The Magna Carter

For a blog subtitled “The world according to me” there’s a worryingly low amount of stuff in it that describes exactly how things will be when I am in charge (yes, “when”). So here’s my 10-point manifesto for a better Britain. Actually, it might not be for a better Britain, but it will be for a Britain that I prefer to the current one, based as it will be upon my revenge on the many people and things that are currently pissing me off. Which is, I reckon, all that really matters.

(1) Illegally-parked vehicles:

It will be perfectly legal to cause criminal damage to any motor vehicle that is parked illegally. Any vehicle parked where it should not be parked shall have no standing in law whatsoever. Where the said vehicle is a scaffolder’s truck or a supermarket delivery van, anyone causing damage to the vehicle will not only be immune from prosecution but will also receive a £200 Marks & Spencer voucher, paid for by the owner of the vehicle. Anyone using the “but my hazard lights were on” defence will be forced to re-take their driving test. Twice.

(2) Politically incorrect:

Those boasting about their own political incorrectness shall serve a three month prison sentence. Such boasts are the preserve of ill-mannered bores and will no longer be tolerated in society. The sentence will be doubled should the guilty party be heard to say that “you can’t say anything these days”. A sentence of one year shall be available to the judge if the words of Enoch Powell have been invoked but the guilty party is unable to say exactly what those words actually were.

(3) Mobiles, iPods, skateboards:

Those caught using mobile phones whilst driving or cycling shall be incarcerated for one year. Those caught using a mobile phone whilst being served in a bank, shop or post office shall serve three months in prison. Identical sentences shall also apply to those using iPods in such situations. Males over the age of 14 caught skateboarding shall be subject to a £500 fine. This fine will be doubled if the act is being performed on a public highway.

(4) Cats:

Owners of these highly dubious creatures must have their animal(s) micro-chipped and a tracking device implanted in the animal. Failure to do so will result in a £5000 fine and the animal being destroyed in a controlled explosion supervised by the Royal Engineers (at considerable cost to the owner of the cat). At the end of each calendar year a record will be published that will list the properties on which the animal trespassed during the previous year. Each case of trespass shall cost the cat owner £1, which must be paid to the property owner upon whose land the pointless creature trespassed.

(5) Dogs:

Dog owners who allow their dogs to shit in the street and who then fail to clear it up will be forced to sing “How much is that doggy in the window”? repeatedly for an hour in Trafalgar Square on the second Tuesday of each month. They will then spend the rest of the day with a pooper-scooper in hand traipsing around London’s hundred shittiest streets (as listed in “The Good Dog Shit Guide”, available from all good booksellers for £12.99).  Only once they’ve collected an amount of doggy-do that weighs the same as their own loveable mutt will they be free to go home. (The only exception to this law will be in very rare cases of white dog poo which you hardly ever see these days, do you? This must be left wherever the dog has deposited it until the sun bakes it so extensively that it starts to look like chalk, goes all powdery, and the stupid kid from over the road uses it to write his name on the pavement).

(6) Self-service checkouts:

All goods purchased at supermarket “self-service checkouts” shall automatically qualify for a 10% price reduction, as the customer is effectively doing the work that used to be done by a member of staff. When an alarm sounds due to an “unexpected item found in the bagging area” and this item is found not to be “unexpected” at all, the customer will be under no obligation to pay for any of the goods. At the end of each financial year all supermarket losses made as a result of this policy will be reimbursed by the people who manufacture the self-service checkouts at B&Q, as they most definitely deserve bankruptcy.

(7) Pavement cycling:

Grown men who cycle on pavements will have their bikes painted pink and fitted with stabilisers. For the following six months they will be obliged to cycle at least three miles per day (on roads not pavements) on the aforementioned vehicle whilst wearing a “Peppa Pig” cycle helmet. Any car driver who knocks these offenders off their bikes during this six month period will be deemed to be the innocent party in the collision, regardless of the circumstances. Any damage to the car will be paid for by the cyclist or, in the event of his death, by his grieving relatives.

