Sowing the seeds of hate

Well, the vapers are getting a real taste of antismoker hate this week. With one important difference.

The Puritans won’t ban smoking. Too much tax income involved and too many rich peoples’ pensions are locked into tobacco company shares.

Vaping has no such backroom protections. The Puritans can openly hate us smokers but they’ll never ban it because of the cashflow. Vaping doesn’t generate that cashflow.

So, we have the moves to ban flavours, very rapidly (not surprisingly) followed by moves to ban vaping altogether. Orange Don has tried to roll back on his ridiculous anti-vape stance but too late. Rolling back on it now is just going to get him tarred with the ‘You don’t care about the cheeeldren dying!’ hysteria. Which, incidentally, is coming from people who support abortion up to the moment of birth. Still, Don fell for that trap, let’s see if he can find a way out. I can’t.

Abortion is a separate argument. Personally I’d support it up to the point where they get elected to government but that’s possibly leaning towards the slightly extreme end of the spectrum. It seems to be all or nothing in the USA though. Some states you can have your photo taken with your newborn and then sell it for spare parts, other states you go to jail for a natural and unfortunate miscarriage. There seems to be no middle ground.

Anyway, back to smoking and vaping.

We’ve had pompous, self-important antismoking vapers since it started. Not all, I hasten to add, but a vocal minority, who delighted in siding with the Puritans against the smokers they left behind. We told them, one day they’ll come for you, but the ones breathing the Holy Steam never listened. I bet they still aren’t listening even as their Electrofags are snatched from their non-yellowed fingers.

It does wear off, by the way. The yellow finger stains, I mean. Change the way you hold your smokes and the stains from your habitual holding pattern will fade in time. Switch to vaping and they’ll vanish forever… until you are forced back to smoking by Orange Don’s Puritan Loonies.

The Puritans took full advantage of their new temporary vaper allies, letting them whip up more smoker-hate, until they realised the effect on their bottom line as vaping became more popular and tobacco taxes declined. So now they have turned on the vapers, and they have turned very hard indeed.

So hard, in fact, that they are trying to turn smokers into vaper-haters.

Yes. Really.

I inhale the smoke from a little bonfire in my face. You really want me to be scared of flavoured steam?

There can be absolutely no effect whatsoever from your nearby Electrofag while I’m actually burning leaves in my mouth. I’d get more effect from a kettle with a vanilla pod in it.

What this study actually says is that a third of smokers have experienced some poor bugger with a steam-stick thrust out into the same cold, inadequate shelter as the smokers. It does not equate to any kind of harm from that experience and it never will – because there can be no possible harm.

It’s fucking steam with a bit of flavour, a dash of nicotine and the chemical they use in asthma inhalers. Damn, if it does anything, it’ll do smokers good! It might even get a few interested smokers to try it for themselves. The price difference is a big pull here (that’s why I keep trying it, even though I haven’t found one to totally replace the real thing yet). That price difference is almost all tobacco tax, and that is why the alternative must be destroyed. Antismokers are losing money!

Get ready, vapers. The Puritans are turning smokers against you. It won’t be hard in many cases, remember how vocal your pompous bastards were in denouncing us? Petty revenge is petty, but you know it’s coming.

You are going to see smokers mysteriously diagnosed with ‘popcorn lung’ which, if it was real, should have been affecting smokers all along. You are going to see smoker cancer cases attributed to second hand vaping. Biologically impossible, but then look at the silly pictures on cigarette packets. You can’t get ‘meth mouth’ from tobacco, but here we are.

We already have ‘danger: contains nicotine’ warnings on packaged Electrofags that contain no nicotine. We do not have that warning on tomatoes or potatoes or the Pharmer’s nicotine patches and gum.

The aim is, of course, to split smokers and vapers further. There will still be the Holy Vapers who see their former compatriots as less than human. There will now be the Holy Smokers who at last have the chance to smack down the smug bastards – and to be honest, who can blame them?

Oh it’s going to work. It won’t take long.

If smokers and vapers were to come together as ‘nicotine consumers’ or similar, under a banner that covers us all, the Puritans would be screwed and they know it.

Will it happen?

Doesn’t look like it.

The Royal Prorogueative

So Mrs. Queen has signed the paper shutting down Parliament for a month in Autumn. Just as she does every year, and as she does whenever they get us to choose who gets to dip their snouts in the trough for the next Parliament.

This is not ‘the first time since the Civil War’. It is not ‘unconstitutional’. It is not a ‘coup d’etat’. It is what happens in September every year and before every General Election. Parliament closes and we all get a bit of a rest from their stupidity. I for one welcome it. The longer the better.

Remain MPs have lost their minds. They have set up a ‘People’s Parliament’ made up of MPs who have mostly changed parties so many times nobody now knows what they stand for. Also Jezza Cordite and Caroline Mucus (the only snot-Green MP in the whole place) and some other useless wasters.

