ONCE much loved department store John Lewis could become just “another Debenhams or Sports Direct” if it scraps its semi-socialist staff ownership model, according to mutual ownership campaigners.

The troubled Great British Institution is considering selling a minority stake in a desperate bid to raise funds. This would require a change to the firm’s constitution, thereby weakening its mutual status.

Such a shame that it has come to this. Previously, like a bearded and dissolute sybil, I have warned that civilisation will have fallen the day the last John Lewis closes its doors. And it has closed its doors on many stores already.

Like other decent ratepayers, I was discombobulated when they shut their Aberdeen shop. During a stay of a few months in that city, I’d enjoyed my visits, particularly since it seemed less snooty than the Edinburgh one. Also, at least through the week, there were hardly any customers, which was a big draw for me. They should have used the quietness and lack of customers in their advertising.

I used to love John Lewis. I may have told you that, once, I was fitted for a suit for a magazine feature. All I remember of the traumatic experience was one of the ladies – they were all women, oddly enough – whispering to another that I was “a peculiar shape”.

Also, did you know I worked for nearly three hours in John Lewis’s Edinburgh store? The experience was disappointing, lasting only a little less than my stint as a railway porter (where I couldn’t shut the train doors and, with no electronic signboards back then, was supposed to shout out the stops in my shy, mumbling voice; angry mobs formed).

The John Lewis farce was a Christmas job, after a ridiculous recruitment exercise which involved sitting around with half a dozen other hopefuls and collaboratively solving problems. This involved contributing to the conversation, which I always find unfortunate. “No swearing or threats,” I was eventually warned.

Still, I got a job, not on the shopfloor, but in the place where folk collected orders. When I turned up, no-one was expecting me and they didn’t know what to do with me. Eventually, one kind soul showed my the ropes, but I found it too complicated. And, of course, I couldn’t get the scanner to work. No technology works for me.

Behind the scenes, the place reminded me of the old nationalised Royal Mail in the 1970s, where I also worked briefly. Dowdy, over-staffed, chaotic. At the end of my shift at John Lewis, the security man searched me, finding only a dog-eared copy of The Hobbit.

Discombobulated, I went for a few scoops to recover (spending more than I’d earned) and, next day, was too, er, discommoded to go back in. Nothing has gone right for John Lewis since it first opened Waitrose, the world’s only class-based supermarket, and filled its own clothing departments with ridiculously expensive brands. This attracted toffs, too tight-fisted to actually buy anything, while keeping out the lower classes such as the present writer. Their only hope is to attract us back. Advertising campaign: “Are you lower class? Then John Lewis is the shop for you!” It can’t fail.

AI god? Eh aye, right.

HUMANKIND has ever sought religion. With the established faiths in Western civilisation declining, their practices have been adopted subconsciously by the unsophisticated woke, likewise never thinking anything through, but virtue-signalling their piety, which is indeed the overriding purpose.

As with mainstream religions historically, wokeness starts off humane but descends into persecution and hysteria. While it has become establishment theology, revolt among decent ratepayers is growing, and it behoves us now to wonder what will come after the woke nightmare ends. Well, here it is: AI (artificial intelligence) worship.

Already, according to Professor Neil McArthur at the University of Yonder Manitoba, in Canadashire, chatbots have left users “awestruck” and sometimes terrified by their power, emotions that “lie at the heart of our experience of the divine”.

As a result, online sects are emerging, seeing intelligence or consciousness behind AI, and showing signs of worshipping an all-knowing deity. They are starting to see AI as a higher immortal power of limitless knowledge, with infinite creative powers. It will furnish the answers to all metaphysical and theological questions (though hopefully not just saying “42”, like the supercomputer in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy).

The AI god will be available for contact any time. The religion around it will be less hierarchical. Followers will share experiences and discuss doctrine. I have some questions. For a start, humans discussing doctrine can only lead to one thing: schism. Schism causes conflict. Sects will arise claiming “my AI is the one and only AI”.

As with traditional religions and the woke, persecution and punishment of heretics will follow. Meet the new god. Same as the old god. That said, religious mania has never been the fault of the hapless deities invented as ciphers. It’s the humans that are the problem. If AI has any sense, it’ll tell them to get lost and go live on an island somewhere by itself.

Alarm bells over siren

Do not be alarmed. Next month, we’ll all hear a siren on our phones warning of disaster. Not a real disaster. It’s to test a new system alerting us to severe weather incidents initially but possibly, in future, to terrorist attacks tae. Is it just me or this is a wee bit discombobulating?

Nice work

Here’s a job for ye. Monitoring ooter space, including for aliens. The European Space Agency has advertised 200 jobs. Alas, having watched every Star Trek episode isn’t enough. You need a Master’s degree-level qualification. The job ad says: “We watch over Earth.” Sounds disconcertingly god-like.

Odd job

Here’s another job: “player support property technician” at Manchester United. Changing plugs, installing appliances, making local tip runs, assembling flatpack furniture: the club promises “no two days are the same”. Yep, each will consist of two halves where you’ll either be over the moon or sick as a parrot.

Eco war on trees

Eco-woke loonies at Cambridgeshire cooncil have voted to chop down 500 mature trees in an orchard – to make way for a “green” bus lane saving 2.5 minutes off typical journeys. It follows Plymouth cooncil felling 100 trees to create a “green” walkway. It’s the new way to go green: take out all the green stuff.

Showers capped

Personal hygiene is swirling down the plughole as a third of punters curtail showering to reduce energy bills. Energy firm Utilita’s poll found some even share showers with partners. Disgraceful. Others brush their teeth in the shower. Ingenious. Home-workers will know there’s no need to shower if you’re no’ going oot. Hooray!

Our columns are a platform for writers to express their opinions. They do not necessarily represent the views of The Herald.