The Curmudgeon


Monday, August 31, 2015

Learning from the Best

An inquiry by the Australian Senate has found that the country's Nauru concentration camp is finally beginning to approach the standard set by those reliable people at Serco and G4S here on the mainland, with incentives such as child abuse, sexual assault and recreational violence providing due safeguards against unintentional pull factors. Portions of the swarm have even been driven to start marauding against themselves, allegedly at the instigation of workers from Save the Children whom the Australian Green Party wants reinstated so they can continue their reign of terror.

The Senate committee insists, ludicrously enough, that the concentration camp is the responsibility of the Australian government just because the Australian government is throwing taxpayers' money at Transfield, the flesh-traffickers who claim to be running it. In fact, of course, the concentration camp is the responsibility of the government of Nauru, much as the abuses in Guantánamo Bay were the fault of Fidel Castro. An attempt to dump the excess in Cambodia seems to have failed, despite bribes of six million pounds per cockroach.

Sunday, August 30, 2015


'Twas yesterday the slimy Tones
Did whine and wibble in the Press.
All grimly came the horrid moans
Of wrath and much distress.

"Beware the Jerricorb, my flock!
The flip-flop shoes, the beard of grey!
Beware Democracy, and lock
The Membership away!"

He'd taken Party well in hand,
Long bowed and scraped at Murdoch's court;
So laboured he 'neath the Tory tree
And sold both hard and short.

But as he gathered up the cash,
The Muslim hordes, with eye of flame
And vicious Saddamite moustache,
To bomb the country came!

One two! One two! And through and through
He pacified the Middle East!
Alas, it terrorised anew -
Ungrateful little beast.

Tomorrow, and the slimy Tones
Will whine and wibble in the Press.
All grim will come the horrid moans
Of wrath and much distress.

Wacky Jabber

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Draughts of History

Chileans are protesting over the presence at London's Tall Ships Festival of La Esmeralda, a naval training vessel and sometime floating torture chamber. The ship was used in the 1970s to provide short, sharp shocks to opponents of the sainted Thatcher's chum, General Augusto Pinochet; enhanced incentivisation methods included rape, the use of electric shocks, mock executions and beatings, as routinely prescribed by defenders of democracy from that day to this. According to Britain's leading liberal newspaper, the only role the USA had in Pinochet's coup was to commission a 1986 report exposing the régime's maritime indiscretions; the Chilean protestors are exercised because the navy has not yet acknowledged its role in these well-intentioned yet mistaken anti-terrorist activities. One of the victims was partly British, which seems sufficient reason for Britain's leading liberal newspaper to think we should care.

Friday, August 28, 2015

A Faith That Can Move Mountains of Marauders

It appears that, thanks to the Home Office, our great country is in no immediate danger of being swamped by marauding Eritreans. The Eritrean government, who are very nice people, have assured the minions of the mad old cat lady that all anyone needs to do is sign a letter of apology for leaving the country without permission, and pay their income taxes. This latter may seem a bit ruthless in our own more civilised political culture, where tax-dodging is the defining attribute of the wealth-creative hard-working family; but a report commissioned last year by the Danish government suggested that conditions in Eritrea were improving sufficiently to be fit for the natives, if not for the average Conservative Party donor. The fact that the Danish government has distanced itself from the report, and the mere reality that the UN has reported migrants being arrested on return, imprisoned for up to three years and "systematically ill-treated to the point of torture" are naturally matters of no consequence, since Government policy dictates that things must be otherwise.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Upward Mobility

Sweet honest labour pays the bills,
And cheers you up, and cures your ills;
So stir your carcass, move yourselves -
Flip burgers, stack some pound-store shelves,
Recall that work, to some degree,
Improves a chap when done for free;
And since you're dead, there can be few
Who'll need this blessing more than you.

Of idleness you must be rid;
So claw away that coffin lid,
Then dig your way up through the dirt
(It's work, therefore it cannot hurt),
And shamble forth to meet with us,
The zombies at JobCentre Plus.
(Please be on time, or else we'll come
And rip a chunk out of your mum.)

