From petrol to the peculiar

BENEATH the veneer of what we call civilisation lurk dark forces which can be quick to surface given half a chance.

They took the opportunity last week when a helpful chap pointed out that fuel tanker drivers were unhappy with their lot, were thinking of going on strike (just thinking, mind) and wouldn’t it be a good idea to top up our tanks just in case.

Perhaps David Cameron thought he was doing up all a favour (I wonder if he took the Downing Street limo out to fill it up straight after appearing on the national news) but it certainly had the opposite effect.

Queues and chaos followed as millions of motorists abandoned reason and headed for the petrol stations, many with jerry cans in their boots to exacerbate the situation even more.

As this reaction was emblazoned across the headlines and paraded on TV screens, more and more people were panicked into getting involved. And all because of something which might happen – and might not.

Given this response from the public at large, I was surprised that the real threat of ground staff at Stansted Airport walking out (subsequently lifted) did not result in panicking holiday-makers setting out on foot – pulling their luggage behind them – heading south on the M25 for destinations abroad.

Perhaps I should not mention this, but I have heard that employees in the baked bean industry are not happy with their working conditions. They have gone to pot, apparently, and the lid is about to blow on relations with management.

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It’s a can of worms, I understand, and the Baked Bean Workers Union (BBWU) is demanding that something be done. Quite what that is is anybody’s guess but I reckon if shoppers get to hear about the unrest there will be a massive rush on baked bean shelves and, while they are about it, everything else in the supermarkets.

I just hope that Mr Cameron has enough grub in for his private dinners in Downing Street.

I can imagine the conversation at one of these posh dos wandering from high finance and politics to the world of art this week with news of Damien Hirst’s retrospective exhibition at the Tate Modern.

He is the pleasant, level-headed chap who came up with the idea of a shark in formaldehyde as an art form and has made many millions from his creations.

Just how strong is his earning power was illustrated to me not by his multi-million buck works but smaller pieces.

What caught my eye was a plastic skull daubed with household gloss paint. Apart from signing it, the artist is thought unlikely to have touched the ghoulish thing but it is on sale for �36,800. How on earth does one decide on such a figure? Is it arbitrary or done by the square centimetre? And is it worth it?

If you don’t fancy splashing out such a large sum, you could try buying Hirst wallpaper from �250 to �700 a roll, a decorated skateboard for �480 or an umbrella for the same price. As for me, I might be tempted to invest �2.05 in a pencil with a skull motif.

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