In a town not far from here lived a man named Benjamin. It is quite possible that some of you might have encountered him. For a time he was well known in the local district, and beyond. You see, Benjamin had a problem. He simply could not stop himself expressing an opinion on absolutely every topic. Not that he ever made much effort to try.
Benjamin ran a clothes shop. Travelling salesmen who knew him hated having to call with him. They knew he would bombard them with his views on the quality and range of samples they had on offer. According to Benjamin, these were of such inferior quality that he seriously doubted whether any of his customers would buy them. And, of course, he informed his long-suffering customers that these same items were ridiculously under-priced.
“ I’m robbing myself. ” he would say to folk who only wanted to purchase a pair of socks, and leave his shop as quickly as possible. With Benjamin present, this was rarely possible. Regular customers learned to peep into his shop before venturing inside. If they found another customer impaled on Benjamin’s tongue, they would dart in, snatch the item they wanted from its shelf, whack its price onto the counter, and retreat back to the pavement without catching Benjamin’s eye.
In a futile attempt to silence Benjamin, townspeople elected him to the Council. They soon realised their mistake. Benjamin found himself in his element. Now he had a public forum in which to express his views. And, better still, the local newspaper was always ready to broadcast these opinions to its readers. His fame spread rapidly. Commentators from far and wide started to seek the views of a man with an opinion on absolutely every topic. There was no subject upon which Benjamin would not wax forth eloquently, and at length. Chat show hosts quickly realised that he was “ a natural ”, and regularly invited him to be one of their guests. Parky became a close friend, and Richard and Judy often stopped by his shop on their way home from the studio. He was even invited to appear on Celebrity Big Brother. Benjamin declined : he already was a celebrity, after all.
Of course, as is the way of the world, with fame came criticism. Some people wrote to Radio Times complaining that Benjamin appeared too often on television. Others accused him of being too right wing, while some considered his views too left wing. Benjamin sailed serenely through these storms. Completely satisfied that each opinion he expressed was the only one possible, he remained blissfully unconcerned about what others thought.
Gradually, Benjamin’s few friends noticed a change in him. Slowly, almost imperceptibly, he was growing fatter. At first they assumed this was an inevitable consequence of the wining and dining accompanying his new fame. Some tried to warn him of the danger, to his health, of too much over-indulgence. Benjamin would have none of it, waving all concerns aside with the assurance that he knew what he was doing. Soon everyone could see that Benjamin was swelling. Where once he had been described as “ sturdy ” or “ big-boned ”, now he was being called “ obese ”. Nor did it stop there. Over the next few months Benjamin grew more and more rotund, until he could hardly walk. Still, he refused to acknowledge he had a problem until one day, on his way to appear on Parkinson, Benjamin overheard Billy Connolly jokingly describe him as “ a well-dressed balloon ”.
This stopped him dead in his tracks. Unwilling to concede, publicly, that he might have been wrong, Benjamin sidled along to the Harley Street clinic of a well-known doctor he had met on Richard and Judy. This suave individual examined him gravely, probing well-manicured fingers into Benjamin’s expansive pinkness. “ It’ll have to be liposuction. ” he murmured solemnly " That's the only way to get rid of of much excess weight. " Cringing at the thought of the pain and cost involved, Benjamin reluctantly agreed.
The rubber-gloved doctor was initially unable to puncture Benjamin’s skin with his wicked looking syringe. “ You must have thick skin. ” he joked. Benjamin, squirming with pain, was not amused. After much teeth-gritted effort, the syringe’s point eventually vanished into Benjamin. A tense moment’s silence followed. Without warning, there was a great “ whoosh ”. Wrenched from the doctor's hand, the syringe re-emerged, flew across the room, and shattered noisily against the Treatment Room wall. At the same time, the bewildered doctor was hurled from his chair onto the well-carpeted floor. For the next two minutes, it seemed that the room was being pounded by a strong wind. During that time Benjamin, wailing with fear, steadily regained his former shape. Retrieving what dignity he could, the dishevelled doctor dusted off his Saville Row suit, and exclaimed : “ You’ve been full of hot air ! ”