Saturday, December 23, 2006

Let's all mourn the death of an obese ginger child

OH JOY. It’s Christmas, and the season of goodwill to all men. Except for the people who sent out this round robin in their Christmas card.

“We have had a few celebrations this year, but we started on a sad note: in January the smallest and laziest member of the family passed away after spending 14 years with us.”

Now at this stage I’m thinking that they’ve lost an obese ginger child (I don’t know them; they’re acquaintances of Mrs B) but no, it’s much worse than that.

“Bobby has gone through the pearly cat-flap to the place where the wicked mice go.”

So it’s the cat that’s snuffed it and is now apparently lounging on his cloud, harp in paw, while “wicked mice” dance around him. It’s an image that will live with me forever.

And all this before relentless details of the garden, the walking holiday, the chest infection, the weddings, the trials and tribulations of the children: “Sophie’s second marriage didn’t quite work out as planned and she’s now back living at home with the five (!) children. It can get a little crowded at times and there were one or two hurtful remarks in the village Post Office about the yellow one and the brown one. But Christopher seems very happy in Brighton, where he seems very close to his flatmate Elton. And Neil’s lawyer thinks he might be released with a Royal pardon when the King of Thailand’s next birthday comes around. Let’s just hope he doesn’t bring back any packages for friends this time!!!”

Why do these people think that we need to know this mindless minutiae? It’s utter drivel, imposed on an innocent audience who have done nothing worse than open a Christmas card. I don’t want to know. Leave me alone.

I’M WOKEN in the middle of the night by a terrible kerfuffle in the kitchen. The Christmas Stilton – bold, blue, brash and British – has reacted badly to sharing its refrigerated living quarters with the remnants of a huge lump of finest Parmesan we brought back from Italy in September.

By the time I get down there four pots of organic rice pudding are in tears, the brandy butter has taken to drink and the stuffing balls are playing skittles with the chipolata sausages. Meanwhile the Parmesan has retreated to the back of the vegetable compartment where it’s waving a train timetable and clutching its chest as if it’s just been head-butted by Zinedine Zidane.

It has to go. European integration is one thing; cheese wars are another.

NOW CAN I say that it’s a great shame that five prostitutes have been murdered in Ipswich. They were all somebody’s daughters, most of them were someone’s mother. I hope whoever killed them gets caught and convicted. Blah, blah.

But do we really need to undergo another bout of Dianafication? Read the Guardian or listen to the BBC this week and you’d have thought that five nuns had bought the farm. These poor “sex workers”, horribly exploited by Evil Men, have suddenly become the new icons of the hairy armpit brigade.

Well excuse me if I beg to differ. Yes, they might have been mothers, but where were their children? Taken into care, that’s where. They weren’t selling their bodies to put Findus Frozen Pancakes on the family table; they were selling their bodies for the next rock of crack or the next wrap of heroin. These were women so far gone that they couldn’t hold down a “job” in the relative safety of a massage parlour (this country’s equivalent of the legalised brothel).

So yes, it’s sad. But even sadder is the fact that a tidal wave of illegal drugs continues to drag people under into a life of crime and degradation. I refer you to last week’s column: give it away free on street corners. And let the weirdos who find drug-addled skeletons sexually attractive find their kicks somewhere else.

fair to the Guardian, it’s not all one-way traffic. There are some seriously deranged people on my side of the argument as well.

Let’s just take this one message from the Daily Mail’s website, shall we? Step forward, Mavis C. of Chester-le-Street, who writes: “I wonder how many men would buy sex if these harlots were not out on the streets tempting them?”

Yes, well … thank you madam for that contribution.

A CHAP called John Hutton, of whom I’ve never heard but who is, apparently, NuLabour’s Work Secretary, has condemned benefit claimants who live in areas where there are plenty of jobs and who are physically able to work, but who choose not to.

Well, if he’s considering a crackdown, I can point him in the direction of one prime suspect. This bloke is fat, lazy, dresses outlandishly and only manages to work one day a year.

He exploits child labour (well, labour of diminished height anyway) and also keeps wild animals without a licence – one of which appears to have contracted a nasty dose of Polonium 210 in the nasal area. His name is Santa Claus, and the sooner he’s taken off the streets by government snatch squads, the better.

BUT BACK to the festivities, and the office party. Good God, I’d rather have been standing on a street corner in Ipswich. (And would have been safer.)

The idea of holding it in a Greek restaurant wasn’t a total success. I mean, what do you know about Greek restaurants? Yes, you eat vine leaves and then smash the plates.

