Broadsheets | Anorak - Part 81

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Top news from The Times, Daily Telegraph, The Indepedent and The Guardian newspapers

Our Kind Of People

‘AH, HELLO there! Welcome to the agreeable world of Broadsheet Corner, where the top 32 per cent of society come for their daily infusion of culture, wit and hard news.

Head of your ordinary working-class family

(The other 72 per cent can be found getting their cheap-and-cheerful ”fix” in the tawdry Tabloid Tenements down the road – you may have seen it on your way here.)

You may be wondering how can we be so precise about our clientele. How do we know that they constitute 32 per cent, rather than, say 31 or 33, or even a reassuringly exclusive 1.2? Because the Times tells us so, of course.

”Two thirds of Britons are ‘working-class and proud of it”’, the paper reports. This is the finding of a survey by MORI, which divides people into two categories: middle-class and working-class (translation: ”our kind of people” and ”scum”). And one defining criterion for membership of the middle class is reading broadsheet newspapers.

Another middle-class qualification is owning a house worth more than £100,000, which seems dangerously low for two reasons. Firstly because any house in London costs at least that much these days, thus (theoretically at least) allowing all sorts of undesirables to join our ranks, should they choose to spend their scratch card money on a broadsheet instead.

Secondly, and equally worryingly, property inflation now means that sheds and other such constructions in the better parts of town are being pushed onto the market. A garage in Kensington came on the market at £150,000 recently – well within the range of any costermonger who chooses to sell his two-up, two down in Hoxton.

Clearly we are going to have to rely on the third criterion – a university education – to keep them out. But 50 per cent will be going to ”uni” soon, so even that won’t work.

So before we let you in, forgive us for asking, but didn’t your father go to our old school?

Posted: 21st, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Their Kind Of People

‘THE TIMES isn’t the only institution where class matters. They take it very seriously in the Welsh Labour Party too – although in the valleys it is the working class that carries the cachet.

Rhodri disguised as a scruffy member of Welsh society

”Ron Davies attacks ‘scruffy’ rival for hiding middle class roots,” announces the Guardian.

Former MP Davies, you will be pleased to hear, has now recovered fully from his ”moment of madness” on Clapham Common (where you meet a better class of cruiser).

And he now feels sufficiently confident to pronounce on the social pretensions of his Labour colleagues – in this case Rhodri Morgan, first minister for Wales. Davies covets Morgan’s job, and there appears to be no love lost between the two men.

”I think part of his dress and mannerisms, wanting to go to the pub for a drink with the boys, is a bit of over-compensation for the fact that he actually comes from a very well established, very middle-class family,” says Davies in an TV documentary to be shown on Friday.

”He wants to reconnect with what he imagines to be the authentic voice of the working class,” Davies continues. ”Of course, Rhodri would not recognise the authentic working class if he bumped into them en masse.”

So, for Mr Morgan’s benefit, we list some key characteristics that will help him identify fellow Welshmen of his own social station, in the hope that he will find pleasure in their company: 1) Own house worth more than £100. 2) Read foreign-language broadsheets (Times, Telegraph, etc). 3) Have attended school beyond age of 11. 4) Live in England.

Glad to be of service, Rhodri. Welcome aboard!

Posted: 21st, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Welsh Rabbit

”’I FEEL a bit awkward about not being Welsh,” says 22-year-old Cambridge graduate Mark Watson in today’s Telegraph. ”It’s a sort of fabrication,” he admits, although he does have a Welsh mother.

Mark’s hero

While we are familiar with the phenomenon of well-heeled students who like to play down their privileged backgrounds, this seems to be taking things to dangerous extremes.

What drove him to this desperate deception? It transpires that he is an aspiring stand-up comedian – and a good one too, as he has just won the 2002 Daily Telegraph Open Mic Award, impressing a prestigious panel in the process.

The Welsh aspect lends itself naturally to this sort of thing. Mark opens his act with the words: ”I’m from Wales. Don’t clap that, it’s a fact.”

