Sunday, July 27, 2008

Burn their kilts and stamp on their shortbread

A TOURIST attraction in Scotland banned visitors from south of the border on one day last week and instead spent the time destroying ‘English’ items such as bone china and important books.

The Edinburgh Dungeon said that the one-day ban was in revenge for the Battle of Falkirk, fought 710 years ago, in which the Porridge Wogs got their usual battering at the hands of God’s Own People. In this case, six thousand of William Wallace’s idiots came up against half a dozen of Edward I’s archers. The result? Longbows, 6,000; face-painted, skirt-wearing Nancy Boys, 0.

This seems to have displeased the Jocks to the point that they thought that they’d ‘celebrate’ another miserable defeat by scoring some cheap publicity for their crappy museum.

The obvious point here is what would happen if an English museum decided that they’d have a day of burning kilts and stamping on shortbread. I think we know – the Thought Police would be around sharpish, clubbing the curator and spraying CS gas in the face of the old lady serving lemon drizzle cake and cups of tea.

As it happens, some sad bugger actually complained to the Lothian and Borders police about the event, and much time was therefore wasted investigating a perceived slight. I can only think that it was someone from Carlisle. No-one else could care less.

THE PONCY middle-class columnists of the national press have been hurtling into print to condemn Boots the Chemist for getting a security guard to ‘arrest’ a 12-year-old girl and then summoning three policemen to interrogate her over the alleged theft of a pot of nail varnish.

Well I’m sorry, but I don’t see what they’re complaining about. This kid wandered into the store, unwrapped the £7 nail varnish and painted one of her nails. It wasn’t what Mrs Beelzebub tells me is called a tester; it was a valuable product.

What if I wandered into an off licence and popped the top of a can of wife-beater before deciding whether to buy it or not? I’d be banged up quicker than an English museum curator who’d been burning kilts.

To be fair, the store didn’t actually help itself with its moronic NuLabour-speak comments after the incident: “During the recent event at our Folkestone store, we worked with Miss Gilbert [the accused] and subsequent local law enforcement to ensure an effective resolution was met.”

What does that mean? Why can’t they just speak English? And burn a few kilts?

I MUST admit that I occasionally get tired of trying to defend Margaret Thatcher. I know that her policies caused much hurt, particularly in the former coalfields, but when you survey her body of work in the context of British history, 1975-2008, then I honestly believe without her input we’d all still be driving Morris Marinas and living in run-down, pebble-dashed council houses, while rubbish lay uncollected in the streets and inflation ran at unheard of levels. (Hang on, scratch the last two points.)

I think what annoys me most is the lazy, left-wing abuse of a frail, 82-year-old woman. Only last week I had a barney in snug bar of The Shivering Whippet with a spikey-haired, wannabe Trotskyist who was railing at the assembled stoodents about the plans for a State Funeral for the Blessed Margaret.

She did this, she did that, she was responsible for gassing miners and introducing compulsory euthanasia for pensioners. On and on he went. In the end I had to pull him up.

“So how old are you?” I asked.

“23,” he said.

“Right,” I said. “So you were five years old when she stepped down. You didn’t actually experience a single minute of her rule, yet you’re happily bragging about how you’ll dance on her grave. Frankly, sonny, you’re just a fraud.”

And that’s the problem. A whole generation of Guardianistas has grown up with this image of the Bogey Woman lodged in their lentil-fed brains. If they were there, like I was, and had to get on their bike to find work, like I did, then I’d listen to their opinions. Instead casual venom is the order of the day; in my case it was two winters on oil supply boats off Shetland and a summer on the door of a night club in Gibraltar.

As expected, the letters pages of The Guardian have been frothing at the mouth. Here’s a few choice comments: “The country owes her a 19-gun salute. Yeah, but she can have a blindfold as well.” “A State funeral would be a farce. But how about nationwide street parties or perhaps auctioning coffin nails? I’d pay good money to hammer the lid down.” “Give her a nice marble tomb – in the shape of a public toilet.” “A State funeral? A televised public execution would be far, far too good for her.”

Well, I guess we can all see the intelligent comment and careful thought behind those comments.

OF COURSE, what really hurts the Lefties is that it’s Gordon Brown’s government which has given the nod to a suitable celebration. But, to be honest, they’ll do anything now. It’s like the last days of the Roman Empire.