What Colin the tea boy didn’t fully appreciate was that the plates you are meant to smash are actually special “smashing plates” made of cheap earthenware that are brought out at the end of the meal for the ceremonial activity. Thus, once the calamari starter had been dispatched, the idiot started laying waste with the finest porcelain. Unluckily for him, he was caught over the eyebrow by a flying shard of fine china and had to go off to hospital for stitches.

Unluckily for us, he still returned in time to throw up in the toilets. Wedged in between crying secretaries and the over-emotional “bloke who hasn’t been sacked because it’s Christmas but who everyone knows is going in January”. Season’s greetings to you all.

O The views of Mr Beelzebub are purely personal and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Editor or staff of this website, or of anyone who's bought their wife a TomTomGo satellite navigation system and then taken it out of the box, two days in advance, just to make sure that it's working properly, only to find that the useless piece of plastic shite is a complete duffer. So I ring the customer hotline. "Sorry, it's Christmas. Try again next week." So then I lose my temper and throw the offending box into the field next door. And then I have to go and find it again if I want my money back. With a torch. In the mud. And I now have several days of grief and many hours on the phone to look forward to as I try to gain recompense for this disgraceful let-down. Christmas? Bah humbug.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Let's all go down the pub with the Bishop of Southwark

I TRY not to be resentful about those City bankers (rhyming slang) who have just collected their million-pound bonuses, but it can be a bit difficult. At least I need not envy those who’ve booked a “trip of a lifetime” to Australia to watch what remains of The Ashes.

I can only imagine that they’re busy cancelling their hotels as we speak and instead booking a fortnight at Sandy Lane in Barbados, despite the risk of bumping into Michael Winner in his Speedos.

One group of people who aren’t going to worry too much about their Antipodean odyssey turning sour are the 14 MPs (and their wives in the case of the rare heterosexual ones) who are flying out on a subsidised tour tomorrow which includes bungee-jumping in New Zealand, shopping in Hong Kong and the odd bit of cricket in Melbourne and Sydney.

To you, Squire, a snip at £3,000. Actual cost, once all the freebies and hospitality have been removed, nearer six grand. Nice work if you can get it.

Of course, £3,000 would be beyond the pockets of most ordinary people, but not if you’re on £60k (demanding an increase to £100k) and “expenses” of a further £130,000 on average.

You know, there used to be an afternoon’s amusement in the House of Commons on the day that our elected members had to argue their case, in public, for an inflation-busting pay rise. I seem to remember people like Enoch Powell and Tony Benn causing huge embarrassment to their colleagues by objecting to any increase that would take the dishonourable members beyond the minimum wage.

These days it’s all different. Because they didn’t like having to argue their case in the full glare of the public eye, the issue of MPs’ pay was passed to a sub-committee of the civil service. Now they can bleat away about deserving the same money as GPs without having to stand up on their hind legs while exposing themselves to the ridicule of their constituents.

It’s snouts in the trough as usual. Nothing ever changes, except that they now get to fill their pockets without blushing when they’re next trying to explain to Mrs Trellis from North Wales why Gordon Brown’s run off with her pension.

NOW HERE’S a rare thing for this column – a true story. I was invited to the House of Lords for lunch last week as part of a charitable concern in which I’m involved. (No, it’s not Chinese Girls With Herpes.)

As it happens, I had to leave the house in the dark and only realised once I’d arrived at the station that I was wearing a blue pin-striped suit jacket and grey pin-striped suit trousers. Under normal circumstances, I’d have killed myself rather than undergo the embarrassment of such a fashion faux pas. But instinct told me that I might just get away with it.

Dear Reader, I need not have worried. I spent the best part of three hours in the House of Lords without anyone giving me a second glance. To be fair, I looked more normal than most of the Upper House. There were people in carpet slippers, smoking jackets and the kind of tweed suits that have not only seen service on the grouse moor, but have been used to carry back the dead birds as well.

But what did impress me was the honesty with which these people went about their jobs. They might be hereditary peers or they might be NuLabour placemen, but there was a genuine feeling that their role was a very real check and balance on the simplistic, knee-jerking, law-making process of Mr Blah’s glib and gutless government.

It’s something to think about the next time you’re told that there’s no need for such back up.

THERE’S SOMETHING inspiring about life when there’s a drunken Bishop running riot in London.

