29 June, 2011


Naughty but interesting

So I'm thinking about the Government's ideological desperation to privatize the Royal Mail, which leads me to try to remember that stupid new name some overpaid firm of branding wankers thought up for the organization, which leads me to Wikipedia which leads to, ah, yes, "Consignia", that was it. While we're here, let's have a quick refresher about postal history. Oh yes, the Post Office Railway, now when did that close, again? Which leads in turn to this:
Security Breach: The London Mail Rail
The adventures of a group of irregular industrial speleologists wandering round underground London, and elsewhere. Fascinating stuff. I suppose one ought to tut-tut at their "unauthorized" behaviour and fret about the security implications, but in reality they seem to be savvy enough not to be a danger to themselves or a source of danger or disruption to others, and to do no real harm other than to the pride of TfL and the BTP. And the photos are stunning.

I have been in a fair few mothballed, decommissioned or otherwise partially abandoned large industrial or utility sites over the years, always there with a plausible and broadly authorized reason but often wandering into areas that were not, shall we say, entirely within the remit. I can well understand what leads these lads into these dark and interesting corners, though I wouldn't have the bottle to do the sort of thing they get up to, even when I was younger and (slightly) fitter.

What is addictively eerie about such places is when they are just mothballed and still have services like electric power connected. Finding old machine rooms full of specialized telecommunications kit, still powered up and quite possibly still connected to a live network, but taken out of service 20 years ago and just left in place because the cost of recovery was too great and there was no pressing requirement to re-use the space. Marvel at the now obsolete and chunky technology, leaf through ancient ring-bound manuals which describe bootstrap procedures involving careful sequences of toggle-switch settings and which proudly inform you that the "enhanced" model of the kit has all of 96K of core.

Such hidden gems can often sit humming quietly to themselves until the building itself is finally demolished.

Yes I can well understand the fascination.


EastEnders for speakers of other languages

(I hadn't realized that the official spelling of the soap is as a bicapitalized single word. Gordelpus, is there nothing sacred?)

Former Guardian editor and self-righteous veteran media pundit Peter Preston has a short article in last weekend's Sunday Guardian about hostility towards immigrants in the traditional British media. The piece has the feel of being hastily dashed off in a bad temper, as if the duty editor had annoyingly rung Preston up and said, "Sorry Peter, me old mucker, but we're one piece shy of our quota of pro-immigration stories for this week's issue. You couldn't knock out a quick 600 words for me, could you, sweetie?"

Preston begins,

I am paying my paper bill when the efficient young man filing the cheque says a sudden goodbye. "I am going back to my country," he says solemnly. No more early mornings organising rounds. No more unsold copies to be shipped back whence they came. And no more true-blue tabloids intrinsically – and often explicitly – telling immigrants to push off. ("One in four primary school children now of ethnic origin," wails the Mail. "One million pupils don't speak English as a first language," moans the Express).

It's one of the extreme curiosities of British newspaper life. Without tens of thousands of corner stores owned by shopkeepers from the subcontinent, there would be no viable newspaper distribution system, and thus many fewer papers. Tesco, WH Smith and the other big boys are only links in a chain that your local newsagent makes whole. Yet to read what Fleet Street writes, and then to ponder who it thinks it's writing for, raises the weirdest dislocations.

There's nothing curious, extreme, ironic or even particularly relevant about it, Peter. Mr Patel (for it is undoubtedly he) is not remotely interested in taking offence at the content of the newspapers he sells. He is interested in running a successful business. He will cheerfully stock the Daily Express and, on his top shelf, Wanker's Weekly because his customers demand them. Even if he does personally take serious issue with the political stance of the likes of the Mail, Express, Star and the Currant Bun, he is not going to run a successful business by dropping them and selling only the Guardian and the Independent, is he? Not to mention the incidental loss of ciggie and sweet sales when the fascist chavscum bounders who had the infernal gall to ask for copies of Mr Desmond's rampant organ take their unclean business elsewhere. And in the unlikely event that Patel shared your precious sensibilities and didn't want the job then Khan would do it, or Kowalski or even, whisper it, Smith. As it happens, my local news-tob-con outlet, yes even here in the Occupied Territories of Greater Woolwich, is owned and operated by White British people.