C V Mendax

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Oppressive Church

Is there no end to the persecution of ordinary decent corporations? Shell, which has recently been granted permission to finish off what remains of the Arctic, was today subjected to a malicious campaign of unprovoked melodic dinsincentive. The culprits were Greenpeace protesters abetted by Charlotte Church and a string quartet, and the bullying drew expectable squeals of outrage from the victim. A spokesbeing was extruded to express Shell's respect for the right to democratic protest and disappointment at certain malcontents' inability to engage in constructive dialogue and say yes to whatever drilling, spilling and profiteering Shell might feel itself able, in good conscience, to carry out. The spokesbeing delivered a lecture upon the continuing necessity for fossil fuels, which are a path to prosperity for Shell's little brown brothers in the developing world and also, coincidentally enough, for clean-living companies like Shell.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Missionary Man

No commemoration of a geopolitical catastrophe, particularly in the middle of an economic crisis, would be entirely complete without the presence of a memento mori, and the Heathen Chinee have politely allowed the Ascended Incarnation of the Reverend Blair to attend their VJ Day ceremonies. It is not as yet clear whether the godfather of modern Iraq and attending midwife to the birth of Islamic State will be marching in any parades, but his presence will almost certainly mean that currency starts moving in the beleaguered Chinese economy. When his reverence condescended to bestow his wisdom upon the Heathen Chinee in a lecture tour a few years ago, a reported half-million dollars inveigled its way into Tony's wallet as a small spiritual return for a single sermon.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Dynamic Opportunifications

The Department for Workfare and Privation is seeking inexperienced short-term staff to replace the experienced, permanent staff whom it kicked out two months ago. The work on offer is admirably euphemised as "reform programmes" (poor-bashing and cripple-kicking, in Oldspeak), and of course it makes perfect sense, when implementing complicated changes, to ensure that those performing the task are tainted as little as possible by the bad old ways. Despite the glittering example of the brilliant Iain Duncan Smith, it appears that trained and experienced human resources are not always able to maintain the requisite levels of incompetence for the Idleness Police.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

And After All We've Done

Security and stability continue to flourish alongside the peace, freedom and democracy into which Afghanistan was bombed some little time ago. A suicide bomber has killed three American mercenaries, who were not named, and a dozen or so natives, who are never worth naming. It's the latest in a wave of attacks which have caused more than five thousand civilian casualties so far this year, making 2015 possibly the fledgling democracy's deadliest year since the nation-building process began. Like many of the crusaders for civilisation from 2001 onwards, to say nothing of the Righteous State during its frequent paroxysms of peace-seeking, the suicide bomber targeted foreign fighters but succeeded mainly in demolishing schools and hospitals and killing women and children. Fortunately, there is no moral equivalence.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Cumulative Trouble

This is the source wheeled out to say
That nobody plans to resign today
To stop the conspiracy far and wide
That caused the chubby Head Boy to chide
The suspects trying to stay and stall
And draw the line for once and all
Beneath that fine old-style crusade
To stop the terror being made
That caused the natives we did whup
To chop off heads and blow things up
And gave the public cause to sneer
When, in due course, there did appear
The thieving thugs who queued to buy
The ex-PM with the crazy eye
Who never said what wasn't true
And hasn't the slightest thing to do
With any shady or shadowy crew
Who want to abort the long report Sir Jack wrote.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Lest We Forget That They Weren't British

The Heathen Chinee are seeking to use the Second World War for political ends, which is certainly too bad of them. The government is planning a massive military parade through Tiananmen Square, ostensibly to commemorate the end of hostilities in 1945 but in fact as an excuse to thump the nationalist tub and annoy Japan; rather as if last year's orgies of poppy-kitsch had been amalgamated and combined with the funeral of Margaret Thatcher. Like the USSR, China was a minor ally during the Anglo-American triumph against fascism, suffering a minor fifteen million deaths; and like the USSR it repaid its Western benefactors with a prolonged post-war failure to adopt such virtuous democratic institutions as capitalists and landlords.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Taking the Law Too Far

