Whenever the Daily Mail sounds the bugle, I am the first to step into line and march behind whatever banner has been hoist. I am a veteran of the Save the Sixpence campaign, which achieved a short-lived victory. I was in the heat of the battle to Save our Red Telephone Boxes – monuments to the partial success of which are still to be found here and there, clothed in the evocative smell of tramps’ urine. And I rushed to enlist in the war to Save the Pashmina, though I cannot recall the outcome.
So it will come as no surprise that when the Daily Mail once again sounded the call to arms, I awoke with a start, hastened to the broom cupboard to fetch my pitchfork and colander, and set about stiffening the sinews and summoning up the rhesus negative. There is nothing, not even Lynda Lee-Potter, to compare with a good fight: to march to the beat of the drum, to sight the enemy hordes, to engage in hand-to-hand combat – it’s the very stuff of life.
Ours, of course, is not to reason why. With God and the Daily Mail on our side, our cause must be just, our victory assured: that is all we need to know. Just for the record, however, this time we take up arms to Save Jimmy Young, under threat from the “blockheads of the BBC”.
Jimmy Young has been in British hands for 80 years. Thanks to loving restoration – the original hair and teeth went missing years ago – he is still in good working order, all things considered, and functions perfectly well for part of each week day. Age cannot wither him nor custom stale the infinite variety of his two catchphrases, “orft we jolly well” and “sewer the telephone”. Yet the BBC wants to replace him with a cheapjack, plastic imitation, whose provenance is uncertain, but is believed to be Scottish.
It would be a scandal if Jimmy Young were to go the same way as so many of our former national treasures and be lost to the nation. I am not being small minded or a Little Englander; of course visitors to the Guggenheim or the Getty would enjoy casting their eyes on this rough-hewn fragment of British heritage. But that is precisely my point: Jimmy Young was made in England and it would be a crime to lose such an important artifact. And so it is that we cavaliers take up arms against the blockheads.
Yet, as is so often the case in times of conflict, the cause of the war masks a greater significance. However one judges the merits of the casus belli – and opinions vary – Jimmy Young is a man, and as such, he is a member of a threatened species. It is no exaggeration to say that his saving would be symbolic.
There is not a minute to be lost. According to Professor Siegfried Meryn, president of the First World Congress on Men’s Health (there may not be a second), men are in danger of extinction. He says: “With the advent of sperm banks, in vitro fertilisation, sex sorting techniques, human cloning, and same sex marriages, it is reasonable to wonder about the future role of men in society. There is a sustained increase in psychosocial disorders in men, including alcohol and substance abuse, mid-life crisis, depression and domestic violence, while men’s increased aggression also remains an unsolved health and societal problem.”
In what little time they might have left, men may care to contemplate the astonishing inequity of historical forces: to ponder that, when measured in the balance, millions of years of boozing, throwing one’s weight around, and generally being a societal problem are nowhere near the equal of two score years of feminism.
And so the enfeebled descendants of mighty Caesar, Alexander, Hannibal, and Napoleon fall before the onrushing advance of female PR persons and women newsreaders.
The defeat of men is hardly surprising when you consider the findings of a survey of 1,000 women (men were not interviewed) showing that females have a far greater conversational range and depth than males. Whenever two women meet their discussion begins with the topic of bodily functions and proceeds to range over matters philosophical, logical, aesthetic, political, and scientific. That compares with the male conversational spectrum of just four topics: sex, football, and I can’t remember the other two.
No wonder men worry like hell. A report in the British Medical Journal says that an increasing number are suffering from body dysmorphic disorder, a severe form of body image dissatisfaction. Katherine Phillips, director of the Body Dysmorphic Program at Brown University School of Medicine in Rhode Island, says that men are “preoccupied with their skin, because of acne or scarring, hair loss, the size or shape of their nose, or their genitals”.
Poor saps, talk about fiddling while Rome burns. The future of the entire sex is threatened and what do we do? We worry about the size and shape of organs for which, if we don’t act quickly, we may no longer have use. It’s time to get a grip on ourselves – I speak metaphorically – and rally to the cause of saving Jimmy Young. His durability, his stoicism, his conversational range of more than four topics, are an example to us all. Shoulder to shoulder, orft we jolly well.