He is philosophical about it all. ”I wanted to make myself into a minority group without lying too much,” he explains. Which makes his choice of the sly, underhand, thieving Welsh as his adopted compatriots curious to say the least. ‘

Posted: 21st, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Best Actor In Town

‘AS Jeffrey Archer might put it in his soon-to-be-aired memoirs: ”Yesterday was the first day of many as I began a season in the West End theatre. I was to star in a production of Hamlet in which I play Stanley Kowalski, muscular, misunderstood and manly foil to Julia Roberts’ Cleopatra.”

”Don’t worry, Jeff, we’ll get you a cushy day-release.”

The Times, though, has a different version. According to the paper, Archer is indeed appearing at a theatre. But it’s the Theatre Royal, Lincoln, not London, and the only time he’ll tread the boards is when he’s giving them a going over with a damp mop.

The swanky pied-a-terre where he’s based for the theatre run is not a glamorous eyrie overlooking London, but a less than deluxe room at North Sea Camp, Boston. And the bars on the windows are not to keep the greedy and villainous from getting in, but to prevent the greedy and villainous from getting out.

But, as the paper reports, Archer does arrive in style, being driven the 40 miles to his new day-release job at the theatre in his own M-registered BMW. He has not hidden his identity to stop the fans from mobbing him, and Prisoner FS8282 Archer is not a stage name.

The theatre ‘fans’ who came to see him arrive at his £8.40 a week job came less to praise him and more to bury him. Speaking to the Telegraph, the exotically named Venice Edwards, who knew Archer from his time as a schoolmaster in Dover, said: ”I don’t think he should be let out. He should suffer a bit for what he has done.”

Lincoln resident Joanne Crowther echoes those sentiments, saying: ”He shouldn’t be here. He shouldn’t even have been let out.”

But the real opprobrium of Archer’s condition is saved for the Times, where the man who would have been mayor is commented on not by a top Tory, an ex-prime minister or a great author but by Nick Bateman, a man once known as Nasty Nick for his appearance on TV’s Big Brother.

”This is great for Lincoln,” enthuses Nick, ”but it shows kids that crime does pay.” He continues: ”If he were an ordinary person he would be working on a pig farm.”

But Jeffrey Archer is no ordinary mortal. As his Julius Caesar would put it: ”If you prick me, do I not bleed my heart out in my forthcoming book: ‘Jeffrey – My Sabbatical’?”

Posted: 20th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

It Doesn’t Add Up

‘JEFFREY Archer would also doubtless like to pass a few words on the news from his other alma mater, Oxford University.

Now known to hopefuls as the dream-on spires

The place the Archer-inspired novelist Matthew Arnold described as the ”home of lost causes” is under attack for its decision not to offer a place to Anastasia Fedotova, a profoundly deaf student who scored six A grade passes in her A-levels.

In the Independent, the Russian-born swot shows off her results, which were still not good enough to win her a place to study mathematics at Brasenose College, a decision defended by a college spokesperson.

”Our vigorous admissions process enables us to consider each application on its individual merits,” says the spokesman in the Times.

But that hasn’t prevented Anastasia’s MP, Tony Lloyd, MP for Manchester Central, from calling on the university to justify its selection methods ”both in the hope that Anastasia can still be offered a place but also so that in future young people get though a selection process which is at the moment clearly failing”.

As the Indy reminds us, the case has echoes of Tyneside comprehensive girl Laura Spence, who was rejected from Oxford University in 2000, a case that pricked Chancellor Gordon Brown to condemn the institution.

And the case of one J. Archer, who did get into Brasenose College, where he signed up for a teacher training certificate and was above average at running.

Posted: 20th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Can’t Reed, Can’t Rite

‘WHILE Anastasia Fedotova enrols on a crash course in juggling, or learns whatever skills might help her get into Oxford, the Independent looks at the 40,000 pupils who will leave school without any qualifications at all.

A proud member of that five per cent

The Prince’s Trust has published figures which suggest around five per cent of school leavers get no qualifications and one in ten fail to get any GCSE pass in maths, leaving them with numeracy level of an 11-year old.

