Friday, 26 November 2010

Poetic justice?

Who says God doesn't have a sense of humour?  In fact the BBC needs to stop looking for a replacement for Jason Manford on The One Show - they should just rope in Yahweh. Not only is he a comedy genius, he probably won't get caught wanking at people on Skype.

Yesterday, the big guy showed his true colours with an astonishingly perfect piece of comic timing. Just as millions of American turkeys were having their body cavities stuffed full of bread and seasoning, he decided to call home the man who has been terrorising the avian species for almost sixty years.

It was Thanksgiving, which meant that one turkey got the official pardon from President Obama. Meanwhile, over in Norfolk, Britain's most prolific turkey murderer wasn't quite so lucky. The irony couldn't be more delicious if it was rolled in a crispy crumb batter and deep friend until golden brown.

Bernard Matthews was a national institution, responsible for switching the entire nation onto it's new third favourite white meat. In the process he transformed agribusiness, invented the concept of the cheap mid-week roast and proved that it was possible to spearhead an advertising campaign with no media training whatsoever.

Several generations grew up watching him celebrate his 'bootiful' birds on TV, torturing those vowels the same way he did his feathered friends. And who didn't enjoy a delicious roll of turkey meat on a Wednesday evening, marvelling at how half a pound of salt could make even the most bland and flavourless meat seem delicious?

Bernard's contribution to British life can't be underestimated. His company currently employs over 2,000 people in an area which, lets be honest, probably doesn't boast an abundance of career opportunities. And his success enabled him to transform many of the outdated processes involved in large-scale farming.

Tributes have already been paid to the patron saint of poultry farmers, with the CEO of his company stating "He is the man who effectively put turkey on the plates of everyday working families and in so doing became one of the largest employers in rural East Anglia and a major supporter of the local farming community."

Not everyone's sad to see him go though. Andrew Tyrer, of Animal Aid, turned out in his best grave-dancing shoes to say: "Bernard Matthews has left an appalling and brutal legacy of turning turkeys into denatured units of production … It is time to abandon everything he stood for."
And given his long-running campaign to have the Turkey Twizzler (Hmm, maybe kids would enjoy turkey meat if it was stuffed full of MSG and shaped to look like a pig's tail?), I don't suppose Jamie Oliver will be sending flowers to Great Witchingham.

It's just unfortunate that, for all his innovation and industriousness, Bernard is now likely to remembered as the punchline to a joke about the day the turkeys got their revenge. Then again, he always did enjoy a good roast.

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