Monday, February 18, 2008

Beware the deranged curtain-twitcher


I THOUGHT long and hard before I bought the baseball bat and tucked it away beneath the carpet in the car boot.

The machete under the bed I can justify to myself: anyone coming up those stairs in the dark is clearly up to no good and is therefore going to get it. Similarly, the sawn-off pool cue tucked away in the hall near the front door. Both are defensive weapons, for use only against significant intruders, and while their use might not necessarily be deemed as “reasonable force”, at least I’d have a fighting chance in court.

Not so the baseball bat in the car. That might well also be for protection in these dysfunctional days, but its very location leaves me open to a charge of possessing an offensive weapon. So what to do?

After several weeks of pondering, I drove into the local sports shop on the way home from work and purchased a 32-inch Louisville Slugger in white ash for a very reasonable £31.99. But that wasn’t all. A further £6.99 bought me an authentic leather-bound baseball, and the master plan was put into action.

For the next week I took the dog out every evening, as well as the bat and ball. The bat I dragged along the dry stone walls and generally dented; the ball I threw for the dog until it was suitably chewed up. The bat then went into the car boot and, crucially, so did the ball.

So ask me, officer, what I’m doing with a baseball bat in my car and I’ll happily tell you. I use it to hit a ball around and exercise the dog. Look, there are the teeth marks.

Of course, instead of quizzing me over why I’m transporting a potentially offensive weapon, the cops might be better off asking themselves why an ordinary, middle-aged, middle class, white male should feel the need to carry a hefty club in the first place. But that’s a far more complicated argument, and one no-one seems to want to tackle at the moment.

THE REASON I mention this dilemma is that the Association of Chief Police Officers appears to have given up on the idea of having coppers patrolling our streets and is now suggesting that we might like to do it ourselves.

The idea is that teams of Neighbourhood Watch members could spy on villains, patrol crime-hit areas and check cars for out-of-date tax discs. There is even a suggestion that “secret” teams might get together to gather intelligence on possible wrongdoers.

I can see several problems with this frankly idiotic plan. Firstly, anyone who has ever lived in a rural village will know how they are riven with snobbery, jealousy and petty feuds. The idea of letting the deranged curtain-twitcher at Snout’s Cottage gather “intelligence” about her neighbours reminds me of East Germany before the Berlin Wall came down.

Secondly, while I am quite prepared to patrol the streets of my locality, discreetly dented Louisville Slugger in hand, where do I stand when a hooded teen scrote accidentally gets damaged in a robust exchange of views? In past experience, it’s me who gets carted off into custody while the feral yob gets given a free Playstation and a week’s canoeing in the Lake District. And two litres of cheap cider.

MR KEITH Waterhouse’s legendary Department of Guesswork has been busy again, this week supplying figures for a Health Protection Agency report on global warming. It appears that by the year 2012 there is a one-in-40 chance of a heatwave in the South East of England that will kill 3,000 people immediately, with a further 3,000 deaths to follow. And all because I drive my 4x4 to the tip to recycle my wine bottles.

Let’s have a closer look at those figures. A “one-in-40” chance in the next five years? How does that work then? It doesn’t make sense. Presumably a “one-in-40” chance means once in 40 years, doesn’t it? So how can that happen in the next five years, unless we’re very, very unlucky? I’m getting a headache.

And these 6,000 people supposedly killed, according to the report, by a combination of skin cancer, hot weather, floods and malaria – how do they work out that number? Is there an accurate computer model somewhere that details exactly how many people will drown in floods, how many people will spend too long in the sun and how many people will get bitten by a passing mosquito? If so, why don’t they ring them up and warn them? It’s just nonsense.

Still, it’s not all bad news. Milder winters will apparently mean that 20,000 fewer pensioners will freeze to death in front of Countdown, but that’s probably utter bollocks as well.

AS IT’S a Leap Year, men throughout the country are at risk of being press-ganged by desperate women into marrying them. Before they fall for the feminine wiles (Beef Wellington and a BJ seems par for the course), they would do well to consider the case of poor Timothy Mortimer who was persecuted by his ex-girlfriend after deciding, quite reasonably, that the grass was greener on the other side of the lunatic asylum.

