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28 March 2008

Time Magazine on Britain's Teenagers

The latest edition of the American magazine Time contains a lengthy article on the apparent depths to which Britain's teenagers have descended. It is reported that 20% of the UK adult population is scared to walk the streets at night in our cities. As this magazine is published all around the world this feature can only be described as a huge embarrassment, not least to the Labour Government that, in ten years, has totally failed to deal with childhood poverty, discipline in schools, and effective policing.

In my view, part of the problem has been the fanatical devotion in recent years to so-called "Human Rights" with no counter-balancing devotion to the matter of "Human Responsibilities". In my book, if a teenager smashed out of his or her brain (as likely to be a girl as a boy) on cheap, readily available alcohol decides to stick a knife into you for the hell of it, then he or she forfeits all human rights. If someone gets tanked up on cheap, strong lager from their local supermarket before entering a night club to complete the process of brain and liver destruction, then falls out of the premises at 2 in the morning to vomit and urinate in the street before starting a fight, then the Police can, for my money, treat them as roughly as they like.

It's no use asking where the parents are because as like as not they are also smashed out of what passes for their brains.

Last night we were visited by two teenage friends. Their politeness, humour, attitude to work, ambition, and general appearance were a timely counterbalance to the above story, and we are fortunate enough to know many such young people. It is a desperate shame that these are not the people who make the newspaper headlines or get into Time Magazine.

18 March 2008

Surfer's Soliloquy

To BLOG or not to BLOG, that is the question —
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous comments,
Or to take arms against a sea of e-mails,
And by opposing, end them. To cry, DELETE
No more; and by deletion say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to — 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. CTRL, then ALT
DELETE, perchance to live! Ay, there's the ESC,
For in that real life what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this “virtual” coil,
Must give us pause. There's the respect
That makes calamity of “virtual” life,
For who can bear the dark blue screens of death,
The spammer’s songs, the offers of viagra,
The pangs of “virtual” love, the law's delay,
The insolence of chat rooms, and the loans
That have no merit and the gullible takes,
When he himself can’t clear his overdraft
With a bare cheque book? Who would be a bear
Of little brain in this computer’d life,
But that the dread of something after DEL,
The real-life country from whose bourn
No surfer returns, puzzles us still,
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the hue of pixel resolution
Is sicklied o'er with the pale cast of thought,
And variations of dot pitch and R G B
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And so I stay confused .. F1 for help?

With apologies to

William Shakespeare

12 March 2008

Six Nations Rugby Lunacy

Is the England Coach Brian Ashton mad or what? I know Jonny Wilkinson's performance was a bit below par last weekend in England's lacklustre losing game against Scotland last weekend, but considering his undoubted special talent and his long record of point scoring for England it seems incredible to me that he is being dropped from the team for next week-end's game against Ireland.

OK, so we beat France the other week, but the England team is still a bit of a rabble, so to drop one of their star performers is bordering on the criminal.

During last week-end's game Jonny was certainly not at his best, but during that game he became the world record holder for the number of goal points scored by one man (1,099 points).

I shall be watching the England v Ireland with some trepidation (not to mention a certain lack of interest). I used to get a lot of enjoyment from these games just on the strengths of Jonny's kicking skills. France v Wales will probably be more interesting, as Wales has shot back from nowhere during this tournament and is top of the leader board at the time of writing this. Italy is at the bottom (heading for the "wooden spoon"?)

11 March 2008

Oath of Allegiance

It has been suggested by Lord Goldsmith (former Attorney General, now adviser to the Prime Minister) that teenagers, before they leave school, should take part in a citizenship ceremony and take a formal oath of allegiance to Queen and Country.


I have always thought that one of the more endearing characteristics of the British People is their understated sense of identity and patriotism. Most of us feel British, (or English, or Welsh, or Scottish) and are proud to belong to this nation, but
(unlike our American cousins) we do not feel so insecure and unsure of ourselves that we feel obliged to fly the Union Flag outside every house in the street, nor shovel our patriotism down each other's throats at every opportunity.

The proposal throws up one or two problems as well: what happens to those who refuse to take part in such a ceremony, or refuse to swear an oath of allegiance to the Queen? For myself, I am far from being a teenager, but if I was asked now to swear such an allegiance I would refuse. I don't mind swearing allegiance to my Country, but not to the Queen. I've nothing against her personally, and she makes a good fist of a ridiculous job forced upon her by accident of birth; I just don't believe in the concept of a hereditary monarchy. I am a democratic republican.

There is a lot to be said for British Citizenship courses and a graduating ceremony for legally admitted immigrants to the UK, but as for imposing such a thing on the indigenous population as part of the process of leaving school, I hope that the whole idea gets laughed out of court.

07 March 2008

Tales from the back of the School Minibus

Part of my job is the transport of eight primary school children to and from school. They are aged between five and eleven years.

Listening to the surreal conversations of the five-year olds is part of the pleasure of the job.

Me: "Don't unfasten your seatbelt while I'm driving."
Child: "It's OK - there are never any police down this road."

Child (in state of excitement): "Lionel, guess what."
Me: "What?"
Child: "My mummy's buying me a new water bottle".

Child 1: "I had a rat sandwich for lunch."
Child 2: "You can't eat rats."
Child 3: "You can - it's meat."
Child 4: "Did you know you can eat a duck?"
Child 2: "You're not allowed to eat a duck."
Child 3: "Well, you can eat a duck, but only if it's mad."

You heard it here first, folks!

03 March 2008

Prince Harry & the Drudge Report

There's been a bit of a heated debate going on as to whether or not Prince Harry should have been sent to the front line in Afghanistan, and in addition to that, given that he was sent, should there have been an agreement with the news media on a complete blackout for the duration?

Personally I don't give a stuff about whether or not he should have been sent, since I am not a Royalist. That being said it was clearly going to be the case that he was going to be (in his own words) a "bullet magnet" and so from the point of view of securing the safety of his entire unit, then secrecy can, I think, be justified. He had to be brought back home for his own safety and for the safety of his unit, after the American website Drudge Report blew his cover. Well, thanks for nothing, Drudge!

Jon Snow of Channel 4 News got all worked up about the press cover-up, suggesting that it detracted from the reliability and reputation of independent news providers. (He said this with foot in mouth, apparently unaware of the fact that Channel 4 News had been in on the agreement!)

The greasy, self-important, voluble and generally ghastly George Galloway ("Respect" MP) expressed the view that this made the BBC part of the war effort.

Newspaper Headline of the Week .. WHEN HARRY MET TALI

Newspaper Cartoon of the Week .. a 1066 newspaper hoarding declaring "KING HAROLD IN BATTLE OF HASTINGS - COVER BLOWN BY FOREIGN TAPESTRY".