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A Man of Few Words - by Swan Morrison


Reginald Bland was a man of routine and habit. He rose at 6.00 AM, breakfasted on two Weetabix with milk, arrived at work at precisely 8.30 AM, had mackerel sandwiches for lunch, arrived home at precisely 5.30 PM, dined from a weekly menu, read his newspaper and finally retired at exactly 10.15 PM.

This Monday was, however, different. He had overheard a conversation on the previous Friday in which it was suggested that he was rather boring. He though about this at some length and consequently decided that he should ‘live a little’. He had purchased a new shirt on Saturday which incorporated coloured strips in contrast to his usual white. On his weekly trip to the supermarket on Saturday afternoon, he placed chicken kievs in his basket for dinner on Monday, in variance to his habitual fish fingers.

Monday had passed uneventfully with a few complementary comments on his change of sartorial pace. He had just swallowed his final mouthful of kiev, however, when the doorbell rang. Two men from the Ministry of Lifestyle showed their identification and were invited in by a puzzled Reginald.

The elder spoke. ‘We gather, Mr Bland, that you wore a coloured shirt to work today and that you may have had chicken kievs for dinner?’

‘Yes. Why do you ask?’

‘That isn’t permitted for someone who’s listed.’


‘You represent a very pure example of your type. You’re a ‘Grade One Listed Person’. You mustn’t change your behaviour without proper agreement from the Ministry.’

This came as a surprise to Reginald, but he reverted to a white shirt on the following day and planned sausages for dinner. He did, however, covertly sport his final purchase from the previous weekend - Union Jack boxer shorts.

As he stepped from his bus at 8.23 AM, he was grabbed by three men, bundled into a car and driven at speed through the London streets. They halted inside a building that he recognised as being at the rear of the Natural History Museum.

He was escorted through a corridor between barred cells. One contained a man with a black and white striped vest, beret and moustache sitting dolefully beside a bicycle and strings of onions. Another was occupied by a man in a pinstriped suit with a bowler hat and umbrella. Finally he was sat down in a small room.

One of his captors spoke. ‘It’s unfortunate you ignored the advice you were given last night.’

‘What did I do?’

‘The boxer shorts.’

‘Oh....Because I’m listed?’

‘It’s more than that. You’re also a ‘Type Specimen’. You’re the standard against which other boring, lonely, balding, overweight, middle-class losers are judged. We’d much prefer that you continued to live in your natural habitat, but if you make one more unauthorised change then we’ll have to store you here in the cell block of the Natural History Museum.’

Next morning, in white shirt and Y-fronts, Reginald resignedly resumed his previous lifestyle. He thought wistfully of what might have been, but was cheered by the thought of his piece of haddock for dinner.