In response to the British Government's timely
and thoughtful distribution of their helpful public information booklet
— 'Preparing for Emergencies' —
Utterpants have spared no expense and left no paperclip unturned
to bring you — the dim-witted citizens of this sceptic isle —
the definitive guide to coping with the scourge of terrorism that threatens
to turn us all into gibbering wrecks, too terrified to even pop out
to vote at the next general election. To assist us in this laudable
aim, we were privileged to secure an exclusive interview with Sir Hugh
Cholmondeley-Smythe, a Permanent under-secretary at the Ministry of
Political Paranoia and chairtypeperson of the Royal Society for
the Terminally Bewildered.
Hugh (62¼) generously took time out from testing fetching new
designs for biological-warfare proof underpants to explain the simple
steps every responsible citizen can take to protect themselves and their
loved ones from shifty-looking blokes with long beards wearing striped
tea towels on their heads — or possibly dapper Americans wearing
baseball caps emblazoned with the slogan: 'Kick ass and get the gas'.
"So, Sir Hugh," we began, "How seriously is the Government
taking this threat to the safety of its citizens?"
"Er - jolly seriously. So bally seriously in fact, that we have
produced this special booklet at enormous expense to tell people just
how jolly seriously we are taking this serious threat."
"The Government's principal advice seems to rest on three rather
trite soundbites: 'COVER UP', 'RING UP' and 'SHUT UP."
"Yes — jolly catchy isn't it?"
"But what does it mean?"
"Well - um, first orf, there's nothing 'trite' about our alertorial
yes, it's a jolly fine word the Prime Minister picked up from Mr Bush."
"I see... and the advice? Did he also 'pick that up' from Mr Bush?"
"Certainly not!" snorted Sir Hugh derisively. "Any
resemblance between this plucky British initiative and a campaign with
a similar sounding name devised by our American allies, is purely coincidental.
"Is it also a coincidence that the wording of this booklet bears
a striking similarity to documents produced by the US Department of
"Look!" ejaculated the crusty old civil servant belligerently,
"The 374 top psychologists we employed just happened to be American
security advisors who were here on holiday so we naturally accepted
their generous offer to do a spot of proofreading. Rumours that Dick
Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld had any involvement with the preparation
of this document are entirely groundless."
"So the Americans didn't come up with this slogan?"
"Certainly not! 'Cover up, ring up and shut up' are
recognised and used by intelligence services around the world. It took
fifty-seven steering sub-committees working around the clock for nearly
eight weeks to come up with that slogan."
"But what does it actually mean?" we persisted.
"Ah, well, um — it's been carefully formulated by a lot of
jolly clever boffins to bring the best general advice, ah — generally
speaking — to the plebs, I mean, ah, citizens, in the event of
an unexpected terrorist type emergency, er, emerging."
"Could you give our readers an example of such an 'emergency?"
"A suspicious package thrown through an open window?"
"And how should one respond to that?" we asked.
"Jolly well cover up!"
"Pull the bally bedclothes over your head, woman!"
"And if one is not near a bed at the time?"
"Find one double quick and get under it sharpish!"
"I see... do you have any other examples for our readers?"
"Ah - well, um, a suicide bomb attack on the Houses of Parliament?"
"And how would that threaten the safety of ordinary people, Sir
we do employ domestics in the canteen and the member's bars you know."
"And how will this advice help them exactly?"
"Well, er, first orf they should jolly well cover up."
"With what, exactly?"
"A hat obviously, or failing that, a good, stout gentleman's umbrella."
"And what if they don't possess either of these useful anti-terrorist
"Well, they should jolly well have thought of that before they
recklessly exposed themselves to danger," retorted the civil servant
"Does that apply to MP's too?"
"Certainly not! Members have their own secure bomb-proof suite
below the chamber."
"Let's move on to the second piece of advice: 'ring up'. What
exactly do you mean by that?"
"As responsible citizens your readers have a duty to report any
suspicious looking blighters paying an unusual amount of attention to
security measures outside public buildings to the police."
"Does that include public toilets?"
"So — hypothetically speaking, if one saw a chap in a raincoat
with binoculars watching a police constable patrolling a public convenience,
say in Hampstead, would that constitute grounds for suspicion?"
Sir Hugh Cholmondeley-Smythe cleared his throat noisily and mopped his
brow with a florid silk handkerchief. "Public conveniences are
not high on the Government’s list of terrorist targets."
"What about the 'Pink Carnation' wine bar opposite the Houses of
"Er — no."
"So what would constitute grounds for suspicion?" we asked.
"Chaps who set up bogus bank accounts under false names."
"In the Isle of Man, for instance under the name 'G. Archer?"
"Er — pass."
"Anything else, Sir Hugh?"
"If you are a retailer and have grave suspicions about anything
being bought from you."
"Well — string obviously, or large quantities of flour."
"String?" we asked.
"String is the weapon of choice among the more desperate terrorist
"We don't follow you, Sir Hugh."
"Well, really!" snorted the civil servant. "No wonder
we had to produce this damn booklet. You're all living in a fool's paradise
if you think modern terrorists go about with long beards and 20 pounds
of semtex strapped to their waists!"
"No, they use string!"
"And the flour?"
"A flour bomb's not much bloody good without the string to tie
the bally bag up with, is it?"
"No, we suppose not."
the final piece of the Government’s advice, Sir Hugh; 'shut up'
— what can you tell us about that?"
"I should have thought that was as obvious as the pimple on the
end of your pretty nose, my dear!"
"Nevertheless, we'd be obliged if you would explain it to our readers."
"Stop bloody complaining that the Government is not doing enough
to protect you from terrorism! We've produced this booklet at great
expense and expect you to be jolly grateful about it!"
"What do you say to those who claim that this initiative is just
a cheap political trick to scare the pants off the population in the
hope that they will vote for you at the next general election?"
"That they'd better shut up!" replied Sir Hugh, "or —"
"— Or what?"
"Plunkett will ship the bally lot of whining malcontents to the
"Where can our readers find out more about this initiative?"
the Government's website."
"Well, thank you, Sir Hugh, you've been most helpful."
"My pleasure, madame. Now, what did you say the name of that bar