Sunday, April 29, 2007

Why do I bother paying council tax?

AMONGST THE many extra taxes that have been foisted upon us in recent years – usually without any democratic debate – the increase in the average punter’s council tax is probably the most unfair.

Unfair because as the cost increases (and mine has almost doubled in 10 years) the services supplied seem to have declined. Now we’re on the verge of losing that most basic of householder’s rights: that of a weekly refuse collection. Indeed, for many people, the axe has already fallen on this 125-year-old convention.

It leaves me wondering why I bother paying council tax at all. I mean, what do I get for it? I have no children of school age, so I’m not required to put them through the good school/bad school lottery. Our village has very few street lights, and I don’t want any more anyway. The roads are simply shocking, resembling Eastern European cart tracks with pot holes the size of mine shafts. There is no public transport of any kind within a five-mile radius.

The mobile library calls once a fortnight, while I’m at work (but at least Amazon delivers the next day). All the council houses have long been sold off, and the last thing I want is the idiots at County Hall putting up a low-cost social housing estate full of drunken nurses and gay outreach workers near my country pile, so queering our property prices.

The planning department is an impotent joke to be ignored by the neighbourhood extension merchants, I don’t use public toilets (what’s wrong with a public house?), car parking in our nearest town is barely adequate and the cost has increased by 100 per cent, I shoot stray dogs and pour petrol on angry wasp nests so have no need of pest controllers.

I pay a police precept, but the last time I tried to call at our local nick – in broad daylight – the door was locked. I knocked and knocked, but the young copper inside drew the blinds and hid underneath his desk. (I’d only wanted to report the arrival in the Lower Meadow of some gypsies and to tip off the cops that if any local babies were stolen, that’s where they were likely to be. Perhaps we should just give them a couple of toddlers in return for having our roads tarmacced. Those four horrendous women from Plymouth have a couple to spare, and they’ve already toughened them up.)

So what do I actually get for my two grand a year? I get my bins emptied at 7am prompt every Monday morning by a very nice gang of men who are always willing to dispose of a redundant freezer, a crate of asbestos tiles or a bucket of engine oil in return for the customary Christmas tenner. It is a fast and efficient service, most at odds with the usual public sector creed of dither, delay and disappoint.

But now even this simple benefit (costing me, I reckon, around £36 a week) is under threat. We face the distinct possibility of a fortnightly collection of normal household waste with an interim visit from the recycling truck (accompanied, no doubt, by newly-appointed Recycling Inspectors at £30,000 a time). Well as I’ve said before, life is too short to spend an hour arguing with the wife over whether or not a Cocoa Pops box is suitable for the green bin, so I’ll be restricting my recycling to what I already do now: loading up bin bags of bottles and newspaper into the 4x4 once a week and driving them six miles to the tip.

As for the food waste, packaging, tins and jars, they’ll be going with me on alternate weeks to get tipped in the landfill skip. There’s no way I’m putting up with a stinking pile of bin bags littering the driveway for 10 days at a time throughout the summer. And I’m a responsible person: what about all the scrotes from “social housing” who’ll just chuck their bags of used disposable nappies over the nearest hedge?

Of course, the Waste Police will tell you that if we don’t eat our own weight in polystyrene each week, the nation will suddenly become one huge rubbish dump. What nonsense. I flew over Wales the other week and there are thousands of square miles completely untouched by human refuse. Just one of their medium-sized reservoirs, once emptied and the water sold to Londoners, would accommodate all of our junk for the next decade, no trouble.

The real reason for this abrogation of duty is obvious – cost-savings. Sending the dustbin lorry round half as often will save on labour, maintenance and fuel. (The recycling truck, presumably, runs on potato peelings and yogurt leftovers.) And why do our councils need to save money when the amount of cash flooding in has been doubled? Because the government is about to start fining them if they don’t reduce landfill needs. And why is the government about to start fining them? Because the European Union says so, that’s why.

Now you may have missed this commitment to meet some barmy EU targets making its way through Parliament, where it was debated, discussed and democratically voted upon. That’s because it wasn’t. Mr Blah and his Europhile acolytes happily signed up to this folly without bothering to trouble you or your elected representatives. It’s a done deal and you’d better get used to it, goes the message.