Mr Mortimer’s ex, a mad woman called Lee Amor, subsequently sent him nearly 11,000 text messages in just 65 days. The Department of Guesswork reliably informs me that that makes eight text messages every minute, although I suspect that one message every eight minutes is nearer the mark.

I wonder if Mr Mortimer might be interested in buying a second-hand Louisville Slugger, slightly used?

11 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

How I agree, Barry. Last year our home was targeted by yobs, throwing stones and eggs, uprooting plants, scratching our cars. PC Plod eventually turned out and suggested I speak to my own teenager about it, as it was probably someone she had upset (truly!) He also told me that without evidence... although what the scratchmarks on my paintwork and egg yolk glued to my windows comprised if not evidence, I don't know, then PC Plod would just go back to his cosy station and forget all about me. Where would this evidence come from, I enquired. "Oh you need to install CCTV to film your home. Then if you catch anyone on camera we'll investigate." Silly me, I thought that part of my council tax went towards paying HIM to gather evidence. Doh!

10:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Regarding the risk calculations you complained about: yes, in fact there is a computer programme (or rather several) that work this out. For more information about this, I recommend the Royal Statistical Society.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Grumpy Goat said...

One of my friends went out and purchased an aluminum [sic] baseball bat after catching burglars in her house in an unspecified Middle Eastern city.

Under Sharia law, she was informed, it is perfectly legit to beat an uninvited guest in your house to a pulp. Maybe the Archbishop has a point...

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Al said...

If there is a computer program to model the impact of a severe heatwave, how was it specified and written? Compuer programs aren't magic - they only calculate base don information provided to them, so somebody, somehwere must have made some assumptions about the scale of the impact and the chain of events. That's where the creative part (i.e. guesswork) comes into it.

1:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

No doubt it was the same people who predicted the Millenium Bug : planes dropping out of the skies; hospitals losing power; nuclear submarines firing their payload; my VHS clock stopping and other gruesome horror stories.

2:45 AM  
Anonymous Al said...

Having a computer model doesn't necessarily make the prediction any more accurate or honest, if anything it gives it a false air of credibility. Somebody must have decided that (for instance) each degree rise in temperature would infect x% of drinking water, which y% of the population would drink, z% of them would fall ill, etc, etc. The computer model would just apply these percentages to the UK population figure to calculate how many people would be made ill by this sequence of events. Computers are only number-crunchers - they only apply the logic programmed into them, and that's where computer models of this type are open to artistic licence. If you build pessimistic assumptions into the program logic, you will get a fairly scary answer out of it. It depends what you are trying to prove.

It's also worth noting that computer modelling is used extensively in weather forecasting now, and how often is the weather forecast correct? And these are probably the computer models that are predicting the impending killer heatwave. They can't even tell me if it is going to rain tomorrow, but they reckon they can predict a heatwave by 2012!

Sounds like the London Olympics are going to be a big hit, with all those people dropping down dead in the streets!

3:48 AM  
Blogger Steve_Roberts said...

Barry,"A “one-in-40” chance in the next five years" means "a one in two hundred chance this year, and next year, etc"

It also means the government has too much money and too many people if they are fretting over such against-the-odds contingencies

6:49 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"although what the scratchmarks on my paintwork and egg yolk glued to my windows comprised if not evidence"

I certainly understand your frustration and it pisses me off that there is never a copper available when stupid boy racers are tearing around our vilage, but come on, just what damning conclisions do you think can be drawn from your egg yolk? Maybe you think that DNA can be extracted and a database of all the chickens in the country can be consulted. Perhaps you also believe that somehow the marks on your car can be individually attributed to a particular sharp instrument.
Furthermore, I suppose you also believe everything your teenage offspring tell you.
If so you have to be in need of a reality check.

9:46 AM  
Blogger thud said...

I subscribe to hammer and handfull of nails in a bag school of self defence..afterall D.I.Y. is a national passion

2:31 PM  
Anonymous Al said...

If you want to carry a baseball bat or a hammer or whatever for self defense, then do so. I know that if someone attacks me while I'm minding my own business, I'd rather argue my case from the witness box than from a hospital bed.

12:34 AM  
Blogger Forty_Two said...

That's why we have guns in America.

6:05 AM  

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