Workers' rights

I hear that the snake charmers have been campaigning for fair wages and decent working hours. Good for them. A dangerous job like that deserves a high rate of pay, even though any jungle dweller can see that it’s a colossal waste of time. It is not in the nature of a snake to be charmed by anyone, expect perhaps its mother or its paramour. Snakes have no concept of good manners and no interest in social intercourse with any non-reptilian creature. Better to leave them writhing in their juices rather than tooting them out of wicker baskets.

Being a rare talking gorilla, I could virtually set my own terms in my performing career. Yet when negotiating my salary with Mr McDougall, the proprietor of the circus, I insisted on a salary of no more than five times that of the next highest paid artiste.

“If we pay you that little, GB, I’m worried you might be poached by one of our rivals,” said the hard-headed Scotsman.

“Rest assured that I will not be tempted, Sir,” I replied, “for there are more important things to a gorilla than hard cash.”

My moderation and restraint earned me the respect of my fellow performers. They made me the big cheese in their staff association and a trustee of their pension fund – a bit like that American chap Jimmy Hoffmeister. Mr Becks, currently
gorging himself in the swill bucket of Los Angeles, would do well to take note.

I probably acquired my progressive outlook from the example of my human mentor, Dr Whipsnade. In spite of being a self-made millionaire, he always stood up for the rights of the little people. I once saw him refusing to cross a picket line outside Foyle’s Bookshop in London during an industrial dispute. “It’s my way of showing solidarity with the workers,” he explained, “instead of voting Labour which costs me money.”

There are limits to all this plebeian militancy though. Ever since my failed attempt to join the Communist Party, I have drawn the line at Bolshevism. Support the workers by all means, but there’s no need to skulk around with a sour face, treating everyone who’s got on in life as a class enemy, to be strung up – come the Revolution – from the nearest lamp post. As the late Tony Randall once said, millionaires are also a minority group. They know their rights and they’ve got the money to fight for them. Instead of antagonising them unnecessarily, how much better to co-opt them in worthy causes.

My favourite story about a philanthropic millionaire concerns Roy Attwater, the pot-noodle tycoon. He hired an Indian gardener to tend to the grounds of his holiday mansion in Florida, and the man kept the lawn and shrubs in prime condition. The most unpleasant aspect of his job was picking up turds deposited by the dog of an inconsiderate neighbour, who allowed it to run off the leash. Tiring of this annoyance, he set a trap involving raw meat suspended from a string attached to a carton of Madras curry power. The pooch took the bait and snorted a fair dose of the powder, causing it to scamper back home to Mummy, whimpering and sneezing in a state of some distress.

The dog's owner was a middle-aged woman called Mrs Silverman, who took the agitated animal to the vet, where it was sedated before getting its nasal tract purged. She then stormed to the Attwater residence to berate the gardener.

“Whaddya do to my Mookie?” she screamed. “We got laws protecting animals here! You’re not in Mexico!”

"Madam," replied the gardener, "during past month your dog is doing shittings all over this grass. Where are laws for this?"

Mrs Silverman was not won over by this explanation. She pressed charges against the gardener for cruelty, and when Mr Attwater heard of this he flew to Florida to negotiate with her in person.

"Mrs Silverman," he said, "I will reimburse you for your veterinary bills provided that you drop all charges against my employee and keep your pet off my property. If you persist in your complaint, I will ensure that my man has the finest legal defence that money can buy. I will also initiate a lawsuit against you for harassing him in his workplace.”

Mrs Silverman relented and accepted his terms.

A few months later, the gardener had to return to India for his sister’s wedding. Mr Attwater arranged for a thousand pots of
Bombay Bad Boy to be delivered on the day of her nuptials. It’s little gestures like this that separate men of quality from the riff-raff.

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