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Balancing the Books


Time for a confession – and here’s me a good Presbyterian too. But no, honestly, I feel I need to declare an interest. Or rather a distinct lack of interest for reasons that will become all too clear. Deep breath. Andddddd… Splurge!

I am utterly hopeless with money. There, I’ve said it. Although I guess there’s no shame to it these days in some ways. Profligacy is not a weapons-grade sin anymore. Or at least the consequences of profligacy aren’t.

Yep, everyone’s ‘skint’ right? Feeling the pinch. Brassic. Potless. Fiscally straitened. Whatever you want to call it, there’s not much of it swilling about. Except… except… there is really. It’s just in the wrong pockets. The ones that seem to magically attract the largesse – despite already brimming over. But I won’t dwell on that. Taking inequality down to the police station and having it fess up in a piss-stained cell is hardly a new line of enquiry.

On that note by the way. Despite my pleas of a criminally stupid economic incompetence, I’m nowhere near the category of proper skint. To imply as much would be a gross insult to those folks really in the grubber. Christ, I’ve just been on holiday to somewhere that’s not Saltcoats. That, in itself, marks me out as effectively a Brahmin. No, instead, let’s talk about balancing the books in a different sense through the lens of BS Johnson’s Christie Malry.

Ah lenses. Recently we heard from the cheese-bothering remaindered android otherwise known as Liz Truss on the subject of lenses. Inspired by the Randian ravings of Professor of Fuckonomics, Patrick Minford, she claimed that we shouldn’t see managing national finances through the ‘lens of redistribution’. No, Liz, of course not. Instead she plans to see it through the Eye of Mordor’s monocle. The one fashioned from hot salty Hobbit’s tears.

But, as said, the holding cell is a bit whiffy and I have no intention of opening it to chuck the Playmobil Thatcher Doll into it. No, let’s get back on track with a jaunt into the world of double-entry book keeping as envisaged by the eponymous hero in BS Johnson’s Christie Malry’s Own Double Entry. In short – for time and space is, like money, eternally short – Christie turned life into a ledger of debits and credits (or rights and wrongs) ascribing a certain monetary value to each one based on his own rather vindictive moral reckonings.

It seems such a simple premise. Every debit must be balanced out with a credit. The two columns must tally. Morally. Philosophically. Existentially maybe. And we see how that pans out when taken to extremes (no spoilers here but it does er… escalate… quite quickly). But that’s its brilliance I suppose. A kind of dispassionate moral accountancy fuelled by the whimsical temperament of a man who loses all sense of proportion in his victimhood.

Maybe though – just for some light relief -- we could apply the Malry principles here, in these very pages? It might pass the time, distract from empty purses, this esteemed organ is free after all.

N.B. Before I launch into it, if you want the story of the lugubrious modernist scribe, BS Johnson, don’t expect it here – Jonathan Coe’s Like a Fiery Elephant is the place to start: a magnificent biography of a brilliant but troubled man.

Right, that fiery elephant in the room has been dealt with. To the accounts department, Montgomery, and pronto or I shall be forced to hold a reckoning and make your tardiness the first debit! Why certainly. It would be my sadistic pleasure to do the moral arithmetic.

Debit: Johnson brazenly lies to the late Queen Liz about proroguing parliament

Credit: Johnson forced into human caterpillar experiment. With incontinent corgis

Debit: Excessive ‘enforced’ mourning period fuelled by Ruritanian deference complex

Credit: British sense of humour (see Grievewatch on Twitter… it does take the edge off)

Debit: Nigel Farage launches his own Brexit Gin range: hatefully smug online promo

Credit: Farage forced to ‘consume’ product a la end scene of Get Carter… Forever

Debit: The irresistible deliciousness of meat pastry products

Credit: The irresistible delicious of meat pastry products

Debit: Twats who litter wantonly

Credit: Two week stretch in bin ‘hotel’

Debit: Faux patriotism

Credit: Garrotting with flag of your choice

Debit: Laura Kuenssberg

Credit: Joe Lycett

I mean I think you get the drift here. Why not try it at home!? Fun for all the family. And by the way Ed, if BS Johnson’s estate get in touch, tell them they will be paid back. In full… ■

Michael Lambert on Twitter


Inspired by the ravings of Professor of Fuckonomics, Patrick Minford, Liz Truss claimed we shouldn’t see managing national finances through the ‘lens of redistribution’


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