My good friend Pat was an Environmental Health Officer, and as far as I know, he still is. His job was to enforce environmental and hygiene standards in a certain London Borough that rhymes with “Willingdon”, ensuring the residents don’t get gnawed to death by rats, deafened by the two airports on his beat, or poisoned by any of the fine gastronomic establishments located in the area. A lovely job, spent knee deep in shit, and the second he got the chance to specialise in crap-free acoustics, he nearly bit his bosses arm off to get to the job application.
At the same time, I had just switched from my job at the Unemployment Office (too late, however, to avoid the life-long nickname of Coleman the Doleman) and got work for the Ministry of Agriculture as a verifier in the meat products division. We’d swap horror stories about the world of food production, and it became a bit of a competition to out-gross each other.
I knew what, exactly, went into budget meat pies - and not a great deal of it was meat in the traditional sense of the word. He knew, exactly, how long a doner kebab could stay on a spit before it started to kill people.
I had seen, with my own eyes, an imported meat consignment bound for a certain popular fast food chain containing nothing but dead kangaroos. Honestly labeled and fit for human consumption, it was passed. On another occasion, a high street competitor imported a shipload clearly labaled “beef lips.” I couldn’t resist, I had to open one of the containers to see for myself. The documents said “beef lips, fit for human consumption”, and again, it was 100% honest. Beef lips. Tons and tons of beef lips, looking exactly like a pile of spare parts at the Mick Jagger factory.
I started taking sandwiches to work.
But Pat trumped me with his finest tale. I had no comeback, EHOs get all the best gross-out stories and I just couldn’t compete with him on this score.
There was a raid. It was on an Indian restaurant, acting on “information received” from a member of the public, who undoubtedly pointed the finger after a weekend shitting through the eye of a needle. They were very polite. They went nice and early so as not to upset the customers, and they even knocked first. Then it was on with the latex for the detailed search of the kitchens, which were remarkably clean and well appointed.
It was when they started searching the cupboards that it hit the fan. Inside, they discovered several catering-sized tins of Marrowbone Pal, the ideal food to keep your canine friend healthy and his nose shiny.
“OK Gunga Din,” said one of Pat’s rather less than PC colleagues, “where’s the dog?”
“I’m sorry sir,” replied the manager, “We do not have a dog on the premises.”
The penny dropped.
“Jesus Christ, Mother Mary and the eight-legged sex machine! I ate here last week!”
The place was closed down within three nanoseconds. I believe it is now a beef lip and kangaroo establishment. Mmmmm.....