So the madness continues. Happily a couple of newspapers have finally recognised the seriousness of the situation and are set to make this an election issue – not before time. So there is hope if we’re belligerent enough to resist at every level and at every opportunity.

And if, perchance, your environmental conscience is troubling you, just remember that in the time you’ve spent reading this column, China has built another two coal-fired power stations. So if there’s a polar bear drowning somewhere out there, it’s not all your fault.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Slower than a spastic in a magnet factory

IT WAS with depressing inevitability that in the week the much-lauded TV series Life on Mars came to an end, a leather-elbowed teacher’s union apparatchik should crawl out of the woodwork and lambast the Gene Hunt character for being a bad example to schoolchildren.

According to a lady called Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT (probably with sensible shoes and slight moustache), youngsters are taking the politically incorrect bile spouted by DCI Hunt at face value and using it in the playground. Well of course they are. They’re bloody children, innit?

Ms Keates raises the spectre of homophobic bullying and mass suicides, but fails to mention Hunt’s legendary line about a particular case moving “slower than a spastic in a magnet factory”, mainly because leg irons seem to have gone out of fashion these days.

What worries me is not the idea that we’re breeding a new race of violent bullies (although that would be preferable to another generation who burst into tears because they’ve had their iPods confiscated by the Iranians), but the fact that public servants like Ms Keates may well be in charge of educating our children. Are these people completely without humour or understanding? Are their lives so lacking in colour that anything deviating from the monochrome, right-on world of the Guardian Education Supplement is to be immediately condemned?

Kids are kids. They’ve always recited the catchphrases from TV shows in the playground the next morning. They always will. Ms Keates should just be thankful that Class 4A isn’t reciting huge chunks from Monty Python’s Dead Parrot sketch during double history, as we did in my day.

IN ANOTHER throwback to the 1970s, an appalling outbreak of rampant snobbery sees Prince William give his bird the boot because she’s a bit common (i.e. she doesn’t get out of the bath to have a wee). Cue crowds of wailing, blubbering, nose-blowing old ladies throwing themselves under horses in The Mall.

It appears that William’s chinless hooray pals have been looking down their noses at poor Kate just because her pushy mother used to be an air hostess and the bloodline of her family goes back not to Tudor aristocracy but to the only-just-walking-upright mining stock of the Durham coalfields. How outrageous.

Anyway, we’ve all seen what happens when the Royals go searching for someone to deliver an heir and a spare amongst their own inbred circles - they end up with some mad bint liable to run off with ginger-headed tank drivers or hurl herself downstairs in despair just because Duran Duran have split up.

I think young William should have a careful think and then do the right thing by Ms Middleton. It’s only fair.

By the way, anyone want to buy a William and Kate souvenir tea towel? I’ve only got 10,000 in the garage.

COMBINE humourless Lefties and rampant snobbery and you’ll get the reaction of the ciabattering classes to events at Virginia Tech this week. Anti-Americanism abounds.

Aren’t those liberal gun laws terrible? You know that five-year-olds can walk in off the street and gunshop owners are legally bound to sell them pump-action shotguns, don’t you? Yes, and they’re giving away Walther PPKs in cornflake packets.

Well perhaps we ought to have another look at our own situation before casting sneering glances westward. Since the tragedy of Dunblane and the blanket banning of the possession of handguns, gun crime in this country has absolutely has soared. Your average scrote can lay his hands upon a small armoury in 10 minutes flat. Bullets routinely fly through the night in our major cities.

The British Olympic shooting team might have to travel to France to practice, but look the wrong way at a 15-year-old wannabe Yardie and he’ll pop a cap in yo’ ass without thinking, innit.

So say what you like about the Yanks, but at least over there the would-be victims are just as likely to be armed as the would-be assailants. That must do wonders for their burglary figures. It’s called the Tony Martin Effect.

AND THE madness continues, with some blonde totty called Jacqui Oatley crowbarred into the job of commentating on football for Match of the Day this weekend. (Look at the stupid girly way she spells her name. I bet she draws a little heart above the “i” as well.)

