Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Getting Irate So That You Don't Have To

Sunday 25 December 2011

Letter To The Boxing Day Daily Mirror

Dear Lovely Fluffy, Non-Phone-Hacking (cos they'd never do that, oh no) Daily Mirror,

Just before I shoot the extended relatives whom I hate dearly (wife & children are fine, actually) I'd just like to say "hello" to all your lovely readers because where I'm going the vindictive and evil arms of the Tory-run State will not let me communicate with you. I think you're all gorgeous and your politics is fantastic and your paper has the best picture editor (or whatever she is) in the world. You're very lucky to have her. And she's a Womble.

Have a wonderful 2012, and just remember, we all hate the Sun, don't we ?

Love 'n' revolution,
Womble On Tour

Friday 16 September 2011

Best Obituary Ever

Today we mourn the passing of a beloved old friend, Common Sense , who has been with us for many years.No one knows for sure how old he was, since his birth records were long ago lost in bureaucratic red tape.He will be remembered as having cultivated such valuable lessons as:
- Knowing when to come in out of the rain;
- Why the early bird gets the worm;
- Life isn't always fair;
- and maybe it was my fault.

Common Sense lived by simple, sound financial policies (don't spend more than you can earn) and reliable strategies (adults, not children, are in charge).

His health began to deteriorate rapidly when well-intentioned but overbearing regulations were set in place.

Reports of a 6-year-old boy charged with sexual harassment for kissing a classmate; teens suspended from school for using mouthwash after lunch; and a teacher fired for reprimanding an unruly student, only worsened his condition.

Common Sense lost ground when parents attacked teachers for doing the job that they themselves had failed to do in disciplining their unruly children.

It declined even further when schools were required to get parental consent to administer sun lotion or an aspirin to a student; but could not inform parents when a student became pregnant and wanted to have an abortion.

Common Sense lost the will to live as the churches became businesses; and criminals received better treatment than their victims.

Common Sense took a beating when you couldn't defend yourself from a burglar in your own home and the burglar could sue you for assault.

Common Sense finally gave up the will to live, after a woman failed to realize that a steaming cup of coffee was hot. She spilled a little in her lap, and was promptly awarded a huge settlement.

Common Sense was preceded in death, by his parents, Faith and Truth , by his wife, Discretion, by his daughter, Responsibility, and by his sons Trust and Reason.

He is survived by his 4 stepbrothers;
I Know My Rights
I Want It Now
Someone Else Is To Blame
I'm A Victim

Not many attended his funeral because so few realized he was gone.

Source: from an email sent by a friend

Thursday 23 June 2011

Ruffians in Rushcliffe

I know I've been quiet recently. If the truth be told, the anger has subsided somewhat. The current government isn't great, but it's decidedly less obnoxious than the last one.

The Womble thrives on fury; if the author isn't angry then nothing gets written. Maybe the blog should cater for a wider range of moods, but it is what it is. It needs sources of resentment; perhaps some mean-spirited, bullying State-sponsored thugs who throw their weight around at the expense of innocent individuals who find it hard to defend themselves.

Step forward, Rushcliffe Borough Council. These bastards have just levied a £35 fine on a 76-year-old disabled bloke who parked his car in a disabled space.

Bet you're thinking "So he isn't registered disabled, then ?"

Actually he is.

Bet you're thinking "Ah, didn't display his disabled badge then ?"

Actually he did.

Bet you're thinking "Must have overstayed his time, then ?"

Actually he didn't.

Bet you're thinking "So why did they fine him ?"

Because...he displayed his disabled badge upside down. Yep, for the heinous offence of showing a disabled badge upside down Rushcliffe Borough Council fleece a pensioner to the tune of £35. No, really.

I did a Google, as I usually do, to see if I could find this story somewhere else, just for the purposes of verification. And I actually found that these guys have previous. They've done it before. They must be proud of the fact.

What is it about local councils that makes them think they're so bloody important that they can treat ordinary people like filth ?

I hope 76-year-old Peter Knott wins his appeal against those pathetic, pen-pushing, pedantic pettifoggers from Rushcliffe Borough Council. I hope when he gets into the hearing he ridicules them, humiliates them, shames them and generally takes them to the cleaners.