Estelle Morris, Secretary of State for Education and Skills (the embodiment of the ”anyone can do it – look at me” approach to education) also highlights the problem.

”One in five of the adult population does not have the skills of an average 11-year-old,” she says, ”but they are very good at hiding this from their friends.”

Meanwhile, in Lincoln, the new broom and tea boy at the Lincolnshire National turns to four new friends and tells them how when he was 11, he was captain of the England cricket team, a fully qualified GP and a graduate of Harvard. ‘

Posted: 20th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Dead In The Water

‘AROUND the time of the first great flood, a pair of each type of animal made it through to safety on Noah’s floating menagerie. Now just a random handful of beasts have been salvaged, as Prague Zoo becomes an aquarium.

”Get me outta here!”

Having previously told of the demise of Kadir, the Indian elephant, the Times now brings news of how police marksmen have dispatched lions, rhinos and bears. A gorilla called Pong and 80 birds have also been lost.

Whether they were killed one by one, two by two, or just stood along a wall in long line and picked off at will is not said, but gone and going they are.

Of course, in Noah’s pre-test tube days, survival of a species necessitated a boy/girl pairing. Now, Kadir and his friends can go the way of Dolly the sheep and be bred at will.

But happy news is to be had in the Telegraph, where Slavek, an 18-year-old male hippo, has been found alive and well. Missing presumed dead, Slavek, whose full name Jaroslav name means ”spring glory”, was sighted by keen-eyed spotters leaving the elephant enclosure.

Petr Fejk, the zoo’s director, says the hippo was in ”attack mode”, but soon calmed down when he was given something to eat and told that his female mate Lentilka had been shot.

And while Slavek broods and plots revenge on his captors, the paper asks readers to be on the lookout for a sea lion called Gaston, which swam away with the flood waters and was last seen heading towards Germany. A crack team of animal experts is tracking Gaston, and hope that he will lead them to a second sea lion who is missing.

Gaston’s disappearance is not believed linked to the deaths of Kadir and over 100 people who, by the way, have also perished.

Posted: 19th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Animal Hospital

‘BUT as you post a £10 gift token to Slavek, ask yourself this: ”What would you have done when faced with a drowning hippo?” It’s not a question we spend enough time puzzling over, but in America, they have taken to action over mere words.

She gave her pet frog mouth-to-mouth, and behold…

The Telegraph brings news from the States, and how Red Cross branches across the land are offering courses in first aid for pets. The four-hour long course costs $35 and encourages trainees to practise mouth-to-mouth resuscitation techniques on inflatable dogs and cats.

Animals fanciers who with their own inflatables have their names and addresses circulated to the proper agencies, but for the rest, the course is an invaluable lesson on how to save a life.

Modules include how to perform the Heimlich manoeuvre on a cat, how to stem a dog’s nose bleed and how to see to a pet’s bruise.

And if you want to save a drowning hippo, best way is to remind him that he can swim.

Posted: 19th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Don’t Go Down To The Woods Today

‘FROM one type of rare breed to another now, as the Guardian shines a searchlight on the village of Sawley, Lancashire, venue of the BNP’s annual picnic and rant.

Doing his bit for British nationalism

It was like the Golden Jubilee all over again, as Union flags flapped in the breeze, patriots sang of a land of hope and glory and proud folk fondled the coins in their pockets with something approaching love.

And while the children chomped on sticks of rock with ”BNP – Britain first” writ thought the centre, others played games. There was the patriotic teddy bear contest, which called for teddies to be dressed in red, white and blue.

And the face paining tent was a hoot, with the flag of St George popular, although there were a few patriotic Batmans, tigers and lions too. While they queued in the sun, their faces turning as red as their necks, the gatherers talked.

”I want to save England for my children and their children,” said one woman, looking at her clearly very active pre-teen daughter. ”There have been children’s races, a paddling pool and there was an historical play involving St Cuthbert – it was lovely,” she adds.

