Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Doing Brazilians for free

IT APPEARS that I have been living under a misapprehension all these years.

I did not fail my knots badge in the Cubs. Neither did I fail my Chemistry O-level (despite getting only two per cent). And I certainly didn’t fail my driving test the first time around. I was merely a victim of “deferred success”.

At least that is the theory of retired teacher Liz Beattie, who has tabled a motion for the annual conference of the Professional Association of Teachers arguing that the concept of "failure" should be removed from the British education system and be replaced with "deferred success".

It really does beggar belief. They’ve made exams so easy that you can pass despite getting four out of five questions wrong, even thickies get a guaranteed place at one of Mr Blah’s new “universities”, they’ve banned school sports because of “elitism” and now they’re trying to do away with the very idea that some people might be smarter than others.

You can’t fool kids like this. They learn from the very first day in the playground that life is all about winners and losers. The winners, even at the age of five, are bigger and cleverer than the norm. The losers are the ginger kids who smell a bit funny and wear Woolworths plastic sandals in summer and wellies in winter. It is life as we know it.

And what purpose can possibly be served by creating an artificial society where no-one fails? All you then do is generate false expectations amongst the rabble. There will always be dole scum, just as there will always be brave and bright individuals. Taking away any sense of personal responsibility for one’s achievement (or lack of it) merely panders to the notion that nothing is ever anyone’s fault.

“I’m thick because the teachers never liked me.” “I’m pregnant because I missed the sex education lesson.” “I can’t get a job because I’d have to get a bus to work.” The mind boggles.

THE CAPITAL comes to a standstill as sirens blare and cars speed through the streets. It’s a fleet of ambulance-chasing human rights lawyers heading for Stockwell tube station.

“It’s a shoot-to-kill policy”, the lentil-eating, leather-elbowed Guardianistas cry, evoking memories of Gibraltar and Belfast. Well I sincerely hope it is. What do they want? A shoot-to-sting-a-bit policy?

I am thoroughly sick of the liberal furore surrounding the unfortunate death of Jean Charles de Menezes. It is said that he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. Correct. He shouldn’t have even been in the country in the first place, and wouldn’t have been if Mr Blah hadn’t surrendered control of our borders to the point where over half a million illegal immigrants have flooded into the country.

(And isn’t it odd that during the general election campaign, Mr Blah claimed to have no idea how many illegal immigrants were here. Three months later and the Home Office appears to have known all along.)

We are told that Jean Charles de Menezes was working as an electrician and sending money back to his family in Brazil. We are not told whether or not he was paying tax and National Insurance contributions, nor if he was qualified in any way. At a time when Mr Prescott will have you arrested for changing a light bulb without a Man from the Council standing over you, this seems a little unfair.

Let’s just look at the simple facts. Mr de Menezes who, it has to be conceded was of “foreign” appearance, walked out of a block of flats that was under surveillance by security forces after being linked directly to the attempted bombings of last Thursday. Despite the tropical temperatures, he was wearing a large padded jacket.

He was then followed via a bus journey to Stockwell tube station where he was challenged by armed plainclothes police. At which point he vaulted the barriers and ran off. Why he did this, we don’t know. He is said to have spoken good English and can hardly have been unaware of the current state of tension in London. It wasn’t the best of decisions.

Now put yourself in the place of the armed police tracking him. The suspected suicide bomber you are following (for that’s what he was at that stage) runs off and dives onto a tube train. What do you do? You shoot him, of course. Lots of times. Sufficient to ensure that he can’t detonate any explosives he may be carrying.

What was the alternative? Allow him time to obliterate himself, the police and any nearby passengers? Send for Dixon of Dock Green and give him a bit of a talking to? There was no choice and the poor bloke who pulled the trigger (and will now, no doubt, be crucified for this public service) did exactly the right thing.

Incidentally, is it only me who feels queasy when Mr de Menezes’ family fly in and start complaining about the standards of British police and demanding a few million quid in compensation? Stockwell isn’t San Paulo, and as far as I know, the Met have yet to start shooting homeless children dead just to keep the streets tidy.

A bit of bible for you: "Judge not, that ye be not judged … and why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own?”

