THERE are a number of issues, trivial in the overall scheme of things in this dangerous, tottering world, but which are guaranteed to provoke rage and rancour on a grand scale.
The smouldering threat of global apocalypse, economic collapse, terrorists at every turn — all this pales into insignificance when the public’s fury is aroused by the hardy annuals of moral outrage.
The issues that really get us going are, of course, parking (particularly in residential streets), garden boundaries (and, by association, leylandii trees, barbecues and kids playing football) and school uniform.
Ah, yes, school uniform. Always a ticking time bomb and now it has exploded on the Island.
Holidays in sight, sun shining, everyone relaxed, what could possibly go wrong? Short skirts, stripy socks and the wrong sort of soles, that’s what. Boom!
It’s all been kicking off at Ryde Academy, where, last week, scores of children were ordered to buy new uniforms and sent home or put into isolation so long as their garb remained unsuitable in the eyes of headteacher Dr Rory Fox.
This has occasioned an outcry on a scale seldom witnessed before, certainly not at the offices of the CP, where our editor is still mopping his brow as his head reverberates to the shrieks of enraged parents rushing to report Dr Fox’s villainy.
Wackford Squeers? The Demon Headmaster? Mr Quelch, scourge of Billy Bunter?
Pussycats, all of them, compared to Dr Fox. If he had thrashed his students within an inch of their lives and hung them upside down before a roasting fire, that might have been acceptable. But insisting on decorous skirt lengths and matching socks? Why, the man’s a monster.
I have to confess I find Dr Fox rather thrilling, in a titillatingly evil kind of way.
There’s his name alone. Dr Fox. Isn’t that enchantingly creepy? A vulpine stare and all manner of gadgets and lethal formulae at his disposal.
Plus, the man has form. He was previously head of Basildon Academy and on his very first day in that job, he sent 109 pupils home for wearing the wrong uniform.
That’s the way to do it, Rory! Sorry, I mean Sir. Dr Fox. Whatever your name is. Lucifer, maybe. Anyway, I admire your style. I adore a man who has firm views on skirts.
But the real clincher for me is that part of your CV which has been flagged up in the media as explaining everything that’s so adorably wicked about you.
"Dr Fox, who previously taught at a prison, …"
Were it not for this horrible revelation, the headmaster’s behaviour might have provoked less of an outcry. But to think the Island’s kiddies, our innocent little darlings, are at the mercy of a man who taught in a prison! No wonder parents are distraught.
One minute he’s twirling his thumbscrews among the slop pails and the next he’s passing judgment on hem lengths.
I’m backing Dr Fox all the way on this one.
Seldom can our children have been more terrorised than on the day when he strode in and inspected their socks.
The parents must also maintain the momentum. There’s money in this for the Island. I’m seeing the Jeremy Kyle Show, I’m seeing Oprah Winfrey, I’m seeing book rights and a blockbuster horror film. The Man Who Looked at Skirts! You’ve met Dr No, now meet the Dr who really says No! And he taught in a prison!
Keep going, Dr Fox. I think you’re perfectly delicious. Not in a good way, obviously, but that’s the whole point of your charm.
How do you do? Do what, precisely?
Heavens, here’s yet another fox on my doorstep. Social anthropologist Kate Fox has appealed for the return of "How do you do?" as a standard greeting.
In a new edition of her book, Watching the English, she says "every other nation on earth" knows what to say on meeting somebody.
"The English have failed to do so. This is at the root of our shambling nature."
I wonder if she’s related to Rory? She sounds quite strict, doesn’t she?
I can see her point but I’m not sure "How do you do?" really works. For starters, it’s meaningless. How do you do what? It’s also horribly dated and reeks of Colonel Blimp.
In fact, there is already a standard greeting among many English and "All right?" at least makes more sense than "How do you do?"
However, it is purely rhetorical and no proper answer is expected, least of all when the greetee is far from all right. So that one doesn’t make sense either, really.
There is certainly an increasingly standard farewell: "See you later!"
This is said regardless of whether there is any likelihood of a future encounter.
Moreover, those who most favour this phrase are precisely the kind of people you hope you won’t see later — the dentist’s receptionist or the man who has just fixed your boiler at vast expense.
"All right?" and "See you later" are thus deeply irritating, while "How do you do?" is ludicrous.
I suppose there’s no chance of "Hello" and "Goodbye" catching on? No, thought not. See you later, then.