In fact, I hope he turns them upside down.

Wednesday 15 September 2010

Nun's The Word

I'm afraid to say that I've had another of my "Oh, for God's sake" moments with the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA).

Students of this blog will already be aware that I really hate the ASA. They have a habit of poking their not inconsiderable noses into places they should be leaving well alone.

The latest Exhibit: this utterly harmless picture, supporting an advertising campaign for ice cream, from the Italian firm Antonio Federici.

Just for the sake of clarity: you are viewing an image of a heavily-pregnant nun, in a church, eating ice cream. The truly tremendous strap-line is: "immaculately conceived". Now I see what marketing gurus get paid for.

The ASA's reason for goose-stepping in on this is that the adverts "mock Roman Catholic beliefs". "So bloody what ?" you may well ask. So might the wider public, it seems. When the images appeared in The Lady and Grazia magazines earlier this year, the poor ASA's switchboard operators were simply inundated - swept aside - by a total of....ten complaints.

Now, let's be fair just for a moment. If an advert had been brought out which was seen as mocking Islam, and the ASA banned that (which they would, without hesitation) we'd all be saying "I bet they wouldn't ban an ad which mocked Christianity". So at least they're wielding their weapons of free-speech destruction in an even-handed way. But it is completely wrong that no one should be able to take the Mickey out of religion in such a mild-mannered form.

It says a lot about the status afforded to religion by the Establishment in this country that it can enjoy such luxurious protection from any form of mockery or even serious challenge. In becoming ever-more draconian about this, our rulers are demonstrating an increasingly serious disconnection from wider society, which itself is growing ever-more sceptical about the messages handed down to us in the name of religious belief.

Fascinatingly, Antonio Federici have said that they intend to produce new posters along a similar theme, in defiance of the ban, and put them up around Westminster Cathedral to coincide with the Pope's visit. Good on 'em. We need people who are prepared to challenge the power exerted by State-sponsored censorship organisations like the ASA. I'm backing them all the way and I wish them well. I may even seek out their ice cream, just to see if it's as wonderful as they claim.

And I really quite fancy that nun...

Sunday 5 September 2010

30 Minutes In The Life Of a Dad

You know how it is....or at least you do if you're a father. Somehow the day-to-day parental tasks discharged seemingly effortlessly by one's wife suddenly take on a whole new, and impossibly enigmatic dimension when she's not around. Welcome to the non-political world of Womble On Tour, who, when not ranting about the latest excesses of the State or watching his beloved Wimbledon (top of the Conference now, please note) is the proud and loving dad of 13-year-old boy/girl twins.

It all started easily enough. Mrs Womble On Tour is away for the day, taking part in a Crown Green Bowling competition. I've been instructed to pick up the Daughter (hereafter known as D) from cricket coaching and then await the return of the Son (S) from football practice. Then knock up some lunch. OK, no problem.

I duly retrieve D - on time and all - and make her a quick sandwich (she's due to go to the cinema with a mate soon) then decide on spaghetti on toast for S and me. Good call, I reckon; he likes spaghetti.

D eats the sandwich and then sits brooding that her brother hasn't come home yet; she's like an old mother hen. S eventually walks in, which means I can persuade D into the shower ahead of her afternoon out. S announces that he doesn't fancy spaghetti and says he'll make something himself. That'll be chocolate spread on toast, then. Then he goes to see his sister. Next thing I know, there is loud sobbing coming from the bathroom and S comes back, slightly red-faced and embarrassed-looking. "Dad", he tells me, "You need to go and see...she says she's started her periods". Oh, joy.

Men aren't geared up for stuff like this. And what's more, I'm not ready for it either. I know it's been coming - I've got eyes - but that doesn't help.

I knock on the bathroom door and see D, standing there, naked and crying, bloodied knickers on the floor. I don't know whether to hug her, comfort her or turn and flee. "OK, don't panic", I say, panicking.

I root through my wife's things, looking for some sanitary towels. No such luck. They're not in the bathroom cabinet either. D is in the shower by this time, and slightly calmer. "I think it'll stop now," she says hopefully. I'm no expert, but I know enough not to bank on her being right. She's still distinctly tearful. I set off to the village to buy some sanitary towels.

