Spit. No polish.

11 Feb

I’M sitting in Friday afternoon conference fighting an overwhelming desire to sleep. Up to now, the discussion has centred on heavy business stories, the economy, and the financial troubles of Nitherley United, the local football club.

The Editor is slouching in his executive chair. Chief reporter Big Bernard is yawning silently. Assistant Editor Tony Malone is tapping his fingernails on the arms of his chair. Blank Frank the website wizard is gazing vacantly through the window at pigeons sitting on the neighbouring roof. The Leek Man is shuffling his papers and preparing to give his presentation on the national news.

It’s more heavy stories – the economy, the Leveson Inquiry into press standards, the plight of Andrew Lansley and his ill-fated NHS reforms, and bonuses for Barclays investment bankers. My eyelids feel like lead weights are hanging from them.

Leek Man: “And finally. Enfield council has launched a bid to ban spitting in the street. They have approached Communities Secretary Eric Fatboy Pickles for permission to introduce a bylaw to that effect.”

A moment’s silence while this information is digested by minds that are far from alert.

Blank Frank: “What if they don’t see yer spit? How can they arrest you?”

Leek Man: “How the hell should I know? That’s nothing to do with me. I’m just telling you what’s on the Press Association news list – ‘Council’s bid for spitting ban’.”

Blank Frank: “Yeh, but if they don’t see yer gobbing, if say you’re walking down an alley and there’s no one there and yer just gob in the gutter, how the hell can they catch you?”

Tony Malone: “But that can happen with any law – murder, assault, using a mobile phone while you’re driving. Democracy is underpinned by our acceptance of the law and our willingness to comply. If you break the law and gob in the street, then you knowingly run the risk of being caught and facing the consequences.”

Blank Frank: “And what if yer out running and yer need to spit – like footballers do? What happens then?”

Leek Man: “Jesus Christ. You’re breaking the fucking law, for fuck’s sake.”

Big Bernard: “What if it’s an accident? What if you’ve got a cold and you suddenly cough and this great big greeny comes out and hits a copper and runs down his tunic? What then?”

Leek Man: “Why don’t you fucking well ring up the chief executive of Enfield fucking council and fucking well fucking ask him?”

Editor, sitting forward in his executive chair: “That’s a fair point. People have accidents. Look at Paula Radcliffe crapping down that drain. She didn’t get up in the morning and say ‘Hey, I feel like a good shite but I’ll save it for later when I’m running the London Marathon.’ It just came over her all of a sudden and she had to do it there and then.”

Tony Malone: “They should do it with chewing gum too.”

Editor: “Do what with chewing gum too?”

Tony Malone: “Ban it along with spitting.”

Big Bernard: “But where would you put your chuddy? You’re not allowed to swallow it because it bungs up your insides.”

Editor: “You should do a Paula Radcliffe and spit it down the drain. The drains go into the sewers, don’t they? That’s probably why Paula got away with it – the drain went into the sewer so all she did, technically, was bypass the loo.”

Tony Malone: “No. The wastewater systems that take rainwater from the roads and the sewer systems are not interconnected, Boss. They discharge in different places, otherwise you’d get poo popping out of the drains every time it flooded.”

Editor: “Is that right? I didn’t know that. Anyway, spitting ban. Great story.”

Only two paragraphs on Enfield council’s spitting ban appear in Saturday’s edition of the Nitherley Observer and Bugle, yet it generated more discussion than the economy, the Leveson Inquiry, bankers’ bonuses and the state of the NHS rolled together. And it kept us awake.


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