In civilised societies, as we know, the function of the law is to help those who can afford to pay for it. Nevertheless, there are certain benighted realms, far from the British mainland, where such enlightened values have yet to be properly understood; which no doubt explains why some greasy dago seems to think that the force of law should apply even to such paragons as transnational corporations and high-finance muggers. "Humanitarian and economic crises cause more deaths around the world than all of the genocides we have documented," said Baltasar Garzón, making a grotesque claim of moral equivalence between the grim crimes of foreigners and the cheery buccaneering and barnstorming of wealth creators. Garzón has something of a record when it comes to bullying the downtrodden and unfortunate: it was he who ordered the 1998 arrest of Margaret Thatcher's chum Augusto Pinochet, thus violating the holy sanctuary conferred upon that famous vanquisher of Old Labour values by the Reverend Blair.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Helping the Homeless

Affordable housing for the right sort of people continues to be a priority, as witness the Nine Elms development on the south bank of the Thames. This particular folly has been given the rah-rah by the London Haystack himself as "the most important regeneration story in London", and the lucky chaps to whom this particular housing is affordable will have the use of a "concept pool". Although it sounds like managerialese for a database of utilisable clichés, the "concept pool" is in fact a chunk of chlorinated water placed in a novelty location. In the case of Nine Elms, the location is between blocks ten floors above street level, with a transparent bottom so that swimmers can look down upon the dusty proles below. The humble accommodations at Nine Elms have been advertised across Asia, in order that the space not be wasted on the kind of idlers and scroungers who would dirty it with their occupation all year round.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Welfare Fraud

Well, here's a thing: the Department for Workfare and Privation has been quoting the thing that is not in a leaflet about how simple, fair and consistent the benefits system is. In response to a Freedom of Information request, the minions of the brilliant Iain Duncan Smith admitted that they had used stock photographs and that the stirring anecdotes of saintly DWP henchbeings sanctioning people hardly at all were "for illustrative purposes only" or, in Standard English, false. Although the leaflet has been removed from the DWP website, the exercise was so innocent of any intent to deceive that a spokesbeing was swiftly extruded to exonerate the brilliant Duncan Smith of any involvement whatever, despite the illustrative purposivity which the minister has shown throughout his long, squelchy scramble up the Whitehall coprocracy.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Inappropriately Interventionised

Fury at inhumane attack horror

An attack by Syrian jets on a Damascus market has been condemned by officials as not NATO enough.

More than a hundred people were killed in the raid, but neither the USA nor its allies have claimed that any of them were suspected terrorists. It is therefore assumed that the raid's collateral damage in fact consisted largely of avoidable and unacceptable civilian deaths.

However, there may be a possibility for detrimentational reclassification should the West decide that the Syrian government is a bulwark against ISIS rather than a rogue and/or failed state.

There was no immediate reaction from the international community, which has yet to ascertain whether any of the demised resources were potential threats to western living standards.

Swarms of civilians and children were reported to be scrounging vegetables at the site, although the British Foreign Office has yet to comment on whether this means bombing raids constitute a pull factor for migrant marauders.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Now They Know What "Full Up" Means

At least forty more British jobs have been saved in the Mediterranean. Thanks to the favourable opportunities for entrepreneurs in the Libyan market, resulting no doubt from the conspicuous lack of red tape and intrusive health and safety regulations, several dozen swarming marauders have been gassed like the rats they resemble. An Italian naval commander, who echoed his country's inglorious part in the Great War by treacherously slinking to the cockroaches' aid, said that the survivors were "crying for their husbands [and] their children who died in the crossing", which just shows how cunningly manipulative a human pestilence can be.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

A Solemn Day, Rah Rah, Hooray

A deceptively measured and civilised statement from the Emperor of Japan, expressing "deep remorse" and "utmost grief" for Japanese crimes during the Second World War, stands in marked contrast to the more upbeat and democratic tone of the British celebrations. The commander of the US Pacific fleet may be laying wreaths with officials from the birthplace of Admiral Yamamoto; but Britain will have none of such crass revisionism. Accordingly, Britain's Head Boy and his chums have broken out the historical aircraft and the Rudyard Kipling, and are having a big rah-rah for the British and Commonwealth soldiers who fought a British and Commonwealth world war to preserve the freedoms of the Conservative Party. Those free British conscripts who volunteered to fight the Japanese, of course, were fighting in places like Singapore and Malaya, where the British Empire's values of liberty and democracy were apparent to a most refined and sharp-edged degree. The Japanese Emperor cunningly insinuated that present and future generations should not have to keep apologising for the errors of the past; a view entirely opposed to that of Churchill's heirs, who require the glory of past conquests to point up whatever sheen of adequacy they can scrounge from standing next to a survivor, always provided the survivor isn't foreign.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Humble Beginnings