As I drive, I'm conscious that once I get the bloody things I'm not entirely sure how you fit them. Thank God there's an alternative to tampons; I'd be way out of my depth with them. And I'm thinking that really I'm a bit unlucky here, really; the waters breaking, or however you term it, when the wife is away. I was there for S, when he needed his first cricket box; I thought I'd done my bit. I'm also thinking that no daughter should have to go through this without her mum being around.

I get to the shop and of course I can't find what I'm looking for. I ask the Asian Bloke behind the counter and he directs me. Needless to say there's a choice. Well there would be, wouldn't there ? Normal, or Normal - With Wings. How the hell would I know ? I decide that wings sound good. I feel obliged to explain the purchase to the Asian Bloke, who duly sympathises.

I get back to the house. Smoke is pouring from the grill, the kitchen seems near ablaze. Transpires that S, having started making his toast, has then gone to offer D some succour and forgotten all about the grill. I turn it off, open every conceivable door and window, and tell S to bin the toast. "The bin hasn't got a bin liner in it" he says. "So put one in". "Where are they ?" "Kitchen drawer". I'm a bit short with him really, and it occurs to me afterwards that there probably aren't many 13-year-old boys who would try to comfort their sister over such a delicate matter.

Before venturing into the bathroom I open the packet of sanitary towels. "5 signs of protection" it says, but no bloody instructions (pardon the pun). OK, it can't be that difficult. I knock on the bathroom door and D lets me in. Out of the shower, but still naked and very emotional. "I don't know what you do with them", she says through the tears. "Don't worry", I say, trying to sound all parental and knowledgeable, "it's OK".

We open the wrapper on one of the towels. The promised wings are there, I note. One side is sticky. Best not get it the wrong way round, I think to myself. D hands me her fresh pair of knickers and there's an intensely award silence as I try to fit the towel to the right part, towel and fabric going this way and that. At this very moment, S walks in - seemingly oblivious and unashamed - complete with a roll of bin liners, to announce that he can't tear one off. And there we are, the three of us, D standing without a stitch, me fiddling with her knickers, and S with his bloody bin liners. And at this point, looking at one another in our little circle, we can do no more than descend into laughter; there's is just nowhere else to go.

For the record, D departed, suitably sanitised and protected, to the cinema; S eventually managed to bin his cindered toast and make some afresh. And I finally experienced a return to standard heart rate and,when I last looked in the mirror, my face had returned to normal from its brightest pink shade.

But should parenting really be so hard ?

Saturday 14 August 2010

Going Dutch...To Think

Blogging, light as a feather in recent times, will be non-existent for a couple of weeks as the Womble takes himself and his family to the Netherlands for what (though I say it myself) is a well-earned holiday. I’ve never been there before, never driven on the right-hand-side of the road before (Mrs Womble on Tour may disagree) and will doubtless take time to become accustomed to the Monopoly-style currency otherwise known as the Euro. All things considered, I’m looking forwards to it.

And while I’m out there, I’m going to have a damn good think about the future of this blog. It’s an enigma, is this blogging business.

I started it, three years ago, simply because I love writing and because I could. It seemed ridiculously easy to do, and, at a time when free speech appeared to be in headlong retreat, courtesy of a foul-tempered and malevolent government, it felt deliciously refreshing to be able to say what I thought, anonymously.

I never really expected to start getting an audience; I had no idea where it came from. I was amazed when people started leaving comments. And when they did, I was hugely touched. And I found that an audience, however small (it never exceeded about 30 a day) changes things. I started writing with them in mind. And I felt guilty if I didn’t post anything for few days. I started to think of them as my customers, and how I’d have let them down if they came here and didn’t find anything new.

On the other hand I’ve never had ambitions for a large readership, and I’ve never pursued one as some have. I’ve tried not to be vain about it. I’m sure I could have attracted more visitors if I’d been more sweary or done more “advertising” but I wanted the blog to keep its own character. Not that I'm knocking people who push harder - part of the appeal of blogging is its rich variety and diversity - it's just not for me.