So, as they swapped stories about a seventh century son of an Irish king, the sun began to set, allowing them to clamber into their Japanese cars and return home to dream of a time when England was another part of the French empire, Celts ran riot in Scotland and their forefathers were pushing ploughs in Saxony.

Posted: 19th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

La Grande Bouffe

‘WE ALL wish a long and healthy life to St Tony, not to mention nice Mr Major and all the other past prime ministers who are still thankfully with us. But when they are, as Frank Sinatra put it, facing the final curtain, we doubt that any of them will opt for the route taken by former French president François Mitterand.

”If it wasn’t for us, he’d have been eating sauerkraut”

The Telegraph reports that a new film recreates his famous ”last supper”, and it sounds like a homage to La Grande Bouffe – the notorious drama in which various ageing members of the French bourgoisie, driven to despair by ennui, retreat to a luxurious mansion and eat themselves to death.

The paper reports that the greedy former leader summoned his closest friends to his house near Bordeaux, and, ”stretched out on a chaise longue, devoured plate after plate of oysters until he felt sick”. Then he sent for the ortolans. These songbirds – which are ”kept in a darkened barn for two weeks, force-fed millet and then killed with a shot of Armagnac” – are apparently prized above fois gras.

Their consumption is also illegal, but this doesn’t seem to have caused Mitterand any pangs of conscience. On the contrary, he ”sank his head into the napkin surrounding the bird to breath in its aroma”. His head then remained hidden as he ate the bird whole, crunching through its bones and innards. According to the book upon which the film is to be based, he eventually emerged ”Capsized with happiness, his eyes sparkling” and ready for death.

We contacted all the living former Prime Ministers of the UK, but only John Major’s people replied. They said he had no special plans for his last supper, but they imagined it would be his usual light choice, as heavy food tended to impair his sleep. A poached egg on toast and a glass of milk was the most likely choice, they said.

Posted: 16th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Can’t Pay, Won’t Pay

‘TIPPING is a notoriously difficult business – at least, that’s what we are always being told by newspapers keen to create still more anxieties among their troubled readership. Yet for those at the top of society’s pile it is simple.

”I gave her a few tips, Gawd bless her”

The Queen Mother was one lady who could always be relied on to ”make it look so easy” (as Sir Alastair Burnet memorably remarked, while watching her unveil a small plaque). So it is no surprise to learn that she had a typically no-nonsense attitude to tipping.

”Can’t pay, won’t pay” was her position, as newly-released government papers reveal. ”Queen Mother quibbled over half crown tips,” says the Telegraph, reporting that when visiting Tunisia in 1961, she refused to cough up for the daily expenses of bandsmen, stewards and other staff. The total cost came to a mere £762 11s 6d, which is the equivalent of about £5,000 today, hardly a king’s ransom.

Nevertheless, five thousand pounds is five thousand pounds, as the QM might say if she were still with us, and five thousand pounds buys a lot of gin. Of course, the QM didn’t pay for her gin either, preferring as she did the free stuff sent in lorries by the manufacturers.

But the point is that, like Mrs Thatcher, she knew the value of money, and she understood the importance of never spending it. And if more people shared her frugal instincts, the country wouldn’t be in such a frightful mess today.

Posted: 16th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

The Roaring Forties

”’COMING soon: the age of the fortysomethings.” Now that’s better, why can’t we have a few more headlines like that one, which comes courtesy of the small but beautifully put together Independent.

Models show anorak’s new ‘Comfi-slaxs’ range of clothing for the more discerning male

Who could possibly disagree that the world would be a better and more agreeable place if the majority of the population wore sensible ‘Comfi-slaxs’ (anorak own brand) and listened to music with a proper tune? The only problem is that the average age won’t reach 40 until the year 2007, and that may be too late for some.

Elsewhere, the Indie reports that 41-year-old Mark Goodier has been removed ”by mutual consent” from his post on the Top 40 chart show – a job that his illustrious predecessor Alan ”Fluff” Freeman was still doing perfectly well at the age of 93.

