New Year’s Honours

 

It’s that time of year again, when the worthy and the wealthy get a pat on the back from Her Majesty. The Queen’s New Year’s Honours List has been published.

 

So as the illegal Chinese fireworks explode at midnight like the opening salvos at El Alamein, and we all join hands with neighbours that we haven’t spoken to for the last twelve months in a rousing rendition of ‘Auld Lang Syne’, this year’s list sees Olympic cyclist Chris Hoy tapped on the shoulder by HRH for services to sport. Arise, Sir Chris. It’s a Cinderella story. He sacrificed a successful career in call handling in order to ride really fast ‘round a track on a bike. For us. Her Britannic Majesty is hoping that he pedals to the Palace wearing his tight Lycra. Abs ripped, package bulging. That’d be nice. Look at that saddle, it must be like sitting on a razor blade! By knighting Chris it’s clear that HMQ shows that she’s in touch with the man and woman in the street. That she’s got her finger on the pulse. That she knows what’s going down. She’s still got Sir Chris caught on Sky+ winning his three gold medals in Beijing. She’s nearly worn it out, finger on the replay button, watching him jump up and down on the winner’s podium. Dirty minx. Also recognized for their selflessness and services to the country are the bloke who flies the Queen’s helicopter, the woman who handles the press for the Queen, some fella who feeds the pheasants until they’re ripe and plump for shooting on the Duchy of Cornwall estates, and the secretary for that pivotal event in all our lives – the Windsor Horse Show. An egalitarian bunch that reflects life in modern Britain, I’m sure you’ll concur.

 

Obviously the full list contains people who have made a significant contribution to their own particular field. Services to medicine. Services to mathematics. And then there are some selfless souls in the police and the army who driven by nothing more than altruism and a desire to ‘make a difference’ have climbed their own specific greasy poles. Crazy guys. Get it on, bang a gong. There’s possibly an engineer lurking in there somewhere; oily hands wiped down the back of his diesel soaked dungarees as her approaches the throne. Flat cap shoved in his pocket. No two-stroke on the ermine, I hope. But, it has to be said, by and large the list comprises anonymous civil servants and party toadies drawn from politics and industry. Not exactly the People’s Gongs that Our Tony promised us when he stormed to power back in 1997, is it? Apart from Sir Chris, obviously. Doubtless, that paragon of philanthropy and virtue Lord Mandelson of Foy and Hartlepool would probably disagree with me. And say that it’s all well deserved. Look how much he’s given of himself. For us. But glancing down the list I can’t see what most of these people have actually done to be noticed in this way. Virtue is its own reward, or so they say. And in the case of Alexander Crombie – now Sir Alexander Crombie, the group Chief Executive of Standard Life (knighthood awarded for services to the insurance industry in Scotland) – so is the huge bloody fortune he’s made for himself along the way. So what do the honours represent? A gold star from teacher? A badge for winners? And what heroic deeds have these people performed to earn these honours? Francis Drake was the first Englishman to circumnavigate the globe. He braved strange diseases, violence, the weather and the absolute unknown. Sailing into the white spaces on the map for Queen, country and his own fortune. In the process he relieved the Spanish of a significant amount of their plundered GDP and sorted out our balance of payments deficit for half a generation. On top of which he brought back football from the Philippines. And founded San Francisco. And learned karate. In acknowledgment of his achievements and service to the country he was knighted by HRH Queen Elizabeth I on his return to our shores in 1581. Scurvy-riddled, covered in barnacles and presenting the Nation’s coffers with a big pocketful of Doubloons, I can see where she was coming from. Some bloke in a bowler hat who’s been earning a quiet fortune by pushing paperclips around a desk for the last thirty years in a comfortably heated office somewhere in Whitehall is not quite in the same league. To my mind, at least.