(8) Pubs:

People who walk into crowded pubs, push straight to the bar and then expect to be the next person to be served will have the word “WANKER” tattooed on their foreheads. Pub bar staff will be forbidden to serve a “WANKER” in a pub until every other person in the pub has been served, even people who walked in after the “WANKER” did. Pub bar staff who continually ask “Who’s next”? in a crowded pub on a Friday or Saturday night shall have their wages from that particular shift donated to a central fund that pays for research into why it is that some people are so shit at their jobs but never, ever seem to get sacked.

(9) Buzzwords and cliches:

The following will be punished with custodial sentence of three months, if uttered in public:

“Going forward”, “elephant in the room”, “bandwidth”, “take ownership”, “singing from same hymn sheet”, “low-hanging fruit”, “outside the box”, “at the end of the day”.

In addition, companies who produce “mission statements” that contain the following will be fined £100,000 (after they’ve been fined £50,000 for producing a damned “mission statement” in the first place):

“Synergies”, “transparency”, “solutions”, “customer-focused” (no, you are profit-focused, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but please just stop bullshitting), “added value”, “best practice”.

(10) Drive-through fast food outlets:

Banned. Sorry, that’s the end of it. You’ll be wanting to take your precious bloody car to bed with you soon. Well, you can’t. And if you want to pay for ground-up horse willies and pig sphincters in a sesame seed bun you still can, but you’ll just have to get out of your stupid car for a few minutes. Walk somewhere, dumb arse. It won’t kill you, unlike the dross you’re about to pay for and eat. And don’t give that stuff to your kids, they’ve got you for a parent so they don’t need any more shit in their lives right now. Idiot.

Hmmm. I feel better already.

Yeah. With a few tanks.

Yeah. And don’t stop.

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Strike up the bland at the Tesco Clubcard Arena

Fancy a trip to the Britannia Stadium? No, me neither.

And before all you hundreds of thousands of Stoke City fans start moaning that I’m doing your great club an injustice, I’m not talking about the qualities of your football team, just the name of the stadium. The Britannia Stadium is named after an arm of the Co-Operative Bank, an arm that will apparently be amputated by the end of 2013, due to “re-structuring”. I assume it will become the “Co-Operative Stadium”. Well, there’s something to look forward to. Everyone being “co-operative”. How nice. And how horrifically boring.

Corporate branding is the coronary artery disease of modern football. Every Tom, Dick and Harry Ramsden wants to get in on the act. They want to prove to you how “cool” they are, how in tune they are with the modern “footie” fan (though of course anyone who calls it “footie” should be disembowelled with a hockey stick) and how pleased they are with the new “partnerships” they are forging in order to provide “football-based leisure solutions” to the mugs, er people, who pay fortunes for their season tickets and the pleasures of being bombarded with yet more corporate remedies for insomnia. And the stadium names reflect this so depressingly well.

“The Emirates” has passed into the football lexicon, as has “The Etihad”. Both are named after airlines, of course. So how soon will it be before they are both re-branded as something sexier in order to “better communicate our vision statement to our stakeholders” or some other vapid piece of management-speak? If your stadium was “The Pan-Am Arena” back in the 1970s or “The British Caledonian Stadium” then you’ll understand what I’m getting at. Grounds used to be named after the road, or maybe the area of the town, that they stood in: “Highbury”(Arsenal), “Maine Road”(Man City), “Leeds Road”(Huddersfield). Others just had names that you immediately identified with that club, like “The Goldstone Ground”(Brighton), “The Baseball Ground”(Derby) or “The Den” (the latter being Millwall’s old ground which I visited once as an away fan: I still give thanks every day that I made it out alive).

Alas, these places are no more, and the game is poorer in spirit as a result, even if it means bags more cash for the clubs and the chance to sign a Chilean striker who will not be able to “settle”. New stadiums popping-up everywhere have, on the other hand, given clubs the opportunity to use a bit of imagination when naming the new place. How typical that few seem to have risen to that particular challenge.