Why do you think that so many Labour MPs voted against the reform of their expenses? It’s because they know that within two years they’ll be out of a job. Let’s get our snouts in the trough while we’ve still got a chance. After that, it’ll be back to lecturing scrotes at the local polytechnic. And dancing on the grave of an 82-year-old woman.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Twixt Iceland and the fried chicken takeaway lies scrote Nirvana

I OCCASIONALLY have to travel through what are best described as Scrote Estates. (Apparently we’re not allowed to use the word ‘chav’ anymore because if we do then we’re no better than fascists. Don’t ask me – some bloke in The Guardian said it.)

You know the kind of place: flat-roofed pub with a pair of Rottweilers leaning over the guttering, hoodies on mountain bikes riding on the pavement, the cross of St George hanging in bedroom windows long after we were expelled from Euro 2008. You lock the car doors on the way in and check that the carefully pre-damaged baseball bat is close at hand. (It’s for playing with the dog, officer. Look at the teeth marks on it.)

But I’ve now gathered enough evidence to put forward another theory. Presumably these people are officially poor, despite the overwhelming presence of the Magic Tin Leg of Money denoting another dodgy disability claimant. They can’t have much in the way of disposable income after the fags, the alcopops, the scratchcards and the Findus Crispy Pancakes have been paid for. So why, in every horrible, concrete, 1970s shopping precinct, usually in between the local branch of Iceland and a fried chicken takeaway, is there a tanning salon?

Why do poor people feel the need to look … well … orange? Do they think that they’ll be mistaken for Hollywood superstars who’ve just returned from a month on the Riviera? Do they think it’ll protect them from the indigenous scrote diseases of cancer and rickets?

Let’s face it: it’s not as if the tramp-stamped, thong-baring women need any help pulling after closing time at The Shivering Whippet. Their biggest problem is not spilling their chips while being serviced in the car park by a lad off the Waltzers at the local fair. Being bright orange isn’t going to help, beyond making it easier for the local Casanovas to find them in the dark.

Maybe it’s this WAG thing, whereby all teenage girls have only one ambition in life, and that’s to entrap a footballer of sorts and then appear in Hello! magazine at £250,000 a pop. The sad reality – for them - is that they instead fall pregnant to a nice Asian lad from the kebab shop and then spend the rest of their lives pretending to hobble round on the Magic Tin Leg of Money while buying fags, alcopops, scratchcards and Findus Crispy Pancakes. Still, at least the ‘brahn’ baby won’t need to avail itself of the tanning salon.

OUT HERE in the countryside, with Bastille Day gone, the combines have moved into the fields and a lemming-like tidal wave of rats, mice, voles and squirrels is heading for my garage where they’ll shred everything made of cloth, paper or plastic over the next month before giving birth to new legions of vermin in the debris.

I’ve tried shooting them as they advance, but the barrels of the Beretta soon glow red. The lurcher, having slaughtered more wildlife than a forest fire, a veritable canine Attila the Hun, has collapsed exhausted in front of the Aga licking his blood-stained jowls and refuses to set foot outside until there’s a hard frost.

So I went and bought a whippet. It was an accident really. I sat next to a bloke at the polo whose bitch had just had a litter, we went to look at them and that was that. Bring on another set of vets’ fees and damp patches in the hall.

He’s a game little thing, though. I took him to Pets ‘R’ Us to buy him a Barbour for winter and he was stood in front of the glass cases of bunny rabbits doing that twisty-head thing clever dogs do when this woman sauntered up.

“Oh, isn’t he lovely,” she said. “Are you buying him a friend?”

“No, love,” I said. “It’s an educational trip because I think it’s important that he sees where his food is going to come from.”

She stared at me for a full three seconds before running off. On the way out of the car park, I expected the armed response unit to descend upon me at any minute.

OUR PRIME Minister, who doesn’t even have a driving licence and who is chauffeured in luxury limo from banquet to beano, has decreed that we must all drive electric cars by the year 2020. How wonderful.

Now his pal Hilary Benn, the ridiculously vegetarian Minister in charge of the nation’s meat production, has weighed in by saying that rising fuel prices are A Good Thing because the cost of motoring will keep people off the roads, and that those rascals who own second-hand cars should be punished even further.

What planet are these people from? We don’t all live in Islington and work in Westminster. I have a 56-mile return journey to work. Many people commute even further. We do this because there is no suitable public transport solution unless we want to rock up at the office at 10.15am and leave again at 4pm. Three days a week.

And those evil buggers who are killing polar bears with their pollution-spewing second-hand cars? Guess why they’re driving a 1989 Ford Sierra? It’s because they’re poor and can’t afford a brand new £20,000 Toyota Prius milk float, stoopid.

And if they did have that money they’d blow it on a used convertible BMW Turbo Nutter Bastard anyway (plus extra trips to the tanning salon) because that’s human nature.

