2012 has been an annus horribilis around chez nous. Unable to secure a grant for any of my research projects, and harangued by my wine merchant over the subject of unpaid bills, I was forced to grovel to the Dean of Humanities at the University of Berkhamsted. Luckily for me, the Dean had recently completed renovation of the East wing of his country house, and was looking for a handyman to reroute his cables and install an additional Sky Tivo Doubleplusgood box in his chauffeur’s apartment. Apparently the chauffeur, a Frenchman by the name of Jean-Pierre D’EgoÃ¯ste (JPDE to his friends) is not a genuine chauffeur, but is hiding from a large tax bill in his home country. The Dean and JPDE are distant cousins, and the Dean took pity on his kin after he did a bunk following Sarkozy’s defeat in the Presidential election. It transpires JFDE needs up-to-the-minute news feeds if he is to recoup his day trading losses, and hence why he wanted additional televisual cabling. I know nothing about such practical technology, so I volunteered the services of my clone, PeriPh-Eric, as he never seems to be doing anything of any great significance. That was three months ago, and we have not seen PeriPh-Eric since. It is possible that PeriPh-Eric has since returned chez nous, but if he has, we have not noticed.
Anyhow, the Dean had no spare funds for my research, but he did give me the chance to restart my on-off part-time lecturing career. He had need of somebody to fill a gap on one of his courses, after the Professor of Modern Artistic Gravitas suggested a tryst with one of his PhD’s, which in turn required prolonged treatment for STD’s, and prompted rumours that the Prof was AC/DC, (not that I understand the connection to Australian hard rock). As a consequence, I was signed up for a semester of the third years doing their BA in Global Cultural Studies. Inspired by the potential within such a broad remit, I dusted off the lecture notes for my seminal module entitled ‘From Black Flag to Big Black: the Palette of the Punk Movement’. I eagerly set to work, determined to enlighten young minds full of the big questions, like why Captain Sensible’s beret is red, why Poly Styrene’s clothes were so bright, and why nobody strangled Plastic Bertrand. However, this came to a surprising halt during my second lecture, halfway through an analysis of whether it would be pro- or anti-establishment for The Skids to wear tartan. Several uniformed policemen burst in, demanding that I stop. At first I thought this was a prank, so I threw my blackboard rubber at them, and launched into an impromptu chorus of a Clash classic…
You can crush us
You can bruise us
But you’ll have to answer to
Oh, the Guns of Berkhamstead
Unamused, the police wrestled me to the floor and cuffed me behind my back. Apparently they wanted to do a spot check of every student in the hall. The story was that the Dean had been taking bribes in exchange for approving visas for dodgy foreign students from the Middle East, the Far East, the West, and also some places to the South and even the North. However, they soon apologized and released me, realizing I could not be implicated as there were no actual students in my lecture theatre. As the police looked at me bemused, I felt the need to explain. I pointed at the webcam on my lectern, and explained it was providing a live stream to the subscribers of StayAtHomeStudent.com. The chief bobby then pointed at the webcam’s USB cable, which was not plugged in. I normally rely on PeriPh-Eric to sort out details like that. Though I was a free man, I went to the Bursar’s office and found I had been denied my pay. It seems there were no actual students still signed up for my module, once the authorities had rescinded all the dodgy visas.
Returning to chez nous that evening, I discovered my wine merchant had not delivered the usual crate of Veuve Clicquot, but had instead left me a single bottle of very flat Asti Spumante, with a note saying I should expect worse if I did not pay up. Not daring to imagine what could be worse, I resolved there was nothing left to do but to raise some funds through the rapid disposal of assets. With that in mind, I headed straight up to the attic lair of my favourite clone, MaV-Eric…
Eric: [Climbing up into the loft] MaV-Eric! Are you here?
MaV-Eric: [Staring blankly at the screen of a laptop computer whilst lying front down on his bed. He is watching a YouTube anthology of Mitt Romney arguing both for and against every political position imaginable.] Don’t you believe in knocking?
Eric: I would knock, but there’s no actual door as such.
MaV-Eric: Just bang on a rafter, then.
Eric: Okay [Eric raps his knuckle against a rafter.]
MaV-Eric: Come in!
Eric: I need to search through the boxes of my old stuff. I’m going to a car boot sale tomorrow.
MaV-Eric: Why would you want to sell the boot of your car?
Eric: No, that’s not what you do at a car boot sale. You put stuff in the boot, and you offer it for sale.
MaV-Eric: They should offer you tables. That would make it easier for people to examine the stuff you’re offering.
Eric: Well, they do. The car boot is just another metaphor.
MaV-Eric: Next you’ll be telling me you don’t actually sell things at this ‘sale’.
Eric: No, no. We’re definitely going to sell things.