“The Roker Roar” (Sunderland) has been replaced by the “Small outbreak of applause at The Stadium of Light” (a name already used by Benfica in Portugal). Those who stood on Highbury’s North Bank in years gone by must now sit in either “Upper Level”, “Club Level” or “Lower Level” at The Emirates, unless they have wormed their way into the “Diamond Club” and can sit in an executive box to watch the team being beaten by Swansea, Bayern Munich, Blackburn, or whoever is in town that day. They don’t even have an “End” anymore. It’s like someone reaching inside your chest and ripping your heart out, while you stand there nodding politely and handing over a steady stream of £20 notes. They must be mad, these fans. Sorry, these “football consumers”.

In addition to those already mentioned, here are some more mind-bogglingly dull names that have appeared on the scene lately:

-Swansea’s “Liberty Stadium” (named after some local property developers)

-Newcastle’s “Sports Direct Arena” (named after the owner’s business in selling flammable tracksuits to overweight, sweaty people)*

-Coventry’s “Ricoh Arena” (Japanese electronics firm)

-Huddersfield’s “John Smith’s” “Galpharm” “McAlpine” (depending on which way the wind is blowing they name their stadium after beer, pharmaceuticals or construction companies)

-Derby’s “Pride Park” (named after the soulless business park on which it stands)

-Bolton’s “Reebok Stadium” (again somewhere named after a company that sells sports goods to people whose idea of exercise is walking to the chippy)

-Leicester’s “KP Stadium” (surely by now someone has put up a sign in the club office that says “You don’t have to be nuts to work here, but it helps”) which should not be confused with Hull’s “KC Stadium”. As if that was possible.

All of these places are, of course, wonderfully-constructed arenas. They all provide “conferencing facilities” of course, because “conferencing” (i.e sitting around and talking all day about a problem that you could solve in half an hour if you really wanted to) is a growth industry. Who could turn down the chance to escape from the call-centre for a day and instead get on the company bus to be transported like cattle to the out-of-town football stadium, where tedious middle-managers, each with the charisma of an ironing board, “conference” you both before and after a healthy lunch in the executive suite?

I may well be on my own, but don’t the names just leave you cold? Don’t they just sum-up perfectly the cynical nature of the “brands” that football clubs have become? The horrible talk of a “partnership” with brand X, Y or Z that produces “synergies” whilst “delivering” on their “mission statement” should have no place in football, or any sport. There’s no imagination, just “name the stadium after our brand”. Well excuse me, but that’s just shit.(And while I’m at it, I don’t want to know about “five-year plans” that clubs have copied from businesses that sell breath freshener or sausage rolls. Real “five-year plans” in Stalin’s Russia often ended with the responsible underling never being seen again. Whinging that your star worker/midfielder was injured for eight months tended not to be regarded as a good excuse for failure. So stop calling the outside chance of reaching the play-offs “a key element of our five-year plan”. Thank you).

I say “enough” of these branded stadiums and let’s get back to proper stadium names like Highfield Road, Filbert Street, Burnden Park and Plough Lane. If you want new names, “Ashburton Grove” sounded nicer than “The Emirates” does, and “Eastlands” was better than “The Etihad”. Nothing, of course, will ever be able to compete with “The New Den” for a total and utter imagination failure, but as we’re talking about Millwall that shouldn’t come as a surprise. That said, I must exempt Southampton FC from any such criticism. After they left “The Dell” (which I never really liked as a name) in 2001 they named their new stadium “St Mary’s”. As any Portsmouth fan will tell you, “St Mary’s” is the local hospital where Southampton fans go for treatment after matches in Portsmouth involving the two teams.

So at least someone is showing a bit of creativity.

* Wonga.com bought the naming rights and soon realised that to call the stadium the “Wonga Arena” would quite possibly be corporate suicide. They have re-named it “St James’ Park”, reverting to the old name.

