Monday, August 27, 2007

Jail the pasty-faced gurning poltroon

I SUPPOSE you’d expect me to line up alongside the Daily Mail in the ridiculous case of the un-deportable killer of London headmaster Phillip Lawrence and rant against the European Human Rights Act. Well no, actually, because there are two red herrings swimming about in this pool of politicking.

Firstly, the EHRA – rapidly becoming the ginger-headed stepchild of British society along with its sibling, the Health and Safety Executive - isn’t to blame for the fact that a Leftie quango refused to sanction the deportation of Learco Chindamo to Italy after completing 12 years of his sentence as the trial judge wished. Oh no, it’s much worse than that.

The Immigration Tribunal in fact relied upon another piece of European legislation, the 2004 Free Movement Directive, which makes it impossible for any European country to deport a citizen with 10 years residence unless matters of national security are at stake. This is not the case with Chindamo. He might well stab to death another innocent man in an unprovoked attack, but there’s no evidence that he’d then drive a Jeep into Glasgow Airport.

You won’t have heard of the 2004 Free Movement Directive because it was never subject to a full Parliamentary – never mind public - debate and was therefore never voted upon. It’s just another binding ruling from Brussels that impinges on our borders and our Sovereignty. (Stand by for many more of these once Wee Gordie Broon signs away what little remains of our island race independence.)

The second red herring? We shouldn’t be arguing about whether or not Chindamo should be packed off to Italy once he’s released early next year. We should be asking why a man who was convicted of murder and received a life sentence is being released after just 12 years in the first place, no matter how nice he is to the Governor and no matter how many GCSEs he got in prison.

AND IF you want further evidence that the Law is indisputably an Ass, you need only look to the criminal career of Mr Peter Doherty who, I am told, is a member of a popular beat combo.

This pasty-faced, gurning poltroon increasingly features in my toilet tabloids (those only fit to be read on the lavatory). It seems that he is forever being arrested by police for the possession of assorted Class A drugs or for various forms of violence. He then appears in court where a nannying, Guardian-reading magistrate decides to give him “one more chance”, whereupon the trilby-wearing tosser goes straight back out to get wasted as soon as possible.

This week he was at it again, accused of breaching bail conditions (ie sticking a needle up his arm), but freed by the court because the indolent Plod had failed to get him there in time. It’s laughable … especially for someone regarded as a role model by many young people.

I am old enough to remember William Rees-Mogg, editor of The Times, stealing a phrase from Alexander Pope to describe the three-month prison sentences handed out to Mick Jagger and Keith Richards for drugs offences back in 1967. (Marianne Faithful escaped prosecution because at that time cruelty to confectionary wasn’t illegal.)

“Who,” he asked, “would break a butterfly upon a wheel?” A noble sentiment when dealing with those of an artistic temperament. The recidivist Doherty does not qualify for that degree of mercy. He needs swatting.

STILL, IT’S not all bad news when it comes to soft sentences. A businessman who sold unfit meat to hospitals, schools and supermarkets has been jailed for six years. Peter Roberts, 72, endearingly known as “Maggot Pete” (was that not somewhat of a clue?) led a gang that made at least £1 million selling diseased chicken carcasses to meat wholesalers.

Now I’m not diminishing the seriousness of selling dodgy chicken to schools and hospitals (and very probably to those pubs specialising in £3.50 all-you-can-eat Sunday roasts), but one must admit that salmonella comes a long way second to MRSE and all the other superbugs the NHS will try to kill you with. One might also hope that the highly-trained chefs in these establishments would notice that the carcass they’re about to turn into Matron’s Chicken Surprise has turned green and is full of maggots.

Secondly, a six-year sentence for a 72-year-old? Surely you’d normally have to murder a headteacher to be banged up for that long?

MORE CATERING crime: A 12-year-old boy has been hauled through the courts in Manchester after being charged with common assault for throwing a cocktail sausage at a 74-year-old neighbour. That’s a cocktail sausage; not a Molotov cocktail sausage.