Anyway, did you ask Sanjay why he was returning to his homeland? I'll wager it wasn't because he was upset by something he read in the Mail.

Actually in my limited and, for reasons I shall probably develop in a later post, rather out-of-date experience of Gujarati newsagents, they tend, especially those who arrived here 30 or 40 years ago, to be even more opposed to immigration, or more precisely to further immigration, than the indigenous population. Patel is no fool; he realizes that the way things are going there will be a backlash — a backlash which is likely to catch established but visible immigrant communities along with the recent arrivals who are causing all the bother. Patel is not encumbered with your White liberal sensibilities and utopian internationalist fantasies; he deals with practical realities. Frankly, Patel doesn't much care for Pakis or Nignogs or those bloody drunken Polaks at the best of times, but their sheer numbers are making the natives restless. And restless natives can get jolly nasty. What was that poem again that that troublesome blighter Kipling wrote? Yes, restless natives are rarely a Good Thing.

After his rather contrived opening hook, Preston gets down to the meat of his thesis, which is that not only are the MSM objectionably anti-immigrant, they are missing out on the growing (!) market represented by those immigrant communities, a market being snapped up by small specialized community publications. He then offers us this,

Does Eastern Eye's brisk tabloid style feature the convoluted puns and obscure references to old soap operas that are standard issue from the Sun to the Star – coded signals that say foreigners can't fit in?

This is actually offensive, nay racist. The "obscure references to soap operas" are not shibboleths designed to snub Johnny Foreigner, they are widely understood references to our own shared British culture. Even nouveau middle-class intellectual snobs like me understand them well enough, and I haven't watched a TV soap opera in 30 years. (Mind you, I quite like the opening titles of EastEnders, with Simon May's jaunty theme tune as we pan slowly along a satellite view of the river, but I always turn off before the show proper starts.)

Even the vulgar indigenous culture represented by the gutter press is not something to be casually cast aside and replaced with some neutral international cultural pidgin redolent in its blandness of a UNESCO document written in Esperanto, simply in order to accommodate these uninvited and largely unwelcome new arrivals. Sod 'em. Let 'em adapt to us, not the other way round.

But then I forget. We Brits don't have a culture, do we? We don't really exist as a people, do we? We're just an anonymous dull grey substrate into which to implant the seeds of vibrant immigrant vigour to nurture the mongrel nation. We've always been a mongrel nation of course, a nation of immigrants, a society of distinct and vibrantly diverse communities and tribes. Why, e'en nowadays a gentleman can stroll down to Spitalfields of a weekend and watch the Huguenots, dressed in their quaint costumes, performing their traditional weaver's dance as they circle a burning effigy of Louis XIV.

Of course if I, as a non-existent Englishman, wanted to get the best out of Dziennik Polski and our exciting new vibrant multiculture, then I guess I would need to improve my knowledge of the Polish language a smidgeon beyond its present level of cześć, jedno piwo Lech proszę, dziękuję and na zdrowie. And if a newly arrived Polak wanted to get the best out of the Sun or the Star, perhaps he needs to watch a selection of episodes of EastEnders, Corrie or Hollyoaks, or maybe the local council could facilitate his integration by laying on a taxpayer-funded course, "British TV Soap Operas, a Brief Introduction for New Citizens". If Marek can cope with all those bloody diacritics, the incestuous intricacies of Albert Square should be a doddle.

So sod off Preston, you patronizing racist White liberal get!

28 June, 2011


Serendipity corner

A strange, almost stereotypically Daily Mail story about immigrant agricultural workers and some bizarre child benefits mix-up involving, in effect, a protest by proxy hunger strike.

Scores of parents sent their children to school without packed lunches in an apparent protest over having their benefits cut.

