Pucker Oil

15 07 2010

The good people of Rochdale gathered in front of a stage in the town square on a bright sunny June day. The streets had been swept clean of straw and horse droppings, tattered and sun bleached bunting had been hung around the boarded up shops and lifeless street lamps and the citizens of the tired city had put on their best clothes in respect for the day’s events.

There was something in the air this afternoon, and not just the usual stench of biofuels and sewerage, for the first time in what seems like forever there was a sense of weary celebration. The years since The Collapse had been hard on the little Northen city, high up in the hills. When the oil ran out so did everything else, including that most important of commodities, Hope.

The economy had run dry, the supermarkets were bare and the takeaways closed. People had walked the streets, dazed, confused and hungry, unable to deal with the near apocalyptic events which had struck the world.

The crowd that had gathered before the stage were not the same people as they were since before the chaos. They were broken, stood hunched and seemingly using each other for support. They shuffled around the streets with heads hung, unable to look up into the sky or even into the eyes of others.

Many seemed gaunt, old before their time and some had suffered from lost limbs or other disabling injuries. But today all made their best effort, using up the last precious stores of pre-Collapse make-up and hair products. The battered citizens of Rochdale had dug out their finest clothes, in fashions that were at least ten years old and in many cases had been stitched up and repaired or altered to fit new, slimmer but more fragile frames.

The security guards, one of the few groups of people left in Rochdale that stood upright and with purpose, herded the residents towards the square. Troublemakers had already been dealt with the few days before, either locked up, threatened or exiled out onto the moors to suffer their fate at the hands of raiders and scavengers who prowled beyond the metal fences which protected the city.

The people of Rochdale gathered before the stage built in front of the Town Hall, a gothic building once admired by Hitler and now covered in glorifying drapes of the man who had “saved” their city from the horrors which befell so many other places in the North.

In the distance was a sound rarely heard in the days since the oil ran out, the mechanical flutter of helicopter blades. The Lord and Saviour of the town was fast approaching from his home down in the more prosperous and better fed South.

A brass band started to play, the Lord liked the little touches of local colour for his visits and it was a wise move to get into his favour. Most that had assembled before the Victorian-era municipal building that was the Town Hall harboured wishes of some gift, some treat to be handed out by The Lord for a year’s hard graft in the fields and food factories that were Rochdale’s primary industry now.

Children born after The Collapse gasped in awe as the helicopter thundered over the crowd to land in an old supermarket car park close to the square. The wee ones had never seen such a thing outside of television and were overjoyed that such a mechanical beast had flown to their lowly home.  The television of the future was carefully regulated so as not to give the residents of Rochdale any ideas of escape or life beyond the walls of their city. Aside from mindless drivel designed to anesthetise the population in the hour or two they had between work and much needed sleep programmes showing what the rest of Britain and the world were like now were forbidden, as was the troublesome Internet.

What need had the simple residents of Rochdale for dreams of a better life anyway, the argument went. They were lucky to have jobs and regular (but meagre) portions of food every day.  Other towns and cities in the North were not so lucky so what is a little bit of freedom and the surrendering of their elderly relatives (who’s selfish excess in the previous century were blamed for The Collapse) to the “reprocessing plants” anyway?

A golden Bentley, converted to run on ethanol and one of the last ever to be made and shipped over from China luxuriously ambled towards the gathered crowd who had now been lightly cajoled by the security men into waving flags and banners to welcome the saviour of their city. It was like the King himself was paying a visit (were it not for the fact he had been under house arrest for many years.)

Tears formed in some of the eyes of those who remembered what life was like before The Collapse. They remembered how most people had cars, went abroad on holidays, ate until they were fat, took everything for granted and had no care for the future or the loonies who protested and warned that the good times could not go on forever.

The Mayor of Rochdale and assorted dignitaries stood up to welcome The Lord as he stepped out of his golden Bentley. Their finery was worn and faded and their figures hunched in submission. Security guards formed a corridor to protect the Lord from the excited citizens who were holding out flat caps and cupped hands in hope of charity.

