May 10th 2006
Â The headquarters of the Plain English Campaign is housed in New Mills, the Derbyshire town in which I live, and high on the list of things I would like to do before I die is to throw open the door of their offices and shout “Fuck off!” After all you can’t get much plainer English than that, can you?
Â At one stage I toyed with the idea of throwing open the door and shouting to the occupants within: “Immediately vacate forthwith the environment in which you are currently inhabiting”, which is a way of saying fuck off in the gobbledygook they detest so much, but I decided to stay with my original plan in the interests of simplicity.
Â What has always stopped me doing it in the past is the fear that the staff at the Plain English Campaign offices might fail to see the point of my little verbal joke and take some form of revenge. However now that I am sixty-eight my thinking is that if they did indeed take exception all I would need to do to get myself off the hook would be to tell them I’m an old age pensioner, in which case they’d probably feel sorry for me and put it down to the ramblings of an old man.
Â So, about two-o-clock this afternoon I threw open the door of the Plain English Campaign offices and……didn’t shout â€˜fuck offâ€™. The reason being there was no one in there to shout it too. There were about ten desks and chairs scattered around the large office but every chair was vacant. Had everybody in the country suddenly started talking and writing in plain English, rendering their campaign surplus to requirements? Doubtful. A more likely reason was that they were all at a meeting elsewhere in the building making plans to invade the local council offices to take them to task for the impenetrable verbiage they’d used to explain the reason for the latest hike in Council Tax, or maybe planning a swoop on a greengrocer for persistently writing things like apple’s, pear’s and plum’s on his window.
Â Then, just as I was about to leave, a door opened and a young woman entered the room, a large book in her hands. Engrossed in the book she made her way to one of the desks and sat down. I made my way over to her. It would have been better of course if the office had been full and I could have told the entire staff of the Plain English campaign to fuck off but one of them was better than nothing. And I was about to do just that when I happened to notice that the book she was reading was the Collected Works of William Shakespeare. I stopped. How could I tell someone like this to fuck off, someone who was obviously engaged in ploughing her way through Shakespeare with the object of turning it into language that people could understand? About time someone got to grips with it!
Â I was about to congratulate her, something along the lines of â€˜Nice to see someone trying to illuminate some of the most inaccessible verbiage that quill has ever put to paper in the entire history of Christendomâ€™ when I remembered that she was a disciple of Plain English and as such might take offence so I just said: “Sorting out Shakespeare I see.”She looked up. “Sorting out?”“Putting it into plain English. And about time too if I may say so. I mean why go all the way round the houses of ‘What’s in a name, a rose by any other name would smell as sweet’ when you can say ‘Shit’s shit whatever you call it’.”
“Oh,” she said. “No, you misunderstand, it’s my lunch break, I’m reading it for pleasure.”
I couldn’t believe my ears. “Pleasure? â€˜Now is the winter of our discontent, Made glorious summer by this son of York; And all the clouds that l’ourd upon our house, In the deep bosom of the ocean buried?â€™ You’re reading a load of old tripe like that for pleasure?”
“Fuck off!” I said, then went on my way. I hadn’t said it for the reason Iâ€™d gone there to say it but it gave me just as much satisfaction even so.Â