Monday, 26 November 2012

Well, nobody's perfect

In November 1968, the government of Harold Wilson passed the Trade Descriptions Act. In essence it forbade

misdescriptions of goods, services, accommodation and facilities provided in the course of trade;

and also

to prohibit false or misleading indications as to the price of goods; to confer power to require information on instructions relating to goods to be marked on or to accompany the goods or to be included in advertisements; to prohibit the unauthorised use of devices or emblems signifying royal awards

What it did not do is protect items that have a claim to being regional in some way, such as the Melton Mowbray pork pie. Food products whose makers wish to use a description unique to a locale have had a lot more trouble in getting these protected than our European counterparts. Why, for example has the Saucisson d'Ardennes, backed by the Belgian high court, acquired protected status and not the Lincolnshire sausage? The latter has been put up for it more than once and oddly, been rejected, not by the EU but by DEFRA. As a Lincolnshire lad I can assure you that these sausages (at least the ones made in the county) are unique and taste nothing like the fakes you can buy everywhere.

Well, I like to know that a sausage has provenance, and bearing this in mind I was interested in the story, another Belgian story, of a man who was devastated to find that his wife of 19 years, had started life as a man. The deception was wilful and part of a plan by his spouse to get Belgian citizenship, after being brought to the country as an au-pair.

Apparently the poor man is now undergoing psychiatric treatment and trying to have the marriage annulled. He also is quoted as saying, "Even during sex, I never noticed anything".

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Rotherham's right of self-determination

People like certainty. They like re-assurance and, what better way to underpin a validation of deeply held values than to hear a speaker appeal to the emotions that strike a chord. The key, for the speaker with ambition, is to be vague. Get specific and you alienate. Stay vague and you bring along all. Hitler did this perfectly. He didn't start out by telling the crowds that he was going to gas 6 million Jews, because for most, this was not a good thing. What Hitler did was to speak of sections of the community who were going against the common will in the vaguest terms possible. If I said that what this country needs is a return to British values, I wonder how it would go down? Oddly enough, I don't think it would go down well, for "British Values" has become, in the eyes of some, synonymous with racism and bigotry. It is all the more strange because to me, the term means, above all, enterprise, fairness, democracy, freedom of speech and a common purpose. In fact, it is a measure of the perversion of language that certain ideas like this have become taboo.

But what did Hitler set out to achieve? In simple terms he set out to create a master race, devoid of inferiors. He set out to place Germany at the pinnacle of human achievement and spent a lot of time constructing an edifice which reflected that. He also removed, by force, any opposition.

In order to whip up support for his vision he needed a scapegoat. He needed a scapegoat that would bear on its back all the failures of the German people. Scapegoating is a key element in the rise of Fascism. There has to be a monster which is incapable of self-defence.

And so it has come to pass that anyone who seeks to preserve our way of life, by, for example, putting limits on immigration, is now termed a racist. It's very clever. Ask the average person what a racist actually is and I doubt if you would get a coherent answer. But that does not matter, the damage is done. It's a word which, without being very specific, is now a portmanteau for anyone who does not subscribe to multiculturalism or unfettered immigration or indeed, the right of British People to self-determination. It is all the more a perversion of the term that those who come from the other countries in question practice such severe forms of racism and fascism that it is incredible that anyone gives them right of entry, let alone the right to stir up insurrection and hatred.

I think we have come to a watershed moment. The recent case of a family in Rotherham, a decent family who are foster parents, being denied their altruism because they voted for UKIP is a kind of marker in the war of words and views.

In a way I sympathize with the people of Rotherham. They voted Labour and by association they voted in a Labour-leaning council, whose executive must do the will of their leaders. It's called self-determination. We all have a right to elect people who will do our bidding.