As an interesting aside, I think it was Mhehed Zherting who pointed out on Twitter that the Green party has twice as many leaders as it has MPs…

‘Military Precision’ Ohdear Jones has called for mass protests. Students have threatened to go on strike. Well, the schools and colleges aren’t back yet so what they intend to strike from is somewhat unclear at the moment. Maybe they’ll mass-delete their Xbox accounts.

What’s so different this time? Bozza has asked Mrs. Queen to close Parliament for four extra days this time. I suspect Mrs. Queen is as utterly sick of the whole circus as the rest of us and was glad to shut it up for a while.

Four extra days. Tyrion Bercow is not Happy (he has never made clear which one he is, my money’s on Grumpy, and I know it’s an old Jethro joke so no need to point it out).

Four days. The remainers’ last functioning brain cells have now collapsed. This is a dictatorship! Even though he has just done what every single Prime Monster has done for every single autumn. This is when the parties have their conferences in which they all indulge in smug self-satisfaction and decide what they are going to lie to us about next year.

It happens every single year. This year it’ll be four days longer than usual.

Oh, but this is a Critical Time and Bozza should not prorogue Parliament at all. Yeah right. They’re all going to cancel their conferences, are they? All going to pass on the annual boozy ‘how to screw the voters’ circle jerk?

Well no. It’s those four days they are so exercised about. Inflated by an online lawyer, no less, to two weeks. I guess he only works two days a week, eh?

They have had three years. What are they going to miraculously pull out of their arses in four days? It’s where most of their policies and pronouncements come from, I suppose, so maybe there’s something in there.

They claim they must stop a ‘no deal Brexit’ but that’s not really true. What they want is to stop Brexit and they are now in a position where they have to. Those MPs don’t stand a pot of Ben and Jerry’s chance in Hell of getting re-elected and they know it. Their only hope is cushy jobs with the EU, which I’m betting have been promised. If they manage to wreck their own country, they’ll get the modern equivalent of those thirty pieces of silver.

There is of course a petition to stop this which has reached over a million ‘signatures’ but… exhibit A –

This is Remainer ‘democracy’. Set up a government coup consisting of swivel-eyed idiot MPs who can’t even decide which party they belong to, led by a bad Albert Steptoe impressionist who knows his only chance at being Prime Monster is to take over by weaselly means (and good luck getting him out afterwards). Have a petition in which every Remainoloon has 50 votes at least and it’s open to non-UK votes too. I wonder how many times Tusky Don and Guy Thermostat have voted on it?

And these people call Johnson ‘undemocratic’. They must be using the version of ‘democratic’ favoured by North Korea.

Now they are in the streets of London doing what they do best – getting in the way of people who have no control over the thing they want changed.

Gin Miller has started a legal challenge against Bozza’s use of the perfectly legal annual shutdown of Parliament. I hope she spends a lot of money on it.

We have been offered free trade agreements with Australia, Brazil, China and the USA so far. The EU has offered servitude and if you look at it closely, you’ll find Hitler would have given us a better deal if he’d won the war. Tessie Maybe set that up and Parliament rejected that nonsense three times.

Now the EU will not reopen negotiations. There is nothing Parliament, not even the silly ‘People’s Parliament’ of and for silly people, can do. If they won’t negotiate and the Tessie deal is dead, then ‘no deal’ is all that is left. It’s not an ‘option’. It’s the default.

Mad Merkin has said that Germany won’t send us any food if we leave with no deal. Pfft. We can make sausages. It would help boost our ailing car industry too if we no longer buy Audi, Mercedes, Volkswagen…

I don’t think the EU elite have bothered to discuss any of this with the companies actually selling us stuff. They might find some CEOs requesting urgent talks.

This next two months is going to be very interesting indeed. I fully expect loonies to stock up on everything as if the world is about to end. One of the scare stories was a shortage of toilet paper. That’s no problem, it would simply boost newspaper sales.

If Bozza holds his nerve we leave the EU on Halloween. They will hit him with everything they have. Their idiot drones will carry out their EU Fuhrer’s orders and call everyone else Nazis, because that’s how it works these days.

There’s just over a week until Mrs. Queen’s signature takes effect and Parliament shuts down.

By then the streets will flow with Remainer mouth-froth.

I have no plans to go anywhere in September. It’s going to get very, very silly indeed.

Fine weather brings them from under their rocks

Every summer it’s the same story. All through the shitty weather, the antismokers delight in watching smokers huddled outside pubs. The first day it’s actually pleasant to be out there and…

Note the ‘in this weather’ part. When an area is horrible to be in, smokers can have it. When it’s nice, smokers can just get lost so the Righteous Ones can enjoy themselves.

Doesn’t affect me personally, my pub visits dropped from weekly to monthly and now getting to less than once a year since the ban. Since I now have to drive to the nearest pub I can’t drink much (Scottish drink/drive limits mean one beer can put you over the limit) and I have to go outside to smoke, no matter the weather. There’s nothing left in there for me now, other than a very occasional meal.

I go to Local Shop, next to the pub, buy whisky and take it home. So I’m not troubling Jeremy or his army of pompous, self-important, smug filth. I have whisky and tobacco at home where I don’t have to put up with fake coughing and don’t have to share a space with people like Jeremy.

