Sunday, April 27, 2008

It's April Fool's Day again

DO YOU ever get the feeling that you’ve woken up in a parallel universe where it’s April Fool’s Day every day? It certainly seemed like that on Wednesday, St George’s Day, when I opened my super soaraway Sun to read that those irritating Europeans had snuck up on us overnight and unilaterally split the country into three Euro territories.

Actually, ‘unilaterally’ isn’t quite fair, because Wee Gordy Broon has long since sold our sovereignty down the river and we’re inexorably now part of a federal European super state. Why do you think he wouldn’t let us vote on it?

Still, it’s a bit of a shock to wake up in Huddersfield and find out that you’ve been forcibly twinned with Helsinki. (“Herring for breakfast again, Father?”) But that’s what’s happened, however extraordinary it may seem.

The entire eastern side of Britain has been annexed to parts of the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden in an arbitrary grouping called the North Sea Region. Similarly, a chunk of southern England has been linked to northern France and Belgium (the TransManche Region) while the west of Britain, from the tip of Scotland down to Land’s End, has been lumped in with Ireland and coastal areas of France, Spain and Portugal to form the Atlantic Region. It’s all quite barking.

The “stated strategic objectives” of this underhand integration are to “support the emergence of a common space of citizenship, a sense of belonging to a cross border area with a unique identity”. Well I’m sorry, but I don’t share a “common space of citizenship” with a fisherman in a Portugese village. I don’t even share a “common space of citizenship” with a Glaswegian Mars Bar-fryer, a Welsh benefits fiddler or a tarmac-laying tinker, and I have no wish to, thank you very much.

Of course, there’s a hefty element of bribery at work here. Each region has millions of Euros to spend on indoctrination, and grants will be available to organisations willing to stage a pro-EU publicity campaign and promise to fly the EU flag for at least a week.

Didn’t they used to call people who sold out their country for 30 pieces of silver “Quislings”?

WE THEN adjourned to Holyhead magistrates’ court where, presented before district judge Andrew Shaw, was a man who posed as Darth Vader to attack a Star Wars fan who had founded his own Jedi church. No, really.

Arwel Wynne Hughes, 27, from Holyhead, admitted assaulting Barney Jones and cousin Michael with a metal crutch. They suffered minor injuries. Hughes, who was drunk and dressed in a black bin bag, shouted “Darth Vader!”, jumped over a wall and attacked the cousins, who were filming themselves playing with light sabres in the garden, with a metal crutch. (I wondered how long it would be before the Magical Tin Leg of Money made an appearance in this story.)

Mr Hughes apparently has a chronic alcohol problem and had drunk the best part of a 10-litre box of wine. Further to that, the court was told, he could not remember the incident and only realised what had happened when he read about it in local newspapers. The judge warned Hughes that jail remained a possibility before adjourning for reports until 13 May.

So it’s alright to bandy light sabres about in public and to worship craven idols, but not alright for a man who’s had a swig of pop or two to remonstrate with the non-believers? The mind boggles.

WEDNESDAY didn’t get any better, with another daft story dropping out of the internet ether claiming that a toy manufacturer in the Ukraine has announced that it is to sell dolls of the former German dictator Adolf Hitler. The 16in figurine - complete with moveable arms to reproduce Hitler’s infamous salute - will first go on sale in the capital Kiev.

So again, we check the calendar, convinced that this is another hoax, only for a seemingly-convincing video report to turn up on the BBC website by mid-afternoon. So it must be true, surely?

It seems lucky owners will be able to choose to dress their mini-Fuhrer from a selection of outfits including ‘early days Adolf’ (brown shirts and jodhpurs) and ‘wartime Adolf’ (a grey double-breasted tunic, black trousers and simple Iron Cross medal).

The doll will also come with accessories like a miniature Blondi, Hitler's faithful Alsatian, whose loyalty was repaid with a cyanide capsule in the Berlin bunker.

The appearance of a plastic Adolph in the playroom raises some interesting issues. Barbie should be OK, being the sort of Aryan superdoll of which he approved, but those mixed race Bratz will be heading to the dungeons of the toy fort before you can say ‘ethnic cleansing’.

Fireman Sam will come in handy in case of another pesky blaze at the Reichstag and it will be interesting to see which side the Airfix air force comes down on. Anyhow, don’t be surprised if the Dolls’ Dictator annexes Legoland and then invades Balamory.

AND THE madness continues. Which is the next story of the day that’s too stupid to be true? The priest who floated off into the skies over Brazil attached to a thousand helium balloons? The trainers that can grow a full size at the turn of a button? The Bruce Oldfield designer uniforms for McDonald’s staff? Or the drought in Turkey that is causing a nationwide shortage of that tea break essential, the fig roll?

