Saturday, October 28, 2006

Like Dennis the Menace hiding in a post box

WHEN I were but a lad, there were things we called crofts at the back of our rows of terraced houses – basically just an area of waste land, inhabited by stained mattresses and scabby dogs.

The crofts were where we built our bonfires, raiding wood from the houses slated for demolition … and from other gang’s bonfires. (And people’s garden gates. Sorry, Mrs Thingy at number 124 Shrewsbury Street.)

This blatant piracy meant that as the great day drew near – and it was a really big deal back then – a shift system would be brought in whereby the bigger lads would take it in turns to sleep in the bonfire to guard against marauders. Sure, kids occasionally died if someone was careless with matches, but that went with the territory. And at least we left them the means to defend themselves and alert the rest of us – a sturdy leather glove, a Roman Candle and a box of matches. The Taliban look like pussies by comparison.

Little did I think that 40 years later, people would be sleeping by their bonfires again – only this time on the orders of the Health and Safety Nazis. It has come to my attention that bonfire organisers across the country have been told that as a condition of their entertainment licence (and what a puritanical Roundheaded laugh that procedure is), they must remain by their bonfire until it is completely extinguished. Apparently small children and passing animals might otherwise accidentally wander into the embers and be incinerated. (Cases to date? None.)

So we now have the prospect of the nice men from the Round Table having to camp out alongside the embers for as long as it takes for them to go out. This could take several days. Now I’m no fan of accountants, but even they have to go to work sometimes. If only to annoy the rest of us.

Still, as long as there are 45-year-old, grey-suited, social-climbing, would-be Freemasons prepared to put up with such nonsense, it avoids the situation that has arisen in Ilfracombe in Devon, where the local rugby club has given up completely and has settled for a “virtual bonfire” to accompany their charity fireworks.

The “virtual bonfire” is a video of a previously-filmed bonfire projected onto a 22ft wide by 15ft high screen hanging between the goalposts. Loudspeakers have been arranged to relay the sound of crackling and fizzing. There will also be gas heaters arranged to give those nearest the screen a rosy glow.

Is this what it has come to? How long will it be before your local fire pushes drawings of fireworks through your letterbox so you can show your kids what used to happen? And what would those kids on the croft have made of it all?

SO THERE you are, Mr Small Businessman, and you’ve got a vacancy for a salesperson or a receptionist or a rep. Something “customer-facing”, as the trendies would say. And when it comes to interviews, this nice Muslim woman turns up.

She seems perfectly normal (if that’s the right term of reference). Smart, personable, well-presented - a bit like that Sariah woman out of The Apprentice, only with less gob. And she’s the stand-out candidate, so do you give her the job? Do you buggery.

Because experience tells you that one day she might just turn up to work in a burqua, or a niqab, or a bin liner, peering out of the veil like Dennis The Menace trapped in a post box. And, frankly, the hassle that will cause is just not worth the risk. So you’ll employ the lumpen, pasty-faced, uneducated prole from the council estate instead. It’s safer, if not better.

Aisa Azmi, the Muslim woman who’s put this topic back at the top of the agenda, argues that her demand to wear the veil is a fight on behalf of women everywhere. Nonsense. It’s actually the opposite – a warning to employers to watch out for any signs of loony fundamentalism.

And that, I think, is my main objection to Ms Azmi’s employment: not the fact that she managed to undergo a job interview in front of a panel that included a man without needing to cloak up; not the fact that she had the stupidest job title in existence ( Ethnic Minority Achievement Curriculum Support Assistant); not the fact that the wearing of the burqua is a near criminal undermining of sexual equality; nor even the fact that she spent six months of her short employment on the sick – simply the fact that anyone with such extreme and unyielding views shouldn’t be let within a million miles of our children.

Incidentally, have you wondered why NuLabour are so keen to take on the thorny subject of multiculturalism, or the lack of it, so suddenly? Think about it. Their despicable lies about Iraq and Afghanistan have lost them the important Muslim vote for good. So let’s write that off, do a full U-turn, and go after the borderline racists on the fringes of every political party. You can’t fault them for lateral thinking.

see Madonna doing her best to be a typical English woman. She’s a single mother who lives on an estate and has three children of different colours by three different fathers (one of them a bonus ball brahn baby). Oh, and her husband appears to be unemployed. Top marks all round.

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 hasn't already had the argument about where they're going to spend Christmas, of anyone can't face mowing the lawn again (for the last time this summer, honest), or of anyone who isn't suspicious of that disabled woman on the X Factor. We've all seen Little Britain, right?

Saturday, October 21, 2006

The blind leading the visually-impaired

THERE IS a famous urban myth that’s been doing the rounds on the internet for the past few years. It goes something like this:

A friend of a friend was down in London last week shopping in Harrods when the bloke in front of him, an Arab in full costume, dropped his wallet on the floor. The friend picked it up and tapped him on the shoulder to return it. The Arab gentleman was very grateful, opened his wallet and pulled out several £50 notes. “Here,” he said. “You must have a reward for your honesty.”