 

And did you know that as well as the semi-public dubbing ceremony held at Buckingham Palace, recipients of Knighthoods also undergo a secret ritual during which they swear a blood oath to defend the monarch’s life at times of civil unrest? TV comic David Jason, knighted in 2005 for services to comedy (worth it for the falling down in the wine bar sketch alone, you’ll no doubt agree. Je suis je reste, Rodney!) and the anti-espionage work he put in during the 1972 Cod War, carries a dagger strapped to his body at all times should the alarm ever be raised. Keen-eyed viewers might spot the weapon in some episodes of Only Fools and Horses and The Darling Buds Of May. According to an insider at ‘TV Quick’ magazine he generally wears the six-inch blade gaffer-taped to his left ankle.

 

It’s for the same reason that veteran actor Sir Donald Sinden always carries a length of cheese wire in his jacket pocket.

 

Happy New Year.

The Enemy Within

I was driving up Hound Hill Lane at Worsborough one evening last week and saw Arthur Scargill stood at his kitchen window, washing up. What greater image than this could there possibly be for the absolute failure of the 1984/85 Miners’ Strike? The sight of the erstwhile Red Menace of Middle England taking a pan scourer to his breakfast bowl, trying to dislodge some hardened, crusty cornflakes. I bet Joe Stalin never did his own washing up. Or Thatcher, come to think of it.

Puzzled

I’m getting addicted to the game Word Challenge on Facebook. OK, let’s face up to the truth of the matter. Deep breath. I am addicted to the game Word Challenge on Facebook. Between DVDs, Cadbury’s Roses, cans of Guinness Original and the occasional pork pie I was playing it for most of Boxing Day. And yesterday. It consumes me. It has me in its thrall.

 

I lay in bed last night, or rather into the early hours of this morning, having finally prised myself away from the laptop. Just one more go. I couldn’t sleep. I felt too worked up. ‘Let yourself fall into a snooze,’ I thought to myself, burrowing back into the mattress, my duvet almost covering my head. ‘Let yourself relax and slip away.’ Snooze. Soon. Zone. Zones. Nose. Ones. One. Son.

 

From a state of melting relaxation I opened my eyes to the darkness, panicking. Panicking. King. Pan. Pain. Nip. Nap. Pin. Gin.

 

‘Bloody hell, what’s happening?’ I thought feverishly. Every word I spoke to myself I could see written before my mind’s eye. And I would then quickly begin to deconstruct it. Anagrams. Grams. Gram. Nags. Nag. Rams. Ram. Man. Mans.

 

Shit.

 

I was like a toddler that had got over-tired. I felt fidgety and restless. Petulant. Pet. Tun. Lane. Tan. Leap. Peal. I couldn’t close down. I couldn’t stop thinking about words and letters. My brain was racing. This lasted about half-an-hour before I finally succumbed to sleep. Succumb. Bum. Bums…

 

I think I’d been playing it too much.

 

The concept of the game is very simple. And therein lies its appeal. You are given six letters. You make as many words out of those letters as you can. If you make enough with that particular group, you have the option to change them for a fresh set. The longer the word, the better it scores. Two minutes and counting, away you go. Extra seconds are awarded for longer words.

 

Fair enough, Word Challenge lacks some of the bells and whistles of Grand Theft Auto XVI: Dearne Valley Destruction or Call of Duty 10: Operation Goldthorpe. It doesn’t even have Blinky, Pinky, Inky or Clyde of Pac Man from 1980 bobbing about to bugger things up for you. But it is addictive in spades. It’s very more-ish. I’m hooked. And the fact is that my PS2 sits gathering dust underneath the TV. A few rounds of virtual golf with Bootneck on Tiger Woods every once in a while is about the only use it sees. And despite the options to customize my clothes, give my player an afro haircut or a big arse, Tiger can’t hold a candle to Word Challenge. Word Challenge is the dog’s bollocks.