I refer, of course, to the Right Reverend Tom Butler, the Bishop of Southwark, who overdid the cheeky Rioja at a reception at the Irish Embassy and was later found rampaging around the streets trying to climb into the back of people’s cars and then, the next day, claiming that he’d been mugged as a means of explaining away his UDIs (unidentified drinking injuries).

Let’s face it: who hasn’t done the same, especially at this time of year. I find it encouraging that the Church is taking greater steps to get in touch with the common people. Coming next, the Archbishop of Canterbury offers to sort out anyone who might have been looking at him a bit funny while the Archbishop of York staggers through a crowded Weatherspoons shouting: “Did you spill my pint?” Marvellous stuff.

WOOH! STEP away from the spontaneously combusting children!

There has been a Christingle service held at Chelmsford Cathedral since 1747. In all that time, there is no record of a small child catching fire due to the “candle stuck in an orange” combo that is customary at these events.

Let’s fast forward to 2006, where a man called Richard Spilsbury, one of the organisers, has decreed that this year the kids must carry fluorescent glow-sticks rather than the traditional burning candle. “Some parents have raised concerns about their children’s hair catching fire,” he says.

Liar, liar, pants on fire. Show me a single parent who has “raised concerns”. It’s the Health and Safety Nazis in action again. And let’s face it, if we do lose the odd five-year-old in a tangerine inferno, isn’t it worth it just to maintain these old traditions?

Meanwhile the Jokeforce, the government-funded organisation that provides material for satirical columnists, has been out and about in Preston, where a pantomime society has been banned from throwing sweets into the audience in case they injure someone.

So there you go. Never mind your child being mown down by a 4x4 outside their school. Never mind your child being murdered by the East Stranglia. Let’s just worry about them being consumed by Christingle flames or being laid low by a flying Werther’s Original.

It’s enough to make a cat laugh.

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 Mr Blah arranged to be interviewed by the police at the exact moment the Princess Di report was unveiled, of anyone who doesn't think that Jonathan Ross has jumped the shark, or of anyone who hasn't heard about the dyslexic Santa who's been leaving prossies under trees in Ipswich.

Monday, December 11, 2006

How to cut crime by 60 per cent at a stroke

THANKS TO the miracles of technology, I can now go back and find out just when it was that I first floated the idea that heroin should be given away free on street corners.

It was, in fact, September 2001. So it’s only taken five years for the politicians and the constabulary to catch up with me.

It really is a simple argument. As Howard Roberts, the deputy chief constable of Nottinghamshire, told an ACPO conference last week, of every 10 crimes committed in this country, six are drugs-related – burglaries, muggings and shoplifting carried out to feed a habit.

(Three of the other four are probably innocent, middle class people being caught by speed cameras, but that’s a different argument.)

I would say that 60 per cent is a modest estimate. After all, there are comparatively few car thefts these days and the big armed robberies have been superceded by identity theft and internet fraud. (Did you buy shares in shredder manufacturers like I told you to a couple of years ago? And are you now piling into pub patio heater manufacturers, ready for the smoking ban?)

I tell you what; in a novel departure for this column, let’s look at some facts, shall we? And bear in mind that these are official figures. Around 30 tons of heroin is smuggled into Britain each year. This feeds 300,000 addicts. To fund that addiction, the average addict needs to find £15,000 a year. To net £15k, he commits crimes costing £45,000. And that all adds up to an average 432 crimes a year committed by each and every heroin addict.

It’s quite gobsmacking. So can we agree that if we remove the need to pay for Class A drugs like heroin, we take away the need to steal? We also destroy the empires of the drugs barons who currently control distribution while dabbling in other kinds of criminality in their spare time.

So, at a stroke, we reduce crime by between 60 and 70 per cent. What would any government – or enlightened society – give for that? True, there’d be a few casualties along the way, but anyone stupid enough to overdose on free dope isn’t going to be much of a loss anyway. It makes such overwhelming common sense that I’m amazed no-one’s had the guts to do it before.

Is there a politician brave enough to have a pop? Maybe Mr Brown is the man. After all, he’s not yet managed to find a way to tax it.

ON THE other hand, he is taxing cheap flights, using that ludicrous Stern report to justify lining the government’s pockets in the guise of environmental concern and “compensating for travellers’ carbon footprints”. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anything quite so daft since Jeffrey Archer last pleaded not guilty.

Do you really think that the Powers That Be are going to rush out and plant a couple of trees every time you hop on an EasyJet to Malaga? What utter tosh. The money will go where it always goes: into perpetuating the Turkey Army of unnecessary civil servants whose task is to vote NuLabour back into power next time around.