It does affect a lot of smokers though and more than that, it affects pubs.

I’m sure pub landlords will be delighted with Jeremy’s plan to ban those persistent smoking customers who just keep coming back in all weathers and spending their filthy smoker money, despite having it made clear to them they aren’t welcome inside. Now, thanks to Pompous Jeremy, they aren’t going to be welcome outside either, at least during the short British spells of pleasant weather. So why would they ever go back?

Yes, the regulars just keep on coming back, don’t they? Clear them all out so Jeremy can have a smoke free pub garden for a couple of weeks every summer. Next summer he’ll be sitting in an untended garden behind a closed-down pub – but it’ll be smoke free. Alcohol-free too. Bonus, eh, Jeremy?

At the time I took the screenshot (a few minutes before writing this) he had over 100 more retweets than likes. Also 14000 comments against 216 likes. On Twitter that’s called being ‘ratio’d’ which translates as ‘nobody likes you’.

A well deserved result for Jeremy Vine there, whoever he is.

Meanwhile, smokers, pray for rain so Jeremy and his ilk will fuck off back inside again and you can smoke in peace.

The psycho and the baby

I am keeping up with the work for Anthology 8. It’s going to be a big one and submissions don’t close until the 25th. I am keeping up with edits, with Roobee’s help, and contracts. It’ll be fine. I have, naturally, chosen this time to redecorate the bathroom, inspired by a Government who have chosen the time of the biggest job they have ever had to ban the advertising of cheese, jam, and tiny chocolate frogs.

I haven’t forgotten the Freddo competition. I thought I had a lull in anthology submissions but even more stories arrived last weekend. Also a new toy – a ten quid Chinese video camera small enough to fit on OO scale trains. I am resisting playing with it until after the book and competition. It’ll happen.

So, Tessie Maybe gave a speech earlier in which she blamed everyone but herself for the Brexit Balls-up, and left some subliminal threats to her MPs concerning an upcoming vote on the same deal that has been given a most emphatic ‘fuck no’ by the House of Conmen twice already.

Squeaker Grumpy (he once declared he was not Happy so I’m guessing which one he is) has said that No-mates May cannot keep putting the same thing up for votes, especially when it keeps getting ‘fuck no’ results every time. The EU has overruled him, or tried to. We’ll have to wait and see.

In her speech she has, most likely, alienated the last of her supporters and brought the country together in a way no Prime Monster has ever managed before. Absolutely everyone wants her to resign now.

There was a Meeting of the Big Cheeses (am I still allowed to use that phrase under the New Food Rules? Cheese is full of fat and often slippery, so it seems accurate) aka the leaders of the parties in government.

Chukkus Yermoney was there as leader of the Rebel Loonies. Jerry Cordite took one look at him, declared he wasn’t a real party leader and stomped out in a huff.

Well, Jerry did have a point in that the Rebel Loonies were elected due to their party manifestos. They have ditched those manifestos and the party they were elected under so they don’t even have a mandate to be MPs any more. They also aren’t a ‘party’, just a gang. The gang of kids in the schoolyard whose only common factor is that none of the other kids want to play with them.

But throwing a tantrum and storming out of a meeting that could decide the UK’s future in just over a week?

This man is supposed to be the leader of one of the two biggest parties in the UK. He has had many meetings with HAMAS and the IRA and the reason he gave was that ‘sometimes, you have to talk with people you fundamentally disagree with in order to solve problems’ or words to that effect.

Chukkus Yermoney is a British Moocher of Parliament still and someone Jerry Cordite agreed with on most things until recently. He might be an idiot but he’s not HAMAS nor is he the IRA. He’s never killed anyone. As far as I’m aware, he’s never even so much as poked anyone in an aggressive manner. And yet Jerry can’t be in the same room as him, when he has palled up with mass murderers in the past.

Did Tessie, Empress of the Eternal Failure, deliberately invite Chukkus just to wind up Jerry? Well, I’m no psychologist but her manipulative ways, constant reiteration of lies and devious aggression do look like a narcissistic personality bordering on the sociopath. We knew she was a control freak when she was in the Home Office (remember her slavering over internet control and the DNA database of everyone?). She’s nasty enough to have done it for that reason.

If Jerry Cordite was an actual adult, he would have shrugged and taken his seat, then used every opportunity to dig at Chukkus whenever he opened his non-mandated mouth. That’s what I would have done.

Instead, he did what every toddler would do. Screamed ‘NONONO! I DON’T LIKE IT’ and stomped out of the room.

So. At the next election, you have a choice. You can vote for one of the two big parties and end up being ruled by either a psychotic habitual-liar deranged bint or a reality-denying habitual-liar man-child. Or you could vote for someone based on the person, not the party.

Just remember that manifestos mean nothing. Labour proved that under Blair anyway, but any residual doubt has now been removed by both Tories and Labour. You can safely put any manifesto straight into recycling. It was a waste of ink and paper.