 

It’s appeal is it’s immediacy. Give me the simple set up of the game to work with and the rest comes from inside my head. The challenge is direct. Bingo. Almost. I rack my brains. Go through permutations. My fingers trying to keep up. Stumped by too many consonants. A nifty run when I get inside a series of letters and hammer out word after word after word. Green ticks lighting up, my score going through the roof. I love it. My present high score is a shameful 12,856. My friend O’Connell’s stands at 14,345. I feel driven to beat this. To grind her into the digital dust. And I will. Give me time. Watch this space.

 

Given the appeal of Word Challenge it’s strange that I’ve never been a fan of Countdown. I’ll have two from the top and a big one from the bottom, Carol. Where the jokes always bring the house down. But I could never get into it. Though the principle of the game is similar. A series of letters from which to find words under the pressure of time. But where Word Challenge has got under my skin and keeps me going back for more, like a George Michael to Hampstead Heath, Countdown feels stodgy and apes a middle class way of life that was outmoded in 1954. Because it’s elitist. It only wants the long words. And it only wants one of them per round. ‘Vermifuge,’ imparts some tidy bird from the Concise Oxford Dictionary once the clock has ticked down, ‘n. A medicine that expels intestinal worms adj. Causing expulsion of intestinal worms; anthelmintic.’ Cheers for that. I’ll try to use it in my next conversation. Countdown would scorn the three letter combos that I sometimes skip through to keep my momentum going. Bag. Bin. Lit. I can see Dictionary Corner raising its eyebrows at Gin, Nag and Git. But Word Challenge is egalitarian. Word Challenge is the people’s word game. Word Challenge is the game that George Orwell would have been happy to put his name to. Because Word Challenge welcomes my three letters. Rewards me for them. And after all’s said and done, Countdown has Richard Digance or bloody Stilgo or some other Radio Times favourite talking a glass eye to sleep before the commercial break. No, thanks. I’ll stick to bludgeoning three, four, five and the occasional six letter word into my keyboard. This one’s for George. Red.

 

Obviously I’ll lose interest in Word Challenge just as quickly as my addiction began. It’s the way with these things. Like my Rubik’s Cube and Astro Wars. And then I’ll just walk away. Hey, come on, it’s not crack cocaine we’re talking about. I can turn my back and leave anytime I want. Anytime. Easy. No problem. It’s not like I need it. Do me a favour. No. I can turn it off whenever I desire to. But not until I’ve beaten O’Connell. Bring it on. Let’s have another go.

Do they know it’s Christmas time at all?

It is, I’m reliably informed by every bugger I know, Christmas. The season of joy and goodwill to all men. Ding dong merrily on high. Jingle all the way. But I’m not convinced. Were it not for the fairy lights strung from lampposts, the huge queues at the tills, the additional vomit on the pavements in town and the glut of people going around dressed like Santa the fact might easily have passed me by. And I have the same conversation every year. Does it feel like Christmas to you? It doesn’t feel like Christmas to me. My interlocutor looks awkwardly at the paper crown they’re wearing, the illuminated plastic reindeer antlers, the tinsel boa and agrees: it doesn’t feel like Christmas. Despite the best efforts of Noddy Holder, Boney-M, Cadbury’s, Tescos, George Michael, Aled Jones, Gimster’s Pies, Raymond Briggs and Her Majesty the Queen it just doesn’t feel like Christmas.

 