America, as we know, is a land of opportunity, where anyone can become President even if they happen to be a squillionaire named Clinton or Bush. Accordingly, Barbara Bush's secondary spawn Jeb is trying for the nomination for the batshit wing of the Republicrat Corporate Party, and has duly impressed an audience in Iowa with his determination to learn the lessons of the past. For one thing, Jeb has learned that when occupying a country and reducing it to chaos, it isn't always a good idea to push a lot of natives with military expertise and a grudge against you into the general population. For another thing, a report released last year concluded that torture was ineffective and that the CIA had lied about using it; from this Jeb has learned that the CIA was telling the truth all along and that torture keeps America safe. Jeb has mastered these subtleties despite not even knowing what torture is: asked to distinguish between torture and "enhanced interrogation" (viz. between what They do and what We do), Jeb shrugged the matter off but promised that if he were President somebody would be taking things seriously.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

We Cannot Allow the Public to Interfere With Local Democracy

The Government has renewed its commitment to localism with the announcement that, if local authorities fail to process fracking applications smartly enough, Whitehall will step in with its hobnailed boots and kick the uppity provincials into line. Councils will be "strongly encouraged" to reach decisions within sixteen weeks, thus bypassing inconveniences like information-gathering and local opinion. Naturally, the same conditions do not apply to nasty, noisy, dirty windfarms, which must be "clearly backed" by local people. The fracking company Cuadrilla, or "industry" as Britain's leading liberal newspaper hath it, welcomed the news, on the grounds that it's much more difficult and costly to get rid of a windfarm than it is for a fracking company to make itself scarce as soon as methane starts coming out of the water-taps.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Oh, the Humanity

Some well-bred chums of Britain's Head Boy are a trifle concerned that bad weather may have interfered with the breeding of the grouse, and hence with the shooting season which traditionally begins on this date. Of course they are not concerned merely because they're purple-faced half-wits whose idea of sport is to take a scattergun loaded with metal pellets and hunt the ferocious primordial chicken after the servants have scared it within range. Nor are they concerned merely because they're inbred sadists who have to wear baggy tweeds in order to compensate for their regrettable deficiencies in the mental region; nor yet are they concerned merely because they fear that short rations at table may necessitate a trip to the food bank before the daily Prince Regent's Memorial Belching Contest can take place with all due ceremony. They are concerned, of course, primarily because of their responsibilities towards the lower classes. The business of fattening birds, slaughtering wildlife and scattering chunks of lead across the environment is apparently the only thing standing between a couple of thousand peasants and starvation. It is to be hoped that future generations of grouse will be able to summon up sufficient public spirit to replenish the species in time for the next massacre, since most peasants tend to move too fast for shooting them to be a sporting proposition.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Burka Fasoid Flood Fears Deepen

Fury at swamping horror

Panic stalked Whitehall today as yet more swarms of wogs loomed on whichever horizon is nearest to Burkina Faso.

Nearly 20,000 potential marauders have been affected by floods in the recently-renamed country's capital Ouagadougou, although the Bullingdon Club's robust sense of humour is thought to find the city's name highly amusing.

Environment secretary Elma Fludd condemned the UN for not acting fast enough to facilitate shale-fracking and badger-gassing, while the London Haystack offered three water-cannons "to help the flow of tough love among the piccaninnies."

Despite budgetary cutbacks, the empty suit at the Foreign Office has put out a call for non-asylum-seeking Third World natives or their English-speaking children who can point out to him where Burkina Faso is on the map.

"Once we know which direction the swarms will be marauding from, it will then be relatively simple to put appropriate rat-traps and locust-nets in place," a spokesbeing said.

"As soon as these precautionary measures have been taken, we will be able to start discussions as to what reparations the British people can expect from Burkina Faso for the inconvenience caused."

Meanwhile, various potential leaders of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition demanded assurances from the Government that Britain's hard-working families would not suffer through the export of British sandbags to aid foreign competitors.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Focus! Group!

