Anorak | Panic Stations

Panic Stations

by | 27th, February 2006

‘OLD sitcom writers never die, they just go and work at the Mail.

It was hard not to smile as the Mail used its front page on Monday to scream: “DON’T PANIC.” It was dear old Lance-Corporal Jones, the hysteric from Dad’s Army.

Jones knew that bird flu was on our doorsteps, pecking at the silver lids on our British pintas. He was manically running about the place telling us to remain calm.

Problem was “We’re all doomed”. “Bird flu at our door,” said the Mail’s Private Frazer. “Hotlines swamped. But Minister says: We’re prepared. (Now isn’t that what they said about foot-and-mouth?”)

The minister making the news was John Reid, the defence secretary. He noted that two dead birds had been taken away for tests in northern France. And he had heard that scientists were investigating the deaths of swans found in Suffolk, Hampshire, Yorkshire and Lancashire. Fowl play had not been ruled out (the Mail, we should be working together, call me).

Crikey! Things were looking grim. Perhaps it would have been best just to leave the country. Permission to speak, sirs and madams, we asked. Would you mind if we were excused? We had to see a man about a birddog.

Only, there was no escape. Facts were facts. Even disgraced, discredited and jailed historian David Irving would be hard pressed to argue with the truth that birds killed by avian flu had been found on the Continent.

(Although if Irving did say there was bird flu close by, chances are only loons, the Iranian regime, die-hard Nazis and idiots would believe him.)

Bird flu did not need Irving. What bird flu needed was a celebrity face.

MRSA had Lesley Ash. Breast cancer had Kylie Minogue. Even lowly acne had Cameron Diaz. I could have gone on. But at no point would we have encountered the celebrity face of avian flu. Until last Wednesday.

All hail Oprah Winfrey. Speaking in the National Enquirer, the maven of the talk shows was telling her people “It’s going to happen”. Bird flu will sweep across the US.

“I feel hopeless,” said Oprah. “If that virus mutates into a contagious human flu, no one on the planet will be safe.” Not Oprah. Not Paula Abdul. Not even Dr Phil.

Oprah called for her Government to prepare for the worst. She said that when it came to being vaccinated against the disease “I’m getting mine now”.

Which was some news as the Mail said in its bird flu “Q&A”, no true human vaccine existed. Perhaps Oprah plans to inoculate herself with Nobilis, the only vaccine that’s approved for use on poultry?

Whatever she wants, Oprah will have to bone up on avian flu if she is to become its celebrity spokesperson.

Meanwhile the birds were busing being, well, birds. And on Thursday we read the joyous news that Kyala and Oscar Penguin had given birth to Toga II, the sibling of Toga I, the stolen bird

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Posted: 27th, February 2006 | In: Broadsheets Comment | Follow the Comments on our RSS feed: RSS 2.0 | TrackBack | Permalink