Despite being the hardest of hard-core carnivores, even I have limits — and they are usually delimited by two red arches in an M shape. For what is served up in McDonald’s bears only the loosest resemblance to meat, being ground, pounded, boiled and with every last vestige of taste removed from it. On the whole, I would rather go down on Linda McCartney.
So why have I consumed, over the past two weeks, ten Happy Meals (TM)? The answer is Teeny Beanies (TM), an answer which will be obvious to anyone who has been visited Ronald’s Evil Empire (TM) recently. These are, needless to say, not for me, they’re for a friend’s daughter, who collects such things, but it has now become something of a personal crusade. Ahab had Moby Dick; Sir Galahad, the Holy Grail — and I am questing for a small monkey filled with plastic pellets, which looks as if it’s been on the losing end of an encounter with a ten-ton truck.
It’s surprising how easily you overcome embarrassment. The first time, you go in and whisper “Happy Meal (TM), please” surreptitiously, almost as if you were engaging in a purchase of crack cocaine. It’s then you discover the nightmare of choice, for neophytes like myself are blissfully unaware that there is actually no such thing as a Happy Meal (TM). There is a Hamburger Happy Meal (TM), a Cheeseburger Happy Meal (TM) and the Chicken McNugget (TM) Happy Meal (TM). Just asking for an indeterminate article will blow your carefully constructed attempt to make it sound as if you do this every day.
However, after the fifth or sixth lunch, you don’t care any more — not even the multicoloured box in the shape of a doll’s house fazes you any more, and you abandon the need to explain precisely why a thirty-something bank employee is purchasing a product aimed at very small children. However, the further you get in, another problem starts to raise its ugly head, eventually looming over your entire lunch-hour like something removed from ‘Fantasia’ on the orders of Walt Disney’s psychologist — you start to get duplicates.
Again, this is largely a question of overcoming your self-consciousness: you either demand a specific Teeny Beanie (TM) when ordering, or march back to the counter, and hurl your unwanted toy at the poor server, with a shriek of “I’ve *got* this one.” It’s helpful that, on any given day, there are three of the twelve Teenie Beanie (TM) on offer. I’ve now got to the stage where I’ll establish before ordering which they are, and if I’ve got them, I just turn round and head off for a more nutritious and tasty lunch — such as the inside of a toilet roll. Fortunately for my digestive tract, this has been happening more and more often as my collection approaches totality.
Because, not all Teeny Beanies are created equal. One lunchtime, I traipsed round the City of London, from Aldgate to Cannon Street, and Liverpool Street to Tower Hill, only to find every branch offering the same trio, led by a mutant aberration, allegedly a koala. The faint resemblance to what I know of this species would suggest that Australia has been enduring hitherto unsurpassed levels of radiation over the past couple of millenia. After hitting the fourth branch without success, I began to hate this ill-conceived montrosity fervently. Its grinning, squashed face became a symbol of evil, corporate capitalism at its most pernicious, and was deeply in favour of introducing every gum tree in the Antipodes to the delights of Agent Orange. I think such psychotic episodes are perhaps due to something in the Chicken McNuggets (TM).
At the moment, I possess nine of the twelve: I am lacking a penguin, monkey and something that’s perhaps a dog, except there already is a dog: Doby the Dobermann [Raised eyebrows there, but the makers don’t limit themselves to the traditional subjects of soft toys: lobster and worm are also in the set, though I don’t see pigs, cows, chickens or anything else which is found on McDonalds’ menu.] Three to go, and it’s really a question of whether my immune system collapses first. If there are no more updates to the site, you know why…