So what exactly should Christmas feel like? Well I blame Charles Dickens. Dickens was a copyrighter for commercialism. I can see him now, on TV, munching on a mini mince pie… top hat and a surtout… custard and brandy butter… this isn’t just a normal Christmas, this is a Charles Dickens Sainsbury’s Christmas. Pushing a trolley ‘round ASDA, exchanging a flirty remark with one of the Nolan sisters as he fights her for the last bottle of Advocaat. Because a hundred and fifty years ago Dickens shaped our idea of Christmas. All that feasting on huge slices of ham and flagons of ale, the frosty trips in stage coaches through picture postcard countryside blanketed in thick snow. The carols and the knees up. He gave us the necessary material ingredients. And so it seems that one of the first requirements is that we need to wrap ourselves in Plenty. Whether it be gifts or food. The more the merrier. And when it comes to food it’s the richer, the stodgier the better. Christmas pud soaked in spirits, loads of chocolate, massive pork pies, a gargantuan turkey, chutney and truffle stuffing, roast potatoes drenched in beef fat. The second is that we must be surrounded by people. Auntie This and Uncle That. Cousin Whatshisname. Our Whattheycallher. Friends from all four corners of the globe. The third, and perhaps most important, is intoxication. You have to get drunk. It is a must. No two ways about it: you have to be legless. Bladdered. Absolutely and totally wankered. Pissed out of your brain. Load up on beer, wines and spirits. Stock up. Fill your trolley. Stack kegs, crates and cases of the stuff under the fibre-optic, white and gold trimmed designer Christmas tree from John Lewis. And there we have Christmas.

 

But all this is falling apart. And even Dickens would be aghast at Christmas in the early 21st Century. Because Dickens created that fictional cosiness of roaring open fires and jolly innkeepers to set a scene, to engender community and kindness. To bring about a feeling. But our traditional festivals have been denuded of meaning by multi-culturalism and materialism. Christmas – time for a piss up. Easter – time for a piss up. Every Bank Holiday it’s the same – time for a piss up. Eat loads, drink loads, buy loads, be sick. We are descending into neo-paganism. Because it’s bland and it’s acceptable and it doesn’t insult anyone. Inoffensive Paganism is a money spinner. Ask any five or six year old the figure they most associate with Christmas – Santa. Or perhaps Chris Tarrant. Jesus is way down the list. But then again Jesus doesn’t shift many PSPs and X-Box 360s, does he? You can’t see Jesus battling it out on Super Mario carting for the Nintendo Wii with Jimmy and Liza Tarbuck, can you? You had me that time! Laughs Jimmy, stumbling back onto the white leather sofa. And Christ doesn’t look quite right on the adverts swigging a bottle of Bailey’s or throwing snowballs at Ronald McDonald. And, let’s face it, we wouldn’t want to upset any other religions/cultures by mentioning him too much anyway, would we? Or the atheists. It might affect sales for a start. I’m sure even a few Christians would be up in arms if Jesus were seen to endorse Coca-Cola. No, let’s keep it to Father Christmas eating a box of Roses whilst drinking Boddington’s and bopping to Slade and we’ll be all right. Because at Christmas everyone has the right, no matter what creed or colour, to skint themselves by buying loads of stuff to pretend they’re happy.

 

Bah humbug.

 

The fact is that the activities remain – the drinking and the over-eating, the relief of days off work and the queues at the cash registers – but the meaning is gone. It doesn’t feel like Christmas.

 

And what about Christmas telly? It is undoubtedly shit. Even shittier than TV has become normally. Who wants to watch Christmas Specials of programmes that you don’t watch for the other 364 days of the year? Let’s head over to the Albert Square for a traditional Christmas stabbing. Coronation Street for a seasonal marital break up. Let’s not, eh? Emily Bishop being bludgeoned to death with a Christmas pudding by a smackhead dressed as Papa Noel. Peggy Mitchell hanging herself upstairs in the Queen Vic using tinsel as a noose. It’s sensational bollocks. Or maybe we could have Peter and Jordan bickering over who bought who the best Ferrari. Jeremy Kyle with a Christmas special as jobless alcoholics confront their paedophile Santa Dad. Ho! Ho! Ho! Good grief. Bread and circuses – binge drinking and fake reality TV. We wish you a Merry Christmas…

 

