Friday, April 02, 2004

The Raspbery Club

Fruit plays no part in this story. Sorry.
Oh my godfathers - this is so embarrassing. Where do I start?

Look, I'll confess. I was in the civil service, looking after sixty million pounds worth of beef for the Department of Agriculture. It involved sitting in an office adding up endless columns of numbers written in brown ink on blue paper. Brown on blue, those were the rules, and God forbid that you used another colour. The boredom was crushing. We had to do something.

We were joined one day by Penny, a very, very niced middle-aged woman who tirelessly campaigned for childrens' charities, all dinner parties and choral evenings. Bored out of our skulls, and our consciences pricked, we enthusiastically offered to join her. All of us. At once.

She encouraged us to collect money in a series of sponsored events, which had the impressive side effect of thrusting myself and the lovely Mrs Duck together, and I'm pretty proud to say that we raised the best part of two and a half thousand of your English pounds, all in loose change. The top people at Action Research were seriously impressed with our efforts and said they were going to send someone up to collect the money, which was sitting in a wheelbarrow in the corner of our office.

They also suggested "Why not get a local celebrity and the local press involved? Good publicity for everybody and you'll look oh-so-good in front of your friends and family." They even sent up one of those oversized cheques to hand over in a blaze of glory.

The Reading Evening Post turned up, as did some goon from the Department's internal newsletter, who would put us on page 16 after fifteen pages of Stalin-esque praise of the His Holiness the Chief Executive. On the celebrity front we got the captain of Reading Football Club, who turned up in a most impressive pink and black Top Man jumper.

Poor, sweet Penny, she didn't stand a chance.

You see, she was of a certain age with a certain innocent humour; while we were of that certain other age that takes the piss all the time. We were collecting for the innocently named Action Research for the Crippled Child charity (now, in this PC age where we're not allowed to mention these things, called Action! Medical Research in the same way that The Spastics Society is now called Scope). We callow youths, being the sick bastards that we were called the whole money-making thing "The Raspberry Club". Cockney rhyming slang. Raspberry ripple - cripple. If it was good enough for Ian Dury...

Someone told Penny. She didn't get it.

"So, does your club have a name?" asked Ms Evening Post.

"Nnnnng...." said my boss, knowing exactly what was coming next, but powerless to stop it.

"Fvvvvvvvvvv...!" I said, making a break for the door, but held back by sheer weight of numbers.

"Why yes! We're the Raspberry club" said poor innocent Penny.

"Pfffffffffffffffffffffffft," we all say trying gamely to hold in the shock, despair and laughter.

Mr Reading FC captain was not so tactful.

"Mua haha haaaaaaaaaaaRgh! Raspberry Ripple!!!"

You could still hear him laughing as he left, ten floors below.

"What?" asked Penny, "Did I make a joke?"

It made page six of the Evening Post, picture, full write-up, the works; and the letters page for several weeks afterwards.

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