Quite some time ago now, I received an email from one of this weblog's veteran lurkers and occasional commenters, asking if I'd be interested in producing a song lyric. Since I knew nothing at all about such things, I said I'd give it a try. He sent me the instrumental track and I managed to squeeze out a few stanzas. That veteran lurker and occasional commenter was the mild-mannered alter ego of Mad Roland, and his completed album, Focus! Group!, comprises twelve songs in various registers of grief and annoyance at the world's multifarious insanities. There is a pleasing Lydonic tinge to both the vocals and the lyrics, but with less punkish posturing and (one can only hope) less autobiography; there is also (most overtly on the tenth track, "Pain") some very impressive guitarring. The album is available for download at the link, at the uniquely fair price of whatever you care to pay.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

More Fun in the Great Game

Mission Afghanistan grows ever more accomplished. Thanks to the peace, freedom and democracy imposed through the offices of the Reverend Blair and given due seal of completion by Britain's present Head Boy, a wave of attacks in Kabul has detrimented a NATO soldier and at least thirty-nine persons of lesser significance. According to the UN, collateral damage is now higher than at any point during the war in Afghanistan, although it is unclear whether this is because the defenders of western civilisation are using women and children as human shields.

Saturday, August 08, 2015

Planning is a Sin

Deranged ideologues at the High Court have thrown out the Government's "vacant building credit", a faith-based affordable-housing policy designed to make housing more affordable for developers to kick people out of. Dreamed up during the coalition and nodded through by the vacant Deputy Conservatives in November last year, the policy would have slashed the red tape surrounding arbitrary evictions and thereby facilitated the activities of large-scale cowboy outfits attempting to fill the country's crying need for corporate follies and vagrant proles. A second policy, which the vicious Stakhanovites at the High Court also overturned, provided social security for deprived luxury housing developers while removing the power of local authorities to claw back profits and waste them on the unworthy. The legal challenge was brought by two local authorities, one Labour and one Conservative; so it would appear that the peril of crypto-socialist entryism is even more widespread than has been prophesied by the Ascended Incarnation of the Reverend Blair. The Government will appeal the ruling, on the grounds that localism is far too important to be left to the locals.

Friday, August 07, 2015

It Couldn't Happen Here

Aside from god-botherers objecting to a book they haven't read or a film they haven't seen, there are few people in the world whose itsy-bitsy feelings can be hurt so easily as a racist or a not-a-racist-but. A German TV presenter has traumatised these persecuted minorities by calling on those who disagree with them to "make that known, oppose it, open your mouth, maintain an attitude, pillory people in public". The call for repression is all the more hurtful in that many such people have only just plucked up the courage to post their screeds under their own names, and have been tentatively encouraged by positive responses such as likes on social media and arson attacks on refugees.

Germany, which has one of the most generous asylum systems in Europe, took in two hundred thousand refugees last year; and the number is expected to double this year thanks in part to Britain's role in stabilising Libya and the Middle East. Mainstream comment on migrants in Germany is almost entirely positive, in contrast to the nation of Winston Churchill and Viscount Rothermere where a general panic has been unleashed over five thousand people who haven't even entered the country.

Thursday, August 06, 2015

You Can't Get the Staff These Days

Some apprentices of the World Cop who were hired to help democratise Syria have apparently turned appeaser. The US has trained and deployed fifty-odd native fighters to dispense a bit of shock and awe at the local al-Qaida franchise; but they are now refusing to fight because the terrorists have been unsporting enough to capture several of their personnel, including the commanding officer. Clearly the fight against al-Qaida requires expendables who are made of sterner stuff, like the US-backed Mujahideen who gave the USSR so much trouble in Afghanistan. Whatever became of them?

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

We May Allow Ourselves a Brief Period of Rejoicing

British holidaymakers (those of the hard-working and familial variety, at least) will rejoice along with Britain's Head Boy at the news that the swarm of cockroaches in the Mediterranean is a little smaller this evening, despite the determination of foreign doctors and other interfering persons to continue acting as a pull factor. Four hundred threats to the economic recovery were preserved when a boat capsized; but a further twenty-five are no longer grounds for concern, except for tabloid hacks and luminaries of Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition who will be indignant that the bodies were recovered instead of being left for the fish or catapulted back to Africa. Still more of the beasts may be lurking under the boat's hull, ready to swim underneath the European continental shelf and pop up at Calais ready to inconvenience tourists and claim social security benefits in the Channel Tunnel; so let us not forget for a moment the toil and efforts that lie ahead.