And to think, I thought the Brown Gorgon was bad. I’d rather have him back now. That says a lot about the current options.

As for the Lib Dems, I hear that Vinnie the Wire is stepping down. A pity they don’t have Lemsip ‘oblong-eyes’ O’Pick, that jaunty Irish labourer with the persistent cough, in their MPs any more. I didn’t agree with him on much but I have to admit I quite liked the guy. I have no idea who they will pick as Vinnie’s replacement because I can’t name a single one of their current MPs. It’s like trying to name separate parts of a blancmange.

Greens will kill us all. It’s in their DNA. They want massive population reduction and they will achieve it by moving most of Africa and the Middle East north so they can become corpsicles when the grand solar minimum really gets going. It’s already started, but probably won’t become clear to the dopes of the Green God of Climatology for a few more years. Too late guys, you should have prepared. Maybe you shouldn’t have shut down all those power stations. Oh dear. What a shame. Never mind. Africa is slated to be a nature reserve. All humans will be deleted. They didn’t tell you that when they sold you the boat tickets, did they? Oh and did you notice that most Green policies, despite them being a minor party, are also EU policies?

Who do you vote for? You can refuse to vote, that’s a valid and perfectly understandable response in the current climate, but you know the drones will vote for all of the above and if you abstain, one of them will win.

I’m not telling you who to vote into Wastemonster. I’d rather see it burned to the ground to be honest. That isn’t going to happen so we have to make the best of what we can do.

What can we do? Not much really. I’d like to see a Parliament made up of independents and the lunatic fringe candidates. It won’t last long but it will give the actual politicians one massive kick up the arse. And they really do need that right now. With steel toecaps and hobnails and a good run-up.

Will they get it? I doubt it. Most constituencies are made up of morons who will vote for a mollusc with the right colour rosette and often have. It will take a seismic shift to make them vote differently.

Tessie and Jerry might have just made it happen. We shall see.

(Is it bad that I wish the current Tory Prime Monster was called Tom?)

Eggs

No, this has nothing to do with the word-association part of ‘The Winslow Apple‘, which I am certain was the first thing in everyone’s mind. This is about the throwing of, or splattering of eggs on politicians.

Jerry Cordite had one thrown at him, Nigel Fagash was egged, I seem to recall Napolemacron received a free raw omelette and there have been more. John Prescott had one thrown at him some years back, and now an Australian politician has had one forcibly splattered on the back of his large bald head.

Prezza’s retaliatory thump is now the stuff of legend, of course. Jerry didn’t get to thump the guy, I believe his security got him first.

In Australia, they do things differently. When Prezza lashed out, his people held him back while the police arrested the thrower. In Australia, the politician thumped the egg splatterer until his security took over and seriously took down the assailant.

The Australian Eggman was a teenager. They really didn’t need three burly security operatives to hold him down. But then, when you pick a fight, you really ought to gauge the level of likely retaliation first. A thin teenager starting a rumble with burly adults was never going to be clever idea.

Apparently a lot of people don’t like this particular Australian politician (I’ve never heard of him and don’t care, we have enough problems with the UK politicians without getting involved in anyone else’s) so they are siding with the ‘he’s just a kid’ egg splattering idiot.

I don’t agree with Corbyn on pretty much anything. And yes, an egg is pretty harmless as a weapon of choice but consider the egg recipient’s point of view.

They don’t know it’s an egg. They feel something hit them, sometimes hard, and then they feel wet stickiness at the point of impact.

Loonies are out shooting and stabbing people with a horrible regularity these days.

If you felt a sudden impact followed by a wet, sticky feeling at the point of impact, what would your first thought be? That some arse has thrown an egg? Or that you might have been shot or stabbed?

Tell you what – if I felt an impact, then a wet stickiness spreading from that point, turned around and saw the assailant… I am not going to check if what I’m feeling is egg or blood. I am going for that assailant first. They might go for another wet sticky patch and if it’s not egg I might not survive it.

I am not going to check if he has a knife in either hand. No time for that. And I will do a damn sight more than slap him or punch him. At that point I have no choice but to assume it’s him or me.

When Prescott was egged we all laughed about it. Back then, eggs were just a silly protest. No real harm done. Back then though, people were not being shot and stabbed several times a day, every day. Now, an impact followed by a wet sticky feeling (you actually don’t feel the pain right away, the shock hides it, especially if you don’t see it coming) could well mean you have been shot or stabbed.

So maybe Australians dislike that politician as much as I dislike almost all of the UK ones. Is it OK for a smug entitled teenager to put that much fear into their minds with just an egg? Is it OK for any smug entitled teenager to just walk up to anyone they feel like and assault them without consequence?

If you say ‘yes’ or worse – ‘yes in this case because it’s someone I don’t like’ then you are not part of the problem.

You are the problem.

Good luck when it’s your turn. I’m sure you’ll take the time to check whether that impact wetness is egg or blood, then have a jolly discussion with your attacker without worrying what the new wet impacts are.

I dislike almost every politician in the UK, but I would not do this to any of them.