The gluttonous bulk of The Lord hauled himself out from the gold plated luxury car, it’s suspension easing off slightly as the chubby and jewel encrusted hand of the city’s benefactor launched him upright before the crowd.

Pausing for a moment to savour the adulation of a broken and needy people the Lord’s blonde locks flapped in the breeze from under his top hat. Caught in the rays of sunlight his face revealed itself to the crowd. As all who had gathered before him knew, the Saviour of Rochdale was none other than celebrity television chef and nutritional guru Jamie Oliver.

With his pudgy red face it appeared that the luxuriant cravat tied around his neck was on too tight but this was not the case, he always looked like that these days. His suit was the finest the tailors of London could create, cut of expensive fabrics shipped in from around a chaotic and dangerous world. He carried with him a cane allegedly made from the thigh bone of Bernard Matthews and ostentatiously topped with a voluptuous ruby cut into the shape of a shallot.

In his self-inflated mind Jamie Oliver strode through the crowd to the stage like a righteous messiah. To the good people of Rochdale he waddled past like a rather comical and self important penguin (not that any of them would dare bite the hand that fed them.) The Lord was followed out of the Bentley by some of his cohorts, questionably talented celebrities who had done well from the horrors of Peak Oil and the corruption and austerity which was now ingrained into public life of the New Britain.

The comedian James Corden, almost a twin in size with the engorged Oliver bumbled in a poorly executed and contrived prat fall.  Face now nothing more than an implosion of fat his nose was curiously out of place with the rest of his head. Rumour had it that it originally belonged to clean leaving individual from Harrow who had fallen prey to Corden’s lawyers in a case of libel and been forced to relinquish his nose in surgery in punishment ( the tubby funny man’s original proboscis had of course been desiccated by decades of cocaine abuse.)  The crowd were aware what could happen to them if they didn’t laugh and applaud at Corden’s lazy and attention seeking schtick and half heartedly rewarded the obese clown with the adulation his insecurity craved.

Dressed in a quadruple plus sized England kit he pranced around before the stage until a man on crutches was led out before him by the dead eyed security guards. Imagining the crowd were egging him on, he careered towards the unfortunate cripple and knocked him over.  This had become James Corden’s signature prank since the Collapse. He would pick on some oik from the jobless masses who would sell their dignity so their family could eat a decent meal (away from the government soup kitchens) and then use his horrendous and narcotic powered bulk to fall onto or barge into them like a drunken bull. Extra points would be awarded if the victim were to burst into tears or suffered from some physical disability which the private health companies of the time refused to help with.  After the debasement James Corden would then pause towards the “camera”, a single finger pointing towards the blubbery crevice in his face where his mouth would be as if to say “I am a naughty boy, but you can’t help but love me, yes?!”

As the ball of human fat tumbled around to “amuse” the crowd at the steps of Rochdale City Hall a shadowy and wizened figure slipped out from Jamie Oliver’s gold plated Bentley and skulked up to the stage almost unnoticed. Whereas the previous two occupants of the car were vast in size and in direct antithesis to the gaunt and malnourished workers of Rochdale the third was as thin and sickly as the rest of them. But there the similarities ended.

Dressed in a stained, laboratory style coat and with a hawkish, shrew like face of paper thin skin stretched over a balsawood frame was the Grand Health Chancellor, Priestess of AltMed, First Nutritionist of the State, Arch-Bishop of New Science, “Dr.” Gillian McKeith.

Existing only in the darkness, afraid to catch a beam of sunlight on her undead skin the good “Doctor” took her place on the stage next to The Lord and The Clown. Her beady judgemental eyes glowed onto the humble workers gathered before her. While the Lord continued to bask in the glory and the Clown pranced up and down the stage for that life giving attention he craved “Dr.” Gillian McKeith was skittish and uncomfortable. She played with something in the science pocket of her lab coat. Rumour had it the object that soothed her was embalmed severed finger of a noted science journalist from before The Collapse who had called her out on her lack of credentials and general quackery. As she fondled the digit an unsettling and un-human smile crept across her shrivelled face.

