Friday, May 26, 2006

Cry God for Barry, England and St George!

I THINK it’s the constant lying that gets to me most. Almost since Day One of this government, the policy has been to deceive and dissemble. Hence the good days to hide bad news and the spin-doctoring of Alistair Campbell and his henchmen.

It’s almost as if we’re considered too stupid to know the truth; as if we can’t be trusted to arrive at a rational judgment by ourselves. And it’s not just Whitehall that’s institutionally untruthful. The culture of deception has spread like a fish rotting from the head.

Earlier this week I had the misfortune to hear on the car radio a local government dogsbody squirming with embarrassment while trying to explain why taxi drivers in Cheltenham had been banned from flying St George’s Crosses from their cars during the forthcoming World Cup.

“It’s against regulations because it’s advertising,” was his first attempt at justification. Advertising? Displaying marketing information for a monetary reward? I think not.

“And it’s a safety issue,” was the snivelling jobsworth’s second effort. Safety? Try telling The Queen that the flag on her motor is likely to have someone’s eye out.

“Oh, and people might not recognise vehicles as a licensed taxis if they’re covered in flags.” Pathetic. Even the drunks of Cheltenham (and having been there during Gold Cup week I can assure you that they’re plentiful) aren’t stupid enough to confuse a battered Datsun driven by an illegal asylum seeker with a large black cab with a yellow sign on its roof, just because there’s a little flag dangling from the back window.

The truth of the matter is that there was no practical reason to ban flags from taxis. It was done in pursuit of a hidden ideological agenda which has at its heart the belief that patriotism is dirty and flying a flag is racist. You won’t find this written down anywhere, but you will find it accepted as received wisdom by the kind of clipboard-wielding, Guardian-reading, lentil-eating tosspot in a shiny suit who arbitrarily took the decision.

The Cross of St George, once the banner of the far right, has been largely rehabilitated by football fans in recent years. What the PC brigade don’t understand is that every time they stigmatise its use, they drive it back into the hands of the racists.

I tell you, it made me so angry that I drove straight home through the torrential rain and defiantly flushed the toilet. Twice.

GIVEN THE above, I don’t suppose we should be surprised that the government’s on-line list of English icons – allegedly voted for by the public – reveals some odd omissions.

The original 12 icons might have included the Spitfire, the Routemaster double-decker bus, the hymn Jerusalem and A Nice Cup of Tea, but somehow the SS Empire Windrush snuck in there as well.

Now as someone who grew up alongside the children of the West Indian immigrants who arrived on that ship in the 1950s, I eagerly recognise its important contribution to our culture. But do I really believe that the Great British Public voted for it? No, I don’t.

I suspect an element of politically-motivated vote-rigging, something to which the NuLabour apparatchiks are no strangers.

We then turn to the second list; another 21 English icons. Here we find the miniskirt, Blackpool Tower, cricket, HMS Victory and (cue gnashing of vegetarian teeth) the flag of St George.

But wait – what’s this? The Notting Hill Carnival gets a mention, and Brick Lane in East London. Now I don’t know about you, but all Brick Lane means to me is a collection of curry houses and the venue for some nasty demos a few decades ago.

I don’t know where it is, have never been there, and couldn’t locate it on a map. So do we really believe that more people across the country voted for Brick Lane than voted for … wait for it … fox hunting? Yes, fox hunting. It might be immortalised on pub table mats from Clacton to Carlisle, but the Thought Police would have us believe that all those country votes (and there was a mischievous campaign of support) amounted to fewer than those for an anonymous street in East London.

Pull the other one, Tony.

INEVITABLY, WE arrive at the Blahs, and their unerring ability to put their foot into any unoccupied receptacle.

Once again, it’s Cherie who’s stepped into the breach, for some reason deciding that autographing a copy of the Hutton Report, which was later to be auctioned off in aid of NuLabour funds, was a good idea.

What was she thinking of? The Hutton Report, already regarded as a whitewash by many, was an investigation into how Dr David Kelly, a government weapons expert, came to take his own life amid a torrent of lies and bullying. To turn such a sensitive document into nothing more than a cheap bingo card in this fashion simply beggars belief. (And if it went for £400 the first time around, just wait until it turns up on Ebay.)

As one columnist noted this week, we never thought we’d yearn for the return of Edward Heath – a Prime Minister unencumbered by troublesome wives or children. Even if he was a sausage jockey.

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 remotely surprised that an immigration worker has been charged with possessing explosives, of anyone remotely surprised that the immigration official accused of selling passports for sex is himself an illegal, or of anyone remotely surprised that Shahbaz, Big Brother’s self-confessed “Paki poof”, has never managed to hold a job down in his 37 long years on this earth. As someone commented last week: “I wouldn’t say he’s emotional but he makes Judy Garland look like the Duke of Wellington.”