"Welcome to the Colgate Land Rover Esso Tic Tac Arena. I hope our soccerball entertainment solutions will meet your entertainment objectives"

“Welcome to the Colgate Land Rover Esso Tic Tac Arena. I hope our soccerball leisure solutions will meet your entertainment objectives”

Gun control and the Hitler myth

“To conquer a nation, first disarm its citizens” – Adolf Hitler (or maybe not), 1933 (or maybe not)

If you’re interested in the “gun control debate” (especially in the USA) then no doubt you will have come across this quote at some point. It’s used to persuade people that gun control is a bad thing. The track to tighter controls will end at Nazi Central, and we don’t want that, do we? And so those in favour of guns-for-all, more guns in schools and guns just about everywhere invoke the words of one of the world’s most evil men. The argument goes that if people are allowed to keep firearms in their homes, an armed coup (by government or some other armed group) is made less likely, because the citizenry will rise up as one and defeat the nasty people. And every day will be the first day of Spring, and so on and so forth. Hitler succeeded because no-one had any guns to stop him.

They know their history like Mr Creosote knew his salads, i.e not very well. Here’s why:

(1) The quote

There is no evidence that Hitler ever uttered those words, though it’s reasonable to assume that he agreed with the sentiment. But that’s different, isn’t it? Don’t “quote” someone unless they actually said those words. Quotes are what people actually said, not what Brian from down the pub reckons someone probably said and even if he didn’t then it’s what he thought and he probably, in his final bunker moments, wished he’d said it. It’s a bit too important a quote to treat it as if you are a hack from The Sun making stuff up as you go along because proper journalism is too much like hard work. Quotes are what people said, not what you wish they’d said.

(2) Believing Hitler

Leaving aside the above, let’s just pretend that Hitler did actually utter those words. So, if I’m not mistaken, people are using the words of one of the most twisted and evil men there’s ever been to prove that their opinion is more valid than the opposing opinion? Doesn’t that strike you as a bit odd? Are there no other great words from the advocates of wider gun ownership that can be quoted? Do they have to resort to quoting a man responsible for the deaths of millions in order to bolster the point? Has it occurred to them that the man was a little bit strange, a bit of an oddball, and that he did have a tendency to make stuff up? Could he have been making this up? Even if he was being genuine, does the idea that he said this really reinforce the argument? I don’t recall “Yeah, Hitler said it, so I guess it’s true” cropping-up too much in History seminars I attended, but I could be wrong.

(3) Meaning

Again, we’ll suspend disbelief for a bit and pretend that Hitler did actually utter those words. What could he have meant?

(a) That Nazi subjugation of the German nation would have been made more difficult had more Germans owned guns

A ridiculous notion, since the Nazis assumed power through legal means in 1933. So the quote can hardly be seen as a kind of “Phew, what a great idea to take all their guns away so we could gain power”. The main reason there was no meaningful armed resistance to the Nazi assumption of power was because it was legitimate, albeit on the back of clever political manoeuvring. It was no more illegal than the Tory-Liberal shenanigans of May 2010 in the UK. It is an absolute lie to suggest that the Nazis first disarmed the German population before seizing control in a bloody coup.

(b) Duh! He was referring to the 1938 law that the Nazis passed

Duh! Unlikely, given that the mythical “quote” is from 1933 (or did you just pluck that year out of the air because you knew none of the people who want to believe the quote would bother to check the facts?) And anyway, the 1938 law actually liberalised German gun laws, making acquisition of rifles and shotguns easier, rather than more difficult. Look it up if you don’t believe me. Only the Jews were disadvantaged by the 1938 law. I have no recollection of Obama speeches specifically calling for certain ethnic groups to be deprived of guns. Do you?

(c)  He was obviously talking about other nations that Germany occupied and oppressed

OK, so which nations had he oppressed and invaded in 1933? I’m all ears.

(d) OK, so the quote wasn’t from 1933 but later. Isn’t it still valid?

The “quote” probably owes itself to an April 1942 comment that Hitler made in which he referred to not allowing “subject races” access to guns. He is clearly talking about actions to be taken once nations in Eastern Europe (he specifically mentions Russia) have been subjugated. So he thought that conquered people might be a bit angry with their German occupiers and that allowing them to have guns would be a bad idea. Not exactly V2 rocket science, is it? Hardly hits you between the eyes as a brilliant piece of insight the likes of which could only be conceived by a genius, does it?

