Imaginary crocodiles, zombie killer bees and super injunctions
I recently learnt that my friend's son took the concept of imaginary friends to a whole new level by inventing two crocodile chums called Climey and Vetchy.
The aforementioned imaginary reptiles accompanied him everywhere when he was a toddler, causing considerable angst when their tails were caught in car doors or they weren't given a choice as to what they had for dinner.
I've thought about this at some length: are crocodiles technically above us in the food chain? Can they expect to be consulted about what's for tea, or should we accept that if we were locked in a room with a crocodile and no weap-onry, it'd be us that could be made into shoes or handbags and not them?
Either way, are imaginary crocodiles with picky eating habits and trailing tails any less strange than news that the majority of the British public have twice as many friends online as they do in real life?
I'll stop using as many question marks now (or will I? Should I? Can I?).
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Users of sites such as Facebook and Twitter have double the amount of friends online as they do in real life, ac-cording to new research commissioned by the Cystic Fibrosis Trust. It also found that one in 10 people found their best friend online and that we are more likely to be honest with virtual friends than we are with the ones we have in real life.
Of course there's a serious point to be made, which is that for people who are isolated by illness or circumstance, the internet is a lifeline which can connect them with people who understand what they're going through.
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That said, the Pope isn't too keen on social networking – and I don't know about you, but I'm keen to hear the considered thoughts about Facebook from an 84-year-old who's never used it.
'Entering cyberspace can be a sign of an authentic search for personal encounters with others, provided that atten-tion is paid to avoiding dangers such as enclosing oneself in a sort of parallel existence, or excessive exposure to a virtual world,' said Pope Benedict, channelling John Wyndham, CS Lewis, HG Wells and Doctor Who.
'It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people.'
What Pope Benedict hasn't got to grips with, other than any form of social networking whatsoever, is that online friends are so much easier to deal with than proper 3D ones who tend not to be palmed off with a 140 character message when they need you to help them move house, rewrite their CV, accompany them to a funeral or borrow your lawnmower.
Virtual friends don't tend to turn up when you've just settled down to watch The Walking Dead and then talk through the poignant bit where the mother has to shoot her daughter in the head because she's turned into a zom-bie. If their relationship hits the rocks, your duty is dispatched by sending a message saying 'Thinking of u x'.
Online chums, like imaginary crocodiles, don't expect you to hold their hair while they're sick after a massive bender.
In another recent study of Facebook, it was revealed that 84 per cent of women were annoyed by their Facebook friends, especially those who whine continually, constantly share their political viewpoints, post blow-by-blow accounts of their children's accomplishments or brag about their belongings.
I'm more concerned about the 16 per cent who aren't annoyed by whining, loud-mouthed, bragging dullards – by definition, they probably are the whining, loud-mouth, bragging dullards that everyone else hates and deserve to be bricked up in a windowless room with Climey and Vetchy.
PS In the likelihood that my real life and online friends are reading, let me assure you that I love you all equally. Apart from those of you that I like more than the others. Yes, that means you.
GIVE THEM ENOUGH ROPE
Staff working for Jobcentres* and other Department of Work and Pensions contractors have been given guidelines on how to deal with suicidal clients.
A new document includes a 'six point plan' for staff to follow which says: 'Some customers may say they intend to self-harm or kill themselves as a threat or a tactic to 'persuade', others will mean it. It is very hard to distinguish between the two.'
In order to check whether or not people are serious, staff are advised to offer them a length of rope – if they start making macram�, they're probably exaggerating, if they start fashioning a noose, it's time to take them seriously.
Not really. But it's almost as scary.
Presumably, the advice to Jobcentre staff comes before cuts to incapacity benefit and disability living allowance kick in which will mean that people who are already on the brink of despair will be catapalted into the abyss of total misery.
I'm surprised the advice the Government is offering doesn't involve the noose and the chair, because frankly, if the frail and sick just did the decent thing and topped themselves, there'd be more money to spend on important things, like wars and Papal visits.
The DWP said the new guidelines were not related to any recent policy changes and had been in development since 2009, adding: 'This guidance is about supporting our staff and ensuring we can help our customers.'
It's fair to say that if your bosses start sending you leaflets about coping with the suicidal, it's unlikely that you'll be skipping to work with a song in your heart.
It'd be much the same as if your manager distributed pamphlets advising you how to cope with a swarm of zombie killer bees and then, when you showed signs of alarm, pointed out that the pamphlet in question had been in development since 2009. Because that would make it all right.
* It really, really annoys me that Jobcentre is one word. If Jobcentre spelled its name like that on a CV, I wouldn't give it a job. I'd give it a dictionary.
CAN I HYPER-SIZE THAT?
I'd like to say, here and now, that I have never applied for a super-injunction – although if I had, I'd deny it, so you can take those pictures of me and Jeremy Clarkson off Twitter right now or I'll be after you faster than a rat up a drainpipe.
In the good old days, when I studied journalistic law and when the internet was something that other people did, all we had to worry about were old-fashioned injunctions, which were court orders aimed at stopping the media from making certain information public.
Now, injunctions are old hat. Like McDonalds' super-size option at the checkout, you can now apply for a super-injunction which is a gag order so powerful that it means the media can't even mention the fact that it's been is-sued.
The very existence of a super-injunction is only ever revealed when it's lifted or when it's mentioned in the House of Commons, where – as we are all too aware – normal laws that govern the rest of us rarely apply.
Last month, Liberal Democrat John Hemming revealed that former banker Sir Fred Goodwin had taken out a su-per-injunction to ban publication of personal information about him and questioned whether it could be being used to conceal failings at the bailed-out RBS bank. Quelle horreur – a super-rich banker trying to cover-up failings? Whatever next? A famous actor trying to conceal the fact that he spent an evening with a lady of the night and several accoutrements from Ann Summers?
What, however, do you do when a super-injunction just isn't enough? Super-injunctions are so early 2011 – what you need is a hyper-injunction, which is so top secret that it's a mind-crime to even think about its existence.
If you even let the concept of a hyper-injunction flit across your cerebral cortex for more than 20 seconds, your entire memory erases itself and all you're left with the villainous laughter of David Cameron ringing in your head.
On the plus side, all this talk of injunctions of varying strengths has encouraged the sisterhood to rise up in anger, albeit misdirected anger at the sisterhood rather than the jumped-up hypocrites with bank balances large enough to make the bad stories go bye-byes.
Baroness Deech, head of the Bar Standards Board, criticised the women who sell their stories to the media for the increasing use of the orders.
'I do blame women,' she said.
'In many of the cases of gagging orders we read about, women have sold their favours to celebrities and then have tried to make even more money out of the situation by offering to sell their 'kiss and tell' stories to the papers. I feel quite ashamed by these women's behaviour.'
Quite right, Baroness. Since when did sex workers become so lacking in morals? The world really is going to hell in a handcart.
(And on another note, who is going to compensate me for having unwelcome flashbacks the next time I watch INSERT NAME OF GENTLE ITV1 COSTUME DRAMA? I bet that nice NAME HIM AT YOUR LEGAL PERIL would never do THAT with a YOU KNOW WHAT up his REMOVED FOR LEGAL REASONS.)