There is no need for this blatant sexism. There are dozens of middle-aged men on the BBC payroll who are quite capable of commentating on a football match. Their voices fit; they know how to behave. Now we’re going to have a shrieking harridan inflicted upon us just so the Beeb can play at ticking the PC boxes.

I’m writing this in advance of the programme, but I only hope there were no controversial incidents during Fulham v Blackburn Rovers last night. I can’t afford to have her cracking my windows. Or a new telly, should my foot go through it.

I APPEAR to have upset a couple of Scotch people last week by calling them red-headed, pasty-faced weaklings and suggesting that while they make up only eight per cent of the British population, they manage to claim 16 per cent of all benefits paid. Well it gets worse.

They’re now eating twice as much as the rest of us – McDonalds, Pot Noodles, shortbread, deep-fried Mars Bars – so that when they keel over at an early age with a heart attack, we can’t even fit them in the ovens at crematoria. One establishment in Lanarkshire has now ordered a 41-inch cremator to accommodate the enormous coffins of the tartan obese.

So we close with another traditional Scottish song this week: “And we’ll all push together, To get your fat arse in that urn, In that 41-inch cremator, Will you burn Lassie, burn …?”

THERE IS much indignation that “tight-fisted” Premiership football stars have snubbed a campaign to help hard-up nurses. Of 556 players in the league – many of who earn millions every year – just 71 have agreed to chip in a day’s pay to an appeal called MayDay for Nurses. We are told that all money raised will go towards a hardship fund for nurses who get into financial difficulties in the first few years of their career.

Please read that last sentence again. We shouldn’t be indignant that thick football stars don’t read the papers; we should be indignant that we pay our nurses so badly that they have to become charity cases in the first place. Is no-one in the corridors of power even remotely embarrassed by this?

Monday, April 16, 2007

Time to ditch the red-headed, pasty-faced weaklings

I DON’T know if you’ve ever been to Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset, but trust me, it’s nothing like it sounds.

It’s not so much a glorious British seaside resort; more a traffic-choked, poverty-ridden, junkie-infested, benefits-claiming wasteland. This is not the West Country of Mousehole and Port Isaac; this is the West Country of Dodge City and Tombstone. The only good thing that’s happened to the place in years is the cellophane factory in nearby Bridgewater closing. Yes, a lot of people lost their jobs, but at least you can now pop out to sign on without wearing a smog mask to fend off the fumes.

Bad as it is, there aren’t groups of wannabe 15-year-old gangsters stabbing each other to death in school playgrounds, but even so you would imagine that the local police are kept reasonably busy dealing with the indigenous scrotes. So one can understand the surprise of 30-year-old Mrs Lisa Badland (yes, I know) when two police officers turned up outside her house to caution her five-year-old son for alleged criminal damage.

And little Ryan’s crime? Torching a kebab shop or keying an Alfa in response to this nation’s recent humiliations abroad? Nothing so patriotic. The little terror and his accomplices had been grassed up by a neighbour for chalking a hopscotch grid in the street. And if that kind of anti-social behaviour wasn’t enough, what was the child doing out in the street in the first place? Perhaps we should have a word with Social Services, madam.

Luckily, God intervened, it rained, and all evidence was washed away. But what have we come to when children daring to play in the street attract the attention of the forces of law and disorder? I thought we were awash with fat kids because the lazy, lardy delinquents didn’t do exercise anymore? If we’re going to force them indoors during the holidays, there won’t be enough of those newly-launched 52-inch school blazers to go around.

fat people, we must reluctantly return to mother-of-one and former hostage Faye Turney – not least because she simply won’t go away. (Am I alone in thinking that the crew of HMS Cornwall must have eaten rather well during the time that the Fayster was banged up? No wonder the Revolutionary Guard made her cover up.

As I was unable to buy a copy of The Sun on Bank Holiday Monday, I sadly missed the Page 3 pictures of her in her bra and knickers which must surely have been there. I also managed to miss the blubbing young boy’s story in The Mirror, and Sir Trevor McDonut’s misty-eyed interrogation that night. So there’s around £200,000 of media money wasted.

(Is it too much to hope that those who’ve cashed in might donate a few quid to the Navy so they can buy some bigger guns for next time they’re surrounded?)