Sometimes I wish I was locked up in the Big Brother House, away from all this madness.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

The wobbling white triangle of terror

ZIMBABWE IS crisis. Iraq is still a mess. Iran is developing nuclear weapons. Our roads system is approaching gridlock. Our filthy hospitals are killing patients. Most school-leavers can’t read or write. House prices have collapsed. The economy is in meltdown. Banks are being propped up by state money. And what does Wee Gordie Broon do? He breaks off from an 18-course banquet in Japan to give us a lecture on the evils of throwing away some three-day-old Brussels sprouts.

It really does beggar belief. The poor bloke has lost the plot to the extent that you wouldn’t be surprised to see the men in white coats sneaking up to the door of Number 10 with a straightjacket.

He was even at it again the next day, insisting that all cars in Britain should be battery-powered by 2020. And even more offensively, smirked that this revolution would be brought about by the pain of rising fuel prices. Has he really thought this through? This is, after all, a man who doesn’t drive and doesn’t even have a licence.

According to a list of electric cars in the Daily Telegraph – and in The Sun, which had scaled down its UFO coverage for the day – the average range of an electric car is between 40 and 60 miles. Well I don’t know about you, but that would get me to work but not get me back again. I’d be condemned to living in a Travelodge on a distant dual-carriageway, a bit like Alan Partridge but without the Big Plate.

And another thing. As Top Gear and the great man Clarkson recently proved, some electric cars produce more carbon emissions and are less economical than some modern diesels. And finally, what about people who live in the countryside? They need their cars just to get through everyday life. Public transport is a joke: my village gets two buses a week.

So it’s alright for some smug townie to gloat over rising fuel prices, but out here it’s a very serious matter. Take away my motor and I’m going to really struggle to get to the next virgin sacrifice, I tell you.

NOW I’M second to no-one in my demands that the defence budget should be more than adequate to keep our soldiers, sailors and pilots as safe as is possible, particularly when they’re off fighting silly wars on behalf of silly politicians.

So you would think that I would be pleased that we’d just signed up for two new aircraft carriers at a cost of a mere £4 billion. (We’ll set aside the fact that we can’t afford the planes to use them. After all, better to be safe than sorry and you never know when the Germans are likely to get stroppy again. You might also think that this money might be better spent on army vehicles which offer more protection that a Citroen 2CV to roadside bombs, but that’s another matter.)

So well done, our Scottish Prime Minister, and our Scottish Chancellor, and our part-time Scottish Defence Secretary, for awarding these job-preserving contracts to shipyards in … err … Scotland. True, some work will go to Barrow-in-Furness (John Hutton, Labour) and some to Portsmouth (Sarah McCarthy-Fry, Labour), but the bulk of the work will stay north of the border. How expedient.

talking about political expedience, can anyone explain to me the government’s cowardly ducking of the undoubtedly uncomfortable decision to cull badgers to stem the spread of bovine TB?

Now anyone who has ever seen badgers at play in the late evening will acknowledge their ‘teddy bear’ factor, but sometimes hard decisions have to be taken.

While steeling myself for a full-on assault from the bunny-huggers, I will rehearse the facts as we know them: a parliamentary select committee has recommended a cull; the government’s chief scientific advisor, Sir David King, has recommended a cull; so why did Hilary Benn (the alarmingly vegetarian Secretary of State for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs) choose to ignore this advice?

A cynic would suggest that this Labour administration receives funding from animal rights groups and, given its precipitous financial situation, is loath to lose that support. Furthermore, one might reasonably expect Labour votes to be thin on the ground in rural England come the next election, while a flicker of hope might still remain amongst badger-loving urban voters who view the countryside through rose-tinted blinkers, rather than as Tennyson’s “red in tooth and claw” environment.

This is not an X Factor for cuddly animals; this is about the livelihoods of thousands of dairy farmers who have already seen almost 20,000 cattle slaughtered in the past year alone. It might be a difficult decision, it might upset nature lovers; but isn’t that what our MPs are there for? Cheap popularity contests should always come second to doing what is obviously right. Sadly, they clearly don’t.

TO THE dreaded country show at the weekend. Now as you’ll see from the above, I like wildlife as much as the next man, but I have to admit that if I never see another flapping falcon failing to return on cue to its mouse-waving master, then it won’t be too soon.