The decision to prosecute was taken because the little scrote had already been cautioned three times by police. His undoubtedly single mother says: “It had quite a bit of an effect on him. He couldn’t sleep. He takes sleeping tablets anyway, but they didn’t work.”

Twelve years old, a serial offender and on drugs? He’s clearly got a chipolata on his shoulder.

IF ALL the above has depressed you, then you can still revel in the brilliance of Britishness with the story of Vicky Mills and her one-legged chicken.

Mrs Mills, 24, was heartbroken when her pet Lily, a Rhode Island Red, got her leg trapped in a barbed wire fence. She took it to the vet and paid for him to try to save the leg rather than have her put down. When that treatment failed, she paid for an amputation. Seven operations later, further costs were incurred when the now one-legged chicken was subsequently diagnosed with depression, perhaps understandably.

The bill was rising, and Mrs Mills took out a bank loan, cancelled her holidays and lived on beans on toast for a year to pay it. And to ward off depression, the chicken now watches daytime television while her owner is at work.The cost of that one chicken leg? A cool £1,800. Cry your eyes out, Colonel Sanders. Still, there’s an immediate payback. As Mrs Mills says: “Sometimes she tries to scratch herself with her missing leg and falls over.” And you can’t put a price on entertainment like that.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A man's got to do what a man's got to do

WALKING through one our major cities a few months ago, past the pubs full of smokers and the news bills about some toddler who’d just gone missing in Portugal, I was accosted by a man outside the railway station.

He seemed a pleasant enough chap and proceeded to tell me how he’d lost his wallet and had no way of getting home to his wife, who was nine months pregnant. Could I possibly help him with a few pence towards his train ticket?

Well, I’m never one to turn away a needy case so I slipped him a couple of quid, wished him well and thought no more about it.

Last week I was back on the same patch, strolling past the 16-year-old beat bobbies and the schoolkids in Kevlar blazers, when I saw the same man approaching people outside the railway station and, occasionally, pocketing a pound coin after a brief conversation. I was gobsmacked.

What kind of sick society do we live in where a man has to spend 100 days begging outside a railway station and still can’t manage to raise enough money to pay for his extortionate train fare? Where was he going? Aberdeen? First class?

And what about his poor wife? Did the birth go well? The poor bloke’s child is now two months old and he still hasn’t seen it. That can’t be right, can it?

So I gave him a £50 note, waved away his grateful protestations, and pointed him in the direction of the queue for the ticket office. Sometimes a man’s go to do what a man’s got to do.

I SUPPOSE we can’t entirely blame the police for employing children to patrol the streets. It’s so much cheaper than getting a real policeman to do the job. Never mind the £30,000 a year and a solid gold pension with a bad back at 40; a couple of kids will do the job for a bag of sweets, a bottle of Dandelion & Burdock, and a quick go on the flashing lights and siren in the patrol car.

And then there are all the other laws proper policemen have to enforce. Banging up pensioners for illegal gardening for a start. For eight years, 79-year-old June Turnbull has tended a flowerbed alongside the road that runs through her Wiltshire village. And then someone grassed her up to the Health and Safety Nazis.

Mrs Turnbull has now been told that she can’t tend the council-owned space in future unless she erects three warning signs, employs the services of a lookout and wears a high-visibility jacket. Quite why she’s been spared the hard hat, I don’t know. Maybe there are no life-threatening window boxes in the vicinity.

Luckily, Mrs Turnbull, who pays for the plants out of her pension, is made of sterner stuff than the wimps who cravenly caved into things like the smoking ban. “They can send me to jail if they like,” she says. “I just want to be left alone to do it.”

That’s the spirit. We need to rebel against nonsense like this. And who better to do it than grumpy old folk?

veterans of Horwich, near Bolton, might take a leaf out of Mrs Turnbull’s book. There they’ve cancelled this year’s Remembrance Sunday parade after police refused to conduct the usual rolling road bock system and insisted on road closures and marshals … at a cost of £18,000.