When my friend of a friend declined the cash, the Arab leaned towards him and whispered: “Well you must allow me to do something for you. Stay out of London on November 11th.” And with that he was gone.

Now it’s not a bad urban myth, certainly on a par with the “David Beckham paid off my mate’s mortgage after he gave up his wedding booking” and the perennial “My mate’s mate was on business in Bejing, got drunk in a bar and woke up in a bath of warm water with one kidney missing”. But it’s still an urban myth – eni fule knos that.

Ah, with one exception. Step forward, The Right Honourable David Blunkett. Reading extracts from his recently published diaries on Radio 4 on Wednesday, Blunkett blithely related how he was told this story by a friend of a friend from Vancouver. Despite being Home Secretary at the time and, one would hope, privy to inside info regarding genuine terrorist threats, he went straight to Red Alert.

“I immediately recognised the significance of the date,” he says. “Remembrance Sunday – a day when every top politician in Britain would be gathered in one place.” Blunkett then got on the blower to Tony Blah to alert him: “We agreed that we couldn’t cancel the Remembrance Day service, but we would have to beef up security considerably.”

Quite what this unnecessarily beefed-up security actually cost isn’t known, but it must have been considerable. How many SAS troops were called in? How much police leave was cancelled? How many AWACS planes were circling London?

So there we have it. For the past 10 years the country has been run by people who are so removed from reality that they are capable of believing – and acting upon - the daftest and most unreliable of information. And he still doesn’t know. That explains an awful lot.

SO WHERE do babies come from? Africa, apparently. Well, as far as Madonna is concerned, anyway.

So now we have the hand-wringing do-gooders and the nagging witches of Fleet Street getting their self-righteousness in a twist over the immaculate arrival of the Baby David. She’s bent the rules, they squeal. And how can it be right to remove a child from its own culture on the whim of powerful pop star just because she fancies adding a brahn baby to her collection?

I think we can deal with this one quite easily. Is there anyone out there – weird-bearded, Guardian-reading, or otherwise – who would seriously argue that Baby David would be better off being brought up amid the poverty and disease of a Malawian orphanage, than he will enjoying the millionaire lifestyle, unlimited Harrods rusks and daily trips to Hamley’s toy shop that Madge will doubtless provide? Is there? Thought not.

We now turn to the argument about rule-bending. Well, frankly, so what? Money and worldwide fame bestows a certain power, so why not use it? If she can get the whole thing over and done with in a week rather than in six months, then why not? And does anyone really think that Madge and Guy will escape the attentions of social workers in this country? Of course not.

The assorted Nanny State jobsworths will already be sharpening their pencils in anticipation of conducting their suitability interviews. I can just see them now, glancing around Madge’s luxurious London pad or Wiltshire estate, and asking: “So, Mrs Ritchie, are you sure you can properly provide for Baby David? And are those disposable nappies I see over there? Next to the Farepak Christmas hamper?”

Mind you, didn’t Madonna have a bit of a hunting, shooting and fishing thing going on at one point? They’re not going to like that, are they? The last thing they’re going to want to see is Baby David riding to hounds while simultaneously blasting a pheasant out of the sky before his third birthday.

this “blag an African baby” stuff isn’t new. It was a fashion a few years back for the angst-ridden middle classes to “sponsor” a starving child. For your £3 a month or whatever you were told the name of the child you were supporting and you’d get occasional updates on their progress: “Abdulla is doing well in algebra, but struggles a little with his Latin tenses”.

You’d even get a postcard or letter from Abdulla himself, with little drawings and messages, usually just before your direct debit was up for renewal. Then it got a bit heavier. A letter would arrive containing the sad news that Abdulla’s mother was ill and couldn’t afford essential hospital treatment. Perhaps you could help?

Then his grandmother would die, and there’d be no money for the funeral. And his dad’s serious injury that stopped him working. You get the picture. In the end, the charities that were selling the sponsorship were forced to call a halt as the scams multiplied. (Incidentally, top marks to Baby David’s dad for already spotting the free-loading opportunity of coming to visit his son in London “to make sure he’s OK”. Yeah, right. I’ll tell Stringfellows to stock up on lap-dancers and champers.)

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 thoroughly sick and tired of the antics of that slut Ruth Archer, of anyone who doesn't think that Helen Mirren is starting to look a bit ropey, or of anyone not wondering if Lady Heather Mills McCartney is hopping mad after her divorce papers were leaked to the Press.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Fleecing the inebriated underclasses

IF I went round night after night mugging drunks and morons for a living, I’d soon be banged up in chokey.

