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Sorely Missed: A ho-ho lowdown of the not so dearly departed of 2011

The Grim ReaperIt’s that time of year when all the media start looking back to those we’ve lost over the past 12 months. Xmas time is a period for nostalgia but even that’s not what it used to be.

Anyway, I thought that it was time I entered into the fray to highlight some of the people you probably don’t even know — or what they are famous for (or aren’t). You probably didn’t even realise they existed but that’s fine because they didn’t.

Mervyn Hurley (1921-2011)

Mervyn’s great claim to fame was that he thought up the idea of taking perfectly good cheese and sticking weird stuff in it.

Building on the work of predecessors like Auther Dietzsch and Leonardo Conti, his first experiments were with prunes and kiwi fruit but somehow the combinations did not go down well with focus groups. Years of trials followed until he fell upon the humble dried apricot, which is otherwise universally shunned by all right thinking people. Even so, the prototype using processed Cheddar had teething problems: the Cheddar didn’t taste of well, anything and the sharp, cloying flavour of the apricots was just … damn!

Looking for a stronger cheese taste, Mervyn tried Stilton, but its blue veins coupled with the knobbly orange apricots made the whole thing resemble a tramp’s feet. In blindfold taste tests, reaction was favourable but when the blindfolds came off most of the test participants felt nauseous at the sight of what they were eating. The meticulous Hurley of course kept notes of the resulting “heave-ho” to see if he could use them for future compounds (see: ready meals). Then, when a consignment of Stilton arrived at the test plant in which the characteristic mould had been left out for health reasons, leaving a sickly-looking, creamy white waxy substance, a test batch was fortuitously put together by the plant’s only colour-blind technician.The resulting fruit-impregnated concoction proved a hit.

The success of White Stilton with Apricot led Mervyn to try many other amalgams (with mixed success) including, Wensleydale with Cranberries, Caerphilly with Leek, Norwegian Jarlsberg with Dingleberries and Dairylea with Plywood. Mervyn died in July, after a wine and cheese party, from the effects of cholesterol poisoning and cirrhosis, but his legacy lives on. Look out for such thrilling taste combinations as Emmental and Banana, Brie and Snickers Bar, Monterey Jack with Wasabi and and Stinking Bishop, Tuna and Linseed, coming to a retail outlet near you in 2012.

Julie Bowman (1953-2011)

Anyone who has ever enjoyed the opening short film on every DVD which begins with the immortal words: “You wouldn’t steal a car …” has Julie Bowman to thank. It was back in 2004 when Julie, after a night out with the girls, forgot to tick the box on the programming set-up which enables users to skip across unwanted content, meaning that forever after anyone attempting to save four precious minutes of their life from having to watch the same paranoid, overexcited exhortations to people who had already eschewed the temptation of illegally copying a DVD, would be greeted with the legend “action not permitted”.

Julie never corrected her mistake on subsequent recordings fearing that someone would connect her “oversight” with the pile of vomit in the new photocopier, and it then became an industry standard because everyone thought it must have been done for a good reason in the first place. Julie passed away in February after being hunted down by a frenzied gang of film lovers and beaten to death with a VHS video cassette.

Ali Rhuperand 1949-2011

Rhuperand, the son of a humble chapati flour seller from Lahore, came to the UK in the 60s to work as a tube driver and quickly worked his way up to street sweeper, but it was his invention of the tiny pot of salad that you get in every Indian meal (but that nobody eats) which is his claim to fame. Rhuperand, longing to get back to agrarian roots in Pakistan, got himself a council allotment in Dalston Garden Suburb and quickly became expert in the techniques of growing lettuce, onion and tomatoes in the fertile soil made bounteous by the rotting victims of a series of revenge killings by East End gangster twins George and Gerald Skank.

However, the resulting glut of production led him to offer his surplus to his brother-in-law, Vash Govinda, a local restaurant owner and Freemason. Torn by family loyalty and owing Rhuperand money, Govinda finally agreed to aportion out the salad in small partially-used spittoon cups which Rhuperand found in the back of a London Transport bus garage where they had been overbought in bulk for the 1949 London Olympics. Govinda quickly found the spittoon salads were popular, mainly because people threw out the salad and used the container for its original purpose.

Like many other  traditional giveaways, including prawn crackers at Chinese restaurants, no-one can now remember why it’s a good idea but, hey, it’s free. Rhuperand died in October, in his sleep, shooting through a gap in the central reservation arnco on the M6 just out side Cannock.

His Excellency Lionel George Ndobe, President for Life of the Republic of Kharsi (1935-1997 and 1953-2011)

Ndobe, dubbed the “Butcher of Kharsi”, rose from obscurity as a seller of pork and beef in downtown Kharsi City, to become the leader of the most oppressive regime west of Tunbridge Wells and parts of Gillingham. Although it now seems he gained most of his power over his supporters who misread his “Butcher of Kharsi” title to be more metaphorical than it actually was, Ndobe did have a reputation as a cruel dictator who would think nothing of passing the port to the right or taking seven items through the six items or less queue.

When he was toppled in August in a wave of popular unrest taking its cue from the Arab revolts to the north, raids on his prisons by jubilant supporters found there to be no prisoners at all. Ironically, Ndobe’s defiant crowd-pleasing taunts to Western powers from the late 90s, and his effective propaganda shield which gave the impression of a tyrant of the likes of Muamar Ghaddafi or Idi Amin, hid the fact that he was born Norman Smith in Sunningdale, south of London, who had been employed to teach the real Ndobe’s son ballroom dancing, and who found himself put up as a business-as-usual stand-in by power-hungry ministers after the real Ndobe died in a freak bidet accident.

Psychologists now believe an early life living in Sunningdale and reading the Daily Express made it easy to slip into the role of an intolerant, bigotted, martinet. Smith’s poor disguise, mainly in using stage makeup left from the Royal Shakespeare Company’s touring production of Othello in 1959 to mark the small sub-Saharan nation’s independence from Britain, was never rumbled by media watchers, possibly because no-one ever paid the non-oil producing nation any attention. Ndobe/Smith died when he was ripped to shreds by a crowd of irate port drinkers who had nothing decent to go with their Stinking Bishop and coffee bean cheese.

Gertrude Sphincowicz (???-2011)

When Gertrude died in February she was the world’s oldest woman. But after she died she wasn’t. Her real age at time of death is still under debate, but it is known that she was younger than Sir Bruce Forsyth’s wig. Tree ring data has provisionally indicated she was 173 and three quarters.

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