Friday, May 19, 2006

Of course, he bought her a plane for Christmas ...

STOP THE presses! Hold the front page! Summon the messengers with cleft sticks! A Big Plane has landed in London.

I can’t see what all the fuss is about. It’s just a Big Plane. It doesn’t fly at supersonic speeds, it doesn’t go underwater, it can’t take off and land vertically: it’s just a Big Plane.

We expected more than this by the year 2006. Readers of the legendary Look and Learn children’s magazine of the Sixties will, like me, be asking themselves where it all went wrong. Where is the promised time travel? Where are the public teleports? Where are the personal jet packs and the flying cars? Where are the “meals in a pill”? (And no, Pot Noodles don’t count.)

Instead of finding ourselves living in a bright, shiny and safer version of Blade Runner, we’re stranded in a backwater of Basingstoke.

Think about it. All those scientists who made the 20th Century the most progressive and inventive era in the history of this planet suddenly ground mysteriously to a halt. Instead of coming up with rocket-powered shoes or electric pyjamas, their greatest achievement so far this year is beans on toast in a bag that you’re supposed to put in the toaster – surely a triumph of hope over experience.

So what happened? I blame the Internet. Once the boffins had set up this network as a means of exchanging information, it quickly became clear that there were all sorts of other applications for an electronic community. Before long the test tubes and the Bunsen burners had been abandoned in favour of downloading pornography, betting on football matches and buying second-hand vintage Grateful Dead T-shirts.

And if they did tear themselves away from their keyboards for five minutes, it was just to clone the odd sheep. So progress has ground to a juddering halt.

Which brings us back to the Big Plane. We are told that the “typical” configuration is seats for 555 passengers. We are shown tantalising drawings of on-board casinos, shops and bars. But we know the truth, don’t we?

Those fancy facilities will never materialise on those airlines with which most of us can afford to fly. There’ll be extra seats crammed in instead and we’ll be spending two hours getting on, two hours getting off and another eternity waiting for our luggage alongside 800 other poor souls.

Call that progress? Blame the boffin who’s just lost half his government grant playing Internet poker.

NEVER MIND wondering how the Home Office manages to employ illegal immigrants as cleaners. Never mind worrying about Ruth Kelly coming round to build a tower block at the bottom of your garden. Never mind asking how that chipolata-trousered buffoon called Prescott has still got a job – or at least a salary.

No, the really important question of the year has just been answered: where was Gene Pitney when he was only 24 hours from Tulsa?

Thanks to a typically smart-arsed letter to The Guardian, we can establish that if Mr Pitney spent eight hours in his motel room (although not necessarily sleeping) he was around 16 driving hours from home. If we assume that he would have averaged 60 mph (the 55mph limit not being introduced until the Seventies’ oil crisis) that puts him some 950 miles from Tulsa.

Obviously, the permutations are many. But one compelling fact convinces me that the mystery has been solved. Smack on that 950-mile circumference is the border town of El Paso in Texas. This place has previous.

Remember the Marty Robbins’ song about the town, wherein a young cowboy bewitched by a beautiful Mexican girl in Rose’s cantina kills a love rival before being fatally shot himself? Could it be that Mr Pitney fell for the self-same charms of the whirling Felina?

No wonder he could never, ever go home again, the dirty dog.

I DON’T understand why there’s such a big debate over Mr Blah’s sudden realisation that nuclear power stations are the only way to fuel this country in the future. It’s probably the most sensible thing he’s said since 1997.

Consider this: to provide the same power as one nuclear plant it would require 2,400 wind turbines the size of the London Eye. I’ve got one of those daft windmills near me and all it does is generate enough energy to turn the light on in my fridge when I go for a fresh beer.

So all we need to do now is make sure that we build the new generation of nuclear power stations somewhere sensible. Scotland, or the Isle of Man, springs to mind.

I TRUST Lady Heather McCartney will forgive the media intrusion if I proffer my sympathies on behalf of the industry that never failed to show up whenever she wanted to publicise one of her seemingly endless, self-aggrandising charitable causes. I also apologise on behalf of the TV crew that followed her and her unfortunate husband into the Arctic wastes to film them bothering baby seals.

“Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” Clearly not. But at least after Sir Paul’s stumped up a fair portion of his fortune, he’ll be spared that irritating odd-sock-in-the-washing-machine situation.