Jamie Oliver called on Corden to cease his antics, he was ready to speak. By now the temperamental oaf had worked up a fat man’s sweat, perspiration had soaked the comedian’s England kit to a diaphanous state and his fleshy man boobs were clear for all to see. Again, this was Corden’s intention. His glutinous figure was his best joke, some would say his only joke (although those individuals would never say that to his face lest they get a beating!)

Drinking in the (forced) adulation like a cat with a bowl of cream, Jamie Oliver took to the podium at the front of the stage.

“Dear sweet humble people of The North” he announced. “I have come here today to honour your hard work over the past year. You have sacrificed so much to help me and this good nation of ours, lost so many limbs to the infernal Chinese machines I’ve supplied you with, given up so many of the distractions of the old ways such as the Internet, new clothes, fresh water, meat and household pets and now I have come to reward you for your toil.”

Oliver paused for moment to wipe the spittle from his mouth with a £100,000 note (which due to hyperinflation was now only enough to pay a single tank of biofuel for his Bentley, or freedom from indentured servitude for a Northern family of four.)

“Y’see, since everything went to hell we’ve all suffered. Many of many restaurants had to be closed, I had to sell my house in the south of what used to be France and you’ve had to give up your beloved pets and elderly relatives for the good of the Nation. But we’re all in this together…” Oliver’s rosy cheeked and sausage meat filled face contorted into a patronising display of sympathy, the sort a Royal would give when presented to an African child during one of their official visits.

“Some of you may have thought the price was too high, the conditions in which you work too harsh. And I understand that…” (the security guards lining the front of the stage tensed upon hearing this, looking  from behind their intimidating helmets for signs of protest in the crowd.)

“…but y’see it’s all for the Greater Good. It’s to get Britain back on her feet again. I am but a humble man, I know my limits. I’m not an economist, a politician, a scientist or a messiah. I am a simple cook, I make food that in turn makes people happy and satisfied. All I ever wanted to do was to make food accessible to everyone again; to show that you can make mistakes – I do all the time – but it doesn’t matter.

(The slits in Oliver’s face where his eyes were started to well up with tears.)

“It warms the cockles of me ‘art to see all the good work we have done here. Now, after many years of hard effort against the odds I ‘ave brought this fair city back to some degree of it’s former glory and given you people the simple dignity of gainful employment again.” (Jamie’s jewel encrusted hand beckoned to the dark satanic mills which had popped up all over the city and which belched out noxious smoke from their chimneys)

“Now my exclusive range of ‘and cooked pucker grub is rolling out into the supermarkets of the South again. We ‘ave ‘ope, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel, we can all enjoy the flavours of the times before the oil dried up. Well done Rochdale, good for you!”

Oliver paused for moment, to enjoy the round of applause being cajoled out of the workers assembled before him. These were people who had signed in blood to work in his food factories, slaving away on ready meals they could not afford for the meagre wages Jamie paid. Meals which in the absence of large quantities of meat being shipped in from abroad were partially made of household pets or the useless dregs of baby boomers who had cluttered up the streets after The Collapse and reaped the cost of a lifetime of excess and plenty during the 20th century. When the pension funds dried up and the housing market collapsed they were left on the streets, wondering why there was no more fuel to power their 4X4s and take them on Cruises round the now partially submerged sights of the world or to light up over-priced Rolling Stone concerts.

More tears trickled down Oliver’s pantomime face while the peasants wearily clapped and half heartedly whooped. The major, realising that next year’s food rations for the city might rely on how well The Lord’s speech was received goaded the crowd into putting more effort.

Meanwhile James Corden recognised his cue and waddled over to a large object at the left of the stage which was covered in black tarpaulin. Blubbery glee bubbled across his imploded face as he remembered what was under the sheets.

“Thank you, thank you. Your cheers are worth more to me than the billions I have in the bank… really, I mean that” Jamie clasped his hands to his heart to show how much he really meant that. Corden disappeared under the tarpaulin, chuckling to himself. McKeith’s cold, dead eyes stared into the unworthy bellies of the crowd and judged them for their assumed dietary sins.