It led to the extraordinary step of a charity having to give out food parcels to the 150 children as their parents, mostly Eastern European migrant workers, did not provide lunches for two weeks.

The parents had been employed locally but their contracts had run out. Consequently, their benefits were stopped.

Apparently as a result, they sent their children to the Frederick Bird primary school in Coventry, with no lunch despite them not being eligible for free school meals.

To feed the children, the school was forced to dip into an emergency fund, teachers had to make packed lunches and the Coventry Foodbank charity had to hand out food parcels.

All good stuff, with lots of scope for questions about benefits for immigrant workers, including the fact that not only are we paying dole for the displaced indigenous workers who — and I am not without sympathy for their position — are unwilling to turn out for the piss-poor wages, undoubtedly bringing in less after costs than their existing benefits, but we are also, it seems, paying tax credits to the incomers to top up those piss poor wages. Remind me, who is the low-wage economy fuelled by mass immigration supposed to be benefiting, again?

But that's a whole nother rant. What catches my eye on this occasion is the juxtaposition between this comment from Mr Kibble (who I am sure is nothing like as self-righteous in real life as he appears in the Mail's piccie),

But Gavin Kibble, manager of the Foodbank charity, spoke of his shock that parents in Britain were living in 'third-world deprivation'.

He said: 'Before this, if you'd said to me there are people in Coventry who are so poor they can't send their kids to school with a packed lunch I would never have believed you.

'Yet there are people in Coventry living with third-world deprivation in a first-world country.

with this handy photograph of the sign of the primary school involved

A first-world country? Oh, really?

27 June, 2011


Breaking into Britain

I don't visit Biased BBC much these days, or indeed David Vance's other group blog, ATW. I find the unrelentingly strident tone and the cast-iron certainty gets a bit wearing, to be honest; it's a bit like having the Rev Dr Paisley bellowing at you from a dozen feet away — through a megaphone. On a rare visit today, however, I came across this post, which reminded me that I had intended to inflict my own views on you about Evan Davis's recent limp-wristed documentary foray into illegal immigration.

Davis's Panorama programme, "Breaking into Britain" (broadcast 16 June), was not quite as overtly preachy as I expected. Perhaps because it spread itself rather too thin to have much substance. Surprisingly, Tinsel Tits himself adopted a very low profile, just topping and tailing the programme and swanning around the Med in a Frontex patrol boat for a couple of shots. Otherwise two legal UK immigrants, an Afghan and a West African, followed the migrant trail from their respect regions of origin.

They dipped in and out of the respective overland migrant trails, showing crowds of hopefuls milling around at various transit points. There was relatively little discussion of the role of the paid traffickers and the extent to which they maltreated and cheated their "customers" on the intervening overland segments which the reporters overflew, apart from some fuzzy mobile-phone footage of the corpses of migrants abandoned in the desert by their traffickers. Don't want to show too much detail of inhumane greedy Darkies maltreating and exploiting other Darkies, do we? Detracts from the core message of Western inhumanity, greed and guilt, innit.

There was some random footage of people valiantly trying to break through fortified borders and board HGVs approaching ferry ports, and a sprinkling of fairly inconsequential interviews. There was a bit of tear-jerking as Kassim (the African) broke down while listening to a West African woman, much raped en route by her overland traffickers and now stuck with her children in fairly basic accommodation in Morocco; she was still hoping to reach Europe where her "human rights would be respected". Shoaib (the Afghan) was visibly overcome while helping out in some kind of charity-run feeding station where Afghans and their families, stranded in Athens, were receiving hot meals. We were shown the plight of an Afghan family with two or three children, bedding down to sleep rough in the streets of Athens.

All good stuff, and all suitably aw diddums at a personal and individual level, but what are we to make of the broader, dare I say strategic, picture?

I'd say that by and large these migrants are honest people expecting to work, hoping to prosper and to support their families back home. What can we do for them?

There seem to be broadly three approaches, of which any others are variants in detail.