Now time and experience are relative. Time contracts the more of it we are exposed to. The more knowledge we have of it. It’s a bit like the journey home by car from the Isle of Wight – once you know how long it will take by driving there, it doesn’t feel to take the same length of time driving back. And so maybe I’m thinking things used to be different. We had more time. The winters were colder. The drunkenness was more convivial. Things were better. Maybe. Admittedly watching Pan’s People dance to Mud’s ‘Lonely Christmas’ was shit. And anyone who ever sat through Billy Smart’s Christmas Big Top will I’m sure agree with me that it was truly appalling. So perhaps I’m looking through a rose-tinted filter. Maybe it’s just me and all this is subjective. My age. My time of life. My own experiences. And my lack of feeling for Christmas is due to the fact that I’m reminiscing about something I’ve lost. Perhaps that’s it, partly, at least. Maybe it’s that Christmas just isn’t post-modern enough. It doesn’t take into account the grief or the loss. It has amnesia. It’s callous. It’s too busy selling the idea of happiness achieved through consuming and spending; of this moment right here and right now being all that’s important. Of getting drunk and eating as much as you can being all there is to it. But what’s special about that? Maybe the problem is that perhaps Roy Wood’s got his wish and it is Christmas everyday.

 

Anyway, I’m going to crack open another Guinness, have a pork pie and sing along with Sir Cliff Richard. Merry Christmas. Apparently.

Things I hate #6

Housing developments that take on the name of the area they’ve just decimated. Meadow Rise. Top Field Drive. Maple Road. It’s like frying a calf in its mother’s milk. An obscenity. Sparkfields. Butterfield Close. High Royds. The Pastures. All marking areas gone and covered over thanks to Mr. Barratt and his mates. It equates to naming diseases after their victims. A black joke. A public relations piss take. Look at Orchard Close at Staincross outside Barnsley – in place of the huge pear trees and the gnarled old apple trees we get fifteen shoddy boxes destined for subsidence and negative equity. Not one single tree remains. No Cox’s pippins to scrump here. The old roses trampled on then scraped up by a JCB before being burnt. The ground that housed the orchard stripped naked and built on. Then there’s Malin Croft further down the village, a tight, claustrophobic development cobbled together in the early 1990s. The name conjures up images of a small holding, some goats, a few chickens. An old man with a mass of pure white hair, in patched clothes, collarless shirt and braces, tending to a vegetable plot. The slightly embarrassing but very green area delineated by rusting barbed wire and a fence made up from broken pallets and the odd front door. Once, perhaps. Now there’s badly laid tarmac and a BMW One Series on the block paving. And more heavily mortgaged cubes of promised happiness; complete with stuck on bay windows and mansard roofs hand-woven by craftsmen on the YTS. It’s the same tasteless story with Barley Meadows, Longfields Drive, Oaks Wood Hill. I despise this mocking, spiteful topography. The Brambles. Paddock Road. Moorland Avenue. The landscape of greed. Suburbia’s appropriation of England’s rural never-never-land for its own mercenary ends. Because rustic sells. Rustic is cosy. Rustic is marketable. Provided it comes with all the mod cons and is designer branded. Pilkington self-cleaning glass and multi-coloured recycling bins. The huge flat screen TV and the decking. Warren Drive. Limes Close. The Warren bulldozed with bugs and his pals trapped underground. The lime trees chopped down. It’s like a serial killer becoming nostalgic for his victims. Peter Sutcliffe sobbing through his one remaining eye over the women whose lives he snuffed out. Manor Gardens.

But what of the new estates that cloth brown field sites? Those property speculations that have been built on former industrial land now the green belt is running out. On the plots vacated by derelict factories and defunct collieries. Cleaned up, obviously. Safe for us all, unquestionably. Just a vague aroma of pathogens during the summer. A faint whiff of toxins after it’s been raining heavily. Nothing to worry about. Digging up the odd bit of asbestos when you put down the water feature in your very own version of Time Team. Just look at this, Margaret, white asbestos, you don’t see that these days! An occasional crack of plaster when the pit props shift five hundred feet below. But where is their sense of history? Why do these streets not celebrate their spatial heritage? Their occupational ancestry? Are we really saying that there’s no coin in Slurry Pond Drive or Caustic Soda Avenue? In Rubber Factory Crescent or Gas Works Close?

