Monday, February 11, 2002

Dying for a pint: It seemed such a good idea at the time. We were at work. We were bored. We were also ten years younger. And stupider. "Do you realise the Queen Mum's over ninety years old?" someone asked. "She's gotta croak soon." And so The Queen Mother Stakes was born - an informal betting scam trying to predict the day the old girl finally turns up her toes.

The trouble is, being the spoilsport that she is, she has steadfastly refused to kick the bucket. There was a brief flurry of excitement when she tried to swallow a fish whole, not to mention the time that she had both her legs replaced with indestructable robot ones. As a matter of fact, we've come to the conclusion that Her Majesty died some time in the early 1980's, just about the same time The Terminator came out, and was replaced by something similar knocked together by the Rolls-Royce factory in Derby. With spare parts running out, it looks like her time is finally coming.

The whole QM stakes thing remained, for about a decade, just between a dozen of us at work. Then the internet came. The internet+stupid people+free webspace = something horrible. In our case, The Queen Mother's Stakes went online. With a few changes, it became a dead pool where punters could choose a list of stiffs and wait for them to die. Call us sick if you want, but death is part of life, and we like to poke a big sharp stick into his boney eye-sockets. And besides, the Queen Mum's a betting woman, and knowing her, she'd even have a go herself. She's probably there RIGHT NOW.

The trouble with famous people, though, is their habit of not dying. Naturally, a few turned up their toes last year, but in general terms, even the likes of Bob Hope steadfastly refused to play ball. Saved us a lot of grief on the site updating, I can tell you. Until yesterday. God bless Princess Margaret, she was a lovely woman, but she's been teetering on the brink for years now, and virtually every punter in the dead pool knew it. It took me five bloody hours writing an obit, updating the scores and inserting the word "dead" on sixty pages of html. That's ten years of karma catching up on me.

All I need now is Ronald Reagan and the Pope to follow suit. These things always go in threes. I'm doomed.

Let me leave you with the words of comedian Peter Sellers, who allegedly had a thing going with Princess Margaret. OK, OK, he was giving her one. Words of wit, intelligence and deep thought to live your lives by: "Do you have a sister?"

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