1. Do nothing. Our (theoretical) immigration controls erect an obstacle course which effectively limits the number of migrants, through cost, hardship and often through death. To a degree, it works. Arguably inhumane and only partially effective, but proven.

2. Open the borders. Make it straightforward for migrants to enter legally, without limit. Accept the view of the Left that the poor of the world are so determined to get here we cannot keep them out. Well, there are plenty of predictions about the outcome of that, so I won't rehearse them here. The social unrest will be "interesting" though as indigenes and recent migrants slug it out, with the established migrant communities stuck in the middle and probably coming off worst. An initially humane solution with potentially disastrous outcomes. What about simply relaxing the borders? Say a US-style green card lottery? One question: has the green card lottery stopped illegal immigration into the USA? Doesn't work.

3. Discourage it at source. One thing stood out from Tinsel Tits' little doco. All of the potential migrants had a rose-tinted, almost fabulous, view of life in Europe. As if they had been watching Dallas or Desperate Housewives on the telly and thought the West was all like that. Perhaps they had. The pressure was also on those migrants who had reached Europe to lie about their living conditions both out of shame at their own failure and to spare the feelings of the folk back home. What might help I don't know. Propaganda perhaps — compulsory screenings in Kabul showing Neapolitan slums? Unlikely to be entirely believed. Honest reports from the returned and failed migrants?

It might help a little but perhaps what might be most effective is knowledge of the certainty of failure. Just as it is the certainty of arrest and conviction that is the most effective deterrent against much crime, certainly "rational" premeditated crime, the certainty that the attempt to enter Europe will fail may be the most effective deterrent against illegal migration.

Remember everybody's favorite politician, Nick Griffin, saying something to the effect that the only thing which would stop "refugee" boats crossing the Med was to sink a couple pour encourager les autres. Oh what a feast of self-righteousness we all had in condemning him. Well, actually he was echoing the remarks already made by several Italian politicians, but whatever he and they actually said, they have a point.

Not blowing migrant boats out of the water as a message, which remains a step too far for most of us — at the moment — but the certainty that, once landed, they will be detained, in reasonable comfort, but with no access to economic opportunity and for as long as necessary until they can be returned. Whatever that requires. If you refuse to identify your origin, you stay in detention. If your country of origin is being difficult about taking you back because, well, it prefers to have you in Europe sending back remittances thank you very much, you stay in detention.

That might work.

I'm sorry, individually, for the African woman stuck in Morocco. I'm sure Europe could easily accept her and give her and her children new lives. We couldn't do that for the tens of millions who would be encouraged to follow in her wake. What use will Europe be to them, or us, if it is reduced to the social and economic chaos of the Congo? Better that she had not made her traumatic and fruitless journey in the first place.

I'm sorry, individually, for the Afghan family sleeping rough in the streets of Athens and asking, "Is this really Europe?" Yes it is, and it would be even more so if all of the poor of Asia managed to get here. Go back home and try to make something of your own country. We'll try and help you with aid if we can, but we can't guarantee anything. Perhaps those nice Chinese have got some money.

As all good text books used to say, it is left as an exercise to the reader to evaluate which is the author's preferred solution.

26 June, 2011


Speak loud and slow: they'll understand

A patronizing editorial in today's Sunday Guardian laments the failure of the Brits to learn to speak foreign. It's a recurrent theme. It's also a frequently deployed weapon in the ongoing immigration thread on CiF of course, where demands for immigrants to learn English are countered with examples of British ex-pats failing to learn the local language, particularly for some reason those who have retired to the Costas.

It's not as easy at we are led to believe.

In the first place there's motivation. English, or subsets of it of varying viability, is the world's primary lingua franca. People all over the world who expect or hope to achieve any kind of international contact are keen to learn it. (Well, apart perhaps from the Spanish-speakers of Latin America, who appear to live in some kind of cultural bubble. And the Frogs, of course.) We native speakers of the de facto world language do not have that incentive.