The kindly people in this sorry affair have no redress. They have been branded racists becausee they voted for UKIP. It is a paradigm of the Hitler/Goebbels principle: keep it simple, keep it vague and never reveal the true purpose. Those in Rotherham who think they are doing some lost young people a favour by denying them a home, have bought into an impossible and dangerous dream of ideological purity, the likes of which we have not seen since the 1930's in Germany.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Rome wasn't built on sausage rolls

It is said that Rome was not built in a day. But then again, neither was Luton. It follows that time spent does not equal progress or quality of end result.

It's also a common complaint that things move too fast. Somehow people are expected to arrive at their destination before they leave. It's exemplified by the unthinking use of social media and the dozens of occasions when the sender regrets not spending an extra moment or two considering the possible ramifications of a tweet or an email.

Has the world changed this week? It depends on your definition of "world". My world changed because I collapsed, last Tuesday, with severe dizziness and vomiting. The room was spinning and for the rest of the evening, between being sick, was spent moving around on all fours. I still have some balance problems and feel very weak. It kind of distracted me, but not enough to stop reading the news.

I fear the police have been a bit too busy. One mounted officer arrested some ne'er do well attempted to feed a police horse a sausage roll, in a "threatening or abusive manner". It reminds me of the time, not so long ago, that someone else got arrested for saying that a police horse "looked gay". What is it with mounted officers? Are they a bit, well, big girl's blouse? (They'll probably round me up and sit me in the comfy chair for that remark).

Arresting a DJ in his late sixties, for allegedly jiggling some adult woman's boobs, over thirty years ago, seems to me like hysteria.

We still have to learn some lessons about this deluge of information and instant referral to everything and everybody. After all, Rome was not built in a day.

Saturday, 3 November 2012


Has anyone watched ITV4 re-runs of The Saint recently?

The reason I ask will become clear if you read on. The Saint, with Roger Moore in the title role was typical of the period; The Baron, Man in a Suitcase, The Avengers, The Champions were all done on a budget tighter than Ann Widdecombe's knickers. The shows were filmed back to back by an assortment of young directors and they were mostly carried by the star. One director who worked on Man in a Suitcase (and several others in the genre) told me that Richard Bradford was monosyllabic with fatigue.

Of course, they never really went to Monaco or Paris or Tangier or anywhere much further than Pinewood Studios and today that is obvious. Apparently the opening shots of The Champions is simply the three characters standing against some 8mm holiday movie of Geneva and the impressive building was a labour exchange in East London. Still, as a kid I bought it, bought right into it and marveled at the sophistication of the lavish apartments and fancy cars, chief favourite of mine being Simon Templar's P1800 Volvo.

The reason it was sort of believable was partly because nobody really traveled abroad and, set against a contemporary factual world of brown and green institutions, rotten food and Morris Minors it appeared fantastic.

And here is the serious structural problem with the recent BBC Series "Hunted". Like the 60's adventure shows it relies upon some heavyweight acting. Like its 60's counterparts it has villains who go to extraordinarily complicated extremes to achieve their ends. But unlike The Saint, or Danger Man or Jason King we are no longer impressed with the setting. So, these operatives from this mysterious organisation called Byzantium have a fancy table that is a bit like a giant iPad. So, they have BMWs and Mercs. Their HQ has a lot of glass in it. So far there is nothing to distinguish them from investment bankers.

The problem with the casting is that it is rather uneven. There are some strong performances - Patrick Malahide is haunting enough to become a meta-character like Gene Hunt, a kind of cypher for all that is dreadfully evil. He really is very good to the point that I would be rather nervous to meet the actor. As for "Sam", I am afraid that she just doesn't do it for me. This rather slight girl with blond hair and fish-lip pout is no Sara Lund and yet she appears to be able to deck male baddies twice her size. Come on, you have to have something credible to hang onto in a fantasy series like this.

It's not that the plot is utter, utter tosh. It is, but that is not the main failing of Hunted. It's overwhelming failure is the production design and the dismal locations. I suppose the thinking was, "Nobody will believe this so let's make it look as gritty and realistic as possible". Well, nobody does believe it, but it would have been nice if at least we could have fancied the car.