(Actually I wouldn’t, but let’s not allow the reality of NuLabour’s “tough on crime, tough on nothing very much really” policy interfere with a good story.)

Yet two of this country’s major national broadcasting institutions regularly fleece the inebriated and the underclass by dangling in front of their piggy eyes the carrot of big cash prizes that seem remarkably easy to win when, in reality, they’d have more chance of catching George Michael in bed with their wife. Unstoned.

I refer, of course, to those late night quiz shows that occupy the TV hours that Patrick Moore and the Open University used to inhabit, and the moronic quizzes that now seem compulsory for every single daytime programme. You know the kind of thing: “What colour is custard? Is it A> Princess Diana; B> Aardvark; or C> Yellow?

Even then I’m sure some sofa-bound scrotes think back to their schooldays (or what there were of them) and shout “Pink” at the telly.

Cheery Cheggers starts the day with a £10,000 giveaway, and from then on it’s just relentless. At night, the scam is even more insidious, with questions that wouldn’t even test a remedial class of Welsh five-year-olds dangled in front of people who’ve spent the evening imbibing liquid self-righteousness.

You may wonder how ITV and Channel 4 can afford to give away such huge amounts of dosh. It’s simple. So profitable are these “quizzes” that the commercial channels are pocketing far more from this racket than they actually do from selling adverts. Literally millions and millions. It’s scandalous.

Now I’m sure we’ve all been tempted. I’ve known the answer to a Millionaire £500,000 tester; you’ve probably worked out that custard is yellow. Yet dialing that seductive number is about to cost both of us more than we reckoned. You see, every time you phone in it costs you 75p or a pound. Not too bad in the daytime but at night, when you’re desperately trying to get through to answer that desperately easy question, mashing the redial button means running up a massive bill. And you don’t get through; you just get asked to leave your details. And it still costs you.

Now it would be unfair of me not to record the fact that the TV companies have built in safeguards to protect the braindead and gullible from themselves. If you look carefully at the tiny small print at the bottom of the screen, you may just catch the information that says contestants are limited to 30 calls a day.

Thirty calls a day? At a pound a time? How good of them. You tell me how a tracksuit-clad, cud-chewing, chain-smoking, pizza-eating, alcopop-swigging, single-parent baby machine in a council flat is supposed to be able to afford £30 a day on phone-in quizzes? And still score her weed for the weekend?

I’ll tell you what’s the greatest condemnation of this distasteful practice. Mr Rupert Murdoch, reckoned by vast swathes of the British establishment, from far left to far right, to be the earthly manifestation of the Devil Incarnate, has refused to have such shameless swindles on his satellite stations. That, my friends, says it all.

OF COURSE, if stupid people weren’t spending all their time sitting on the couch redialling phone-in quizzes, perhaps we wouldn’t have just won the honour of being The Fat Man Of Europe, with 25 per cent of our population classed as obese.

As ever, NuLabour has an answer to this problem – fruit-eating lessons. Caroline Flint, our public health minister, actually said out loud that too many people see fruit and vegetables as “scary food”. She also called on supermarkets to mount displays to take the menace out of peeling an apple or even a banana.

Menace? In peeling a banana? What do they think is in there? Poison gas? Flesh-eating gremlins? The mind boggles.

But every cloud has a silver lining. It is a fact that the majority of fat people are in the north of England. It is therefore logical to expect that the entire country will eventually tip on its axis like a see-saw, lifting up the south of England and so saving it from the catastrophic flooding forecast by the global warming nutters.

Sometimes you just have to think laterally about these things.

AND IN through the door burst the Jokeforce, the special units of council staff set up by the government solely to provide material for satirical columnists. This week they’ve been active in Calderdale, West Yorkshire, where tomato sauce was banned from school canteens on Health and Safety grounds (even though it’s one of the best sources of vitamins and anti-oxidants there is); and in the leafy borough of Newcastle upon Tyne, where a team of hard-hatted council staff has been out with a cherry-picker crane clearing horse chestnuts of conkers before local kids start throwing sticks up into trees, so creating the danger of a stick/head interface.

Brilliant stuff. Keep it up.

I HAVE a complaint. It’s a perennial column-filler for lazy journalists to start complaining about Christmas merchandise being in the shops earlier and earlier every year. My beef is that they’ve started complaining about it earlier than ever this year.

THIS BUSINESS with North Korea is all very worrying, but while we’re talking about clouds with silver linings, at least we might get some new episodes of M.A.S.H.

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 attempting to read this column without first removing their veil, of anyone who's still refusing to give in and turn on the central heating, or of anyone not distraught at the shabby way Fred Elliot, I said Fred Elliot, was despatched from Coronation Street. The Big Man needed a Big Death, and expiring off-screen on Audrey's doorstep isn't a Big Death.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The brains behind the baby machines

I MAY have inadvertently given the impression in the past that I think the nation’s Underclass is thick. This is clearly not the case.