SPEAKING OF deferred success, and with the B Team of bombers in mind, what happens to a warrior of Islam whose bomb fails to go off and has to run away? Does he still get his full quota of 72 virgins? Or does he just get the one: a whiny, needy self-obsessed teenager who keeps saying that she’ll only do it if he promises to respect her in the morning?

And what about the would-be martyrs who cocked it up on Thursday? Do they have to slink back to the Mosque, red-faced and sheepish, facing a stint of Bingo-calling at the Friday night social as punishment? (We won’t even mention the meat raffle.)

I have a solution to this outbreak of commuter fear. Why not just make all swarthy-looking people travel in their own carriage? A reinforced metal one. I know it sounds harsh, but at least it would set a lot of minds at rest.

IT WILL not surprise you to learn that Mrs Beelzebub, an unreconstructed Leftie, is somewhat at odds with my opinion of the terrorist threat and the police reaction to it. In fact, she’s spent so long ranting at the telly – and me - this week that she eventually stormed off to the attic with the new Harry Potter and a tin of chocolate digestives.

(I think it might have been the comment that she could save money on her beauty treatments by popping down to the local police station where they’re doing Brazilians for free that pushed her over the edge.)

I knew I’d upset her, but I didn’t realize quite how much. This morning I wandered downstairs to find chalked on the kitchen noticeboard the chilling words: “Ron Weasley dies ha ha ha”. Bitch.

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone surprised that the fugitive bombers were all living on State benefits or of anyone surprised that the fugitive bombers had all been on a publicly-funded white water rafting jolly. We now have a public service announcement: Attention all policemen reading this. Please note, I am not wearing a suspiciously large jacket. This is all me. Thank you.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

It's Be-Nice-To-Muslims week

THERE HAVE been many casualties since NuLabour’s urbanites declared war on the countryside.

The poor unfortunates who find themselves living next to a field of feral gypsies; the villagers who have lost their pub, post office and school; all those whose livelihoods are threatened by bans on country sports; the young and old alike left stranded and isolated by the extinction of public transport links; the small farmers starved into submission by supermarket buyers who think every carrot should be a standard size; the vulnerable and frightened who have been abandoned by a retreating police force; oh, and hang on, here comes John Prescott and his cement mixer, ready to concrete over thousands of acres of previously-protected green space for “affordable” housing. (And “affordable” for who? Why, the government employees of Mr Blah’s Turkey Army, of course.)

Now even the Countryside Agency, the government quango set up to look after rural issues, has turned against the people it is supposed to represent. The reason? Well, it appears that ethnic minorities, city dwellers and the disabled don’t feel “welcome” once they venture out of their urban jungles into the leafy lanes beyond.

As part of a £1.5 million “diversity review” (no, I don’t know what it means either), the agency has concluded that minority groups are keen to enjoy the countryside, but that “a lack of confidence among providers in approaching people from these groups results in a lack of engagement with people who could use their facilities” (and no, I don’t know what that means either).

I suspect that the apparatchiks have been offended by the fact that the brochure for Mrs Miggins’ Olde Fashioned Offal and Chutney Pie Experience (one of our local attractions) doesn’t have any black faces on its cover. Or that very few wheelchair-users ride out with the local hunt. Or that we failed to invite an Islington-dwelling representative of the social services to last year’s Ferret Racing and Witch Ducking Festival.

And don’t forget, it’s not so long ago that a group of ramblers who provided guided walks in the Lake District were threatened with having their funding withdrawn for much the same reason. (Although I can’t imagine that bearded Muslims carrying rucsacks are in great demand at the moment.) And what about the lifeboat service denied Lottery funding because they didn’t save enough disabled people or “ethnics”? What are they supposed to do? Bring back the Press Gang?

“I don’t know what happened, officer. I was having a quiet pint in the Blagger on Benefit when I was hit over the head. When I came to, I was strapped into my wheelchair and floating in the middle of the English Channel …”

The truth of the matter is that the countryside isn’t a particularly welcoming place. It is a working environment, and often a harsh one. Nature raw in tooth and claw. Strangers are sometimes viewed with suspicion, usually because they’ve come to steal a tractor.

