Sunday, September 02, 2007

The grief junkies go into overdrive


WHEN IT comes to Self-Pity City, God certainly knows how to lay it on thick. Liverpool’s latest tragedy – the murder of 11-year-old innocent, Rhys Jones – has sent the grief junkies into overdrive. Poor florists are collapsing exhausted after going without sleep for days while Chinese teddy bear factories are on overtime.

(And is it only me who wondered how long those signed Everton shirts and boots would last at the shrine before our old friend Sticky Fingers had them away? Give me a minute and I’ll have a look for them on eBay.)

There was even the first recorded case in this country of tragedy hijacking, when Liverpool fans – upset at being left out of this Everton tearfest – invited Mr and Mrs Jones to Anfield so they could show what compassionate fellows they also were. Sadly the match had to be abandoned after individual minute’s silences for little Rhys, that Spanish footballer who dropped dead on the pitch, and the 63 people killed in the Greek forest fires meant that the crowd had to leave while there was still time to catch the last bus.

So that’s the best seats in the house for two football matches in three days and the chance to choose your own pre-match music? I bet Gerry McCann is spitting feathers.

OF COURSE
, we shouldn’t just mock the Scousers – it’s not all their fault. The blame for this Dianafication of our society lies firmly at the feet of err … well ... Diana.

Here we are, 10 years on, and our emotional history has changed radically. No more stiff upper lip; lots more cellophane flowers. Run over a badger, as I did last week, and you’re almost honour bond to erect a carefully carved tombstone. With a daily delivery of lilies.

And as for this memorial service, has anyone stopped to ask why? I don’t remember Sir Winston Churchill having a 10-Years-On party. Why are we having inflicted upon us another period of mawkish mourning over a nice but dim girl who fell foul of the system?

And what’s this nonsense about Camilla not turning up? Is there anybody in their right mind on the staff of the Prince of Wales (and on around £250,000 a year) who thought this might be A Good Idea? The poor woman herself didn’t want to go. The guillotine-chasing mob of middle-aged Diana fans didn’t want her to go. Even Her Maj didn’t want her to go. So let’s pretend that she’s going and then let her pull out at the last moment. Genius. A PR disaster of Gerald Ratner proportions.

You might have thought that The Firm would have learned a few lessons in the past decade. Sadly not. They’re still as dim and distant as the Planet Zog.

ONE THING
that the death of Diana did give me was a morbid fear of bad poetry. This came about after the Great British Public (Over-65 Branch) decided that the only way to mark her departure was with a few lines of desperate doggerel.

Thus our newspapers were soon swamped with crapulent couplets and stunningly awful stanzas. Inevitably, this led to our own spoof office competition, the winner of which succinctly summed up the whole story in just 13 words:

Gone to Heaven, not to Hades,
And all because of a fast Mercedes.


Champagne all round, chaps.

A FEW weeks ago I discussed at length the disdain with which our politicians regard the men and women of the armed forces who fight their dirty wars for them. In particular, we railed against the decision to award an RAF typist £484,000 in compensation for having a sore thumb when troops who lost a leg received only £57,000.

How can it be right, I asked, that 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 finger?

And sadly, all too soon we had a perfect example of this iniquity. Ben Parkinson, a paratrooper who lost both his legs as well as suffering myriad other devastating injuries after being blown up by a land mine, has been awarded just £152,000 for his ruined life. Ben needs 24-hour care, and his mother just wanted enough money to buy him a house with disabled facilities. Unfortunately the MoD didn’t even see fit to award him the maximum compensation of £285,000 – in itself, not nearly enough.

The good news is that Ben’s parents are now off to the High Court to challenge this pitiful level of compensation. Obviously, they’ve been denied legal aid, but well-wishers will fund the costs. If they win, the whole issue of how much our damaged troops receive will be taken away from the penny-pinching suits at the MoD and thrown into the public arena, where judges rule and civil servants run scared. And not before time.

The government is already trying to cover up the true numbers of serious casualties returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. Those who do return are treated shamefully, abandoned onto NHS wards amongst the elderly, infirm and incontinent and denied the support network of military company. They are left vulnerable to attack and intimidation and are forbidden to wear any part of their uniforms in case they offend a passing Muslim.

Rudyard Kipling wrote a poem about this kind of ungrateful attitude back in 1892 – thankfully, he wasn’t around at the time of Princess Diana’s passing – which went:

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!” But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country,” when the guns begin to shoot.

You would have thought that we’d moved on a bit since then.

THE MONEY
we should be spending on the missing legs of paratroopers appears to be heading instead towards ever more sophisticated models of speed cameras. The latest James Bond version is said to be toughest in the world, with a fire-resistant body and a stiffened steel base. It is fitted with smoke and vibration sensors in case it’s attacked and covers four lanes of traffic, nigh and day, with a limitless supply of digital “film”. And it costs up to £50,000 a time. Or a soldier’s limb, if your tariff works that way.

And if you do decide to drive a tractor into it at the dead of night, it automatically downloads all data to the nearest nick and then summons the cops to come and defend it.

One question. What can it do about one angry motorist with a 99p can of black spray paint, determined to obliterate the lens? Go on then, answer me that.

THE CHAPS at Alton Towers have come up with a wizard scheme to keep punters dry during their days out by doing something called “cloud seeding”. This apparently involves shooting dry ice into clouds to make them shed their raindrops prematurely.

Only one problem. The weather in these parts comes in mainly from the west. By the time the rocket scientists lurking behind the Nemesis spot a threatening rain cloud approaching, it’ll be about six miles away. Over a town called Cheadle.



That should make for fun and games at the next town council meeting.


2 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bazza,
Forget the black spray paint for the speed cameras, we always find that paint-ball guns are easily the fastest and best!

Pass it on.

12:01 PM  
Anonymous Al said...

"So that’s the best seats in the house for two football matches in three days and the chance to choose your own pre-match music? I bet Gerry McCann is spitting feathers."

Absolute classic Bazza!

5:32 AM  

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