Though the stock market is going through a periodic attack of the jitters, nothing should deter those shrewd punters who dabble in media shares at this time of the year.
The staple commodity of an economy that grew to greatness on coal and iron is today silliness. It is the dynamo of our daily existence. Without silliness, new, fresh and abundant with each breaking dawn, the lives of millions would be dust. Entire industries serve our craving: the fashion business is unstinting in its output; individuals, such as Sir Clive Sinclair, whose electronic tricycle was a notable contribution, are fitfully silly; but for sheer sustained and copious silliness there is nothing to match the media. After all, silliness is their stock in trade. No one has comparable skills in prospecting, mining, and exploiting the richest deposits of downright daftness. And when they can’t find it, they make it up.
It has long been known that silliness is seasonal stuff. In the dog days of August, when the sky presses down like a poultice and men with legs that could not stop a porker in a passage step abroad in billowing shorts, when the days are airless and the nights sleepless, when the rhythm of life beats adagio and half the world is on holiday, that’s when silliness erupts like Etna and clever people buy shares in Associated Newspapers.
This silly season is already vintage. What can compare with Di and Dodi? From its outset, this extraordinarily silly episode has enthralled, each new revelation outdoing its predecessor in the power to exhilarate and provoke disbelief. The news that the Queen of Our Hearts, who in her divine person embodies the spirit of all that is English and true, should have taken up with the scion of a dark and deeply suspect trader of foreign origin was shocking enough. And when the fuzzy pictures appeared, showing the playboy’s arms wrapped around the swim suited torso of the loveliest woman in the world, our fears were confirmed. Di had fallen for Dodi.
After a brief break, during which Di sped to Bosnia to bestow her effulgent loveliness on the limbless of the land, the couple landed by Harrods helicopter in a field in Lower Pilsley, Derbyshire, where they were greeted first by Emma Radford, aged 11, who burst from the bushes to take snapshots of Do and Didi and was shouted at by either Dodo or Di, and then by Mystic Rita, a dark-haired psychic of Romany extraction.
Barely had we recovered from these surreal events, when, thousands of miles away in Los Angeles, surfaced a sobbing Kelly Fisher, an American model who declared, through her lawyer, that she had been left at the altar by Dildo, who, she added, was a Frog, which surprised those of us who thought he was a Gyppo. Even so, she wept, through her lawyer, she loved him still, and as an earnest of her unquenchable devotion proposed to take him to cleaners in the sum of $1m upfront and in clean notes. In response, Didi issued a Harrods hamper containing a denial of Miss Fisher’s allegations, and Princess Do left for her third Mediterranean cruise in as many weeks. Media share prices looked good.
But the romance of the century, or possibly the fortnight, though silly by any standards, was not unrivalled in its news appeal. In Chester, a mystery litter lout, who shreds magazines into thousands of pieces and scatters them on the pavements at night, struck again; in Bristol, a Methodist preacher created a “virtual cemetery” on the Internet; in Brussels, male mice genetically engineered to react as if they were permanently drinking coffee became aggressive; on the spaceship Mir, now a flying colander, Dr Michael Foale successfully grew a dwarf variety of Brassica rapa, a relation of turnips; and in London, BT announced that public lavatories programmed to dial faults to their owners had overtaken heavy breathers as the biggest nuisance callers of the Nineties. Media shares went up.
Meanwhile, in Waltham Abbey, an Anglican clergyman said the Teletubbies’ baby language mirrored Christian jargon; in Harrogate, a hospital consultant was cleared of deliberately shooting a mute swan when his contact lens slipped as he pulled the trigger on what he thought was a nearby goose; at Denham airfield, a grandmother who had flown a helicopter around the world, averting sandstorms, volcanoes and cyclones and enduring all manner of hardship, finally came to grief when on landing she was greeted by the Duchess of York; and in Hindley, Lancashire, a supermarket checkout girl was left with a three-inch scar on her buttocks after her Marks & Spencer knickers spontaneously combusted. Rumours of photographic evidence caused brisk dealing in News International shares.
In the meantime, a report by TV Licensing said women were the most accomplished liars, one having told inspectors they could not enter her home because she “had the Mormons in”; in Honito, a college announced it was offering courses for adults in the post-feminist secret of the Spice Girls’ allure; and in South Shields, a tomcat, mistaken for a stray and neutered, wandered home with a label reading “castrated” stuck to its collar.
All that is needed to spark off a raging bull market in media shares is for a similar mishap to befall Dodi.