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 any fans who really expected the Da Vinci Code film to be as good as the book, of anyone who thinks Arsenal's nutcase German goalkeeper shouldn't have been sent off, or of anyone who doesn't feel a little bit sorry for that sad old trout who claims to be a porn star on Big Brother. Or the frying pan-faced plain girl who wants to be a footballer's wife. Or the gay "sexual terrorist". What's one of those then? A suicide bummer?

Friday, May 12, 2006

Ian Fleming nicked his family name, you know ...

FOR SOME people it’s the sight of the first swallow. For others it’s the first swallow of lager in a pub garden. But the arrival of summer is clearly cause for celebration.

For me, the trigger point was 11.41am on Thursday morning. I was stuck in a sweltering traffic jam on the M42 on my way to a family funeral, so wasn’t in the best of moods. And then a gentleman called Henry Blofeld picked up a microphone in a commentary box at Lords and suddenly all was well with the world.

There is something wonderfully reassuring about Test Match Special on the wireless, especially when it’s one of the old guard at the mike and passing buses and pigeons loitering on the square become as noteworthy as a decent cover drive.

It is also reassuring that the sport seems to be in rude health, with near sell-out crowds for the first three days against Sri Lanka who, to be honest, aren’t exactly a top drawer attraction. Just the right time then for the masters of ineptitude who run the game to conspire to remove it from terrestrial television and sell it to Sky for a few pieces of silver.

We should be used to the incompetence of our sports administrators by now. Rugby Union regularly kicks off the season without knowing what the rules are regarding relegation and has a wonderful play-off system whereby the team that finishes fourth can end up being crowned champions. The Football Association have just appointed a new manager who they swear was their first choice for the job. The slight problem is that in trying to convince the media that this was indeed the case, they inadvertently revealed that he was in fact third choice, behind Arsene Wenger and Big Phil Scolari.

But cricket’s latest blunder is a classic cock up. With millions of kids still buzzing off the Boy’s Own exploits of our Ashes-winning team, and with the future of the sport threatened by the sale of school playing fields and health and safety rules that insist on full body armour and a foam ball, what better way to promote interest in the game than to remove it to a subscription-only service. Brilliant.

to avoid commenting on the antics of Mr Prescott, mainly because everyone else was having such a good time ripping this so-called working class hero to shreds. And never can a politician have suffered crueller treatment than The Sun’s decision to illustrate a fact-free whimsy about what else the round-heeled Tracey Temple might have said in her diaries with a picture of a chipolata.

Funnily enough, I step forward to speak for the defence – well, to a point. There has been much feigned outrage about the Deputy Prime Minister’s habit of seeking sexual satisfaction while on the job, so to speak. The idea that the taxpayer was funding his clumsy gropes via his grace and favour homes and his government cars seems to annoy some commentators more than the original offence of committing the kind of blatant sexual harassment that would have any other boss instantly sacked.

Well what was he supposed to do? Take the slack-knickered trollop home to Hull and say: “Budge up, Pauline, there’s three of us in this bed”? Of course he was going to use his free houses to fumble with the hired help. Where else was he supposed to go? Hampstead Heath? Clapham Common? A picnic area just off the M4 near Bath?

And another thing. The received wisdom – backed, it must be said, by plenty of hard evidence – is that John Prescott is thick. Well consider this: he lives like a Lord on a massive salary and expenses package; he has the use of a grace and favour flat in Admiralty Arch and a fine country house called Dorneywood; he is helicoptered and chauffered around this country and abroad on a whim; when he finally falls on his sword, he’ll have the consolation of a gilt-edged pension plan that will allow him to live out his days in extravagant comfort; and, in return for this lavish remuneration, he now has to do absolutely no work at all.

So who’s thick now?

STILL AMONGST the lower classes, we must mourn the imminent departure from these shores of the manufacture of HP Sauce. The Birmingham factory is to be shut and production moved to Holland.

When I was young it was regarded a sign of sophistication to have a bottle of brown sauce on the dinner table alongside the open milk bottle and the plate of white sliced bread and marge. It was only when you moved on to antimacassar ownership, a further step up the social scale, that it was banished to the cupboard.

As ever with these things, the stench of hypocrisy lingers along with the scent of vinegar and malt blended with fruit and spices. Only last month the makers of HP Sauce launched a campaign to save Britain’s greasy spoon cafes, under threat from the influx of £5-a-pop coffee houses. Surprisingly, that national altruism doesn’t seem to apply when shareholders’ interests come into play and “out-saucing” means cost savings.

And anyway, what do the Dutch know about sauce. They put mayonnaise on their chips.