And if not there, it’ll be poured into the trough where our MPs park their snouts. Did you see that they want a pay increase that’ll take their annual salary up to £100,000? That’s on top of the average £130,000 a year that they claim in expenses – much of it fiddled. It’s enough to make a cat laugh.

NOW HERE’S a tough one for the leather-elbowed, lentil-eating Lefties. Do we want to renew Trident, our nuclear deterrent? Of course not, they cry, coming over all faint. Think of all the Turkey Army jobs that £75 billion could create … err … and all the hospitals and schools it would build.

So let me get this straight. We have well-educated (i.e. pre-1978) professional people in positions of influence in this country who seriously think that it’s fine for North Korea and Iran to have a nuclear capability (we’ll not even mention the French) but we can’t? See that aforementioned cat? It’s now in hysterics.

CURRENT pet hate? You meet someone and, being polite, ask them how they are. “I’m good, thank you,” they reply.

Oh, so you’re good are you? At what exactly? Knitting? White-water rafting? Feng shui? What madness is this?

And in with a bullet at Number 2 are all those snivelling little 20-year-old stoodents who blagged a Daddy-funded month in Thailand or Goa, returning to claim that they’ve been “travelling in their gap year.” And then decide that it’s appropriate to eat with their fingers in your local Indian restaurant.

Travelling? Listen, sonny. When I was your age, getting to the Isle of Wight was a bloody challenge, let me tell you …

THIS COLUMN’S role as a soothsayer continues, with the national media finally catching up with my argument that investing in a trendy, alternative Christmas present - like buying a goat for an African village – verges on crass stupidity. I can’t believe it’s taken them so long to cotton on.

Just think about it. What is the one thing we all know about goats? Yes, they eat everything they come across. So all those daft Lefties who’ve been shipping Billy Goat Gruff out to Somalia have been responsible to laying waste to any crops the poor Africans managed to conjure up from the barren earth. Worse than that, a goat will drink up to 75 litres of water a day, and I think we all know that water is the most precious commodity on that continent.

I wouldn’t mind so much if you could actually visit your goat and see how it was getting on, but this seems impossible. Could it be that most of them have ended up in the cooking pot by Twelfth Night? If so, it’s probably for the best.

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 voted for Darren Clarke in the BBC Sports Personality of the Year show (Your wife dies so you go out and play golf? What kind of message is that?), of anyone booked on a Christmas trip to Australia for the cricket, or of anyone who wasn't impressed with the boxing the other night. How that Ainsley Harrison finds time to fit in his training as well as being a TV chef is beyond me.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Deep-fried Mars Bars and doubles all round

OOH! PROBLEMS on the horizon for Gordon Brown. (Yes, I know he's had a tough week.) A recent reputable poll has 52 per cent of Scots voting in favour of independence. No surprise there.

But wait - it also has 59 per cent of English respondents saying: “Let the Jocks have it. Cut them loose and set them free. Braveheart and doubles all round.” Interesting stuff.

I’ve noticed this increasingly over the past couple of years. There’s a growing resentment on the part of us poor, white, English middle classes that we’re paying through the nose to fund a lifestyle of Celtic luxury for the Jocks and the Welsh. Free shortbread in schools, subsidised peat deliveries for pensioners, deep-fried Mars Bars for benefits claimants … that sort of thing.

Actually, it’s more serious than that. Much more serious. Let’s take university tuition fees, for example. Send your son or daughter to an English institution – or even to Edinburgh – and it’ll soon cost you and them £3,000 a year. The McStoodent sitting at the desk next to them (or, more likely, standing at the bar next to them) will have paid nothing, however wealthy their families might be. Is that fair? I think not.

Then there’s the “National” Health Service, which is patently no such thing. If you suffer from Old Timer’s Disease in this country, you will be denied access to the drug Aricept, which helps half of all sufferers, even though it only costs £2.50 a day. In Scotland, you’ll get it free, no questions asked. If you suffer from bone cancer in this country, you won’t be given the drug Velcade, which cuts the risk of death by 41 per cent in the first year of treatment. In Scotland you will, at a cost of £18,000 for a full cycle of treatment.

If you suffer from a brain tumour in this country, you won’t be given the drug Gliadel, which extends life at a cost of £5,200 a course. In Scotland you will. I could go on. And on. From lung cancer to osteoporosis, from blindness to myelomas, those north of the border are granted free access to life-enhancing and life-prolonging drugs that are denied to the poor bloody English. (In Wales, they don’t even pay prescription charges).

