In praise of the part-work pushers and has Kelvin lost his marbles?

I WAS gearing up for my annual pop at part-work opportunists DeAgostini when some nosy parkers at pressure group Consumer Focus, which appears to be one of those quangos that were supposed to have long been abolished, went and blabbed to the nationals.

The subject of their annoyance, and mine, was this autumn's blockbuster part-work 'Sovereign of the Seas', a weekly magazine with cover-mounted bits and bobs which would allow you to build a “stunning model of the most powerful warship of the 17th century”. Stunning, in that it would take you two years and seven months to collect the whole set at a total cost of £804.65. A similar model, built by experts, is apparently available in the shops for a more modest £300.

What baffles me about these publications is how they cater for the churn, the number of buyers who are going to drop out each week because they're either skint, bored, have wised up to the quite-legal scam, or whose dog has eaten the mainsail rigging. It must be phenomenal. And, given that, how do they manage their print runs?

I know that here at the Evening Beast, we used to spend hours and hours of serious brainwork and many hundreds of thousands of pounds just to try to make sure that Mr Patel by the bus station had exactly one copy of our newspaper left on his counter when he decided to shut up shop. And the number of copies we sent him each day would reflect that complicated calculation. (Now they just bung them in the back of a Smiths' van from whence they're scattered, seemingly randomly, certainly carelessly, in the vague direction of possible outlets.)

But managing the production of a magazine which increases its price from £1.99 to £5.99 in a week, and must suffer diminishing interest on the same dramatic scale, takes some doing. I suppose we should tip our cap to the clever people who make it work.

Still, if you're some sad bastard living in a damp bedsit who's given up on marine engineering, there are still exciting part-works out there for you to spend your Giro on. (Do they still have Giros? I expect I'll find out soon.) What about that seminal work 'Classic Pocket Watches', which promises you the chance to collect actual watches every month, perfectly described as being “timeless … experience the craftsmanship of a bygone era”. Published by Hachette, it's only £1.99 for the first issue with subsequent ones costing £8.99. Oh, and there are 80 of them. That's £712.20 please.

Or if you're looking for a bargain, what about 'Victorian Dolls Houses', first issue just 99p “with a free dresser”, followed by another 69 issues at £6.99. So after getting on for six years, you'll have your own little plywood palace for the princely sum of £483.30. Mind you, by then you'll probably have had to take a mortgage out to afford it.

HAS KELVIN completely lost his marbles? I've ruined many a middle class dinner party by defending him in the past, but even I'm baffled this time around. Asking the South Yorkshire Police for an apology? There's more chance of seeing a chief sub smile.

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