Meanwhile, the Times says: ”It’s now or never to cash in as the King’s lustre fades.” Profits for Elvis-related products are on the slide, it seems, and the present 25-year anniversary of his final, toilet-ridden wriggle of the pelvis could prove to be his last hurrah.

So it seems that for five more years we’ll have to put up with news reports backed with house music and documentary commentaries by graduates of the Dani Behr School of Narration.

But don’t be alarmed. The beers are stored away in a nice warm cupboard, the jars of chutney are in boxes under the stairs, and all the other relics of our way of life have been secreted to safe houses in the suburbs.

Our day will come. And when it does, there will be no mercy. ‘

Posted: 16th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Prague Springs A Leak

”’IN Josefov, the old Jewish quarter, police started banging on residents’ doors at 4am to tell them to leave their homes,” writes the Independent.

”Come on in, guys! The water’s lovely!”

It wasn’t the Germans this time, but a flood of Biblical proportions that was causing the inhabitants of Prague to flee. And they would have been advised to move fast, as more than 90 people have already perished in some of the worst floods to hit eastern and central Europe for an age.

The papers show pictures of Prague’s swollen Vltava River, and of people laying down sandbags in a bid to protect the city’s glorious Baroque architecture.

But the one picture that is sure to epitomise the suffering of the city is of Kadir, a 35-year-old elephant. Like the Lion of Kabul, Kadir seems to embody the suffering of a city as he wallows in a pen that soon became his private wading pool. And, like that one-eyed lion, Kadir is now dead, the victim of an assassin’s bullet.

Efforts were made to move the stricken beast, but they failed, and that meant Kadir had to be taken outside and shot. On a brighter note, the Independent watches as a sea lion escapes the zoo and swims down the swollen river.

And if he swims really hard, he might make it to Germany, and to the flooded city of Dresden. There he can float in and out of the Semperoper opera house and take a genteel backstroke though the magnificent Zwinger Palace, once home to Saxony kings.

But he needs help. So we hereby announce the drive for money to save Pelt – The Sea Lion of Dresden. Send cash and letters of support to the usual address.

Posted: 15th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Nicht Clubbing

‘FROM sea lions to clubs, the Times relates the story of the German bank and the inappropriate ”clubbing attire”.

Some of the workers took Dress Down Friday way too far

The clubbing attire in question is not a white boiler suit with attached rubber gloves, neither is it a brown shirt and armband. It is jeans and a T-shirt that Deutsche Bank terms ”clubbing attire”.

Aside from clubs for gay men and/or square dancers, it’s hard to envisage anyone daring to enter a club in jeans and T-shirt, but that’s what the German bank doesn’t want its employees to wear to work anymore.

It should be said that until now they had allowed their staff to wear casual clothes all week, and not just on the patronising ”dress-down Friday”. But staff have gone too far, and Mark Ferron, the bank’s chief operations officer of global markets, says staff have been ”dressing down to extremes”.

”Not only is such attire a violation of this policy,” he says to an open-air meeting of the bank’s staff, ”it can be offensive to our clients and staff.”

So out go the baggy jeans, trainers, lederhosen and charming little green felt caps, and in come tucked-in shirts, suits and heeled shoes. ”We are a global investment bank, not a sixth-form college,” reminds Mr Ferron, before smoothing down his hair and walking briskly away.

Posted: 15th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Mousy Blonde

‘OF course, if Deutsche Bank were a sixth-form college, they would be celebrating another very good year. While we ponder how it is that we are getting smarter year on year (see tabloids), we wonder what the future has in store for humankind.


It could be less of the massive brains and the shrivelled bodies, and more of the large ears, pert noses and twitching whiskers. Because the Guardian brings news that researchers in the US have found a way to grow human sperm in mice.

Scientists at the Centre for Animal Transgenesis and Germ Cell Research implanted sperm-producing tissue from goats and pigs under the skin of mice. And, hey presto, after a few months, the cells began to produce goat and pig sperm.