When the writers of The League of Gentlemen invented that fearsome “local shop for local people” they weren’t exaggerating: they were playing it down. And if you do embrace the concept of shopping locally to support local business, and then summon up the courage to cross the forbidding threshold, all you’ll find is stale cakes, dusty packets of Bisto and a couple of bottles of Icelandic chardonnay at £9.99 a time.

Sometimes it’s just easier to jump in the 4x4 and go to Tesco. At least the checkout girl won’t have six fingers and a squint. Well, not usually, anyway.

IN THE wake of the London bombings, grief junkies from around the world have been rushing to post pictures of themselves in various states of defiance on a website called's fine as far as it goes, but what about the people who are afraid? Who's looking after the interests of those who have no intention of ever setting foot on public transport again? Or ever going anywhere near London again?With these timid souls in mind, I am about to launch a site called where nervous commuters can post pictures of themselves looking a bit worried, rather timid, or simply scared shitless.It's only fair.

I SUPPOSE that you, like me, have spent the last week being nice to Muslims. It must be a bit unsettling for the poor buggers – dozens of middle-class white people grinning inanely at them instead of completely ignoring them as usual.

But you do feel the need to make some effort, if only to mentally project the message that “It’s OK, we understand that you’re not all fanatical suicide bombers … although actually that bloke over there does look a bit iffy”.

One of the most alarming facts to come to light this week was how easy it seems to assemble a bomb from basic household items like hydrogen peroxide and acetone. Although I would have hoped that the alarm bells might have rung when a bearded Muslim turned up in Boots buying hair bleach and nail varnish remover. And if I was MI5, I’d be popping round to see Barry Scott, star of the Cillit Bang television ads, sharpish.

And all these police raids on Islamic bookshops. If Al Quaeda are that smart, why don’t they open Christian bookshops instead? That would fool the cops. They could even buy Ottakers. That already sounds a bit Arabic.

Just a thought.

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone who knew we had a Minister for Bees before he appeared on Radio 4 on Monday morning, of anyone who doesn’t know who dies at the end of the latest Harry Potter book, or of anyone who doesn’t think that the Big Brother tryst between the besotted Craig and not-gay-honestly Anthony will end in tears. Probably during a screaming match in the Bigg Market at 2am on a Saturday night before Craig flees back to his hotel and eats 50 paracetomals.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Why I want to kill matey Mike, the loan shark

I AM SOMEWHAT aggrieved that neither ITN nor the BBC have been round to Beelzebub Mansions to interview me regarding my narrow escape from last Thursday’s dreadful terrorist attack in London.

True, I was 120 miles away at the time – groveling at the feet of an Inland Revenue tax inspector – and was therefore nowhere near the scene of the attacks. But that hasn’t stopped them interviewing myriad other people whose connection with the appalling events was tenuous to say the least.

You know the sort of thing: “Well I usually catch the 07.32 to Paddington, but that morning the dog had been sick in my handbag so I was late and when I got to Edgware Road station Mr Patel had run out of Guardians so I had to buy an Independent and then I spilt my double decaf fair trade Guatamalan frappacino which added another three minutes to my journey and normally when I get downstairs to the platform I always wait just where the doors on the second carriage will stop but this time I was scared by an errant pigeon so I turned right and got into the fourth carriage instead. So I was very, very lucky. Plus I was at home throwing a sickie anyway, but it could have been me …”

ITN managed to hit a new low on Tuesday lunchtime, interviewing one of their own girly reporters about the “trauma” she suffered on having to report on the incident in the first place. That’s what you’re there for, love. Nasty things happen, you then go out and tell us about them. You are not the story: the facts are the story. It’s enough to make Kate Adie spin in her grave.

Incidentally, much has been made of the forbearance of Londoners in the wake of the bombings. Blitz analogies abound. “If we stay at home, the terrorists have won,” was the message. So where were they all on Friday?

Faced with getting out of bed and struggling into work on a disrupted transport system, or sun-bathing in the garden with a pint of jellied eels, a party can of Watney’s Red Barrel and a copy of the Daily Star, they displayed that famous fighting spirit by … err … staying at home. Marvellous stuff.