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's ever met a three-year-old racist, of anyone remotely surprised that Gordon Brown has decided to support England in the World Cup, or of anyone shocked that Sir Alan Sugar went for the blonde apprentice, rather than the carpet-muncher with a face like a bulldog chewing a wasp.

Monday, May 08, 2006

Why the Blessed Margaret is to blame for absolutely everything

IT IS entirely appropriate that on the 80th anniversary of the General Strike, we should remind ourselves that Class Warfare is alive and well and living in Farringdon Road, London EC1.

That, of course, is the headquarters of The Guardian, nominally the spiritual home of the nation’s leather-elbowed, lentil-eating, Liberal tendency, but also the hiding place of a dangerous cell of hardline, bile-spewing, Marxist nutters (none of whom seems hardline enough to turn down the generous salaries on offer there).

Now it’s long been known that The Guardian plans to hold a celebratory ball to mark the occasion of the sad but inevitable death of Lady Thatcher. Lefties from all over the country will flock to London to sip organic turnip juice and dandelion wine before traipsing off across town to dance on the poor woman’s grave.

Such bitterness is impressive, and goes a long way towards explaining how they manage to find a way to blame the Blessed Margaret for every calamity from the Asian tsunami to the cancellation last Tuesday of the 08.32 from Penge West to Purley.

The dear lady’s latest crime against humanity – if you believe the hate-mongers – is to have cost England any chance of winning next month’s World Cup in Germany. How can this be, you ask? Has she been called in to advise on tactics? Surely she hasn’t been distracting the tumescent Sven from his duties?

No, according to the Trots with Typewriters, Lady Thatcher is to blame for our imminent embarrassment because, while Secretary of State for Education way back in 1970, she ended the daily supply of free milk to secondary school pupils.

This apparently led in turn to generations of children suffering from calcium deficiency and a gradual weakening of the bones, finally reaching its natural conclusion on a football pitch in London at just after 2pm on Saturday, April 29, 2006, when Wayne Rooney suffered multiple fractures to his right metatarsal.

So there you have it: 36 years of festering and they’re still laying disaster at her door. Sheer, bloody-minded genius.

IT HAS to be said that if the boy Wayne had been wearing proper football boots, rather than the skimpy slippers currently fashionable, we might still be on course for a repeat of 1966.

My first boots were the kind you see Sir Stanley Matthews wearing in black and white newsreels – round-toed, leather-studded, ankle-high, and made out of leather from very old cows with very thick skins. You had to treat them with liberal applications of a mysterious potion called “dubbin” before you could even get them on.

But they were a necessary evil when one had to deal with the leather medicine ball known as “the casey”, an often immoveable object when you’re five years old and it’s raining.

(My last pair of boots, abandoned with the rest of my kit after a disastrous Sunday League outing against a 17-year-old winger 10 years ago, reside in a sports bag at the back of the garage. I’m genuinely frightened to open it having seen the Quatermass Experiment as a child.)

OUR CHANCES of World Cup success in 2010 don’t seem any brighter either now that the Powers That Be have finally got round to banning children from playing football in the street.

Police in Blackpool - a town with rampant binge-drinking, twice the national average of violent crime and a high incidence of sexual assaults – have sent letters to residents in the South Shore area warning that street football is an offence under the 1980 Highways Act and that offenders are liable to prosecution and a £50 fine.

As well as seeming a little heavy-handed, the police action has infuriated parents who would prefer their children to be playing outside in the street where they can keep an eye on them, rather than having them cooped up in a darkened bedroom attacking imaginary prostitutes with chain saws in the latest video game.

(And remind me, isn’t the government spending millions on tackling the appalling rate of child obesity?)

When I were a lad, we played football in the street from dawn until dusk, with a goal painted on the gable end of the last house in the terrace. Now I admit that the constant, repetitive thudding of ball against brick might have proved irritating for the resident of the house but the council, obviously recognising its obligations to our national sport, seemed to have a policy of housing deaf old ladies in gable end houses to minimise complaints. They used to come and take them away in an ambulance eventually, so no harm done.

If we stop kids from playing football where and when they want, we’re killing off the development of skills that earlier generations so valued. The Battle of Waterloo might have been won on the playing fields of Eton, but the 1966 World Cup was won on the cobbled streets of Northern cities. Just ask Nobby Stiles.

I AM confused about the supposed difficulty of tracking down all these dangerous foreign criminals that the government has kindly released onto our streets. It can’t be that hard.

Surely all PC Plod has to do is stake out the nation’s benefits offices, where every single one of the fugitives will turn up for their regular State handout before long?

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 can't wait for Big Brother to start on Thursday, of anyone who really believes that cheese strings are made out of cheese, or of anyone complaining that this nonsense was posted late again this week. When you pay, you can moan. Until then, button it.