What’s good for the goats, pigs and, presumably, geese, is good for mankind. And it could be good news for the people of Dresden. Now, if they could just catch that sea lion… ‘

Posted: 15th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Home Entertainment

”’I WAS fiddling with the video recorder and just pressed the wrong button,” says Stéphane, one of the alleged victims in a curious case that is currently before the French courts. ”All of a sudden the TV screen started showing the girl from the room next door in the shower.”

Appartement cam

Most of us would put this down to sheer coincidence and leave it at that, but Stéphane for some reason grew suspicious and began fiddling about in the bathroom of his rented accommodation (surely in breach of the tenancy agreement) and soon discovered a video camera hidden in a false ceiling.

The Guardian reports that he found further cameras in an alarm clock by his bed and a fake fire extinguisher on his wall. Police later discovered another 14 around the premises. The landlord, a married couple in their sixties, were found to have ”several hundred cassettes” of material covertly filmed in this way. Their lawyer said that the cameras had been installed because they were afraid for the safety of their niece, who had ”suicidal tendencies”.

He would not confirm that one of the tapes, filmed using an infra-red camera, appears to show a male lodger shaving his chest in bed under cover of darkness.

Posted: 14th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Ant Rap

‘HUMMING can be really annoying, can’t it? So annoying, in fact, that in today’s Times guide to office life, it is listed twice in a section on things from which considerate colleagues should refrain at all times. And it’s not just office workers who don’t like it – particularly when the hum is aggressive rather than passive.

”I spend my cash on looking flash and grabbing your attention”

We are all familiar with the effects of the sarcastic hum or whistle – the ”Laurel & Hardy” theme whistled at passing policemen, the judicious use of the Rupert Bear song directed at the hapless man in tartan trews… So when drinkers in the Prince of Wales pub in Kentish Town saw a portly middle-aged man in cowboy gear walk in, they knew the correct form and acted accordingly.

Unfortunately, their spontaneous rendition of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly didn’t go down too well with the silent stranger who had just entered the saloon. He was carrying a gun, with which he had intended to pistol-whip a man he expected to find in the pub. Instead, as the Guardian reports, he ”threatened onlookers” with his shooter (actually a starting pistol) and then threw a car alternator through the window.

When arrested the ”stocky, bespectacled and balding” 47-year-old told police he was Adam Ant – a claim that was greeted with hoots of derision. Yet he spoke the truth. This was indeed the former Prince Charming and Dandy Highwayman, not to mention King of the Wild Frontier.

Today he is plain old Stuart Goddard. Yesterday in court he wore a wide-brimmed hat and dark glasses, and spoke only to plead guilty to using or threatening unlawful violence. All charges of crimes against music were dropped.

The judge promised him he would not be jailed, and the defendant walked free, crossing and uncrossing his forearms rhythmically as he went.

Posted: 14th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Duty Free In France

‘YESTERDAY we told of Tony Blair’s smart-but-casual photo-call with the French prime minister. The event took place at a chateau belonging to one of the Blairios’ friends, for Tony likes to spend his holidays in the homes of the rich and famous and can usually be found in Italy or France at this time of year.

”Right, Euan’s got 50 cartons of fags, Nicky’s got 200, Leo’s got 90 and Cherie’s got the brandy. And I’ve got the videos, the flick knives and the bangers.”

The only problem with this year’s choice is that Tony’s host is Alain Dominique Perrin, a businessman with a large financial interest in British American Tobacco, a company currently under investigation for tobacco smuggling.

No doubt Ton ”What signal is this sending out?”

How about this: ”I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine such persons, which need no repenence.” (Luke 15, verses 4-7)

Posted: 14th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

One Door Closes, Another Opens

‘YOU know the situation – you’ve just opened the door to a shop or a restaurant and you see a pretty woman coming the other way. What do you do?

An easy solution to a common dilemma

Do you a) stand aside and let her walk past, do you b) move slightly to one side so she has to brush up against you as she goes past (and say ”Nice hooters, love” as she does so), or do you c) barge her out of the way and walk through yourself?