MaV-Eric: Are we? You might. It’s cold and I have work to do. Perkins and Parker have given me a special mission to get inside Mitt Romney’s head. If he becomes US President he’ll have to attend the Rio Olympics, and we want to give him advice on how not to offend the Brazilians when he shows up. Things like not saying how it’d be a much better Olympics if he was in charge, or how much he admires the local women for their pioneering work on depilation.
Eric: Why doesn’t Romney use an American marketing agency, instead of your firm?
MaV-Eric: Secrecy. Apparently there are some Americans who don’t know he’s an awkward charmless doofus. I guess it’s all relative.
Eric: Alright. Well, I don’t mind if you don’t want to help, so long you don’t mind me going through my stuff.
MaV-Eric: You mean those boxes over there? [MaV-Eric points towards a towering pile of boxes, vaguely in the shape of an Aztec pyramid.] What’s in them?
Eric: You know, stuff.
MaV-Eric: No. What stuff?
Eric: Let’s have a look. [Eric opens a box, and pulls out a heavy brass object.] Like this, it’s a door knocker.
MaV-Eric: We have a bell.
Eric: I know. This is the door knocker from my old house.
MaV-Eric: Why didn’t you leave it attached to your old house?
Eric: Because it’ll be worth something, that’s why. I’ll try to sell it tomorrow.
MaV-Eric: You left it in a box for ten years, just to sell it to some random browser tomorrow? Wouldn’t it have been better to rent out this attic space during those ten years?
Eric: Well, I could increase your rent, if that’s what you mean.
MaV-Eric: That’s not what I mean. I mean: why didn’t you sell all that junk years ago?
Eric: I was too busy.
MaV-Eric: Too busy doing what?
Eric: I don’t know. Working.
MaV-Eric: And why were you busy working?
Eric: Because I need to make money.
MaV-Eric: And why do you need money?
Eric: To buy stuff.
MaV-Eric: Exactly. You work and work and work and buy more and more stuff, and then stick it into boxes, put them out of the way and make space for more stuff. Wouldn’t it make more sense to just settle for the stuff you already have?
Eric: Oh, you always need more stuff. Take this saw, for instance [Eric holds up an old wood saw.] Do you know what I last used this for? To make the shelves in the study.
MaV-Eric: So you could put stuff on them.
Eric: So I could put stuff on them… no, well, yes, but you’re missing the point.
Eric: Look at this, it’s one of the poles for my gazebo.
MaV-Eric: A gazebo? What’s a gazebo?
Eric: It’s a pavilion you put in the garden, to shade you from the sun.
MaV-Eric: Okay, I can understand why that ended up in the loft. But I don’t know why you’d buy it in the first place.
Eric: Because I invited people over for a barbecue, and I wanted everyone to have a good time.
MaV-Eric: You mean, you wanted to get laid?
MaV-Eric: So who did you invite to the barbecue? Any single women?
MaV-Eric: Exactly. All of this stuff just represents your many failed attempts to satisfy your evolutionary programming. You buy junk in order to meet and impress women, and the junk ends up getting dusty because it’s never used…
Eric: When you say ‘junk’, you do mean the stuff in these boxes, don’t you.
MaV-Eric: Boxes, pants. What goes in, stays in. That’s why you cloned yourself, wasn’t it? Because you’re not reproducing the normal way?
Eric: What do you suggest I do, then?
MaV-Eric: Do what I do, and turn reproduction into a win-win. Cut out the middle-woman, have lots of babies and make money in the process. Go down the sperm bank and make a donation.
Eric: Do they pay well?
MaV-Eric: They give you thirty-five quid a pop. That’s pretty good for something you habitually do for free. Considering that they provide the porn, it turns a recurring cost into a revenue stream.
Eric: Well, that does sound like I’ll make more money than with a car boot sale. But I think you’re missing the point about the ‘middle-woman’, as you call her. The woman is what makes it so much fun.
MaV-Eric: So what you’re saying is that evolution is playing a trick on you, exchanging thirty seconds of fun for a lifetime of raising kids.
Eric: You don’t make it sound like a very good deal. Are you sure you work in marketing?
MaV-Eric: Of course! That’s why I know that the only motivation for buying stuff is to get laid. It’s all got something to do with sex in the end. Electric toothbrushes – sex. Cars – sex. Gore-tex water resistant jacket – sex with that cute girl who likes rambling. Return train ticket to Pontypridd – sex with that cute girl who wants to go shopping in Pontypridd. B&Q electric screwdriver – sex with the cute girl who reads books by the same novelist who sits on the shelves that you put up with the B&Q electric screwdriver. All stuff gets sold because of the desire for sex. Or the desire to avoid death, but as sex is nature’s ultimate answer to death, death doesn’t count for so much.
Eric: I don’t know if I’m depressed or enlightened. But if you know so much about how to get laid, then why do let me waste my money buying all this junk.
MaV-Eric: I said I know how to use sexual desire in order to sell stuff. I didn’t say I know how to sell your merits to a woman. Big difference. I’m a marketeer, not a magician. Anyway, today’s my day off.