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The Today Programme Round Up 2005


We asked the author Will Self and the artist Ralph Steadman to collaborate on a special end-of-year piece for the Today Programme. This is the result: a typically provocative summary of the year from Will which Ralph has very kindly brought to life, or to page or at least a to web page for your entertainment and delight. Happy New Year.

Will Self's piece...
With 24-hour drinking finally introduced to England I was able this week to pop down to my local - the Saint George Osborne Chasing the Dragon - and have a Yuletide hot toddy at 3.00 a.m.. I wasn't the only one abroad at this witching hour. There were four exiguous figures grouped in the corner of the bar roistering away, and they beckoned me over to join them.

The first had no doubt once been a fine-looking fellow, but millennia of dissipation had given his features a bilious cast. 'Will you have a skull of shampoo?' He asked in a thick Ulster Protestant accent, and when I lifted it to my lips he called for a toast: 'to myself!.'

All night drinking cartoon

It's been a grand year,' Death continued once I was settled. 'I've never had more working holidays. Kicked off with some surfing in the Indian Ocean, then wind surfing in the Gulf of Mexico, before rounding it off with some very bumpy snow boarding on Pakistan-Kashmir border.' 'Don't forget about me,' his pretty companion, Famine, put in at this juncture 'we always hang out together.' She was a strange figure, terribly emaciated but wearing so many rubber wrist bands on her arms - legs and even her torso - that she looked like a cross between an Anglepoise lamp and the Michelin Man.

'And it's been a great year for me too,' she sniffed and rubbed at her charming, retrousse nose with a bony hand 'I've had high-earning shoots almost every day. Darfur, Niger... obviously I get tired of all those tedious African rags, which is why it was soooo good of Death to take me to Aceh and Sri Lanka with him. Then there was a huge benefit gig just for little old me in July - I bet I'm going to be bigger and thinner than ever in '06.'

The third of the drinkers now made themselves known by sneezing so noisily that a fine mist of covered the table. 'A-gobble-gobble-choo!' He expostulated. 'Awfully sorry about that, but I just flew in from Vietnam and you know dreadful those long hauls are for giving you a cold. Not that it bothers me too much because basically I'm just a turkey-shaped nugget of processed virus. And yes, before you ask, I've had a good year too, the way things are going,' he shook his wattles expressively 'I don't have to worry about my pension - unlike you poor bastards. By the way,' he fixed me with one glassy eye then the next 'what're you drinking? I'm on vaccine chasers.' And so clucking he lifted a wing and downed the contents of his shot glass. 'Strange thing is, doesn't matter how many I have, they never seem to affect me!'

The last of the revellers was the most oddly repellent. When I'd joined them I'd thought him a perfectly bland-looking chap: middle aged, middle class, with a telegenic cast to his almost-handsome features. He reminded me of a politician I'd once voted for - although I couldn't for the life of me remember which one. Now he chimed up: 'I say to you..' he said, and I waited for more but none came: 'What?' I queried 'what do you say to me?' 'I say to you that I am the past...' then a most curious and revolting thing happened, his head revolved 180 degrees and one bland face was replaced by another, still blander and younger ' ...and I am the future,' the new face said, 'and by the way, have you read the new Harry Potter?'

It's awfully good,' he went on, cut-glass vowels falling from his tiny red lips 'I pretend to be reading it to my children, but really I'm reading it aloud to myself!' 'Oh, I get it!' I cried, 'You're both civil and hopelessly disordered.' 'It's true,' the older face was back again 'and while I can't take the credit for all the corpses piling up in police recruiting queues, I like to think that I've made a substantial contribution to all the troubles in Bagdad and Basra - ' 'Let's not forget Fallujah!' Put in the younger face, which had revolved to face me again - however, I'd already forgotten it.

'One thing puzzles me,' I addressed all four of the merry revellers 'and that is, that if you're the Horse-persons of the Equal Opportunities Apocalypse - where are your mounts?' 'Oh,' wailed Famine, wiping a tear from her lovely eye 'it's a dreadful shame, but since hunting with hounds has been banned we've had to put them down. Honestly, if it hadn't've been for that it would've been a perfect year. Just perfect.'

We all nodded, solemnly and sadly.

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