It’s a tricky business being a man in the post-feminist age, as the Daily Telegraph recognises. A survey by the Future Foundation found that, while only 22 per cent of women are happy for a man to pay for dinner and most find it ridiculous that a man would stand up if a woman walked into a room, 90 per cent expect him to hold open a door.

But even that’s not clear-cut, as the foundation’s Melanie Howard observes. ”Although the figures for holding doors open for women seem pretty non-contentious,” she tells the paper, ”it still means that every tenth woman a man steps aside for is probably going to take offence.”

So, in other words, the advice to men is to keep count – stand aside for nine women and then punch the tenth one in the gob.

Posted: 7th, August 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

No Leg To Stand On

‘FINE words butter no parsnips, as a wise man once said.

New Zealand celebrate their goosing gold

We’ve heard a lot about how this year’s Commonwealth Games is an inclusive event, to which all are welcome, and it is the first occasion upon which disabled athletes have been included in a major sporting tournament. (Athletes disabled before the event, that is, rather those like England’s sprinters, who disable themselves during it.)

Yet for all the fine words, what do we find? Persecution of the disabled, that’s what.

The case of 60-year-old John Davies is typical. John has a prosthetic leg, and has come all the way from his native New Zealand – hopping much of the way – in order to compete in the bowls.

Now, the Guardian reports, he is on his way home following an ”incident” in which he ”commented on the size of a volunteer’s breasts and then touched her bottom”.

Where does one begin when dealing with such a blatant example of political correctness gone mad?

Such behaviour is of course completely acceptable in New Zealand, which still has an agreeably 1950s mind-set when it comes to social affairs.

Here, however, things are different, and the team’s chef de mission David Currie has accepted that it was behaviour that ”falls within the domain of sexual harassment”.

He added that the fact that it took place in a public area was a serious error of judgement.

”The New Zealand team cannot condone what has happened,” he concluded.

Indeed not. But questions remain. Are we to take it that a quick goosing is OK, so long as it is not administered in a public area?

And what are we to make of the fact that the lady in question was a ”volunteer”? Does the phrase not suggest some basic level of availability when it comes to this sort of mildly lascivious overture?

With such a profusion of mixed messages, it’s hardly surprising that Mr Davies was confused. But as he has learned to his cost, when it comes to the PC police, you don’t have a leg to stand on.

Posted: 31st, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Knickers V Nickers

‘IS that a mobile phone in your pants or are you just glad to see me? Not the most obvious of chat-up lines, but remember: you heard it here first.

And you can even park you car in these ones

But why would people be keeping their phones in their pants? Because of crime, stupid – it’s just one of many innovations in the exciting world of anti-theft clothing.

This is not a new idea – a century ago satirical cartoonists were depicting huge spiked anti-garrotting collars – but there is no reason why the new innovations should not succeed where others have failed.

One of the cleverest is the ”stealth belt”, in which money, mobiles, etc can be stored.

The belt is designed to resemble lingerie, and the Independent’s picture shows the belt stuffed full of implements while doing its best to look like the waistband of a pair of underpants.

Of course, the picture also indicates a possible flaw in the plan.

Maximum security pants are all very well, but how effective will they be as long as the nation’s fashion-conscious youth persist in wearing their trousers at half-mast, displaying their smalls for everyone – thieving community included – to see?

Posted: 31st, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Welcome To Becks Country

‘WE are always being told that the British tourist industry is in crisis, so it’s good to report one area that is booming.

Becks hid when Posh started getting a bit frisky

The Telegraph reports that the Japanese are flocking to Britain, and a good many of them are doing so to follow in the footsteps of Golden Balls.

As with John, Paul, George and Ringo, the tourists are keen to revisit the humble origins from whence their hero sprang, and this throws up some curious scenarios.

What will our Oriental friends – the majority of whom are women – make of the pilgrimage to Leytonstone, where the boy David was born? Or the school in Chingford where he worked diligently to master Latin and Greek?