I have an idea. Why doesn’t the British Legion just march on regardless? These people handled Dunkirk and Burma. Two spotty 16-year-old beat bobbies eating sweets and swigging Dandelion & Burdock aren’t exactly going to be much opposition.

The only way to deal with the choking grip of the jobsworths in the Turkey Army is to defy them at every turn. Civil disobedience should be the order of the day. Bring it on.

IT’S NOT often a mere citizen gets to change the world, but I honestly believe that I’ve made my mark.

How? Well remember when I turned up at the cigarette counter at Tesco’s with five bits of shopping only to have the Olga Klebb on the till bark at me: “Only three items here”? And remember her reluctance to let me pay for three items, return to the empty queue, and then pay for the other two? And the subsequent animated discussion?

Last week I was in there again only to see, behind the fag counter, a sign reading: “Tesco provides a safe environment for staff and customers so any physical assaults or verbal abuse will not be tolerated.”

I felt a bit warm inside all the way home.

I MUST admit to being completely baffled as to why Wee Gordon Broon is so keen on demanding the release of five inmates of the American holiday camp at Guantanamo Bay.

None of these men are British, but they had “resident” status when they were detained overseas. One, nabbed in Afghanistan, is said be have been Osama bin Laden’s interpreter. Another, a Jordanian who was arrested in Gambia, has been linked to the murder of Ken Bigley. The others are similarly tainted.

Once we get them back, it’s going to cost us £7.5 million a year to monitor them around the clock, and it’s a safe bet that a pair of 16-year-olds swigging pop and eating sweets won’t be involved in the operation.

So why, Gordon, why? Have you not had enough excitement in your first few weeks in office?

these soap-dodgers camped up outside Heathrow Airport? Well one of then was on the telly the other morning explaining what they were up to – typical crusty, clearly a professional protestor, only he had come over from Ireland.

How did he do that then? Swim? And I bet he won’t admit that ferries churn out 10 times more nasty emissions than the easyJet from Dublin. What a bunch of hypocritical humbuggers.

Monday, August 13, 2007

It's time to rage against the machine

DESPITE WHAT might seem like an uncaring public persona, I am actually a very nice person. So it was that a couple of years ago I decided to buy my wife a new mobile phone.

I wrote to her network supplier – O2 – and gave them six months’ notice on the contract. Then, six months later, I bought her a new phone: one of those girly, pink things, and signed up with a new company.

Stupidly I forgot to cancel my direct debit with O2 for another three months, so was immediately £60 down. But what the hell, it was my mistake, so I wrote it off. It was, after all, just two bottles of decent wine. I could cope with the loss.

All was quiet for some time. My wife was happy with her phone; I was happy that she was happy. You know how these things go. I then got a letter from O2, telling me that I was in arrears and owed them the princely sum of £41.27. So I wrote back and explained the situation, pointing out that I’d given notice on the contract nine months ago and, even if there was a procedural cock-up, I’d already paid them £60 over the odds, so let’s just call it quits and everyone’s happy. It all went quiet again.

I may have then received another O2 letter; I can’t really remember and I’ve long since adopted the policy of only opening the letters I recognise, so avoiding unpleasant surprises. The next thing was the first letter from the debt collecting company. Tiresome, but copeable-with. Or so I thought.

So I phoned them up, explained the situation, pointed out that O2 had made a mistake and said that I wouldn’t be paying them the £41.27. They didn’t seem very happy about this, and said that a debt was a debt and they’d be pursuing it until O2 called them off.

Back to O2. Got through – eventually - to the accounts department, explained situation, banged head on brick wall. There, on their computer screen, was my name. And there, alongside it, was the figure of £41.27. I therefore owed them £41.27, and no amount of explaining would change that.

OK, I thought, I’ll ignore them and they’ll go away. The reality of the situation is that they probably owe me £60, so no way am I paying them their alleged £41.27. Battle lines had been drawn.

And then the letters from the debt-collecting agency began arriving. Now these were clearly computer-generated, and sent out automatically to a set pattern, but tried hard to convey a level of personal involvement. Some were harsh, some tried to reason with me. There were pink ones, red ones, and certain words began to appear in capital letters: CREDIT RATING, BLACKLIST, BANCRUPTCY … that sort of thing.