AS WELL as being the natural environment of dole scum, fat women, alcoholics and ex-Blue Peter presenters, daytime television is also home to some of the most irritating adverts on Planet Earth.

I suppose a 30-second advert in between an item on how wearing slippers can give you cancer and someone plugging a book about the drug-fuelled depravity of Kenny Ball’s Jazzmen is now so cheap that any fool can afford a slot, but that’s no excuse for the endless repetition.

My favourite hate-ad at the moment features a cuddly-looking cheery chappy talking on the phone to his mate Mike about football while his equally perky wife, for reasons I cannot fathom, follows him around the house with a video camera. But wait … it turns out that Mike isn’t actually a mate at all, but is a telesales drone from a loan company.

“How much do we want to borrow?” says the cheery chappy. “£25,000 … and how much will that cost me? Wow … that’s less than we pay now!”

What the grinning idiot doesn’t seem to understand is that his “friend” Mike has just turned him over big time and that £25,000 will eventually end up costing him and his perky wife a massive £42,147 in repayments and interest.

One can only hope that his “mate” has the decency to bail him out when the bailiffs come kicking the door down.

WALKING THROUGH town on Saturday afternoon I am accosted by a very nice elderly lady who is collecting on behalf of the Alzheimer’s Society.“But I gave you a fiver just ten minutes ago,” I tell her, as she waves her collecting tin at me.Fear, panic and confusion flash through her eyes as I walk away, whistling. I know it’s wrong, but sometimes you just have to do it.

THINK BACK to when you last sat an exam. What was the pass mark you were expected to get?

Seventy-five per cent? Fifty-five per cent? Both sound reasonable enough. But no more. For 14-year-olds taking a national curriculum maths exam this month can get a pass mark even if they get three-quarters of the questions wrong. Yep, that’s right. Marks of a measly 22.5 per cent are now deemed good enough for a pass in the subject.

Meanwhile pupils who get top grades in their GCSE exams are proving to be so poor at English and maths that they have to be tested again by prospective employers. Many can’t write a simple letter or do a simple sum, and some firms are even testing teenagers to make sure they know the alphabet and are therefore able to do mundane tasks like filing.

Now we’re not talking about thickies here. We’re talking about kids who have got A grades. And Mr Blah still denies standards are slipping. Edukashun, edukashun, edukashun, eh Tone?

NANNY STATE update: There’s been an outbreak of killer hanging baskets in the Somerset village of Norton Fitzwarren. The landlord of the Ring of Bells, who decorates his pub with dozens of baskets every year, has been found guilty of infringing the minimum height restriction of 8.2 feet, therefore endangering the passing public.

It matters not that the Ring of Bells display has won Prettiest Village Pub on four occasions, or that tourists flock to see the floral display. The rules is the rules.

Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t know many people who are eight feet six inches tall. That bloke who plays Darth Vader, perhaps, or maybe the odd stilt-walker. So unless Norton Fitzwarren plays host to the annual Tallest People in Britain contest or gets visited by a circus on a weekly basis, it seems unlikely that anyone is going to get lashed by a lobelia or interfered with by an ivy.

Still, the health and safety Nazis at Somerset County Council will be polishing their clipboards with pride. Another victory for small-mindedness and red tape.

A LAST word on Live8, which has now disappeared from the radar thanks to the Olympic bid and the terrible events in London.

One of the most irritating images of the whole extravaganza was Sir Bob Geldof snapping his fingers every three seconds to signify the loss of another African child’s life.

It occurred to me that if someone was to take a lump hammer to Sir Bob’s digits, so rendering them unclickable, hundreds of children could be saved at a stroke. Simple, isn’t it.

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone who doesn’t think that we should have British Bulldog and fox-hunting as Olympic sports, of anyone who hasn’t given up caring whether or not Shelly ever again comes down the bloody stairs at the Rover’s Return, or of anyone who hasn’t been voting to get the personality-bypassed oxygen thief who is Vanessa out of the Big Brother House.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

£200 million is a lot of fecking goats

HOORAH! WE’VE got the 2012 Olympics!