It's not all bunce, of course. Try listening to foreign news reports on TV or radio, as some local wallah in Aleppo or Bishkek whose English is not as good as they think it is tries to discuss complex political or social issues with the presenter in London. I'd sooner they spoke in Arabic or Kyrgyz (or Russian) through a translator. That way they might be able to express what they wanted to say properly.

But on the whole I'm duly grateful for the fact that I can approach a cab driver in the Hague, offer a token "Goeie Avond!" in greeting and then conduct the remainder of the transaction in a reasonable approximation to English.

In the second place, even if you do set out to do the right thing and learn to speak proper foreign, there can be barriers. In the late 1960s, as part of my degree course, I was sent to a German university for a year to study Germanistik (German language, literature and kultcher) and to attempt to achieve a basic competence in the language.

Perhaps Heidelberg was not a wise choice. It was about 30km from the headquarters of the US army in Germany and the historic town is of course a major tourist destination, particularly at that time for well-heeled Americans on package tours.

(Incidentally, the old canard about the ignorant American tourist, "If it's Thursday this must be Heidelberg" is not a myth. Standing on the balcony of the Schloß admiring the view was a brace of middle-aged Septics. The conversation was, approximately
— Martha, where exactly are we again?
— I'll just check, Henry. [Consults itinerary.] It's Thursday afternoon, so this must be Heidelberg Castle.
May Allah turn me into a pillar of salt if I lie to you.)

Anyway, on hearing my British accent, or more precisely my English native speaker's accent, many Germans, used to the resolutely monolingual Americans, both tourist and military, would switch to whatever English they could muster. And as well as the simply commercially pragmatic, of course, there were the enthusiasts, eager to practise their English skills on a native speaker.

Nor was it simply a matter of day-to-day practicality. One of my fellow students, a German chap with a deeply utilitarian attitude to life who had chosen to study economics and accountancy purely because he saw these subjects as the route to a well-paid career, was expressing genuine puzzlement when he inquired, "Why are you learning German when you already speak English?"

You can't win against that. No, the only answer is, speak loudly and slowly in English. Repeat until understood.

Or, if you really want to extend the gracious hand of cultural patronage, "Dos egg and chips, por favor, garçon. Jaldi, jaldi!"

25 June, 2011


The semi-detached mind goes for a drink

In one of Woolwich's rougher, well even rougher than usual for Woolwich, vertical drinking establishments many years ago, a regular informed me that in the pub's yet rougher past, there had at one time been a gutter in front of the bar, allowing dedicated cider drinkers to, shall we say, reclaim bladder capacity without interrupting the steady rhythm of lifting mug to lips.

I suspected, then as now, that this might well have been an old toper's tale for the bedazzlement of the gullible. I manfully finished my pint of Gnatz P, bade my transient companion a cordial farewell, and strode forth into the night, thinking no more of it.

I was reminded of this incident the other day when, entering an unfamiliar but respectable looking hostelry, I was confronted by the notice


For a brief moment I found myself seriously wondering what kind of clientele the establishment attracted that such an admonition might become necessary.


Come in number 25, your time's up

According to the Diamond Geezer, who knows about this sort of thing, yesterday was the last day on which bendy buses ran on London bus route 25.

I'd say DG's assessment at least acknowledges and those of his commenters broadly reflect my own response, namely that the bendy bus is not the unmitigated evil which was portrayed by the Evening Standard's pre-election campaign and latched onto by El Boris. Real life is rather more curate's eggish. What the bendy loses with its large road footprint, relative paucity of seats and somewhat bouncy ride (counterindicated for those who suffer from seasickness), it makes up for with its massive standee capacity and short dwell times. Do you need a suburban commuter bus, like the old Routemaster, or an urban rapid transit system — a tram without rails — like the Bendy? Or a mixture of both? Tricky, innit.

Wait just one cotton pickin' minute here. Is Dogwash turning into a transport blog? Is Edwin accepting a retainer from Ian Allan to promote subscriptions to Buses magazine? Where's the racism, bigotry, xenophobia and general reactionary nastiness we come here for?

