Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Low Life

Article excerpt

For 21 years my bike has leant against the wall just inside the garage door. On Monday morning it was gone. Nicked. I loved that old Dawes Galaxy. But I couldn't work myself up into a state about its theft. I tried anger, I tried indignation, but without success. Good luck to them, I thought. I might be a fool, but I try not to be a hypocrite as well.

Besides, I was elated and humbled that morning because the postman had delivered another packet of your jokes; the biggest yet, containing about 60 letters, emails and postcards; all of them miles too late, unfortunately, to be entered in the competition to win a party invitation. The party had been and gone, and in the minds of those who had any recollection of it, was already a distant memory.

I took the packet down to the town library and sat at the reading table with the usual collection of well-informed tramps who go there to peruse the broadsheets. Smiling to myself in happy anticipation, I pulled the first letter out of the packet. The joke went as follows:

A guy phones his boss in the morning. 'Sorry, Boss, I can't come in to work today, I'm sick.'

'What! That's the third time this month! How sick are you?' 'I'm in bed with my sister.'

Call me simple-minded, but I guffawed at that one, bike or no bike. (Thanks, Nick. ) I laughed out loud at the next one, too. This one invited me to picture myself committing a vile, and in some US states still illegal, act with celebrity chef Delia Smith, and mopping up afterwards with one of her tea towels. (Thanks, Jon. ) It is the sort of joke which most definitely is not fit for reprinting here.

Next out of the envelope came a puerile racist joke that I'd first heard in the school playground in about 1964, and was probably invented in about 1864. Appended to this were some very kind, perceptive and encouraging comments about the column. (Thanks, Grace. ) She also wondered whether I ought to publish a compendium of all received jokes.

It's a super idea, Grace, but I don't think I would find a willing printer or publisher is the answer to that. Plus I'd be taken in and held for questioning. Plus there'd probably be a fatwah issued. Plus I'd probably never work again.

Next was a joke from Michelle from London. …

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