I just head back to bed, hoping that Thursday will be a better – and more sensible - day.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The magical Tin Leg of Money

A FEW weeks ago I wrote about the plethora of so-called authorities now allowed to legally spy on us – all in the name of national security - by intercepting our post, reading our emails and tapping our phones.

While accepting that the security services and the cops should have such powers, as long as they were underwritten by a judge, I complained that it was dangerous in the extreme to give the jobsworths at our local councils spying rights on the basis that once they had them they were sure to abuse them.

Soon after publication I had two angry messages from local government bods. How dare I brand them Little Hitlers (although I had done no such thing) and that I ought to know that they could conceive of no situation that might cause them to invoke such Draconian measures.

Yeah, right.

Fast forward a month or so and the story breaks that a couple from Poole in Dorset had been under surveillance by their local council for two weeks for threatening national security by allegedly sneaking their three-year-old daughter into a local primary school when they didn’t live in the correct catchment area. (If only Osama had thought of that one, eh? Packing our schools with children from too many streets away? That would teach the infidel running dogs a lesson or two.)

When I say under surveillance, I mean the full James Bond monty: followed on school runs, tracked throughout the day by council officials, and watched at night to see where the family slept (they owned two homes, one of which was in the right catchment area).

It further transpires that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 has also been used by local councils to spy on dog-owners suspected of not cleaning up after their pets and to place surveillance cameras in old baked bean tins in lay-bys to catch fly-tippers.

Now both of the above are clearly anti-social acts (although I reserve judgement on that terribly middle class ‘crime’ of school-blagging’), but do they really deserve to have powers intended to fight terrorism used against them? Why can’t our councils deploy one of their bin police or traffic wardens or one-legged, black, bicycling lesbian outreach workers to stand by the side of popular footpaths and shout: “Oi! Pick that up, mate!”

Isn’t that more cost effective than having two nerds from the planning department going out at night with infra-red goggles, those shoes with a compass in the heel and a cyanide capsule just to photograph Mrs Goggins from Number 32 letting her toy poodle Tony do a whoopsie on the footpath?

I HAVE noticed a new badge of honour on the scrote estates – the single, aluminium NHS crutch. You can see them in Lidl or stood smoking outside flat-roofed pubs; seemingly healthy members of the underclass with a crutch dangling ineffectually from one arm, supporting nothing more than a benefits claim.

And watch the papers for more evidence. Most of the stories about charity fraudsters, eBay conmen or thieving junior accountants feature a picture of the alleged miscreant, crutch wobbling harmlessly in the breeze. Only this week a “sicko from Scarborough” who conned Tom Cruise and John Travolta by posing as the grieving dad of dead actor Heath Ledger (yes, I know, weirder sentences you will never read) appeared outside the Crown Court, crutched-up and seemingly only a gasper away from an oxygen mask.

(This chap is a bit of a belter if we’re honest. He’s got 40 previous convictions for dishonesty and has a tattoo claiming that his mum died in the terrorist attack on the Twin Towers. Unfortunately – or even happily, I think - she was alive and well and living in Doncaster on 9/11.)

The Daily Mail this week attempted to draw the family tree of Shannon Matthews’ dysfunctional family. It was Mission Impossible from the start; the chart, littered with multiple children by multiple fathers, ended up resembling the formula for DNA. Still, they helpfully highlighted those family members in jail or on bail for perverting the course of justice, benefits fraud or, in one case, serving life for murder. I can’t help but think that it might have been a greater public service if they’d flagged up the clan members who dangle the magical Tin Leg Of Money while queuing up to buy their scratchcards.

MUCH HAS been made of the impact of economic immigrants from eastern Europe on modern life. The lentil-eating Lefties claim that they make us all richer; the hard-pressed public services in places like Norfolk complain that their children are swamping schools to the point that it’s no longer necessary to employ covert surveillance of middle class parents because they’ve all moved away anyway. (Let’s face it; who wants little Hermione to come home speaking fluent Albanian?)

My own experience of the new migrants is overwhelmingly positive, to an embarrassing point. The Polish waitresses in my favourite gastropub are charm personified – a million miles from the surly, resentful, slack-jawed English dole scum who occasionally turn up for work. The organic farm shop where I buy my carrots, artfully smeared with mud, is manned by Lithuanian crop-pickers.

