Column November 3, 2010: Would you like friars with that?

THE news that the Government has banned the import of printer cartridges, following the discovery of explosive devices within a couple of them on cargo plane, is going to devastate office workers. How else are they going to leave passive-aggressive notes complaining about the state of the lavatories/fridge?

It’s no good saying they could hand-write messages on Post-It notes. That would not be satisfactory. For nothing adequately expresses semi-official whingeing like a crisp laser-printed note set in friendly Comic Sans and Sellotaped neatly to the wall.

Also, handwriting is not always legible and there would be a danger of cups going unwashed or, worse, cubs being washed in an inadvertent, if actionable, misunderstanding. This cannot stand.

It is time for the monks to step forward. They haven’t had much to do since Gutenberg messed up their revenue stream with his printing press. The Devil makes work for idle hands, and they’ve been reduced to making incredibly powerful liqueurs and fortified wines for drunks in Scotland and Burnley.

They used to be a powerful force in society. They ran the first paid ferry service across the Mersey until Henry VIII put a stop to their monk quay business.

But in recent years, being a monk has been very unfashionable. Balding men used to be happy to walk around with a tonsure, that ring doughnut of monkish hair. Now they adopt the “negative combover” and shave their entire heads to make it look as if their baldness were a fashion choice.

I do not judge them. But I saw a young man wearing a cap yesterday, with tell-tale stubble growing at the sides of his head. And he was shivering. “If only he had the courage to have a tonsure,” I thought, “his head would be toasty warm.”

So I suggest, when the toner runs out, that offices employ their own monks. Imagine how much authority a note reading “Whoever has taken the pineapple chunks, please return them ASAP” (which I recently found on a fridge in work) would carry if inscribed by a monk in blackletter, with an illuminated “W”, replete with angels and pineapple chunks rendered in goldleaf.

Imagine those water cooler moments enhanced by a monk.

OFFICE WORKER 1: Did you see Masterchef last night?

OFFICE WORKER 2: Yes, what was that about, leeks in ash and bits of twig?

OFFICE WORKER 1: No, you’re thinking of Cheryl Cole. What did you reckon, Brother Francis?

BROTHER FRANCIS: I did not see it. I was in my cell in prayerful contemplation of the wonders of Creation.


BROTHER FRANCIS: I Sky Plus-sed it, obviously.

But if monks are the answer to an al-Qaida-inspired toner shortage, what would we use in the event of a Bin Laden cyber attack? That would be monks again, in this case reverting to the internet of medieval times.

In those days, monks would stand at the top of hills shouting “Zero! One! One! Zero,” while a second monk would take note of these binary codes and convert them into characters which he would inscribe into a book. This monk was known as the browser monk, or Friar Fox.

Downloading a movie took ages. The browser monk would have to draw the scene described by the shouting monks in the corner of a book, and when, years later, the ‘movie’ was finished, he would flick through the pages, effecting a rudimentary animation.

I have thought this through and it will definitely work.

All this would make becoming a monk cool. The monasteries would be buzzing, apart from the silent orders which would continue to be silent.

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