Perhaps they will be more interested in his £2.5 million home on the Herts-Essex border or the view through the gates of his £850,000 mock-Georgian house in Alderley Edge in Cheshire.

”I would say David Beckham has had an impact,” says a spokesman for the Japan Travel Bureau.

But before David gets big-headed, we should remind him that world domination is still some way off.

The spokesman adds that a large number of those coming to these shores are visiting Beatrix Potter’s home in the Lake District to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the publication of Peter Rabbit.

Posted: 31st, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Monky Business

‘IF HISTORY teaches us anything, it is that religion is rarely a force for love, peace, understanding and tolerance.

”HQ? Send reinforcements. I repeat, send reinforcements.”

Indeed, like sport (on whose behalf similar claims are often made), its track record suggests the complete opposite. Just think of Islamic jihads, Christian crusades, and all the other religious wars down the centuries.

And internecine struggles are even worse. One need only look at the way Buddhist monks (you know, Buddhism, the loved-up religion) fight amongst themselves over the ownership of their temples to get an inkling of the potential for out-and-out war.

So no-one will be particularly surprised to learn in today’s Telegraph that it all kicked off down Jerusalem way when a dispute over control of the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre (the traditional site of Jesus’s crucifixion, burial and resurrection) got out of hand.

Two groups of monks – the Ethiopian Orthodox mob and the Coptic Church of Egypt crew – clashed with spectacular results when an argument started about the position of a chair where one of the Egyptians traditionally sits.

The monk moved his chair out of the sun, and this was interpreted as a violation of the status quo, as documented in 1757. Tensions rose, as the Egyptian monk was allegedly teased, poked and finally – most insulting of all – pinched by a woman.

At this point all hell broke loose, as they say. Eleven monks were treated in hospital, and ”an uneasy stand-off” now prevails.

One historian is quoted as describing the area, which is a mass of rival sects, as ”the most unchristian place in the world”. It’s just this sort of thing that gives irrational superstitious beliefs a bad name.’

Posted: 30th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Out Of The Norm

‘IF it’s tolerance and ”live and let live” you want, then forget the birthplace of Christianity and head for the Tory heartlands of Surrey. Today, the Guardian visits Reigate to sound out the locals about the decision of Alan Duncan to come out as the first openly gay Conservative MP.

Oscar was roundly defeated at the Reigate by-election

”I come from an older generation where this sort of thing was deemed unspeakable,” says 55-year-old Colin Vaughan, and many agreed.

”I would not be happy if we had a gay candidate here,” said Tony Collinson, chairman of the Reigate Conservative Association. ”I would always go for someone from a normal background.”

The problem, of course, is that a ”normal” background is no guarantee of anything these days, least of all red-blooded heterosexuality.

But attitudes seem to be different among the younger generation, particularly those at the Redhill Constitutional Club, which shares a building with the Reigate Conservatives.

Club secretary David Barclay was for ”tolerance”, as was council leader Joan Spiers. But if any of those gays was to come around and poke them, or get a woman to pinch them, you can bet your life that the good folk of Reigate wouldn’t take it lying down.

Local hospitals have been warned.

Posted: 30th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment

Nuisance Caller

‘THERE’S nothing more irritating than a cold call from a salesman on your home telephone number. Except, that is, for a series of calls from the same salesman.

The stuff of Gareth’s nightmares

So when Gareth Evans got repeated calls from a man selling mobile phones, he wasn’t best pleased, especially when the salesman responded to his repeated refusals, and eventual remark ”Listen pal, I don’t want your mobile phone” by ”blowing a fuse”.

The Times reports that the salesman, Adam Stansfield, was fined £250 for making nuisance calls and ordered to pay £50 costs. In his defence it was explained that there was a fault with the automatic dialling equipment, and he didn’t realise that he was talking to the same person.

The company that Mr Stansfield worked for has gone out of business. Readers will be pleased to hear that he is now selling insurance. ‘

Posted: 30th, July 2002 | In: Broadsheets | Comment