Reservoir Clogs

When tha guz into sumwheer like this tha’z got to remember they’re insured to fuck. And these minimum wage spastics aren’t going to offer no fucking aggro whatsivver. Burrif it kicks off and tha gets some big fuck shopper on roids or gold star bell end behind the counter th’t thinks he’s ten fucking men, give the cunt the flat of your elbow in his bastard face. Drop the cunt to the flooar. They’ll fucking shit themsens; he goes down like a sack of shit, claret all over t’shop. Freaks ‘em all out. Nobody says fuck all after that. You might get some split arse talking shit to yer. Stare the slag out like your going to chin the skanky cunt next. Watch her shut the fuck up. Now if it’s the manager that’s a different ball game. Managers know better than to fuck with you. So if one’s giving you shit he probably thinks he’s a hard bastard. So what you’ve got to do is leather the cunt. If you want to know something and he won’t tell you kick him in the balls. A proper dig with your toe end in the knackers. Tell him you’re going to stamp on ‘em next till they burst. I swear darn after that he’ll tell you if he’s Dad used to bang him up the arse. [PAUSE] I’m hungry, let’s get a babsy – Mr. White, Reservoir Dogs, the Yorkshire cut

No Way DNA!

Un-convicted rapists, murderers and thieves are rejoicing at a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that has stated DNA and fingerprints taken from two South Yorkshire men when they were arrested should not have been retained when they were subsequently released from police custody without being charged.

‘This is a victory for liberty,’ remarked Bryn, a heavy goods driver from Barrow-in-Furness, button-holed at the Woolley Edge service station this afternoon where he was stopping off to buy a Yorkie and some new plastic tie wraps. ‘I can sleep soundly tonight. My nights have been plagued by worries that I’d left a squirt of my baby gravy on some young lass’s corpse and the bobbies were going to track me down.’

The court ruled that in retaining the samples the UK had: ‘failed to strike a fair balance between the competing public and private interests and had overstepped any acceptable margin of appreciation in this regard.’

Since 2001 anyone arrested in England and Wales has had their DNA sampled, fingerprints rolled out and other personal information noted down. This information has been retained regardless of whether or not the individual was later charged with an offence or not. In regards to DNA samples are generally taken in the form of mouth swabs. The swabs are obtained whilst an individual is in custody, sent off to the lab, information extracted and a DNA profile of that individual stored on a national database. This information is routinely checked against DNA recovered from past, present and future crime scenes.

The court has ruled this to be wrong where a person is not charged.

Liberty’s Director
Shami Chakrabarti said: ‘[The] Court has used human rights principles and common sense to deliver the privacy protection of innocent people that the British Government has shamefully failed to deliver.’

Common sense? In what way can throwing information away ever be held to be common sense? Common sense, as the Oxford Dictionary states, implies ‘good sense and sound judgement in practical matters’. How is it practical not to know something?

And in what way does storing DNA breach privacy? OK, it is unique information about an individual. But what exactly does DNA on the database tell you about anybody’s life? Is it like a diary that can be read? CCTV footage that can be peeped at? Does a list get published as to whose information is stored? Is this information disclosable to prospective employers? To universities? To partners? Does having the sample taken brand you physically? No. No one knows. It lies dormant, simply stating who you are if necessary.

The court said: ‘The capacity of DNA profiles to provide a means of identifying genetic relationships between individuals was in itself sufficient to conclude that their retention interfered with the right to the private life of those individuals. The possibility created by DNA profiles for drawing inferences about ethnic origin made their retention all the more sensitive and susceptible of affecting the right to private life. The Court concluded that the retention of both cellular samples and DNA profiles amounted to an interference with the applicants’ right to respect for their private lives, within the meaning of Article 8.1 of the Convention.’

Article 8.1 covers the right to respect for private and family life and states: ‘Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.’