I will never be an omelette terrorist.

All the Strangers

I suggested I might post this a long time ago but a search of the site indicates I didn’t, so here it is now. It’s the follow up to an old story called ‘The Sweet Man’ which is in the same book and I’m sure I did post, but can’t find it.

Both stories were in ‘The Good, the Bad and Santa’ (Underdog Anthology 4).

Anyway. Since I am busy with this publishing lark and have no time to comment on Vinnie the Wire standing down as leader of the Libby Dhimmis, with not so much as a slot-spectacled Lemsip O’Pick left to be a credible leader…. nor do I have time to wonder how the idiots in Parliament can believe that taking their only bargaining chip off the table helps them negotiate…oh bugger, it’s hard to care any more.

I still have to set up that Freddo competition but in the meantime, here’s a fun story that has probably nothing to do with reality.

Yet.

All the Strangers

Alan placed his left hand on the panel and the door clicked open. Scowling at his palm, he entered the back rooms of the shop.

What was wrong with swipe cards or code locks? Oh, it was the old ‘security’ trick again. Cards can be lost or stolen, codes can be hacked or leaked. So much safer to have the entry code implanted in your hand. Yeah. Until some bugger cuts my hand off to gain entry.

That was unlikely to happen in this small shop but these chips were in Government installations, banks, all over the place now. The young loved them. They used to throw parties when another member of staff accepted the chip. Alan remembered his – he felt as though he was not so much being welcomed as an embracer of new technology, more as if he was being assimilated into the collective.

Accepting the chip was no longer optional. The card swipe panels and code locks had all been removed. You want to work, you have to be chipped. When it started, they said it was voluntary. It didn’t stay that way for long. It never bloody does.

Alan put his wallet and keys into his locker and checked his watch. Fifteen minutes to the start of his shift, so he grabbed his cigarettes and headed outside for a quick one. The smoking area was at the far end of the staff car park, past the loading bay. As always, Alan had smoked almost half his cigarette before he reached it.

Really, he thought. This is outside, a place where huge trucks make deliveries and cars run their engines to get the frost off their windscreens, and they’re all scared of a bit of burning leaf.  Not for the first time, he wondered when the modern world had become so weak. He had done this job for fourteen years and had seen so many changes. None of them he considered to be for the better.

Well, time to get to work. Most of the year he just stacked shelves and worked the tills but thanks to his somewhat rounded physique, at Christmas his job took on a little more variety. Alan returned to his locker and retrieved his uniform for the afternoon. Red tunic and trousers, silly hat and fake beard. For a few weeks every December, the grumpy overweight old shop boy became jolly Santa. Ho fucking ho.

As he left the stockroom, he met Damian on his way to his break.

“Hey, Santa. Remember not to scratch your sack in public.” Damian grinned at his joke.

Alan scowled. The same joke, every day, every year, every time he wore this bloody costume. He responded with a monotone “Ho ho ho”.

Damian changed tack. “Hey, you’ll never guess what I just saw. I was on till four and some guy paid for his shopping with contactless.”

Alan shrugged. “So what? That’s been around for years.”

“Ah but not with a card. He just put his hand on the scanner. He has the chip embedded in his fucking hand!” Damian’s eyes glowed with excitement. “I have got to get one of those.”

Alan shook his head. “You’re turning into the Borg and you’re delighted about it.” He snorted. “Resistance is futile. Although there is no resistance, is there? You all want to be assimilated. You’ll even pay for the privilege.”

“Oh lighten up, Alan. The chips are convenient, that’s all. You can’t lose your credit card or leave it at home if it’s embedded in you.” Damian gestured at the stockroom door. “Same as this – you never turn up to work without your door entry card, do you? Of course not. It’s in your hand all the time.”

Alan stared at his hand, where the hated chip was embedded. He couldn’t escape the question in his head, the question that had been there ever since the needle slid into his hand.

What else does it do?

Damian slapped Alan’s shoulder. “You and your conspiracy theories.” With a chuckle, he headed for the staff room.

Scowling, Alan stomped towards the tired, age-battered grotto in the corner of the shop. He looked like a Santa who had just had his sleigh impounded and his reindeer sliced up and on sale in Lidl’s freezers.

“Smile, you miserable old sod”

The hissed whisper made Alan jump. He hadn’t noticed Mr. Elwood, the manager, who now glared at him from the household cleaning products aisle. Alan forced a smile, nodded and carried on to the rickety chair in the grotto.

The chair, like the rest of the grotto, looked somewhat sad, as if it had made an attempt to be festive the morning after a serious drinking session. Alan straightened out some of the threads of tinsel and lifted the ones that had fallen to the floor. He lowered himself carefully onto the wobbly chair and wondered if Elwood would ever see fit to replace it. Probably not. This was the same chair the previous Santa used, five years ago. He went mental or something – Alan hadn’t been at work that day but the tales the staff told sounded really bad – so Elwood no longer trusted outside hires for his store-Santa. Alan wondered if this rickety chair had helped drive the man nuts. It certainly felt unsafe.