Take that, you rifle-dropping, cheese-eating, surrender monkeys. Take that, you donkey-chucking, bull-stabbing, siesta merchants.

Right. I can calm down now. And no doubt the true nature of this NuLabour victory will be expressed in more restrained terms. We didn’t in fact beat Paris and Madrid. We actually beat the Red and Blue cities.

And now the worry sets in. Let’s face it, we don’t actually have much of a track record of successfully staging major events and enormous building projects where London is concerned. The 1966 World Cup was spread around the country and relied on the icon of Wembley for the capital’s involvement. The 1996 European Championship was another brilliant nationwide affair while the 2002 Commonwealth Games was a purely Mancunian extravaganza.

As far as the Southerners are concerned, they’ve cocked up the Millennium Dome and that wonky bridge across the Thames. And have you travelled on a train in London lately? Those Indian chappies who cling to the roof of the Delhi to Calcutta express look more comfortable. And have you tried driving to the East End? By the time you’ve dodged the muggers, rapists, gangsters and Pearly Kings and Queens doing Knees Up Mother Brown in the middle of the road, you’re rapidly losing the will to live.

Still, it’s pie and mash all round. Let’s enjoy the moment. And hope that the Del Boys can get it right over the next seven years.

SATURDAY, EH? What a day!

Thousands of happy people gambolling on the grass in London, some brilliant performances, a few old-timers showing that they’ve still got what it takes, and all beamed into the drawing room of Beelzebub Mansions where I was lazing in front of the 48-inch plasma telly with a bucket of cold beer and a box of pickled onion-flavoured Monster Munch.

Yes, I really enjoyed the one-day cricket final against Australia.

Forgive me for being a wet blanket, but the idea of trekking all the way down to that London just to stand in a field with 200,000 sweaty airheads, Lefties and hippies while millionaire pop stars preached twaddle at me from a stage that was a mere dot on the horizon held all the appeal of a double shift in a vegetarian sausage factory.

If I’d wanted to enter into the spirit of the occasion, I’d have parked a portable telly in the Lower Meadow, retreated the half a mile to the herb garden and stood there all day clasping a plastic bottle of warm water and refusing to flush any of the toilets in the house while my man Whittaker jumped up and down in front of me waving a flag that read “Aimee luvs Dildo, Maxwell 2 go”.

(For the benefit of older readers, I should point out that the banner refers to a particularly whiney female singer and a popular current television series.)

Even more baffling were those people who queued up all night to get tickets to stand in an area of Hyde Park where they couldn’t even see the stage but got to watch the whole nonsense on a big telly. What is the point of that? How much did their transport to London and hotel rooms cost? How many boxes of anti-malarial drugs would that pay for? How many fecking goats would that buy?

And I’m still puzzled as to why the damn thing had to happen at all. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought that the swivel-eyed loon and his G8 chums had revised their aid to Africa budget several weeks ago, and had substantially increased it. Is that just so they can pretend that they’ve listened to the mob? (And did Monsieur Chirac arrive at Gleneagles with a Tupperware container of horse and pickle sandwiches under his arm, given his views on British food?)

And is there really any point in gifting yet more billions in cash to corrupt dictators who’ll fritter it away on fighter jets, limousines for the latest mistress or gold-plated George Foreman low-fat grills? Even the Nigerian government admits that its country’s past rulers have stolen or misused over £220 billion in aid since independence in 1960 – the equivalent of every penny we’ve sent to Africa in the past 40 years. Under those circumstances, why should African poverty still be the white man’s burden?

And don’t get me started on global warming, which appears to be the other issue agitating the assorted soap-dodgers who smashed up the Burger King restaurant in Stirling and their pop star advocates. In the past year I have been to see both Coldplay and REM in concert (groovy, eh?). On both occasions, the audience was assailed by trendy propaganda about protecting our planet, yet a cursory glance at their tour schedules shows that these prophets of doom happily fly around the globe in their private jets, belching out enough poisonous emissions to poison a thousand fecking goats.