And then they bring on the Royal Corps of Signals White Helmets motorcycle team. If someone could explain to me how a pyramid of white-helmeted berks perched on motorbikes fits into the training of the modern army then I’d be much obliged. Perhaps it strikes mortal fear into the fuzzie-wuzzies when this fragile assembly of semaphore-flagging clerks comes wobbling across the plains of Kandahar. I somehow doubt it.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Jumping the shark

LAST YEAR it was a shark off the Cornwall coast that saw The Sun through the silly season; this year it’s little green men in flying saucers over Shropshire. Both stories, of course, are utter tosh. Still, anything is better than the diet of relentless misery being peddled by the other national newspapers.

As I’ve said before, yes, things are a bit tight at the moment, but that’s no reason to panic and start eating your pets. Indeed, no greater authority than the Joseph Rowntree Foundation declared this week that a single person needs no more than £13,400 a year to have an acceptable, if basic, standard of living. (That obviously doesn’t include such essentials as fags, wine and Johnny Cash CDs.)

What makes me slightly suspect of the Foundation’s figures is the further assertion that adding a wife and two children to that happy and carefree single man would mean that he’d only need another £13,400 to cope. Do they know the cost of trainers and Wiis, not to mention an extensive wardrobe for the wife? I think Mrs Beelzebub probably spent more than that on the damn garden this year. Every time she comes home from one of her garden centre raiding parties, it looks like she’s re-enacting The Day of the Triffids in the back of her car.

Anyway, let’s get to the point. It seems that the good, old-fashioned fish and chip shop is also having it hard after a wet start to the year damaged potato and mushy pea crops and pushed up prices. Cod, as we know, has been steadily going up in price for the past few years.

I now need to salvage a fiver from the wreckage of my wallet before I can head happily off for a dose of solid Northern protein (although I have yet to convince the Bubble and Squeak who runs the place to fry in beef dripping rather than oil). But it’s still a definite treat.

But even this simple pleasure is under threat after the Health Nazis in Gateshead decided that locals were putting too much salt on their fish and chips and decided that the best way to tackle the so-called problem was to re-design the classic chippy salt-shaker with just five holes instead of the standard 17. No, really. They then toured chip shops and takeaways “advising” proprietors to adopt the new “healthy” shakers – I suspect with a hint of menace conveyed by a finger wiped along the top of a door frame.

According to the perverse thinking of the busy-bodies, this cunning plan would cut salt consumption by up to 60 per cent while giving a “visually acceptable sprinkling” that would satisfy the customer. Of course, it didn’t work. As anyone with half a brain will know, you just shake and shake until you’re happy with the amount of salt on your chips. Some bon viveurs even unscrewed the top of the shaker to satisfy their cravings.

I think what annoys me most about this story isn’t the stupidity of the council involved, or the complete and utter waste of money (£2,000 since you ask, plus hours and hours of officers’ time). It’s the sheer arrogance of some committee somewhere deciding that salt consumption should have a “daily allowance”.

By all means tell me that I might be damaging my heart by eating too many bags of crisps. Thank you for the information. I will consider it carefully and then make a value judgement as to my future behaviour. But the minute you mention “allowances” or rationing or control, then I’m going to be face down in a sack of Saxa before you can say “blocked artery”.

If I die, I die – although the chances of fish and chips killing me before the fags, wine and Johnny Cash CDs get to me are remote, to say the least.

YOU MAY recall a recent column which mentioned Detective Sergeant Gurpal Virdi, who has brought three successful claims against his employers, the Metropolitan Police, and pocketed in excess of £300,000 in compo – with a fourth claim pending. It appears that he is not the only Asian policeman who has allegedly been discriminated against.

Next up is Commander Shabir Hussain, who is demanding “substantially more than £500,000” after claiming that he was unfairly denied promotion by Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair. And now Assistant Commissioner Tarique Ghaffur is considering his position after the National Black Police Association told him he had also been discriminated against. Expect a call to Victims ‘R’ Us any day now.

Now these are all very senior policemen, occupying posts to which most white coppers can only aspire. It seems strange then that so many would choose to bite the hand that has fed them. Consider this: if this trend continues, then the Met won’t be able to afford to pursue its unspoken policy of positive discrimination which gives black and Asian officers an advantage over their colleagues. There just won’t be enough money around to fund the compo budget. And I suppose that won’t be an altogether bad thing.

IT’S A strange thing, nationality – particularly in the melting pot that is modern Britain.

Take tennis player Andy Murray. On Wednesday morning, during the build-up to his quarter final tie with Spaniard Rafael Nadal, he was brave and British.

By supper time he’d gone back to being a gobby Scotch bottler. Ain’t life grand!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The madness of the modern wedding

WE’RE AT the height of the wedding season and, having done four already this summer, I don’t think I can take any more.