Ah well, he thought, at least it means a bit of extra money in the pay packet. Not much, but every little helps at this time of year.

Money for nothing, Alan thought, after twenty minutes of the four hour stint had passed. Not one child entered the grotto. Maybe it looked so unsafe parents were keeping them away. That was fine with Alan, he was sick of hearing demands for the latest expensive electronics from spoiled, greedy little shits.

He was not to promise them anything. That was the rule. Santa never made a firm promise in case the parents sued later. Elwood had angled a security camera, with microphone, onto the grotto in case some compo-hound pretended Alan had made a promise the parents couldn’t afford to keep. This was a bit of modern surveillance Alan didn’t mind. He wasn’t really the one being watched, and anyone who noticed the camera would assume that he was the one being watched in case he tried to get into a toddler’s pants. As if anyone with that kind of perverted desire would even get a job in this shop. Elwood might be a grumpy tight fisted bastard but he was a shrewd employer. Very few thieves or perverts had ever slipped past his interviews and once identified, they were out of the door in a flash. Sometimes with a police escort.

The customers never grasped that they were the ones being watched. Any claim against the store based on what might or might not have happened in the grotto would be faced with video evidence. Elwood kept every tape for years. He was not going to lose any lawsuit brought against this shop.

Alan’s reverie was broken by a small voice. “Are you really Santa?”

At the entrance to the grotto stood a small boy, holding his mother’s hand. Alan composed himself and launched into his prepared spiel.

“Ho ho ho. The real Santa is busy. I’m one of his helpers but he hears every word I say. So, small boy, what do you want Santa to bring you this year?”

The mother’s face reddened. “Xe identifies as a girl and likes to be called Belinda. Please don’t assume gender on first sight.”

Alan closed his eyes. Oh Jesus Holy Christ on a motorbike fuelled by unicorn turds. It’s one of those trendy idiots who loves to mess with their kids’ heads just to look right-on. He opened his eyes and took a deep breath.

“Okay.” He looked at the child. “What do – xoo – want for Christmas?” Little boy/girl/thing. Oh how he wished for the nerve to add that part aloud.

The mother rolled her eyes in that superior manner that only the half witted can manage. “It’s just ‘you’, not ‘xoo’. ‘You’ is not a pronoun.”

Did I ask for a lecture on fantasy grammar? Alan looked her dead in the eye until she broke eye contact, then turned his attention to the child. In a now very obviously forced cheery voice he asked “Well, Belinda, what would you like?”

“I want a doll house.”

Alan raised his eyebrows. This was the most traditional request he had heard in a long time. Among the demands for expensive electronics, games of murder and death and toys of alien monsters or demons, this child’s request seemed so… ordinary. Or it would have been ordinary if a girl had been asking for a doll house. Alan coughed and regained his composure.

“Well, I’ll pass your wish along to Santa and we’ll see what he can do.” Alan lifted the small plastic cauldron, a Halloween leftover, and offered it to the child. “Would you like a sweet while you wait for Christmas?”

His/her/its mother stepped forward. “No sweets. I don’t want my child to suffer obesity.”

Oh for fuck’s sake. Let the kid have at least a bit of childhood. Fortunately Elwood had anticipated a visit from at least one of the modern loonies so Alan had an alternative bucket behind his seat. He put the sweet bucket down and picked up the other. “How about a bag of nuts or dried fruit?”

The mother smiled her approval and the child selected a bag of dried apricots. As they left, Alan sagged in his seat.

How long does humanity have left? He stared into his palm where the inert electronics of his door opening chip lay silent. They’ll have credit cards embedded and then all their bank details. They’ll have chips to run their cars and they’ll have those Google Glass things embedded in one eye. They’ll get one hand replaced with a tool for their specific job. And they will welcome it. Hell, they’ll fight to be first in line.

There had been an old documentary, a TV show about the fictional Star Trek universe, in which it was stated that nobody knew where the Borg came from. Alan knew. He had recognised it at once. They came from a world like ours. They did not need to forcibly assimilate their original population. Their people had welcomed every new advance, every new embedded chip, every new modification, until it was too late to resist.

So what’s next?

A child of about seven strolled into the grotto, exuding an air of confidence that his youth should not possess. He (or she or it, Alan was not going to fall for that one again) stood in front of him and smiled.

“So.” Alan felt a little disconcerted by this child. “Um. Ho ho ho.” He shook his head to clear it. “What do you want for Christmas, small… person?”

“A FitChip.”

“Uh…” Alan blinked a few times. “A what?”

The child sighed, then pulled back the sleeve of his shirt to show Alan a device around his wrist.

“Oh right, one of those things that monitors your activity.” Alan considered these things pointless. Nobody needs a device to tell them what they are doing, and whether or not they feel well. “But don’t you already have one?”

“Oh get with the times, Santa. This is external. I can lose it. The new ones are implanted. They transmit all kinds of information about my health and location and my phone picks it all up.” The child looked almost pityingly at the baffled old man Alan suddenly felt himself to be.