It’s perhaps a good job that the Iranians didn’t realise how desperate their captives were to become celebrities, otherwise they’d have set up a Torture Idol TV show where you had to phone in and vote for the hostage you wanted released this week. Easy peasy, name, rank and chest measurement, and out they come in a shiny suit clutching a goody bag.

I suppose we shouldn’t entirely blame the namby-pamby apologists masquerading as soldiers and sailors for their abject performances. The real culprits are the Defence Department apparatchiks and the politicians who control them. Allowing, nay encouraging, the hostages to sell their stories was a cheap and effective way to get Government propaganda into the press in the face of Iran’s overwhelming PR victory. Let’s face it: we don’t believe what the MoD says and we certainly don’t believe what our political leaders say.

Pretending to then ban armed forces personnel from selling stories in future (they always have been) was just a typical piece of bare-faced lying from the Blah administration. It’s just got to the stage that no-one even notices anymore.

OF COURSE, our lives would be much enhanced if we didn’t have Scotch politicians interfering in our domestic matters while their mates back home are busy spending English money like a … well … like a drunk Scotchman. Happily, the rise of the SNP north of the border looks like making full independence a hot topic. And about time too.

In my humble opinion, we've generally pampered, looked after and baby-sat the red-headed, pasty-faced weaklings for long enough and, it has to be said, with little in the way of gratitude from the beskirted freeloaders. It’s time to cut the apron strings and let them go and make their own way in the world, as we English have been doing for centuries.

Anyway, if we take away their cosy seats in Westminster, what’s left in terms of gainful employment for an ex-pat Porridge Wog? Times have changed. They used to have the lucrative begging franchise in our shopping malls and town centre precincts, but that’s now been taken over by Eastern Europeans and the Jocks can’t get a look-in. And let’s face it, a wild-eyed, drunken Glaswegian clutching a can of Special Brew while wobbling about as if he’d got one foot nailed to the floor is always going to lose out to a pitiful young Romanian mother with six children and one leg.

According to the back of my fag packet, the Jocks make up about eight per cent of the UK population yet manage to blag double that in benefit claims alone. And I’m tired of paying for it. (We’ll not even mention the free prescriptions in Wales.)

So it’s time to go. As that terrible dirge of an anthem goes, “But we can still rise now,And be the nation again”. Well there’s the door, Jimmy. See you.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

A stiff upper lip and a trouser leg full of sand

GO ON then. How many of you fell for a Sunday newspaper’s April Fool spoof about a carbon emissions tax being imposed on garden barbecues and how you’d have to buy a £5 permit every time you wanted to incinerate some sausages?

The problem was, it was just too close to the truth. Five or 10 years ago we’d have laughed it off along with the spaghetti trees and the island of San Serife. These days, amid the lunatic ruins of the Blah project, nothing seems beyond parody and you never know from one day to another where the next madcap scheme is coming from.

See if you can spot the wrong ‘un amongst these three stories. Bong! Five-year-old schoolchildren have been banned from playing tag during their breaks in case of “inappropriate physical contact between pupils”. Bong! A school in Yorkshire planning to put on a production of Little Red Riding Hood has changed the three little pigs to three little puppies in case they offended Muslim pupils. Bong! Motorists fined for speeding will now be forced to pay a £15 surcharge – on top of any fines and costs – to help the victims of domestic violence. Bong!

Find it? It’s not easy, trust me, because every one of them is true. Yes, even the last one. That’s how bizarre life in Cruel Britannia has now become.

I suppose we’ve got used to being taken for mugs by the Thieving Scotchman and his cronies, particularly if their latest tax can be possibly branded “green”, but even the daftest punitive measures had an underlying – if tenuous – logic. This latest scam is almost beyond belief.

Unless all speeding cars are being driven by battered wives escaping to the sanctuary of the wimmin’s refuge, I can find no possible connection between speeding and domestic violence. It is therefore completely daft to link them in this fashion. What it really says is what we’ve suspected all along – largely law-abiding middle class, middle-aged motorists are regarded as mere cash cows, there to be milked by an avaricious, authoritarian administration.

Well if I was Gordon Brown I would be very, very careful. Over 1.3 million drivers are now reckoned to be just three points, just one camera flash, away from a ban. That’s an awful lot of people who are about to be criminalized; about to have their family life disrupted and their employment and prosperity threatened.