It’s not so much the occasion – don’t we all just love those family reunions – but it’s all the crap that comes with it. I tell you what, if there’s a credit crunch going on out there, then it’s not affecting the bridal trade.

First there’s the ‘Save the Date’ card, which arrives anything up to a year in advance, so making it extremely difficult to come up with a convincing excuse to give the event a swerve unless it’s a sudden heart attack the night before.

Then the invitation proper arrives, papyrus made from larks’ tongues bound in silk ribbons. By now they’ve already spent the equivalent of the Zimbabwe’s disabled parking budget. And with the invitation comes to wedding list – or not, as now so often is the case.

You see our devoted couple have already been co-habiting for several years. They’ve got the White Company bed linen and the Jamie Oliver china. Their IKEA kitchen cupboards heave with Nigella bread bins and smoothie-makers endorsed by that little fat one with the daft facial hair. They have no need for the traditional canteen of cutlery, bought a teaspoon at a time by tightwad guests.

So instead they proudly announce that they’re off on a three-month world tour and would we mind contributing to that as a wedding gift? Well yes, actually we would mind. I have no objection to helping to set up a young couple in their first home, but I’m buggered if I’m going to buy their cocktails while they’re watching the sunset in Key West. Instead I’ll send a goat to an African village in their name (even though I suspect it will be promptly eaten).

And then comes the day itself. We have to haul ourselves halfway across the country (at £6 an effing gallon) having booked the King’s Suite at the local Travelodge at enormous cost. Mrs Beelzebub has already invested in a hugely expensive new outfit and Ascot hat so she can take part in the competitive dressing tournament, I’ve been made to buy a colour co-ordinated tie, and the dogs are languishing in kennels more expensive than the King’s Suite at the local Travelodge. We’re racking up expenditure like Cristiano Ronaldo in a knocking shop.

Now you know those precious daughters who start planning their fairytale wedding at the age of six? Yep, it’s one of those. The poor father of the bride has had to remortgage his home just weeks after finally paying it off just to fund this mad extravaganza. The dress is hand-woven by blind virgins on an island off the coast of Narnia, the tiara is modelled on Lady Di’s, the bouquet has been assembled by Monty Don and a team of woodland elves, and the male side of the event is decked out in Moss Bros’ finest (where it costs £18 just to hire a waistcoat for the weekend). And drop one of those top hats, sonny, and you’ll be hit with a collision damage waiver charge that would make an Italian car hire firm blush.

I’d like to say that the church service was an oasis of sense in a jungle of excess. Unfortunately, the vicar was a woman (is that really legal?) and looked more like a McDonald’s chip fryer than an officer of the church. She could have at least washed her hair. The bride, being an amateur dramatic, had rehearsed her vows to the point that she sounded like she was auditioning for Hollyoaks; various other luvvies were called upon to deliver saccharin readings; and the whole nonsense dragged on for the best part of 90 minutes. I could have watched a football match instead.

And then came the photographs. Ah, the photographs. For two whole hours we were staked out on a hotel lawn clutching rapidly diminishing glasses of Pimms while a desperate ballet of in-laws and outlaws was assembled and disassembled by a bloke with a squint who spends his evenings renting out his Thai bride to local pervs with no film in their cameras. On and on it went. It was a nightmare. I was almost tempted to ring Amnesty International.

And then, just as we’re pegging out like Tenko captives, we’re summoned to the wedding breakfast, via a greeting line of air kisses and false bonhomie. Smoked salmon, cold ham and sherry trifle served on tables of ten meaning that we’re crammed in like veal calves and can only eat by performing an elaborate elbow ballet.

The speeches were … well ... not great. Now I know that not everyone likes public speaking; it’s an ordeal even for the professionals amongst us, but if you’re going to choose a Best Man, it would seem sensible to find one who could at least string two sentences together. As for the father of the bride, yes, she’s beautiful and brilliant, but passing around pictures of her naked in the bath, aged seven, is liable to make a lot of people vaguely uncomfortable, and some people subject to signing the Sex Offenders’ Register.

We are then summoned to the dance floor to admire the First Dance. Sadly, as is the fashion these days, the happy couple had planned an elaborate, choreographed performance. Not for them the embarrassed shuffling most of us managed. It was Dirty Dancing done not very well.

Then the cheesy wedding disco kicked in. I’m going to stop here, because I’d managed by now to anaesthetise myself to the wobbling grannies and the kids sliding around in their socks by taking full advantage of the cheap French plonk the groom’s father had shipped home on a booze run.

So that’s Four Weddings and a Funeral. I just hope that the last do isn’t mine.