Monday 26 April 2004

Some time in the future

"Good evening sir. Have you got your surveillance card?"

"No, I left it at home. It’s not as if I look under eighteen, is it? If you want to be silly, here’s my pensioner’s bus pass."

"No sir, that’s not good enough. They’ve reprogrammed the beer pumps and I can’t serve you without your surveillance card."

Next evening

"Ah, I see that you’ve brought your card tonight. May I recommend a litre of the Federation Lager? It’s all the rage over in Brussels. That’ll be 5,000 Euro-Blairs, plus VAT – 10,000 in all."

Half an hour later

"May I have another pint, I mean litre?"

"Certainly sir. I'll just swipe the card first."

"Oh dear. There's a problem. You're authorised to drive a car. Only one beer tonight sir."

"But I walked here. I always walk here."

"I understand that sir, but the system won't allow drivers to have more than one alcoholic drink. After all, you may walk home and then get into your car. Why not try the recycled orange juice?"

The next evening

"The usual sir?"

"Yes please, and I'll have a burger as well."

"OK sir. Why not sit at that table and the waitress will bring it over when it's ready."

Ten minutes later

"Good evening sir, my name's Cathy Jamieson and I'm your server for tonight. Enjoy your meal. Gratuities are optional."

"What the hell is that? It's a carrot. Where's my burger?"

"Well sir, the NHS database says that you've had two burgers already this month. Another one would take you over the limit. It's for your own good sir."

Next week

"Here's your beer sir. The computer obliges me to remind you that your last tax return was sent in late. Get it in on time this year."

"Of course it was late. There was a postal strike for six months."

"Perhaps you should have flown out to Bangalore and handed it in personally. That's what I did."

Two nights later

"Hello sir. Before I can serve you, that policeman over there wants to have a look at your surveillance card. They're concerned about all the trouble you've been causing recently."

"OK, let's swipe the card then. Goodness me sir. The travel database says that you were in Iraq last year. How do you explain that?"

"Of course I was in bloody Iraq. I was in the bloody army. That's where I lost the leg. And I'll have you know that it was my unit that captured Osama Bin Laden. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it!"

"Now now sir. You know that smoking is illegal. I'm afraid I've got some bad news for you. You see that lady over there? Yes, the one who is drinking the North Korean alcopop and wearing the rather fetching designer-burqa. She's been looking for you all over town. The thing is, sir, she's a human rights lawyer and has been hired by Mr Bin Laden to sue you under the relevant European legislation. It wasn't very sporting of you to capture him before he blew up the Baghdad Parliament, was it?"