But the most impressive bunch of grafters are the Romanian gypsies who run the car-wash operation at my local Tesco. I often struggle to get my car back from them, such is the care they lavish upon it, and all for a tenner. And you know what? Not a single one of them has a magical Tin Leg of Money dangling from their arms.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Yoghurt Knitters 1, Chinese Thugs 0

AFTER THE humiliation that was the much-vaunted opening of Terminal 5 at Heathrow, it took the debacle of the Olympic Torch procession to restore a bit of national pride. And didn’t we do it well?

As the blue-tracksuited Chinese thugs, who were according to the newspapers highly-trained killers from crack military special forces units, struggled to cope with a man with a fire extinguisher and a few barmy yoghurt-knitters, it did your heart proud to watch democracy in action.

Have some of this, Denise van Outen! Stitch that, former Blue Peter presenter Konnie Huq! It was fantastic; an utter farce from start to finish.

Of course, you might ask why the Beijing Olympic Games Sacred Flame Protection Force, as they are apparently known, were allowed to jog through the streets of Britain in the first place, manhandling Lord Coe and roughing up assorted Z-list celebrities as they went. After all, didn’t we have enough of our own paid heavies to cope with the demonstrators? I’m thinking of the cycle helmet-clad coppers in high-visibility jackets and the outer layer of riot police. Wasn’t that enough to guarantee safe passage?

I know that if I was a pro-Tibet protestor (and, truth be told, I’m rapidly heading that way) the sight of China’s finest coming the big man on the streets of the capital wouldn’t have put me off; rather, it would have inspired me to have a pop at them. Me and that Max Mosley.

Meanwhile our brave Prime Minister, Wee Gordie Broon, managed to “welcome” the Olympic Torch to Downing Street without actually touching it, so continuing his craven habit of distancing himself from anything that might look remotely negative including, it must be said, most of his own government’s policies. It’s enough to make a cat laugh.

I’M PUZZLED about all this fuss surrounding property prices. According to the hysterical London media, we’re suffering from a massive financial crisis because house prices have dropped 10 per cent in the last three months. Well so what?

I sit here in Beelzebub Mansions, my country pile apparently worth £10,000 less than it was worth last week, and how have I been affected? Well, not at all, really. My mortgage payments, vast though they are, haven’t increased. There are no bailiffs banging on the door and, as yet, I can still afford to feed the family by shopping at Waitrose, rather than Lidl. So what’s all the fuss about?

The only people who might be affected are those whose fixed-term mortgages are coming to an end (and are you really going to tell me that they didn’t expect the rate to increase when they renewed?) and those people who are trying to move house. And even then, we must presume that the house they are looking to buy will have decreased in value by a similar amount to the house they are trying to sell.

It’s all a lot of fuss about nothing. The only thing any householder has to worry about is if Max Mosley moves in next door and there’s insufficient sound-proofing. As for the rest, it’s just London-based journalists sweating that the sale of their two-up, two-down terrace in Notting Hill won’t fund their exodus to a country pile where they can wear green wellies and moan about smelly cows.

SPEAKING OF which, expect some serious media condemnation of the Dewsbury Moor estate, where Shannon Matthews lived with her “extended family” until her alleged kidnap.

When this story broke there was much soul-searching about the way the Matthews and their ilk were portrayed by the press, particularly in comparison to those nice, middle-class McCanns. The red-top tabloids held their noses; the posh papers condemned the hypocrisy.

But now, with Karen Matthews charged with perverting the course of justice in connection with her daughter’s disappearance, all bets are off. The Sun, the paper you lot buy in greater numbers than any other than this one, were first out of the blocks comparing the estate to Beirut and whining about grown women making their way to the shops, in the rain, at midday, while still wearing pyjamas and slippers. (To be fair, they used to do that in the street where I grew up, on their way to buy a pint of ‘loose sherry’ from the off licence.)

Bailiffs abound, we are told, and residents happily show off their electronic tags as some sort of fashion item. The easy comparison is made with the fictional Chatsworth Estate, home of the TV series Shameless. Unfortunately that doesn’t quite stand up. Consider this: Karen Matthews has seven children by five different fathers. Two of those children she calls ‘The Twins’, not because they are twins, but because they have the same father. That’s close enough.

Now there’s not a TV scriptwriter on earth who could have come up with a line like that. Not even if they moved Max Mosley in next door.

NOW I know that they’re trying to show willing, but some of the madcap schemes that the Powers That Be come up with only go to show how far removed from reality they really are.

The latest embarrassment is the abandonment of the plan to make all paedophiles register their email addresses so that social networking sites like Bebo and Facebook could ban them from pretending to be attractive teenage boys when in fact they were 50-year-old lorry drivers from Tamworth.