Tuesday, August 04, 2015


It appears that certain elements of the National Health Service are finally beginning to work the way the Minister for Health and News Corporation wants them to. Having launched a high-profile campaign asking for blood donors, the NHS has been turning them away because staff are unable to cope with the numbers. Meanwhile, the NHS has been ordered not to recruit "inessential" personnel, which presumably means any non-PR staff below management level, because of the funding crisis which the Minister for Health and News Corporation has implemented. The only disappointing aspect of the business lies in the obstinacy of the proles, who insist on donating their blood rather than selling it to private companies as faith-based economics ordains.

Monday, August 03, 2015

It's A Good Clean Fight

Well, here's a thing: it appears that, despite all the missions accomplished, the crusades for freedom and democracy, not to mention the pacificatory envoyagings of the Reverend Blair, the occasional bit of collateral damage remains unavoidable. Surgical strikes by the enlightened half of the clash of civilisations have resulted in the unavoidable amputation of at least four hundred and fifty non-combatant resources, including over a hundred children. Worse yet, according to Britain's leading liberal newspaper, some of these little accidents are being used for emotive purposes, and may even be contributing to the ongoing violence in the area. The US lead commander said that the present bombings are "the most precise and disciplined in the history of aerial warfare" and blamed any unpleasantness on Islamic State, much as the Fighting Sons of Tony blame everything on the perfidious infidels. Meanwhile, a spokesbeing for our own Ministry for Uncivilised Tribes assured anyone who might be interested that, if UK bombing has caused any civilian casualties, the relevant poodles are taking good care not to be aware of it.

Sunday, August 02, 2015


Fury at formican horror

The Prime Minister will chair a meeting of the FLATWORM emergency committee to discuss Britain's flying ant crisis, Downing Street has announced.

Panic has gripped the nation since Friday, when swarms of insects took to the air and blatantly inundated indigenous pavement resources with their alien antics.

At least some of the ants will go on to form new colonies which will result in outbreaks of hives and increasing shortages of space for affordable housing.

The Prime Minister was about to go chillaxing following a trade and democratisation mission to sell the Malaysian government some third-hand water cannons, when news of the insect inundation sent him rushing for the bunker.

Announcements of several dozen new measures to combat the crisis are expected to be announced in an announcement on Monday.

The Home Secretary is expected to announce new measures to channel the swarm's mating urges into more orderly sustainable channels by compelling them to use reputable online dating agencies or risk being stamped on by specially-workfared young people.

"Our democracy has endured for over a thousand years and has survived countless apocalyptic menaces from Hitler and the BBC to Alex Salmond," a spokesbeing foamed.

"This Government will not stand back and allow our hard-working families to be overwhelmed by swarms of sex-crazed queens from an alien, anti-capitalist culture of social collaboration and altruism.

"Britain is a tolerant nation but when you're standing on thin ice over a precipice at the last-chance saloon it's probably time to put your foot down."

Saturday, August 01, 2015

The Wolf That Will Swallow the Sun

An extract

The Captain stood facing out to sea, one hand raised to shade his eyes, the other resting on the head of the great gaunt dog sitting at his right. The dog’s head was turned to face inland, its teeth bared; as a child Visner had never been entirely confident of the Captain's ability to control it. The traditional gloss on the statue was that the Captain was watching for invaders and the dog was summoning the citizens to repel them; given what was known of the historical Captain Scoller, it was at least equally likely that the man was staring after the longship which had just abandoned him while the dog snarled at the soldiers who were about to hack both man and dog to pieces. Visner could not remember what expression was on the Captain's face, and at this time of day the black stone showed nothing.

