer.’

‘Stuff the lot of them,’ agreed Bill, who was sounding much more like the Oddie we’ve come to know and love and feed with peanuts. ‘But what I want to know is what we’re going to do, Dick? I had planned to invest my book money into a new owl sanctuary for the south west. I even had a name for it. Bill Oddie’s Owl Sanctuary Trust. BOOST would put owls on the map. Nige had even agreed to work there weekends, running classes in cravat management and advanced owl nurturing.’

‘Another blow,’ I said, really feeling for Bill’s loss. ‘You’re not alone in regretting the news. I had plans for my royalties too. The Richard Madeley Commando Training School was going to be the ground-breaking initiative for spreading the news that going without underwear is both hygienic and comfortable.’

‘Oh,’ groaned Bill.

‘Oh, indeed,’ groaned I in reply.

‘Oh, for goodness sake!’ groaned Judy who had at that moment walked into the room, carrying her laptop and the 1700 pages of the manuscript to her new novel. ‘Won’t you hang up that phone and stop being so bloody ridiculous? When my book comes out, I’ll be sure to earn a fortune. What are you worrying about? The world is crying out for an epic tale of miniature horses, Cornish smugglers, cross-dressing Dukes, harpsichord salesmen, and the Irish turnip industry. We’ll make millions, Richard. Millions!’

I shrugged as I hung up the phone. There was nothing else I could do. I would sink or swim based on the public’s love for tales of turnips. It is as it is and it’s never been any other way.


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