“Ah.” Alan saw an immediate flaw. “What happens if you lose your phone?”

The child shook his head and lifted the hair on his right side. There, embedded in his flesh, was a long narrow silver object with a tiny blue light that flashed occasionally.

“Nobody loses phones any more. Nobody loses house keys either.” The child held up his hand and tapped his palm. “And it all charges using wireless chargers. I have one over my bed so everything charges up while I sleep.”

That must be why the Borg rest in those alcoves on the TV show. Alan had wondered about that.

“You’re being turned into some kind of machine.” It was out before Alan realised he had said it aloud. “Sorry. I didn’t mean to be rude.”

“It’s not like that.” The child scowled. “It’s what my granddad says too, but it’s not like being a machine. I control the chips. They don’t control me.” His lip started to tremble.

“Okay, I understand.” Alan felt panic rising. A crying child leaving the grotto would look very bad indeed. He held up the sweet cauldron. “Look, have a couple of sweets and I’ll see what I can do about that – what is it – fidget?”

“FitChip.” The child’s smile returned. “I really want one. I’d be the first in my class at school.”

“Right. Well, good luck on Christmas morning. Just make sure to be good and I’m sure Santa will come visit.”

The child grabbed a handful of sweets and left with a cheery ‘Bye’.

Alan sagged in the chair. That Santa who went psycho in this very chair a few years back… Alan could quite understand it now. It seemed to just get more damn weird every year. Maybe he should start looking for a different job in the New Year. One that didn’t involve anyone, especially him, dressing up as Santa. The image of the phone implanted in that child’s head hung in his memory. What the Hell is coming next year?

The kid said he controlled the chips. They don’t control him. For how long? The chip he wanted, he said, transmitted all sorts of information to his phone. Where else did it send that information? Could someone else pick it up?

Oh maybe I’m being paranoid. Or maybe I’m being sensible. Only time will tell – but implanted phones! Alan shuddered. The kid even had his door key implanted. Like mine, only mine is just for work. Alan stared at his hand. How long before it opens my house door too? And who else will have the chip code, and therefore access to my home?

People never look at the risks of the new toys they are sold. They have TVs with cameras installed, watching them as they watch TV. They have voice activated listening devices that they’ve bought and delighted in, and never wondered who might be listening. Now they are loading their bodies with chips that transmit intimate details about them. To who? To where? They never even think to ask.

What would happen to people his own age? Would they be forced to assimilate or just be brushed aside, a load of irrelevancies waiting to die? What happens when you get old and forgetful and can’t remember what all those chips do? That child’s medical chip – will it simply switch him off when he gets too old or too sick to be productive?

From Alan’s point of view the future looked bleak indeed and yet the young people thought it all wonderful. He sighed and hoped they were right.

It was a quiet shift today, leaving Alan plenty of time to reflect, in his own morose way, on the coming world he could never feel a part of. An old song played in his mind, a song by a deceased musician he had idolised in his youth. He smiled at the memory of that particular musician’s androgynous appearance, his space-age, almost science fiction music at times, and how he played all it to the gallery. It was edgy and different in those days. Now it had passed the stage of ‘normal’ and was fast becoming compulsory.

Alan closed his eyes and let the song play in his head.

All the strangers came today.

And it looks as though they’re here to stay.

Cashless

Don’t panic, I’m not skint again.

There is a lot of talk lately about an increasingly cashless society. Some pubs have already taken the decision to accept no cash and I would certainly never visit one. My way of avoiding overspending in pubs was to take a limited amount of cash with me. When it ran out, I’d go home.

I couldn’t help but imagine what a tipsy me would do if presented with unlimited drink because I was paying for it all with a credit card. The expensive single malt whiskies would no longer be ‘out of budget’ and there would be nothing but closing time to stop me.

Let’s be honest here. How many have gone to the pub intending to have two beers and then find that those two beers have switched off the common sense pathways in the brain? The only sensible way to proceed, if you are prone to a ‘the hell with it’ attitude, is to take limited cash. When it’s gone, it’s time to go home. While you can still walk.

Even so, I wouldn’t call for those pubs to be forced to accept cash. I rarely visit anyway since the smoking ban, so it’s unlikely to have a big impact on me – and unlike the antismokers, I believe a private business should be at liberty to decide who it wants to serve and how. If they don’t want to take cash, fine. Losing my limited business won’t affect them at all, and anyway, they chucked out me, along with all the other smokers, over a decade ago.

Of more concern is the growing number of shops who are going cashless. Oh I can see the appeal from the shop’s point of view – no point robbing a shop with no cash, and no need to endure the glares of others in the bank queue while you hand over many bags of coins. So yes, there is an appeal in going cashless – for the shop.

Would I use them? Well, if the likes of Aldi went cashless I might not notice for a while. That’s usually a weekly shop, often with some added weirdness from Aldi’s Aisle of Wonder, and I pay by card. I wouldn’t notice a transition to cashless until the queue is held up by someone at the front with a bottle of milk and a pack of biscuits, equipped only with a ten pound note. The resulting fracas would certainly be noticeable.

