Competition - Win a bottle of champagne

No 3575 Set by George Cowley

Theodor Fontane (1819-1898) once wrote: "No country . . . is further removed from democracy than England." We asked you to send in up to 200 words proving that his point is still valid today.

Report by Ms de Meaner

Truth to tell, I feel rather cramped by the entry from David Silverman, a clever little number - if rather too full of exclamation marks to quite hit the right spot - purporting to be a New Statesman comp report. As I hope I've always made clear, there is no democracy in the Comp Complex, where the judge's decision, almost by definition, remains unquestioned and revered. So the choice was an intelligent one, which means I have overlooked the stylistic insult. £15 to the winners and hon menshes to Nick MacKinnon for his quiz to check your country's Democracy Quotient ("50 or less: democratic paradise, eg, Russia, USA, Switzerland") and Anne Du Croz. The bottle of champers goes to David Silverman (!).

Democracy in Britain takes place in conveniently situated buildings, specially arranged for the purpose, known as "p***ing stations".

When the customer enters, he finds a row of open cubicles. He stands in one of these with his back to the public and is thus able to perform in complete privacy.

He first locates the appropriate tool - generally very short (often under one inch) and worn down by repeated use.

He can now satisfy a desire that may have been bottled up for as long as five years, pouring out his feelings totally unobserved. He then uses a small piece of paper, which is deposited in a separate receptacle.

For reasons of decency - and allegedly of biological incapacity - women were for many years excluded from such premises. But after much campaigning for equal access, they are now able to make use of the facilities. Recent surveys show their stance is identical to a man's.

There is only one common complaint. The slit in the so-called "b*ll** box" is quite wide enough for normal functions, but many customers, on realising the choices available, feel an irresistible desire to throw up, and find the aperture quite inadequate.

Ian Birchall

I disembark'd at Heathcliff Terminal and asked a uniformed guide the way to the Prime Minister's office. However, the official was quite rude and demanded that I empty my bags on a table! He went through my belongings and seized the bottled of Koblenz brandy. There was no offer of Twanging's tea and sympathy as mentioned in my guidebook (The P Cook Guide to Britain, 1980), so I departed in low spirits. The bus (more uniforms) delivered me to the Prime Minister's residence. To my surprise, there was a long queue outside. I saw a sign stating that it would cost £7 to enter (children half price). I enquired of a flower-seller the length of the wait. She said: "Madame Tussaud is always busy, and it is a Saturday, love." It is obvious that the average working person knows little of affairs of state. Having gained admittance with some other supplicants, I questioned Mrs Thatcher closely for over 20 minutes. She did not respond to any of my carefully phrased questions. A man in uniform rudely escorted me out. I conclude that England is a police state. A country that charges people to petition their leader (and to be ignored) cannot be a democracy. I heard a news vendor shout: "Ben O'Shea not allowed to leave Britain." I hurried back to Heathcliff.

John O'Byrne

Not too many entries this time - at least not many that we can print - if you take my meaning! Some of you, for example, seemed inexplicably to view this as an opportunity to question the wisdom of certain government policies - and even the motives and honesty of top government figures! Needless to say, such bizarre fantasies were filed in the same section as recent entries which implied that conversing with plants at Highgrove was normal behaviour. We have kept your names and addresses on a separate file, however - and please, once again, don't forget to include those telephone numbers! A photo would also be helpful, as well as details of interests, hobbies, clubs, societies and political party membership or affiliation, as well as information concerning close family members. Now that we are networked to Tesco's Loyalty Card computer, we have started to compile an individual Comper's Profile on most of you. However, this additional information will help us better to position the subject matter of future competitions, thus becoming more customer-friendly. Thank you for your co- operation. Hon menshes to Benn and Flett and the champagne goes to John Pilger.

David Silverman

No 3578 Set by Leonora Casement

Sweet Hernia on the heights of Plasticine

Sings to the nylon songs of Brassiere:

The very aspirins listen, as they lean

Against the vitreous wind, to her sad air.

I see the bloom of mayonnaise she holds

Coloured like roofs of faraway Shampoo

Its asthma sweetens Earth! Oh, it unfolds

The alum land from Urine to Cachou!

One last wild gusset, then she's lost in

night!

And dusk the dandruff dims, and

anthracite!

Walter de la Mare once remarked that many beautiful and evocative words were totally wasted ("Linoleum" ought to be a charming old seaport on the Med). Back in the 1940s, we asked compers to come up with poems that utilised such words in beautiful and evocative ways. We'd like you to have another go, with 50 years' worth of new words to choose from. This time you can have poetry (max 14 lines) or prose (max 200 words). Entries to be in by 13 May.

E-mail: comp@newstatesman.co.uk

This article first appeared in the 03 May 1999 issue of the New Statesman, The NS Essay - This country is not so special