The applause died down after ten minutes, Jamie Oliver was satisfied with the response his serfs had given him and wiped the last of his tears with another £100,000 note.

“So now, after you have given so much it is time for me to give back to you dear people.” Jamie pointed one of his silk wrapped trotters towards the “T” shaped object underneath the covers. Corden could be heard from within, barely able to suppress his mirth. A robotic grin arched again across the sour faced “Dr” Mckeith on the other side of the stage.

The comedian James Corden popped his head out from under the covers. “Now yeah?” he asked excitedly. Jamie gave a benevolent wink to his cohort and turned back towards the crowd.

“Children! Children are why we do this, children are why I’ve fought tooth and nail to bring the full spectrum of gastronomy back to the table. Did you know during the Collapse many kids could tell you about drugs but did not know what celery or courgettes taste like?” Jamie paused with mock horror on his blimpoid face.

As planed children were brought to the front of the crowd, their grubby little eyes alight with joy. Their little hands were ideal for filling pasta shells in Oliver’s factories but graciously they had been granted a day off work to receive a special treat from the Lord of their dystopic city. Being born after the Collapse and knowing nothing but hardship and struggle the little urchins felt their birthday and Christmases had been rolled into one.

The brass band played and the object underneath the covers fired up. It was some kind of machine which made a noise like a diesel engine. Corden was in hysterics by this point.

Oliver’s minions brought cages from a large lorry parked at the side of the Town Hall round to the stage. The children’s faces lit up with joy once they saw what was inside. Since the Collapse and the purchase of the city by Jamie Oliver’s company frivolities such as household pets were banned in Rochdale. The argument was they took much needed resources from a starving Britain (which since the fall of the global economy was unable to feed itself properly) So the youngest generation had grown up never having a puppy or kitten to play with, instead only hearing of such things from the older generations and seeing them on television with more wealthier, happy children down South.

Corden hopped out from his machine and tore the covers off, his face a ruby red of private hilarity and barely able to stand up straight with the spasms of laughter which riddled his body.

Jamie Oliver continued; “Kids, thank you for working hard to make food a joy again. For that I’ll give you..” Corden interrupted, “PUPPY CANON!”

The first cage was emptied into the top of the machine, the wee animals yelped and barked. The crowd barely had time to comprehend before the first puppy was shot out the front with the disturbing “phudd” sound smacked with a wet thud a still smiling and freckled child in the front row.

Corden turned and aimed the abominable machine to fire upon other children in the front row, his tongue licking the side of his gluttonous mouth with intent and purpose. Paralysed with horror the adults in the crowd were agog as cute furry balls of joy were launched into the crying faces of their unfortunate spawn. “Dr.” Gillian McKeith turned to scowl at the Brass Band who had stopped playing.

Keep playing you ill-fed scum, or I’ll have you colonically irrigated with chilli oil!” she barked. “I hate you, hate you, this is what you deserve you ignorant filth” she cackled. Forced to choose between losing what little livelihood they had or suffer the indignity launched upon them by the Puppy Canon most of the people of Rochdale took their humiliation with stoicism. A few broke ranks and tried to protect their children from the onslaught of airborne puppies but the security guards dealt with those accordingly and made sure there were plenty of youthful targets for a hysterical Corden to fire his obscene weapon at.

Amid the sound of children crying, puppies flying, a brass band playing and James Cordon’s demonic laughter Jamie Oliver stood proud and rich. So deluded and detached from the chaos taking place in front of him he took the tear strained faces of the kids to be expressions of joy at the gifts he was bringing them.

A Labrador puppy rebounded off a crippled child like a wet sack of meat and landed dead at his feet. Oliver wiped a tear of joy from his left eye, convinced of his own generosity and righteousness.

“Pucker,” he quietly said and sniffed a little. “Absolutely pucker.”




One response

15 07 2010

Ha ha, brilliant stuff Laz!

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