I’m told that when my maternal grandfather was approaching his demise, he volunteered the opinion that he was ‘glad to be going out rather than coming in’.
To my mind, though, Life is ever to be preferred to our other option – even if you’re a churchgoer hopeful of your eternal award (as was my grandfather), and arguably more so if you’re a declared non-believer.
Such a one was my good friend, Barry Stevens [RIP] – a humanist, no less. Though Barry Stevens in his prime was more widely known as our very own Middleton-based quiz king-cum-quizmaster quintessential, latterly a BBC Eggheads’ basher (see above), “the Famous Barry”, as one former licensee of the Old David’s used to advertise his skill, a perennial polymath, too.
‘Men will never be free’, Barry loved to advise us, by way of a whispered aside on Quiz Night at the Old David’s, Middleton, ‘until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.’ (Pace, Denis Diderot, Encyclopaedist, 1713-1784) Which would have been a much more disturbing pronouncement than it was, had Barry not invariably accompanied it with a broad smile, indicating a wynd-up was in process with knobs on.
Oh, I’ve no doubt he meant what he said in an abstract, intellectual kind of a way. But Barry Stevens, the same man who loved to stun us with this belligerent recipe for freedom, would not have hurt a fly. In fact, whenever the world and his wife were caught out, baying for the blood of the most recent newspaper-pilloried ne’er-do-well, Barry Stevens it was who would remind us that: ‘The best safeguard of the liberty of the innocent man is the quality of justice we are prepared to mete out to the guilty.’
None of which means, of course, that Barry could not get barricade-stormingly angry from time to time with the antics of political time-servers merrily riding the gravy train – or with any shop assistant or public servant in this locality who would presume to dole out dismissive disservice to a Middleton public he ought instead to have empowered.
Indeed, many a time and oft, have we (the Old David’s Faithful, that is) empathised with Barry’s reported discourse on Consumer Rights with a Tesco minion who, temporarily at any rate; had refused him a full cash refund, or his abrupt rejection of his chip shop wrap-up one Friday night consequent upon some snide aside from the presumptuous hussy who’d dished them up; not to mention his doughty defence, cash-starved queue behind him notwithstanding, of the right to withdraw all his money upon demand from the Middleton branch of a high street bank more readily inclined to quotidian delay.
Briefly, then, I acclaim the Barry Stevens we once knew as a socialist of the old school. The Red Flag may have been looking to lead the procession, but the inner zeal came from an instinctive dedication to family (what wonders he wrought there, that many a lesser man would have shunned), loyalty to friends (Sky Blue to a man, by way of definition) and his lifelong subscription to the republican principle of Fraternity, so long neglected within the political and fiscal life of the UK, in view of which principles I hereby present the inaugural “Barry Stevens’ Bah Humbug Award”.
This will be an occasional feature, dedicated to exposing the very worst practitioner of customer/client disservice and/or bare-faced rip-off in any given period of time, the 2012 winner of which is:
Bedford Insurance, aka Motorquote Direct
They are a very tricky insurance broker, believe you me. (See Go Compare etc.) Last year, car insurance providers mein, Bedford Insurance, aka Motorquote Direct, has more recently had the brass neck to debit my MBNA Mastercard for £30 more than the headline quotation their agent had originally given me over the telephone. Whereupon I burst my shirt (figuratively speaking), coming over all barricade-stormingly angry and Barry Stevens-like, before reporting them to the Insurance Ombudsman. He has since taken a keen interest in the blighters.
Readers should watch quotemehappy.com, too. They tried to trick me into paying 15% more than I wanted to pay, then settled for 3% more. (A stunt made possible since my Mastercard statement was not due for a few days.)
Readers should beware of all Insurance Comparison Sites: they are NOT what they once were. The cheaper quotations are nowadays pretty dodgy; meanwhile, Direct Line, the original cheap site, is now expensive on stilts and seems to have lost the plot.
Bill Keeth’s books, Every Street in Manchester ISBN 1859880649 & Write It Self-Publish It Sell It ISBN 97809558863 are available from Amazon and all good book shops. Bill can also be contacted via his website, http://www.novelnovella.com.