Visner turned away and went across the road to one of the restaurants, the one whose price list flew closest to the limits of reasonable expenditure without blatantly exceeding them. The place was called the Captain's Table, and the walls were decorated with historical photographs of the town, with a natural emphasis on its former function as a sea-port; but to Visner’s relief no effort had been made to conjure up a nautical atmosphere with oars, wheels and the like.

The waitress was young and blonde, and her smile was slightly better than professional. "Good evening," she said, and handed Visner a menu in a plastic folder.
"Thank you," Visner said.
"If you would prefer non-migrant service, just let a member of staff know," the waitress said.
"I beg your pardon?" Visner said.

The waitress stepped back from the table and pointed at her foot. A grey plastic ring encircled her leg just above the ankle, loosely fitted but impossible to slide off. It bore a serial number and a cuboid protrusion like a child's building brick with a small square hole. Inside the hole was a coppery glint.

"It's your statutory right as a consumer to be served by a non-migrant if you so wish," the waitress said. "You should be aware that if you choose that option when the restaurant is busy it can mean your meal may take longer to arrive. We're not all that busy now, though."
"You'll do fine,” Visner said. "But thanks anyway."

He glanced down the menu, which turned out to be two menus: one with smaller print, greater choice and larger prices, and a footnote which guaranteed that all ingredients were imported. Visner ordered from the cheaper list, which guaranteed only that the ingredients were of the best quality obtainable at such economical rates.

The portions were reasonably sized, but cauterised almost beyond the bounds of flavour; perhaps the kitchen staff knew too much about the best obtainable ingredients, or perhaps they had been ordered to motivate customers towards the more expensive menu. Scraping at the carbon with a knife, Visner looked around the half-dozen other occupied tables. To judge by the diners' display of appetite, most of them had opted for the cheaper meal as well; at the table nearest Visner's they had also requested the non-migrant service, and a youngish man whose voice reminded him of Gabend's was lamenting the times that made such choices necessary.

"It might be a bit slower than letting a plague virus loose or rounding us all up to be shot, but the end result is exactly the same: the disappearance of this nation. Worse than that, the deliberate extermination of this nation, because I refuse to believe that they don’t understand the consequences of what they do. It’s genocide, nothing more nor less."
"It's irresponsible, definitely," agreed the young man’s older companion as Visner’s waitress walked past. “I think just about everyone agrees that the penalties are far too lenient."
"Penalties? They practically reward them," the young man said. "They don't have to pay their repatriation fares, they don't have to pay fines, they probably don't have to eat dog-meat like this, and even the ones that work don't have to work very hard. All they have to do is wear an ankle bracelet for a while, and even that comes off after a couple of years so they can sail away for another little vacation. They ought to be tattooed, permanently marked somehow."
"Branded on the forehead," said the older man, leaning back in his chair and corseting his paunch with his fingers. "It's what used to be done with runaway slaves. Though I doubt it would work nowadays; it'd probably end up being a fashion statement."
"They could outlaw it," said the young man; "they could make that design of tattoo illegal for anyone else to have, like a copyright."
"They could do that," the older man agreed; "but they're afraid to, of course. They don't want to seem harsh. Meanwhile they spend millions on the repatriation initiative, and whenever part of the country sinks beneath the sea it turns out that they can’t afford the land reclamation."

Visner signalled to the waitress and asked for the bill. Coffee was available, but the price was bloated by the water tax on restaurants; it would be far cheaper to use the ration in his hotel room. He made a point of thanking the waitress rather too effusively, less from any profound gratitude than from an urge to spite the spirit of Gabend in the young man’s voice.

He walked all the way round the Square in search of a pleasanter exit than Scholar Street; but he was unable to find a route that led easily back to the hotel and he had no wish to explore Gullands for short-cuts in the dark. As he was inching past the hole in Scholar Street he heard a low, indeterminate growl that made him stop and strain his eyes; the source might have been a dog or a disturbed tramp or perhaps, Visner thought when it did not occur again, he was simply not fully awake. He had spent most of the day surrounded by the static whine of the car engine and the murmured exclamations of passing vehicles, which were doubtless now being echoed in the murmur and crash of the sea.

Visner walked to the end of Scholar Street, as quickly and quietly as he could manage without actually going on tiptoe or hurrying over the line between a brisk walk and a run. Nobody was trying to sleep on the pavement; and there were no dogs.

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