Monday, May 01, 2006

When "charidee" begins at home

THE SUNDAY morning routine at Beelzebub Mansions is sacrosanct. While I pop off to get the papers (and isn’t the Sunday Sport coming on these days), Mrs B conjures up a plate of kedgeree and a glass of port ready for my return.

Then it’s off to the study with a pot of coffee in time for The Archers Omnibus, and the latest dose of abject misery from Alistair and Shula. Except for last week, when the routine was rudely shattered.

Now I’ve got used to having to amend my listening times on Remembrance Sunday. It’s only fit and proper that Ambridge activities should take second place to the ceremony at the Cenotaph. But last weekend I was flummoxed by the decision to start The Archers a good 45 minutes early to accommodate a St George’s Day service. (Which, in the usual anti-English BBC mode, came live from a church in Scotland. No, really.)

So it was with heavy heart that I returned to the drawing room having missed the vital news regarding Emma’s divorce, Tom’s latest banger innovation and Oliver’s imminent milk round. Matters weren’t improved when I turned on the television expecting to see that nice man who used to be on Newsround doing his country programme only to find the screen filled with thousands of sweating, lycra-clad attention seekers running the London Marathon.

Now I don’t want to be churlish, but haven’t we had enough of this annual boreathon? Time was when “runners” were whippet-like men in string vests who used to overtake your Dad’s Morris Minor on the way up the Snake Pass. They confined their activities to municipal athletics tracks at twilight, worshipped at the shrine of Alf Tupper and wouldn’t dream of running around the streets in full view of everyone, never mind being caught applying Vaseline to their nipples on live television.

These days people look at you oddly if you don’t spend an hour a night jogging through the streets in some ghastly nylon jumpsuit while dodging dog dirt and inhaling fumes from 4x4s driven by clock-maddened mothers shuttling multiple children from swimming lessons to sleepover.

And, come the big day in April, they’re all allowed to do it together – and worse; it’s for “charidee”. You can almost smell the self-righteousness in amongst the Fiery Jack and the festering trainers. “Look at me, aren’t I clever, I’m on the telly you know. And all this sacrifice is to raise funds for poorly babies.”

And then there are the Aren’t-I-Wacky mob in their emu outfits and their gorilla costumes, not to mention the idiot in armour dragging a ten-ton dragon behind him.

But I’ll tell you what’s even worse than grasping runners: those glib bastards who expect YOU to fund THEIR summer holiday on the pretence of raising money for “charidee”. You know what I mean. They sneak up on you with their sponsorship form craftily hidden inside a copy of The Guardian, wait until you’re on the phone and then shove it under your nose for signing.

Before you know it you’ve given them a fiver towards their trek along the Inca Trail in Peru (“… and we met a darling little man in Machu Picchu …”) or their march down the Great Wall of China. What you don’t realise at the time is that they have to raise a certain amount of money to pay for their worthier-than-thou jolly in the first place.

It’s the same with free-loading sky-divers. Now I’ve done parachute jumps. It’s great fun and I paid for them myself (apart from a few the Army coughed up for). So why should I give the fat girl from Accounts money to throw herself out of a plane just because she says it’s for “charidee”?

Yes, £3.50 might eventually make its way into the coffers of the Old Timers’ Society, but the other £300 has gone towards the fuel needed to haul her vast bulk skywards. (And what’s the point in giving money to people suffering from Old Timers’ Disease in the first place? They’ve only forgotten about it by the next day.)

Nope, I’m afraid that for me charity now begins at home. I’ve just booked a villa in Majorca for two weeks. I may do some sponsored beer drinking while I’m there. Any offers, anyone?

SO WHAT else has been happening this week? Oh, look – a floundering government doing its level best to replicate the Fall of the Roman Empire.

Add the frightening case of unlikely lothario Mr John Prescott to the trials and tribulations of Charles Clarke and Patricia Hewitt, not forgetting the recent embarrassments of Ruth Kelly and the cash-for-peerages scandal, and you’d be forgiven for thinking that this particular Cabinet had been made by Ikea.

NIP DOWN to the bookies and get a few quid on Ruth Badger to win The Apprentice.
Yes, she might … erm … wear sensible shoes, but after this week’s showdown with the reptilian Syed, there’s no real competition from the rest of the lightweights. Anyway, Amstrad is no different to any other company – good HGV drivers are always needed.

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 managed to watch the women’s FA Cup Final on the telly without falling over laughing, of anyone who thinks England have a hope in hell in the World Cup without Wayne Rooney, or of anyone who’s already got a cross of St George flying from their car.