Good grief. So ‘family life’ equates to ‘drawing inferences about ethnic origin’. Bloody hell, that’s a bit slim. And when are these inferences going to be drawn and by whom? To what purpose? We are not living in Nazi Germany. We are not gathering information for the Final Solution. No one is interested in ethnicity, except for Home Office bean counters.

Speaking to the
Yorkshire Post, Leeds solicitor Simon McKay claimed the system was open to abuse, saying: ‘It’s easy to see a situation where samples of white middle-class youths are not held because they are deemed to come from decent backgrounds, whereas black teenagers from broken homes end up staying on.’ Rubbish. The frequently amended Race Relations Act blankets any activity in this area far better than the Human Rights Act. If anything, given the present state of unbalanced and divisive race relations, the opposite practice is probably more likely.

What i
t comes down to is which you value as most important, the protection of your privacy or the protection of your safety? I’m quite happy for my DNA, my fingerprints, any information to be stored. But the government want to compare your DNA against every crime scene in the UK! So what? Why should that worry me? If I’ve done nothing wrong I have nothing to fear. Oh, you’re so naïve.

What else is the government going to do with the information? The only comparison that will only ever be made is against DNA recovered from crime scenes. Does the sample taken match with this DNA from a rape? A murder? A burglary? No. Fair enough. Why would anyone other than the guilty or someone obsessed with conspiracy theories object to that?

Some solicitors argue that there is ‘a stigma’ of being included on the database. How does that work then? You’ve already been arrested. That won’t alter. But let’s address the point. If perhaps the only stigma arises not from the fact that the samples are held but how they are collected. From the fact that the samples are only taken when someone is arrested. The arrest is a trigger. And to have your sample taken at this time and for this reason puts you in the same boat as a stack of criminals when you weren’t charged with an offence at all. That’s the stigma. All right. The fact is that the present method of collection is nothing more than convenient. It isn’t designed to stigmatise people. It makes sense that the police get hold of the information from people who are brought to their attention. So maybe the only solution is to extend the database to include everyone.

Big Brother!

The Human Rights Act has turned into a stick to beat public authorities with. Liberal pedants twist the spirit of the Human Rights Act until it only serves to protect the interest of those doing wrong. What is the point of passing laws if we aren’t going to use the best available tools to detect breaches of them? And DNA is effective. Since 2004 fifty-three murders, thirty-three attempted murders and ninety-four rapes have been detected through DNA samples that, under this ruling, would have been destroyed. I get the feeling that we’re in freefall. Like pedigree dogs our ideals have been taken to extremes. That we have sociological anorexia. We look in the mirror and only see what we want to see. Apparent imperfections that we can right. So we starve to extremes.

Civil Liberties in the UK is an academic exercise. A balloon debate. At best acting as a Devil’s Advocate. And listening to the debate, sat in his cell
James Lloyd, the so-called ‘Shoe Rapist’ must be furious. Lloyd was convicted in 2006 for several offences of rape committed between 1983 and 1986. Police had been stumped with the investigation until a relative of Lloyd’s was arrested for drink driving. Her DNA was profiled and provided a familial match to semen samples recovered from rape victims twenty years previously. Links were investigated and Lloyd – who had no previous convictions – was tracked down. Thanks to DNA. So which would you prefer – your DNA lying dormant on a database or James Lloyd on the loose?

15 minutes later

Our culture is obsessed with celebrity. And short lived fame is perhaps worse than no fame at all.

 

Yasmina Evans, formerly of huge one hit wonders Yazz and the Plastic Population, shuns her former life as a late 80s acid house diva. Her fall from celebrity grace reached a nadir whilst shopping at the Reading branch of Littlewoods in 2006. The singer – famed for her blonde curly hair and big hands – mistakenly took the escalator leading to the first floor – ladies underwear – when she actually wanted the basement café, where she was due to meet fellow 80s icon Marilyn to discuss a comeback tour of the Ukraine. Realising her error, Yazz attempted to rectify the mistake, elbowing aside fellow shoppers in an effort to regain the ground floor. She was confronted by an angry, quick-witted pensioner who blocked her path and shouted: ‘You daft cow! Can’t you see the only way is up!’