So was this whole, hypocritical, self-reverential ego-fest more to do with record sales and restoring reputations than actually achieving anything real? It should be noted that virtually every single act that appeared on Saturday saw their record sales soar on Monday. There wasn’t a Pink Floyd CD to be had in the country by lunchtime. Even the foghorn-voiced Annie Lennox was knocking out a Greatest Hits album.

Now a few weeks ago I had a pop at Sir Bob and Sir Elton and Sir Bono and Sir Sting for not putting their own hands in their reinforced pockets when it came to providing relief for Africa. I may have pointed out that they could probably buy most of it between them and then sub-let it to the Welsh. So thank you to those artistes who have already committed to donating their extra royalties to charity.

OF COURSE, it’s easy to sneer, and on that point I yield to one of the nation’s master practitioners, Mr Mark Steyn of Her Majesty’s Daily Telegraph. Writing on Tuesday he points out that when Linda McCartney died of cancer, her lawyers fought tooth and nail to have her estate probated in New York, rather than London.

The reason for this is that the family thus avoided the 40 per cent inheritance tax on the estate, and copped for the best part of £150 million. As Mr Steyn points out, the original Live Aid concert in 1985 raised around £50 million for Africa. If the McCartney family had paid inheritance tax on dear Linda’s dough, the amount of cash going into government coffers - and then possibly onto Africa as aid - would have dwarfed that.

So yes, it’s easy to sneer.

AND I’LL sneer further at another target of recent weeks - Sir Bob’s preposterous announcement that an armada of small ships would set sail for France and bring back thousands of protesters who would then be ferried by coach up to Edinburgh to annoy the local populace with their inbred rudeness and horse and pickle sandwiches (and given the obduracy of the natives, that would take some doing).

In the end Sail8, as it was imaginatively named, sank as fast as a Spanish frigate off Cadiz. Only five yachts made the crossing and when they got to Normandy could find no-one waiting (or even willing) to travel back with them – not even an asylum seeker. Sir Bob, who was due to meet the “flotilla” on its return, duly found something better to do and legged it. And who can blame him.

AND HERE’S another thing. If Live8 was intended to “raise awareness” and influence the outcome of the G8 summit, why didn’t they just pick an easier target?

One man is easier to influence than eight, right? Yet in Rome there is one man who could, at a stroke, help alleviate the AIDS epidemic that is decimating Africa.

Perhaps Sir Bob should next turn his attention to getting Pope Benedict XVI to endorse the use of condoms. It would make a damn site more difference than having a pathetic crack addict shamble around Sir Elton’s piano.

IT CANNOT be ignored that while reams of every newspaper and hour upon hour of our public sector television broadcaster were given over to Live8, and the desire to give more money to Africa, a small space rocket was approaching its destination 83 million miles from Earth.

Its task? To fire a missile at a passing comet. Just to see what happened, like. The cost of this pointless exercise? Say £200 million. Or an awful lot of fecking goats.

I suppose we should be thankful that, given that it was an American project, they managed to hit the right comet, and didn’t blow up one of ours instead.

I SUSPECT that the availability of reliable supply of water is a major priority in alleviating Africa poverty. It certainly is in Sussex, where the manicured lawns of suburbia have been hit by the first hosepipe ban of the year.

So well done then to artist Mark McGowan, who has turned on a tap for a year at an art gallery in London, and intends to let it run for a year, so wasting 15 million litres of water. (And how many fecking goats would that keep going?)

"Basically it's an art piece for people to come and look at and enjoy aesthetically," he said. "It is also a comment on a social and environment issue.”

I know not if Mr McGowan, whose previous “masterpieces” include pushing a peanut around London with his nose, has received a Lottery grant for this latest project. But I wouldn’t be surprised.

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, of anyone not surprised that Lulu’s sudden health crisis (“I must get my cholesterol down to 4-something”) coincides with an advertising contract for low-cholesterol drinks, of anyone who hasn’t yet voted to remove the odious Maxwell from the Big Brother House, or of anyone who fell the TV advert and bought a packet of Toastbags. They don’t work, trust me. You’ll spend the next week fiddling around with a fork trying to get cheese, mustard, horse and pickle out of the bottom of your toaster.