If you’ve heard of “Godwin’s Law” you’ll know that it is the belief that as online discussions evolve they eventually lead to someone comparing someone else to Hitler, or  perhaps comparing something that is being said or done to Nazism. What the gun lobby have done is evoke a kind of Godwin’s Law of their own. “Hey everyone, look what Adolf Hitler said. Believe us now”? In a nutshell, no, I don’t.

Just as it’s a sign of desperation and a lack of an alternative, reasonable argument when you have to resort to comparing someone who disagrees with you to Hitler, so misquoting Hitler (or telling lies about what he said) is a sign that your arguments are built on extremely shaky ground. The lunatics and frauds who work for Fox News (to call them “journalists” would be disgraceful and an insult to real journalists) perpetuate the lie, as perpetuating lies is the only thing they do well, apart from cheerleading when shepherds and goat-herders are eviscerated by “smart” bombs.

When you invoke “history” you need to get your facts right. And even when your facts are right, just because xyz happened in a certain country many decades ago does not mean that similar actions in modern societies will lead to similar results. But before we get to that stage, the people opposed to extended gun control just need to concentrate on getting their history in order. Just like some half-wits will tell you that atheism is evil because Hitler and Stalin were atheists (Hitler was incontrovertibly not an atheist, and though Stalin certainly was he had been sent to a seminary to train as a priest when he was fourteen, which seemed to do him the power of good!) so they will peddle the lie that Hitler succeeded due to tight gun control laws.

It simply isn’t true.

PS

Mass-shootings in the USA in the last three decades: 62

Amount of the above that were halted by an armed citizen with a gun: 0

Conclusion: People like to think they would “do something” when confronted by a rampaging, gun-carrying lunatic. They almost always do nothing, except run and hide. They like to think they are Rambo. They aren’t.

Do you drink water? So did he.

“ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Fox News”

A drinker’s farewell

A fairly rich man was given less than twelve months to live. He had no children, no family, just an estranged wife who had run off with her fitness instructor a couple of years earlier. After his cancer specialist had given him the bad news, he stopped working and started drinking, day after day, determined to enjoy his last few months with friends in the local pubs whilst ensuring that his wife (who didn’t know about his illness and had recently begun divorce proceedings) didn’t get her hands on any of his money. Whenever he was in a pub, which was most of the time, if someone walked through the door he bought them a drink. Friends got the occasional round of drinks in, but most of the time they were instructed to keep their wallets firmly closed. He spent, on average, well over a thousand pounds a week in the village’s three pubs. Then he gave his big house to a children’s charity, on the understanding that he could continue to live there until his death.

When he had just days to live, he lay in his hospital bed and wrote a note to his wife, and placed it in an envelope which he then sealed. On the front of the envelope he wrote: “To be opened after my death”. Then he asked the duty nurse for the telephone, so he could make a call to a friend.

After the funeral, all his friends and acquaintances went back to his favourite pub, The Bell. His wife and the fitness instructor did too, at the landlord’s request. Once everyone had a drink in their hand, the landlord opened the envelope. He asked for silence, then to the assembled throng he began to read aloud the words written on the single sheet of paper…

For the attention of my wife

I’ve died before, you ought to know,

When I stood in the gloom and watched you go,

And now I’m dead again, but honey,

I want you to know that there’s, well, no money,

That’s right my love, it’s true my dear,

The cash has gone, all spent on beer,

I like a pint, you may recall,

So I’ve pissed my money up the wall,

Don’t be upset, and please don’t blub,

I’ve had some great times down the pub,

And since you left, that’s where I’ve been,

The Bell, Red Lion, King & Queen,

The landlords, they all knew my name,

For them, life will not be the same,

The customers too will find it odd,

No more free drinks from pissed old sod,

‘cos for three years now, I’ve spent my life,

Imbibing to forget my wife,

A one man war on sobriety,

Waged in three pubs, for variety,

But life for me is over now,

So cheerio, deceitful cow,

You’re getting nothing, not a cent,

The cash has gone, it’s all been spent,

The last of it bought you that drink,

I’ve spent it wisely, don’t you think?

So raise your glass and drink a toast,

To beer, the love I’ve loved the most.