You don’t even have to be ill to suffer from this reverse apartheid. Grow old and weary in Scotland and you will benefit from free nursing care for the elderly. Down here, you’ll be forced to sell your family home to pay for your meals on wheels. Is that fair? I don’t think so.

Even on comparatively mundane matters, we lose out to the Porridge Wogs. You know these new laws NuLabour are planning that will make you pay for every mile you drive? Guess what – they won’t apply north of Carlisle.

So why is this appalling bias such a problem for Gordon Brown? Well, lets have a look at the McMafia who make up our ruling classes. Scotchers in positions of serious power include the Prime Minister himself; the aforementioned Mr Brown; bar room bruiser and Home Secretary John Reid; Lord Charlie “Flatmate” Falconer, Secretary of State; Des Browne, Secretary of State for deploying Our Boys to political advantage; Alistair Darling, Secretary of State for Trade and Industry; Michael “Lickspittle” Martin, Speaker of the House of Commons; and Lord Irvine, former Lord Chancellor and Blah buddy. And Kirsty Young, presenter of Desert Island Discs. I could go on. And on.

In fact there are over 100 Scottish-born MPs in Westminster. More importantly, there’s the notorious West Lothian Question. The Scots have their own Parliament, governing their own affairs. Yet 60 MPs representing Scottish constituencies sit at Westminster, happily voting away on key English policies such as education, health, and law and order without any responsibility or accountability (and often with an eye on the political chance, rather than the moral debate). Is that fair? I don’t think so.

Scotland has brought us many good things: Buckfast Tonic Wine, wee Jimmy Krankie, Carol Smilie and tramps. But the mood amongst the notoriously tolerant and welcoming English is changing. We are tired of being treated as mugs, cud-chewingly content to have our pockets picked by border raiders. If they want independence, so be it. And the sooner the better. Just don’t expect the political opportunists who cling to power like drowning men on a life raft to allow it.

NOW NO-ONE wants mad mullahs running round the streets waving signs demanding that The Pope should be beheaded for daring to insult Islam. But is giving the cops the right to arrest people for carrying “offensive” placards the right way to go about it?

As with all of these things, it’s a matter of judgement. Who decides what is “offensive”? And who do you trust to make that decision on your behalf?

At the moment, it’s the courts and their learned Judges who set down guidance on such matters. But if Metropolitan Police assistant commissioner Tarique Ghaffur has his way, your average, over-tired, over-worked, under-educated bobby on the beat will be making the call.

And in a NuLabour world where you can be dragged away and detained for several hours for daring to boo the Prime Minister in public, where you can be arrested and fined £100 for daring to read out a list of the Iraq War dead at the Cenotaph, where you can be beaten about the head with truncheons outside Parliament just because you wear a tweed coat, that’s a dangerous freedom to concede.

I’VE ONLY been to Belfast the once. I spent two solid days sitting in an old-fashioned booth at the Crown Liquor Emporium opposite the Europa Hotel with a dozen or so fellow reprobates, cracking jokes and drinking heavily.

We were supposed to be at a conference. In the end, the organisers offered to bring the speakers over to the pub and have them perform there. When we did drag ourselves away from the black stuff, it was for a posh dinner at Stormont, seat of what passes for government over there.

It was very impressive place, and I have never seen a longer driveway anywhere. (Rumour has it that by the time George Best’s funeral cortege had traveled along it, he’d sobered up.)

Which rather begs the question: How did notorious Loyalist terrorist Michael Stone manage to stroll its entire length armed with guns, knives and explosives, totally undisguised, before storming his way into the building? It beggars belief. It’s not as if he isn’t well-known.

It’s a bit like Osama bin Laden tagging onto the procession at the state opening of Parliament and then nipping from behind Black Rod to chuck purple powder bombs around the chamber. Oh …

NOT VERY shocking research reveals that women utter 13,000 words a day while men get by on a mere 7,000. Mrs B. claims that this is because we don’t listen and they therefore have to repeat everything they say.

To which I replied: “Pardon, love. Can you say that again?” And then ran.

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 had their office Christmas party turned into a "Winterval" celebration, of anyone who can explain why, in the 21st century, it took the electricity board 11 hours to get my power supply back on today, or anyone who doesn't think that they've taken the publicity stunts for Casino Royale a bit too far. Radioactive Russians indeed. The next thing you'll know, Rudolph the Reed-nosed Reindeer will have been hauled in for questioning.