They continued to arrive at the rate of around one a week, occasionally suddenly accelerating into a mini-climax of threats. I imagined them being delivered, Harry Potter style, by a fleet of vultures. I had THREE days left to pay, then ONE, and then SEVEN again. And then the serious threats began.

If I didn’t pay this mythical £41.27 by Tuesday, a bailiff would be sent round to enter my home and take away goods and chattels to the value of the debt. This may or may not include electrical equipment such as televisions and computers, or even vehicles if necessary. At this point I started to get rather cross. I don’t like being threatened unfairly. I also don’t like the idea of people more vulnerable than myself being intimidated by this blatantly illegal nonsense. (For the record, a bailiff cannot enter your home without permission. And you should obviously never give that.)

I tried once more to phone them, but got a woman in Hull who appeared to be auditioning for lead Dalek in the next series of Doctor Who. It’s impossible to convince a woman who spends each and every day dealing with defaulting dole scum that she’s got a bona fide member of the middle classes on the phone. Her mind had melded with the computer in front of her. It could not tell a lie.

So the letters continued. Some contained threats - “Did I know that my children could be taken away by Social Services if I didn’t cough up this £41.27?” - and some contained blatant lies: “Our agent called today but was unable to contact you …” No he didn’t. I was here all day, drinking wine and watching cricket. You’re just making it up now.

Even the computer-generated threats started to descend into bizarre abuse: “May there be a POX upon your FAMILY should you fail to settle this account.” and “Thine EYES will be plucked out by CROWS and your innards spilled into the gutter for VERMIN to feast upon.”

They’re now threatening me with county court. Bring it on, I say. I’ve got the paperwork – they’ve just got some sinister software. Only even then they’re still lying. If I don’t SETTLE up by Wednesday, I will have a county court judgment AGAINST me and my MORTGAGE may be called in for IMMEDIATE repayment. Well, no, actually … despite your protestations, I can’t be hauled up and convicted without being given the chance to defend myself – however much that might displease the computer.

And why am I telling you all this? It occurs to me that I can’t possibly be the only person in the country who’s being persecuted by a grey plastic box of misanthropy and microchips. The easy way out of this nonsense would be to just send them the £41.27 they want and they’ll go away (actually, I suspect that the minute I admit the debt, they’ll hammer me with another £1,000 in costs and charges), but why should I?

The computer may be king, but only if we allow it to be. It’s time for every good man and true to stand up and rage against the machine. Because if we don’t, the damn things will begin to believe that they’re infallible after all.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Harry Potter and the Cat of Death

SO YOUR little moggie comes wandering along and settles down in your lap, purring away like Shirley Bassey on speed. Yeah, nice pussy. Unless the feline in question is Oscar, the Cat of Death.

Oscar inhabits a nursing home in Providence, Rhode Island, where, according to the New England Journal of Medicine, he haunts the rooms of those about to die. So accurate is Oscar’s diagnosis of imminent death that staff now send for the patient’s family and their priest once he settles down at the foot of their bed.

Rumours that he was recently seen sneaking into Phil Drabble’s bedroom once the sheepdog was looking the other way can’t be refuted. But he was definitely spotted coughing up a fur ball outside Mike Reid’s Spanish villa.

WAHEY! Let’s play MoD Bingo, Iraq and Afghanistan style!

So it’s number one with a bullet, and you suffer a gunshot wound. That wins you £8,250 in compo on the Ministry of Defence tariff.

Man alive, it’s number five, you’re blinded in one eye. Kerching! That’ll be £28,750, thank you very much.

Three and two, buckle my shoe. Just the one mind, because you’ve lost a leg. That wins you a mere £57,000. And a free crutch.

It’s number 51, it’s a tweak of the thumb. Jackpot time. Collect £484,000 on your way out. No, really.