An awful lot of people don’t have credit or debit cards. Refuse to allow them to use cash and they will starve.

I don’t use a card if I’m in Local Shop for a pint of milk and a pie. I don’t want my card statement cluttered up with a lot of tiny transactions I won’t remember making. How will I spot a fraudulent transaction in that lot?

It does happen. It happened to me once. I didn’t lose anything because the card company spotted the unusual activity and called me. The transactions were cancelled, they blocked my card and sent me a new one.

The thing is, my card was blocked at once but it was a few days before the new one arrived. In a cashless world I would, for those few days, have been unable to pay for anything. If there had been an urgent bill it would have been paid late and late payment of bills damages your credit rating. A bad credit rating and you cannot get a credit card.

Basically, the cashless society would delete people from the economy. Not just the feckless, the spendthrift, the bad credit risk. Anyone could lose their card or have their details stolen and have that coincide with a large bill coming due. It doesn’t matter how much you have in the bank if you lose your only means of accessing it.

Sure, implanted payment chips will mean you can’t lose it or leave it at home. Contactless cards are only one step away from implanted chips. Doesn’t stop someone stealing your chip by cutting your hand off though.

No cash, and every transaction can be logged and recorded. Everything you buy is on record. Every penny of income is taxed. That birthday present money Auntie transferred to your account is income, matey. You pay tax, and Auntie pays tax on it too.

Tax could of course be massively simplified. Forget income tax, VAT, all the rest. Every transaction can be taxed in transit. Every one. Nobody will mind, because nobody will notice. There’ll be no need to fill out a tax form at the end of the year. The taxman already took his cut.

Lifestyle control, the Puritan dream, will be so much simpler too. Buying too much booze, too many burgers, overdoing it on the butter and jam? Someone will be round to see you and you cannot deny it, it’s all on record. Alternatively, your card’s access to disapproved-of things will simply be limited. Try to buy an extra beer and the shop staff can proclaim your rampant alcoholism to the whole store. Won’t that be fun?

A cashless society is a totally controlled society. You cannot take a bus or a train without the government knowing where you are going. You cannot buy a chocolate bar without risking a lecture from Public Health. You cannot refuse any medical procedure because if you haven’t paid for it, you haven’t attended. You can be tracked and controlled in every aspect of your life.

Try to rebel. All the authorities have to do is block your chip code on their servers. You cannot buy nor sell, you can’t even access the money in your account. Step out of line and you’re on the streets and begging isn’t going to work when nobody has any cash. Passers-by cannot even buy an extra coffee to give you. Their caffeine allowance won’t let them.

“Don’t be silly. People will never agree to going cashless and having chips implanted.”

Pfft. They are fighting to be first. This is not going to be imposed, at least not until it reaches a density where you really cannot function without it. Even then it won’t need force – you either join the collective or starve on the streets. Nobody wants your folding money any more.

Once you’re in, you stay in line or your access to money simply gets turned off.

We’ve seen the demonisation of cash for a while now. Remember how bacteria and viruses were found on the paper notes, and how every note in circulation had detectable levels of cocaine on it? Oh they weren’t saying ‘get rid of it’ back then. They were conditioning you to say it.

The next step will also involve drugs. Criminal gangs can’t use cards to buy drugs, and they don’t accept American Express when selling them. It’s all cash-only. Get rid of cash and most criminal operations will be impossible.

It’s not true, of course. The visible gangs, the low level drug thug with his machete and his street mob will be out of business but the top guys will experience no more than an inconvenience. You don’t get to meet these guys, they do not fight rivals in MacDonald’s and they don’t come out of the shadows with a pocket full of baggies. The street gangs will be of no more use to them, it’ll be suited salesmen and hackers running drugs without cash.

It’s not hard. When cashless becomes a thing, fake accounts and forged chips will be on the streets in a week. These are the people who have long forged cash, then cheques, then credit cards, and emptied back accounts remotely. They won’t be fazed by the next stage.

Your dealer won’t be on a street corner with a long leather coat and bling, he’ll be in an office with a computer on his desk.

So, you have to attend a dentist appointment but you’d rather get a little ‘pick-me-up’ instead. Your dealer simply logs into his fake-dentist account and scans your chip for the bill. He hands you the goods and off you go. Your record shows you visited a dentist that day, as you were required to, and paid. That’s all.

Of course, if your record eventually shows you’ve had every tooth extracted three times, someone might notice – but I seriously doubt it. The system will be run by office juniors, not dentists. The system will not flag you up if you are showing total compliance and the computer doesn’t know how many teeth you have.

The same will work for booze runners and cigarette sellers. You visited the doctor, dentist, optician. You were scanned at the jobcentre. You bought tofu. All the computer knows is what it is told, and it cares nothing for who is doing the telling.

So when you hear that going cashless will stop crime, don’t believe it. Computer based thievery and many other crimes happen now. They already know how to do it.

Going cashless will not control criminals and it isn’t intended to.

It’s intended to control you.