One small point: it takes approximately five seconds to set up a new email address, something that clearly didn’t occur to the great brains who run this country. If the cat wasn’t laughing before, it is now.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Come back when your ovaries have dried up

ACCORDING TO the front page of a so-called newspaper this week, a lady newsreader called Natasha Kerplunsky is three months pregnant. I bet her bosses are really pleased, seeing as she’s just five weeks into a million-pound contract and is now looking forward to a year off.

That cuddly old teddy bear Sir Alan Sugar got some serious flak a few weeks back for criticising the daft laws that stop employers asking prospective employees whether or not they intend to get pregnant. The fact that his new TV series was looming on the horizon must be acknowledged, but he was right.

Let’s be honest. If you are a small businessman employing three or four people, you’d have to be barking mad to take on a woman of child-bearing age. There you are, trying to be all progressive and modern, when suddenly the key sales manager you employed just three weeks earlier announces that she’s up the duff and will shortly be departing for a year on the couch scoffing Jaffa Cakes and watching Jeremy Kyle, and all at your expense.

Worse still, she knew she was pregnant when she took the job. So where’s the fairness in that? It’s only one step away from blatant fraud. I can’t believe that we’re prepared to put up with this nonsense.

No doubt the hairy-armpit brigade will already be composing their letters of complaint, but let’s turn it around. What if I, as a man, applied for and accepted a job and then announced a couple of months later that I had a bad back and would shortly be clearing off on the sick for a year or so? Yes, of course I knew I had the bad back when I came for an interview, but you weren’t allowed to ask me about it. So if you don’t mind, you can pay me for most of that time off as well. It’s madness.

The stupid thing is that legislation designed to promote the equality of women is now actively working against them. I was at a lodge meeting last week and conducted a quick survey amongst my fellow used car-dealers and near-bankrupt estate agents. Not a single one of them will now contemplate taking on a woman of child-bearing age. They’d rather employ a passing Pole or an itinerant Uzbekistani. Male, of course.

AND HERE we go again. New sex discrimination laws mean that landlords who allow drinkers to crack ‘sexist’ jokes or indulge in ‘racy’ banter can now be taken to a tribunal and sued for hundreds of thousands of pounds by their barmaids.

(I’m not sure what ‘sexist’ and ‘racy’ means in this context, but I’m sure there are legions of government-funded lawyers just gagging to argue the toss.)

And restaurant managers or hoteliers also risk action if staff object to backchat from customers asking for a date.

The frightening thing is that the burden of proof will be on the employer, not the employee. So the minimum-wage teenage scrote that you take on to shift alcopops to her fellow 17-year-olds can whisk you off to court claiming that a passing Darren looked at her breasts and said “You don’t get many of them to the pound” and you’ll have to prove that he didn’t. So where’s the justice in that?

It’s a bigger scam than getting pregnant.

RARELY DOES a day pass without some new health care surfacing in the national press – usually in the pages of the Daily Mail. And that so-called advice is so contradictory that it’s often difficult to make sense of it.

First of all you’re warned that even a sip of alcohol will result in your liver dissolving in a pit of acid; three days later you’re told that the occasional glass of red wine is actually good for your health. Similarly meat. Now we all know that a vegetarian diet is a recipe for disaster: constant sniffles, chronic wind and some dodgy bowel movements. And last week that prejudice was confirmed by research that suggested that a certain element of red meat in your diet was good for you.

Then what’s this? “Eating a single sausage can kill” bleat the headlines. Well, yes ... if you’ve bought it from a burger van outside Villa Park, maybe. (I only mention Villa Park because it was there that I bought a beefburger at the height of the BSE crisis from a van displaying the notice: “Guaranteed - our burgers contain 100 per cent no beef.”)

So there I sit in front of a plate of bacon, sausage, fried egg, fried bread, baked beans, mushrooms and tomatoes. I now know that just one mouthful might kill me stone dead. Do I care? Bring on the hash browns, the black pudding, the kedgeree. We’re all going to die anyway. We may as well go with tomato sauce dribbling down our chins.

BUT THEN, maybe not. The latest loony government initiative suggests that we should all have our own personal health care budgets, to be spent as we want. So if you’ve got a nasty case of piles, you can take yourself off to the nation’s best pile care clinic, which I suspect is somewhere in Wales. If you’re suffering from chronic wind, then the Geoffrey Boycott Clinic in Barnsley will be the place to go.

It all sounds very sensible, doesn’t it? But wait … what happens when you’ve spent your budget? That nasty bout of terminal cancer turned out to be not so serious after all, and the prospects of recovery are good, but you’ve spent all your health care cash - there’s no money left in the kitty for further treatment.

That’s it then mate. You’ve cashed in your chips. Kindly go way and die quietly in the corner.