It takes a certain rat-like cunning to survive on the mean streets of Mr Blah’s NuBritain. There are forms to fill out, benefits to claim and gullible (or lazy) civil servants to take advantage of. There are GPs to con (or intimidate), JobCentre staff to dodge, and a whole black economy to exploit, cash in hand, no questions asked. And then there’s the daily grind of shoplifting, debt-dodging and drug-taking. So it’s no easy ride.

Which probably explains the latest brainwave to be doing the rounds amongst the belly-pierced, muffin-topped, leggings-wearing baby machines who aim to pop out a nipper every 12 months in pursuit of a council flat and £20,000 a year. The word on the street is that pregnant teenagers are taking up smoking in the hope of having smaller babies so that childbirth is less painful. No, really.

I tell you what - you’ve got to admire their lateral thinking.

NOW HOW many times do you hear this? “He was a quiet man who liked to keep himself to himself”.

I’ll tell you – every single time there’s a horrific murder, the latest of which was the tragic slaughter of five girls in an Amish school in Pennsylvania. The killer is always, always described by a family friend or a neighbour as “a quiet man who liked to keep himself to himself”.

Can I make a suggestion? Why don’t we just lock up anyone who could possibly be described as “a quiet man who liked to keep himself to himself”? It could be done through some kind of doorstep survey: “Now, Mrs Jones. The chap at number 33 – how would you describe him? Oh, he’s a quiet man who likes to keep himself to himself, is he? Thank you very much …”

Yes, there might be a few innocent casualties along the way, but surely it would make our streets safer in the long run.

AM I wrong to enjoy it when tree-huggers mess up? They’re already responsible for the deforestation of huge swathes of the Amazon jungle (the trees are ripped up to plant soya, which then goes into Linda McCartney sausages and fake burgers); they’re already responsible for wiping out most of Norway’s eagle population (a giant wind farm off the coast has minced them all); now, with delicious irony, they’ve managed to bump off an Asian immigrant by hounding him to death mob-handed.

The incomer in question was a rare Mongolian starling, never before seen in this country, that had the misfortune to get blown off course and end up in Norfolk. Once there it got on quite happily with the six-fingered natives until someone blabbed and told the newspapers. Suddenly hundreds of bird-watchers turned up with binoculars, telephoto lenses and flasks of sweet tea and started chasing it from hedge to hedge.

Exhausted by this all this kerfuffle, the Mongolian starling promptly popped its clogs, so denying train loads of twitchers the spot of their lives. Or a cat got it; one or the other. So well done, all you animal lovers. With form like that you may as well join the local shoot.

SOMETIMES I wonder why I’m so nasty about Mr Blah’s government. Let’s face it, the Tories never went to the trouble of setting up special units of council workers and public servants whose mission in life was solely to provide material for satirical columnists, did they?

I shall call them The Jokeforce, and this week they were out and about in Littlehampton, West Sussex, where a WPC swooped on four children aged between seven and 11 who were collecting conkers, confiscated their haul and issued them with stop and search forms. The children’s mother was later told that the tree had a preservation order on it and was on private property. Both these claims were utter lies.

So thank you Sussex Police, for your sterling work on behalf of columnists across the country. At this point, we will all be adding something along the lines of “they’d have got off with less for dealing smack” before pouring another glass of Chardonnay and putting our feet up for half an hour.

I AM obliged to the electricity board for sending me a cheque this week just because they happen to have one of their poles in a far corner of my estate. (I think it’s electricity, but it could be gas for all I know. That’s what they’re trying to sell me at the moment, anyway. It’ll be porridge next week, followed by a special offer on Burmese pythons.)

The cheque is for the magnificent sum of £1.20. It comes as part of a perforated letter on nice paper, in an equally nice envelope, and has been delivered by the Royal Mail. By the time we add in admin costs, I very much doubt if it cost less than £1.20 to produce it and send it out.

And £1.20, my friends, is enough to feed a freezing pensioner for a week, especially if there’s a two-for-one offer on cat food. So is such municipal munificence altogether wise?

WAHEY! The Jokeforce have turned up with a late Brucie Bonus. This time they’re in Worcester, busy tying security tape and plastic barriers around two pear trees in a city centre park just in case pears fall from the trees and kill a passing Worcesterite.

The trees have been there for 50 years. Surprisingly, in all that time, no-one has yet been killed, or even slightly maimed, by a falling pear, but you can’t be too careful. I just hope that they wore their high visibility jackets while cordoning off the killer trees. Because you can’t be too careful.

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 isn't getting a bit worried about headlines like "Muslim cab drivers ban guide dogs", of anyone who isn't getting a bit worried about headlines like "Hero soldier's home wrecked by Muslims", or of anyone who isn't getting a bit worried about Jack Straw deciding to wind up half his constituency on the eve of the rioting season.