Monday, 16 March 2020

Inner Alfred

At times like these, we must reach for our inner Alfred E. Neuman – which is not a very long reach for me: he has long been among my comic heroes and role models (along with Henry Pooter, Monsieur Hulot and of course Nigel Molesworth, the Curse of St Custard's). 'What, Me Worry?' is a serviceable byword in times when worry runs riot, with consequences that affect us all, worried or not.
  My visit to the supermarket this morning was a depressing experience. With panic buying apparently accelerating, the place was heaving, and many shelves – almost entire aisles indeed – were bare. Virtually no tinned or frozen food left, complete sell-outs of all manner of items, and no sign of it dying down (though the heat seems to be off toilet paper – so last week).
  Never mind. My inner Alfred notes that today, at last, the sun is shining and the sky is blue, the Brimstones are flying – and I saw my first Tortoiseshell of the the year, nectaring on a dandelion on a patch of waste ground. A sight to lift the heart in any year.
 Oh, and the new escapist Sunday-night drama – Julian Fellowes' Belgravia (Downton meets Vanity Fair) – turns out to be rather good, with terrific performances (especially from the actresses) and a decent script. Another reason to be cheerful.

Talking of Alfred E. Neuman, readers of Kingsley Amis's One Fat Englishman might recall that, at a climactic point in the novel, Roger Micheldene, the worse for drink and about to deliver his Big Lecture on the condition of publishing, open his briefcase and discovers, grinning out at him, the face of Alfred. Roger's script has been mischievously replaced by a copy of Mad magazine. He is not pleased...

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