It takes a lot to rile Middle England, but once riled we don’t back down easily. That’s why the BBC apparatchik who so carelessly booted Moira Stuart off the telly will be busy backtracking by the weekend. Our innate decency forces us to obey just about any law as long as we can see a seam of sense within. Out-and-out malicious bullying, as with this latest pathetic plan, will eventually lead to revolt.

Tear up the White Company bedsheets and get the Farrow and Ball emulsion out of the garage, Mother. We’re making banners and going on one of them demo things.

OUR IMMEDIATE sympathies for the 15 Naval personnel held hostage in Teheran for the past couple of weeks after allegedly straying into Iranian waters changed somewhat as the circus progressed.

(Fourteen men and one woman? It doesn’t take a genius to work out who was reading the map, does it?)

Now we’ve all seen Midnight Express, and I’m sure no-one wanted to see our boys and girl subjected to torture, but a nagging doubt remains over the way they seemingly rolled over so easily. Night after night a new video was unveiled: “Yes, Mr Mullah, no Mr Mullah, three bags full, Mr Mullah.”

Our grandfathers were made of sterner stuff. Name, rank and serial number and that was your lot, Fritz. No lack of moral fibre there. Lock them up and by now they'd have been wandering around with trouser legs full of sand, forging documents identifying themselves as deaf and dumb cobblers from Nantes and making a dummy of that Faye woman with a headscarf and a permanent fag on.

And another thing. We have to put up with well-organised riots outside the British Embassy in Teheran (they even brought their own truck full of rubble with them), but why aren’t we demonstrating outside the Iranian Embassy in London? Don’t we care anymore? Have we no self-respect left? Or have we been lied to so often that maybe, just maybe, we fear that the Iranians might be right?

Either way, it bodes ill for any British citizen abroad, soldier or suit. We are now officially fair game, with our tormentors safe in the knowledge that the worst they’ll suffer in terms of any revenge attack is having to listen to the Gollum-faced, ostrich-necked, hand-wringing Margaret Beckett apologise to them.

THIS IRAN stuff, coupled with the 25th anniversary of the Falklands War, seems to have brought the Thatcha Haters out of hibernation where they’ve been polishing their dancing shoes and waiting for the poor old dear to peg it.

The Guardianistas are getting giddy while in Yorkshire they’ve even re-opened a coal mine. And every time that “Rejoice, rejoice” clip appears on the telly, Mrs B starts hurling abuse and reaches for her Michael Foot commemorative donkey jacket.

I can see that I’m going to have to leave the country for a week or two when the dreaded day arrives.

THE FRENCH show off their new train by running it from Strasbourg to Paris at speeds of up to 356mph. (Yes, I also think it would probably be even quicker going backwards. And did the institutionally politically correct BBC really compare its speed to that of a Spitfire going flat out?)

Meanwhile British Airways is named and shamed as the worst airline in Europe for losing baggage, our motorways grind to a halt as Easter weekend gets underway, and Tracy Barlow gets off with 15 years (and she’ll be out in five) for murdering an innocent man whose only “crime” was to wear the same vest for several weeks.

It’s enough to make a cat laugh.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

... and meanwhile a bloke in Plymouth hasn't had his tea

EVEN IF we grudgingly accept that women can no longer be confined to the home apart from essential shopping expeditions and the occasional night out, it does seem a little curious that we should then happily send them off to war where they become useful trophies for mad mullahs.

If we have to have our troops captured and used as political pawns by the Iranians, would you rather it was 15 rough and tough Royal Marines, battle-hardened veterans of the alcopop-fuelled pubs of Plymouth, or 14 rough and tough Royal Marines and the mother of a three-year-old child? It’s madness.

No doubt the daft bint thought that joining up to be a boat driver would be a bit of a laugh and that the most threatening thing she’d come up against would be the Bishop of Southwark riding past on a pedalo while eating a turkey sandwich. Well it’s not so funny now, is it?
Mind you, watching her smoke like a docker and having seen her childlike writing, I expect that she's even harder and thicker than the Marines she ferries around.