Dirty old bastard

Film director Roman Polanski wants the charge against him for having unlawful sexual intercourse with a minor dropped. Polanski has already pleaded guilty to the charge which was laid as the result of a plea bargain and relates to an incident from 1977 when Polanski – then 44 years old – was working on an assignment as guest editor for French Vogue. During a private photo shoot in California with a 13 year old girl, the multimillionaire director gave the girl champagne and spiked her with tranquilizers before performing oral sex on her, then sodomizing and raping her. She later stated: ‘I said no several times…’ Polanski subsequently fled the United States where a warrant for his arrest is still outstanding.

His lawyers have filed a request in Los Angeles to dismiss the charge against him because of prosecutorial and judicial misconduct. They remarked: ‘This case serves as a classic example of how our justice system can be abused and defendants’ rights trampled, by an unholy alliance between courts and criminal prosecutors.’ The attempt to get the charges dropped comes on the back of a documentary Roman Polanski: Wanted and Desired. The documentary ‘looks at the conduct of the judge whose handling of the case was unusual’. Hmm. Oh, right. So Polanski’s not saying that he didn’t do it, then? Just that he wasn’t treated right after he’d sodomised and violated a child. OK. But surely any handling of the case does not alter the incident itself…? No?

Still, you’ve got to feel for him, haven’t you? Poor old Polanski feels victimised. By the courts, by the mother of the girl and her (he says) duplicitous scheme to blackmail him. Poor sod. I mean, what else was he going to do if they offered him a 13 year old virgin on the plate? Where else could he go? It wasn’t his fault! It was obvious that he was going to give her champagne, drug her and then rape her anally and vaginally. What did these people expect? Come on!

And he’s a genius, you know? Have you seen his Oliver Twist? Ooh, it’s good. He really gets to grips with the story of adults’ pollution and misuse of children for their own vicious ends. I wonder where he got the inspiration for that?

+ + + + + + + + + + + + + + + + +

The Independent’s report that: ‘The woman with whom Polanski admitted having sexual intercourse has said she wants the charge dropped and that Polanski should be allowed to return to the United States’ doesn’t sit quite right. Making it all sound sophisticated and friendly. Firstly, she wasn’t a woman when he raped her. And her comments on the case are: ‘I wish he would return to America so the whole ordeal can be put to rest for both of us.’ Perhaps if he’d accepted responsibility 30 years ago that might have already happened.
Further: ‘It was 30 years ago now. It’s an unpleasant memory … (but) I can live with it.’ And: ‘He took sex from me and my innocence. I don’t think it occurred to him that someone wouldn’t want sex with him.’

In relation to Polanski’s character his victim has also remarked: ‘Surely a man like this hasn’t got a reputation to tarnish.’

Hmm.

My favourite books #2

The Moving Toy Shop (1945) | Edmund Crispin

This book epitomizes all that is best about comic crime novels. Mined from the same seam as John Dickson Carr’s The Blind Barber. Surreal plot, rococo prose flourishes, larger than life characters and a foot to the floor pace. This is a delight to read and Gervase Fen is one of the most enjoyable fictional characters of the 20th Century.

The guest lead in this Fen novel, the character of Cadogan – who is that particularly post-War creature: a modern poet – was based partly on Crispin’s friend Philip Larkin. Larkin also helped out by writing the poetry sections. My copy is a Penguin Green and White with a cover illustration that nods towards Cubo-Futurism. Vintage typesetting. There’s nothing like a cosy English murder with a bizarre setting and outrageous happenings to get you turning the pages. A man walks into Oxford by moonlight. A woman is murdered in a toy shop. The toy shop moves. Read it in a day.