When I was writing at my most prolific, during a somewhat slow work month at the fag end of 2008, I was writing a post a day, and it was taking ages. And there’s the rub. Blogging does take ages. Even if I’m writing something short, it still takes time: time to find the right words and put them in the right order; time to do the research and find the links; time to read through it and correct all the mistakes (well, OK, not all of them). Even a “quickie” can take an hour, and, as the excellent Constantly Furious observed in his valedictory address a couple of months ago, blogging can start to take over.

With long, long hours at work, a wife who is quite wonderfully understanding but who needs and deserves time and attention, and two adorable children who are reaching the end of the time when they’re prepared to be seen dead with me, causing me to treasure every moment with them, there are many other calls on my time. Blogging takes very much a back seat at times.

In addition to all of which, there seems a little less material about at the moment, now that the Scottish Stalinist has left the Kremlin. It got to stage at one point, as a fellow blogger said to me, that I had run out of rage. Which isn’t a bad thing, of course. And yet…

And yet, I can’t completely put it to bed. Even when I wasn’t writing for months, I couldn’t bring myself to put the “Closed” sign up in the way that many have done. Part of me knew that the urge would return at some point, even if not perhaps with the zeal of days gone by. Sometimes when I’m listening to the news, or just going about my humdrum, day-to-day existence, something will cause my ire to ignite. I’ll be seething, as I was earlier this week when I heard that the Ministry of Justice has passed its own arrogant judgement on Sion Jenkins. And when I get like that, something has to give. I need an outlet. Blogging’s good for the soul at times like that. And writing’s the only vaguely artistic thing I’ve ever been able to do.

So there’s a conundrum for me in all of this. I love writing, and a part of me still wants to produce stuff that people will want to read. I can’t let it consume my life, or even a part of it. But I don’t think I want to stop either. So while I’m away, I’ll write home every day, And I’ll send all my loving to you I’m going to give some serious thought to Womble On Tour, and decide upon its future.

Wednesday 11 August 2010

The Biter Is Bitten

There is a vaguely satisfying feeling to be had when the State breaks its own inane rules and consequently bans something that it has, itself, produced; but the news that the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has once again been throwing its weight around is not a cause for universal celebration.

I’ve blogged about these people before. Let me put this mildly. I really am not very keen on them. They are, in short, an unelected, unaccountable QUANGO with too much power for anybody’s good.

Synopsis: The Association of Chief Police Officers has commissioned a radio advert encouraging people to snoop on their next-door neighbours and report pretty much anything and everything to the Police lest it be a sign that they’re engaged in terrorism. Does the slightly withdrawn person at the end of your road keep their curtains drawn and generally pay for things in cash ? If so, you need to report it sharpish, because it might mean he’s a terrorist. No, really, it might.

Horrendous advert, you might say. A colossal waste of public money, you might say. Encourages people to spy on their fellow-citizens and potentially provokes a petty, tell-tale society, you might say. Could lead to thousands of innocent people falling under suspicion just because they forgot to say “Good morning” to someone, you might say. Will probably just get used as a lever by the Police for more funding as they have to open scores of new contact centres to deal with all the calls from assorted busy-bodies who’ve got nothing better to do than to report some poor unfortunate soul to the authorities for forgetting their Chip & PIN number, you might say. A shocking indictment on how we law-abiding citizens are seen today by those to whom we pay huge sums supposedly to keep us safe, you might say. Probably counter productive in any case, you might say. And you’d be right, on each and every count. But that is no reason for banning the ad.

So, why has it been banned ? Well, it’s because when it was broadcast on TalkSport, it generated a grand total of: (cue the dramatic drum roll that normally precedes the revelation of a really big number) 18 complaints. From people who had been offended, of course. And so the much-loved ASA stepped heroically in and saved the country from risk of further offence.

Personally, I’m of the opinion that just as individuals and companies should have the right to speak their mind, so should the State. And if the State wants to annoy (or even, heaven help us, offend) a load of right-thinking people whilst trying to disseminate a ridiculous and purile message, that’s up to them. Obviously they should get completely slammed by the Audit Commission for spending our money in that way and whichever sick, uniformed, jack-booted Nazi who dreamed the idea up in the first place should get sacked, but banning free speech is a serious measure and whatever the ASA thinks about likely offence should have nothing to do with it.