I quite understand that the armed forces need women to make up the numbers – 18,000 of them to be exact. And even if they don’t want to go down the traditional (and sensible) route of being nurses, cooks or cleaners, there are plenty of positions they can occupy that don’t put them at risk of ending up in a Teheran cell block.

And meanwhile, Mrs Faye Turney’s husband, himself a proper sailor, is at home looking after the couple’s daughter. Is that a sensible use of resources when the armed forces are forever telling us (quite rightly) that they’re undermanned and overstretched? And his tea won’t be on the table when it should be.

I’VE TRIED not to get too involved in debunking the Green bandwagon that is currently steamrollering every aspect of our society. I know that in time the tide will turn and the posturing nonsense of our politicians will be exposed for what it is – utter twaddle.

However, I cannot help but point out the yoghurt-knitting tree-huggers, so recently exposed as being responsible for millions of acres of Amazonian rain forest being cleared to grow the soya that goes into their vegetarian sausages, have scored another blinding own goal in the ecological net.

You may have caught some of the hype regarding alternative fuels like bio-diesel that can be developed from easily grown crops. Seems sensible, doesn’t it? Why pipe it from under the sea or desert if you can plant a few gallons in your back garden?

Small snag. A principal component of environmentally-friendly fuel is palm oil. Palm oil is now being extensively grown in Borneo and Sumatra to supply this growing trend. Unfortunately this means massive clearance of the rain forests that are the natural habitat of the wonderful orang-utan, whose numbers have already halved in the past two decades.

So there you have it. Put a tiger in your tank and make a monkey homeless. They can have the slogan for free.

MUCH IS made of the crime wave amongst our young people, but I do think that in many cases it’s the parents who should shoulder at least some of the blame.

Take Tracy Barlow, for example. This poor woman spent seven years of her childhood upstairs in her bedroom allegedly doing her homework. Neither hide nor hair of her was seen. Quite how social services didn’t become involved I don’t know. So why are we so surprised now that she’s turned into a scheming manipulative murderess? Ken and Deirdre should hang their heads in shame.

AS WE’RE buried under a veritable tidal wave of lard-arsed fat kids, the Food Standards Agency has come up with a stunning wheeze to stem the incidence of juvenile obesity – they’re going to make chocolate bars smaller. No, really.

The plan, which will also include smaller bags of crisps and shrinking biscuits, is part of the FSA’s campaign against the “supersize” culture which includes such delights as the Burger King Extra Large Double Whopper With Cheese. (I don’t know about you but I could just demolish one of those now.)

I’m not sure they’ve really thought this through. Firstly, if a fat kid is handed a chocolate bar that he or she can scoff in five seconds flat, they’re just going to whine until you give them another one. Secondly, the FSA obviously hasn’t noticed but this trend has already been happening for years.

When I were a lad, Wagon Wheels were just that – a chocolate and marshmallow biscuit the circumference of a manhole cover. Buy a packet today and they’re tiny – smaller and thinner to the point that you can fit a whole one in your mouth with ease. And then there’s Monster Munch. They used to be big and crunchy. Now they’re half the size and dissolve in your mouth like a Communion wafer.

Snickers were bigger when they were Marathons, Crème Eggs are about a third of their original size, Milky Ways are now miniscule, Toblerones are more hills than Alps, Curly Wurlies used to come in packs of two but are now singular, and even Picnics and Topics have been downsized. And still the playground porkers pile on the pounds.

YOU MIGHT have expected the Blah Dynasty to limp quietly towards the exit door, but there is no let-up in the profligate lunacy of NuLabour.

As if a salary of £60,000, a gold-plated pension and expenses of around £130,000 a head wasn’t enough, the snouts have been jostling in the trough for yet more public money. This time around it’s a new allowance totalling £10,000 a year (on top of everything else) for MPs to launch their own websites to boost the “public understanding” of Parliament.

Forgive the cynicism, but how many simple websites cost ten grand a year to run? And, given that the sites won’t be allowed to promote an individual politician or political party, just what is going to be on them that isn’t already covered by existing government and party sites?

Mind you, £10,000 will buy a very nice 48-inch multimedia plasma screen telly with home cinema and all the latest computer games consoles…