A woman in her twenties, a civilian working as a data input clerk for the RAF, developed a repetitive strain injury in her right thumb. She claimed that the injury left her unable to work and also caused her to become depressed. She sued the Ministry of Defence and has since been awarded a total of £484,000 in compensation and legal costs.

So the lads at the front put their lives on the line carrying out their orders and get comparative pennies if it all goes wrong, while the clerk typing out those self-same orders gets enough cash to retire on just because she’s got a poorly thumb? It really is enough to make a cat laugh. Except, perhaps, the Cat of Death.

THE GOOD old Currant Bun, the nation’s favourite newspaper (you buy it, don’t blame me) has developed a strange obsession with sharks this week. In particular, an alleged Great White shark that is allegedly lurking off the coast of Cornwall.

Now it’s a handy page-filler when everyone useful has buggered off on holiday, but was it worth three front pages in four days? Even if the story did give the marketing men the chance to sell Jaws ringtones and shark DVDs to gullible idiots?

Meanwhile the Mayor of St Ives, Mr Bill Fry, swears that he’s not had a single person saying that they’re worried about the alleged shark and also says, “After the weather we have had this summer, we badly need all the tourists we can get.”

Now hang on a minute. A man-eating shark is spotted off a popular tourist beach, but the local Mayor plays down the threat because it would be bad for business? That’s a great idea for a film, isn’t it?

THANKS TO a two-year-old weekend houseguest, I now know the words of Shrek 2 by heart. (Yes, it was quite good fun the first 37 times.)

But on the plus side, I also have a new entrant for the Wagon Wheel Hall of Shame, that roster of resized foodstuffs that are now nowhere as big as they used to be. (Most recent previous entrants, the pitifully proportioned purple Monster Munch and the incredible shrinking Kit Kat.)

Step forward, Dairylea Cheese Triangles. These childhood delicacies used to be a solid wedge of foil-wrapped fecundity; a veritable doorstop of creamy calcium. Now they are a pathetic parody of their previous proportions; a mere sliver of silver-wrapped spread that disintegrates by the time you’ve got it out of the wrapper. Quite scandalous. And don’t get me started on Milky Ways, shrinking so fast that they must soon surely disappear altogether.

before about the despicable Picture Loans television advert which I detest on so many grounds – not least for its hijacking of the music from Tony Hart’s Vision On Gallery.

Well now there’s a new one, called Dad’s Found Your Scooter. It is just as patronising, deceitful and dangerous as the first, only this time it features a woman chatting on the phone, rather than the fool with the football. The premise, though, is the same – that arranging a £25,000 loan is as simple, easy and friendly as gossiping to your best mate down the road.

The consequences aren’t as friendly. That £25,000, repaid over 180 months, will cost almost £45,000, and if you run into trouble with the payments, they’ll take your house off you. As I’ve said before, some effing friend.

MORE ANIMAL news. Scientists at the University of Baltimore claim to have created the world’s first schizophrenic mouse.

I have two questions. Why? And how do they know?

Does the confused rodent emerge from its little straw-filled bed dressed as Disney’s Mickey one day and as DangerMouse the next? Does it howl at the moon? Does it sit outside its cage drinking cheap cider from plastic bottles while abusing passing shoppers?

Either way, it’s just not right. Send for the Cat of Death.

news from Iraq at last, where the country’s football team has won the Asia Cup, the equivalent of the European championship, by beating Saudi Arabia 1-0 in Jakarta. The important thing here is that the team is made up of Shias, Sunnis and Kurds, so it’s one sign of unity and solidarity in a divided nation.

What fascinates me is the thought of what their fans might sing at matches. “Get your face out for the lads” perhaps? “You’re Shiite and you know you are”? “I’m forever blowing up bubbles”? I don’t know, but I think we should be told.

THE HEAD of a school in Somerset shocked pupils by reading them an extract from the last page of the new Harry Potter book in their final assembly of the year. This was apparently because the theme of the day was “goodbye to friends”.

How thoughtless. So now scores of kids know that Harry perished horribly after the Cat of Death (aka Lord Voldemort) curled up in his lap. Hardly fair, is it?