So, yes, it’s a stupid advert. Yes, it’s good in one way that we don’t have to listen to it, if nothing else because it demonstrates the utter contempt with which the Police view us as individuals; for that reason alone it never deserved to see the light of day. And yes, it’s amusing that one tentacle of the State has been stopped in its tracks courtesy of the massive extension of power granted to another tentacle by successive governments. But that is no reason to extol the banning of this advert by the ASA. Common decency and plain common sense decree that this ad should never have been made. The fact that it’ll wind a few people up does not.

Underneath it all, this story sends (actually re-enforces, because it’s happened so many times before) the message that nobody can broadcast any advert considered even vaguely controversial any more just in case some dipstick somewhere comes over all offended by it. And that is fundamentally wrong.

Tuesday 10 August 2010

When An Acquittal Still Means Guilty

I might be unusual or even alone in this, but I find the decision not to award compensation to Sion Jenkins distinctly disturbing.

Jenkins, it will be recalled, was convicted of murdering his foster daughter Billie-Jo in 1997. In was a chilling and brutal case and Jenkins was widely reviled. Two appeals later, in 2004, his conviction was quashed when the appeal judge ruled that specks of blood on Jenkins' jacket, previously seen as highly incriminating, might have had an innocent explanation. At each of the two subsequent retrials the jury was unable to reach a verdict, and on 9 February 2006 Sion Jenkins was formally acquitted of the murder of his foster daughter.

Jenkins spent six years in prison. His marriage was destroyed, his life turned upside down, and he's been denied access to his natural daughters, who now live on the other side of the world. Whatever else you think about the case, you cannot deny that the man has paid a penalty.

There is, in English law, an overriding, all-encompassing principle; that an individual is innocent unless proven guilty. There is no burden of prove whatsoever on the accused to establish his innocence. Rather the entire burden lies with the State, to prove guilt. There is no equivalent of the Scottish verdict "Not proven", and nor should there be in my view. That means that in law, Jenkins is innocent of murder, following his acquittal in 2004. But it seems that the Ministry of Justice can unilaterally take a different view.

A Ministry of Justice spokesman is quoted as saying "For the purposes of paying compensation, the applicant must be shown to be 'clearly innocent'." That's an outrageous view. It pays no regard to the rights of a man who, as things stand, has been found to have been as innocent of this appalling crime as anybody else on the planet, and who has therefore been wrongly incarcerated. It seems that for the Justice Ministry, there are not two but three possible outcomes from a criminal trial; guilty, not guilty and not innocent. These are not the freedoms our forefathers fought and died for.

However much in might stick in the throats of some people, Sion Jenkins deserves redress, and the State should pay it.

Saturday 24 July 2010

Blanc Checks The Arrogance

I'm getting worried. First I side with the Scots, now I'm backing the French.

France's new football coach Laurent Blanc has suspended the entire French World Cup squad for one game; what an inspired decision.

We should do that here. Admittedly the French team's displays of petulance and even incompetence exceeded anything the English managed, but someone needs to show our spoiled, cossetted, over-hyped, under-performing bunch of Casanovas that the nation is displeased.

In fact you can ban most of them for life as far as I'm concerned.

Friday 23 July 2010

Leave Our Murderers Alone

I've never liked Jack Straw or Kenny MacAskill, and I don't generally defend the Scottish government. But when it comes to the current row about their non-attendance at the Americans' Senate inquiry, I'm right behind them.

Let's be clear about something, shall we ? We (or even the Scots) are not answerable to them. Personally I hated the decision to release Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, and I suspected at the time it was in part a politically-motivated stunt designed to wind up the Americans, in which it was spectacularly successful. But what the Scots, or for that matter the English, do with their convicted murderers is up to people on this side of the Atlantic, not that side.

The Americans clearly have it in for BP at the moment, and you can sort of understand why. But Senate hearings are themselves opportunities for political showcasing in which the participants look to score points, win votes and generally serve their own ends. Exactly as Obama has been behaving throughout the oil spill, in fact. BP is the Americans' Public Enemy Number One, so any chance to put them in the dock is gleefully accepted.

I can't believe for one moment that the Scottish government would have released al-Megrahi to serve the interests of a plc, but if there's any investigating to be done, it's for the Scots (or possibly the British) to do, not the Americans. Anyone who gets summoned to some poxy Senate committee should cheerfully tell it to get lost.