Banter courses through our veins, swishes through our hearts. Our ventricles heave and pulse with banter. Every nerve, from the tips of our fingers to the base of our feet, is ensconced in bants. Hair follicles crackle with it. Banter excess streams from our noses and our ears. Cut me and I bleed banter. Drag me along raw concrete and I will drip with it. Slice an artery and I will squirt out banter like a hose. Listen closely to my chest and hear as my heart beats and murmurs "BENTEKKERS" like a rhythmic drum. We – we fine upstanding British citizens, Queen-lovers, Europe-dislikers, biscuit-dunkers, tea-opinion-havers – are made of banter, spun from it, forged in it. Arguably it is our greatest export. Banter is more precious to us than gold is, than platinum. Give a man some banter and he can eat for a day. Add him to a 'LADS ON TOUR // JONNO IS A SCROTE 2k16' WhatsApp group and he can feed himself for life.
Sadly, though, banter is now over, because of this. All of the piss has been taken. This man. This man took all the remaining piss. There is no piss left to take. Our piss reservoirs have run dry. This town will die without piss. But someone took it. Someone took it all. Don't bother looking in that well, Little Timmy. There's no piss down there. And without it, your family is doomed to die. Because Ben Innes from Leeds took all the piss, took it all for himself:
This is the high watermark of banter, and banter has only one way to go now, and that is down. There will never be a moment that is more banter than this. Consider the photo, of cheery hostage Ben Innes, thirty minutes into a six-hour ordeal yesterday when Seif Eldin Mustafa forced a plane to land in Cyprus and threatened to detonate (what turned out to be a fake) bomb belt if police didn't let him speak to his estranged Cypriot wife, the most 'yer da' terrorist incident of living memory, like literally that time yer da took over the announcement mic at big ASDA and shouted, "SHEILA I STILL LOVE YOU!" at your mum before security escorted him back to the Vauxhall he was living in at the time, only a hundredfold – but look at cheery Ben Innes, not a care in the world, casually destroying the very concept of banter with a rigid arms-by-his-side pose 'n' grin, Seif mentally a hundred billion miles away, a man who has never posed for a photo in his life, distantly thinking of his wife, and how she hates him, how long it will be until someone notices his bomb is just a few hand grips and a bit of a cheap bike lock stuffed into a money belt, about how shot he's going to get if he escapes this plane, how he didn't think it through, really, did he, how this method of estranged wife-impressing has literally never worked, ever.
I mean, just look at that. Just look at that image. Flawless in every single way. A snapshot of banter. Scientists with hundreds of millions of dollars and endless resources and time to play with could not synthesise even one-tenth of the banter visible in this photograph. Remember where you were when we all had this realisation: this moment will never be topped. You will never out-bant this. Banter is over. All there is now is emptiness.
A university friend described Ben to the Telegraph as being "very into his banter", which as potential post-terrorist attack eulogies go, is right up there with there very best. Here's what Ben has to say, when quizzed by The Sun on Tuesday, sweating through his Ralph Lauren still, slamming like a train into the Cypriot duty free: "I'm not sure why I did it, I just threw caution to the wind while trying to stay cheerful in the face of adversity. I figured if his bomb was real I'd nothing to lose anyway, so took a chance to get a closer look at it.
"I got one of the cabin crew to translate for me and asked him if I could do a selfie with him. He just shrugged OK so I stood by him and smiled for the camera while a stewardess did the snap. It has to be the best selfie ever."
Theory: Ben Innes describing a photograph that he literally just said was taken by someone else as a 'selfie' is actually some sort of next level meta-bant on the exact sort of person who gets mad when a non-selfie photograph is described as a 'selfie', Ben Innes actually some sort of high wizard of banter, Ben Innes bantering on different levels, on radio waves you can't even detect, Ben Innes a sort of noble banter master, bantering in front of you and behind you, bantering at a microscopic level as well as with simple Duplo blocks, Ben Innes is... hold on. Ben Innes. Banter. Seventy five percent of the letters in Ben Innes name are also in the word 'banter'. This is not a coincidence. We've been played.
I think what has happened here is, thanks to the serendipitous nature of the universe, is that Saif Eldin Mustafa came up against something more than he could have ever expected, a high priest of banter when all he wanted were pliant hostages, a hyperevolved banter monk who spends his days in sacred silence studiously reading WikiHow links about how to order off the Nando's secret menu, who plots the sun and the moon on a special chart to know exactly which day in March is acceptable to wear shorts and go topless out in the street, a sort of lad alpha, a man who steals traffic cones with the grace of David Copperfield, a man who knows every single paedophile-related football chant in the known universe, a man who can shout "wahey" so loudly mountains tumble down into valleys, can hold back an angry sea by waving a laminated '4' placard and flashing the dick-shaped suntan mark he has on his back. Ben Innes is the king of banter, and this photograph is his ascendant crown. Nobody needs to ever bother doing a banter again. We will never touch the Ralph Lauren-clad cloth of greatness. It is all downhill from here.
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