Well, I've ridden the bendy 25* on numerous occasions during its seven-year existence. On one occasion, following an early-finishing business meeting in Ilford, I rode the whole line of route back to Oxford Circus. (Yes, there is legitimate economic activity in Ilford.) But mostly it's been short city-centre hops on the inner-city Aldgate - Oxford Circus section.

Even on this inner section the poor Third World nature of its ridership is startling. More so at the weekends when the more, shall we say, traditional population is absent, tending their suburban gardens. But even during the week the proportion of poverty-stricken looking people of mostly but by no means exclusively South Asian heritage is striking. I find myself looking at this teeming mob and wondering about their immigration status. Much as I stand at the end of Powis Street in beautiful downtown Woolwich, watching most of sub-Saharan Africa milling about in front of me, and reflecting that they can't all be bleedin' brain surgeons on Tier 1 visas.

Indeed the bendy 25 is the only London bus journey on which, on more than one occasion, I have become so depressed by the sheer overwhelming Third World hyperdiversity of my fellow passengers that I have actually got off ahead of my intended stop and walked.

It is perhaps the only London bus route I have experienced on which I would have been entirely unsurprised, at least in that initial moment before rational "integration" of the experience ran through to completion, to have seen passengers boarding not pushing a baby buggy, but lugging a crate of live chickens or dragging or an unwilling goat.

As a harbinger of the future of London, a trip on the bendy 25 was always worth recommending.

As to what travelling on the 25 will be like now it's reverted to standard "deckers", with the significantly reduced standing capacity I doubt I'll be able to get on board in central London, certainly not on westbound journeys, so I won't be able to say, will I?

* The Bendy Twenty-Five. Now there's a title waiting for an enterprising screenwriter to turn into a blockbuster. Perhaps a gay kitsch remake of the The Dirty Dozen? No need to worry about royalties; you can have that idea for free. As to Riding the Bendy Twenty-Five, well you might well be into a somewhat different market sector there.

22 June, 2011


The joy of memes

On his Hope Not Hate blog little Nicky Lowles has been burning the midnight oil trying to build up an unstoppable momentum to his interpretation of the "incident" at the EDL march at Dagenham last weekend. I'm not surprised. If he can make this one stick it's PR gold dust. Especially since Searchlight/HnH and Lowles in particular are routinely consulted by the mainstream media as "independent experts on the far-right".

In summary, what happened is that an EDL march took place in Dagenham (Chadwell Heath) on 18 June. For some reason, perhaps as a result of reducing levels of co-operation between the police and the EDL in the planning of marches, early stages of the march happened to remain unpoliced. At this stage, apparently in Vallance Avenue, Chadwell Heath, fisticuffs occurred between the EDL party and three "Asian" youths, some of the latter being badly hurt and in at least one case hospitalized.

The interpretation we are invited to make is that this was an unprovoked attack on three innocent bystanders.

EDL fora, of course, paint a different picture (behind registration wall). Perhaps the most succinctly expressed alternative view comes in the comments to a strange Indymedia post, of disputed origin and authenticity, which claims that the three Brown lads were on an MDL mission. A commenter writes:

Absolute tosh........
18.06.2011 22:10

Ok, for a start Zac [the author of the opening post which claimed MDL involvement] should be ashamed starting such a ridiculous thread. MDL! EDL Crusaders. Deary me, I wonder if he has ever thought of writing headlines for the Sun...

These are the facts. Four Muslims on a mission to prove how tough (or stupid) they are decided to stand on a grass verge as the EDL demo was nearing and gob off. Now I dont suppose they were MDL, just local Muslims on a suicide mission. Anyhow, they were told to fuck off and one of them proceeded to spit at an EDL member with obvious results. Two of them legged it leaving spitter and his mate to take a beating. A number of EDL members quickly jumped in to protect these two idiots and it was over as quickly as it had started. One chap stopped a bus, threw the driver a fiver and one of the muslim miscreants and told him to drive him away. The other one was escorted away and was seen getting medical treatment at the side of the road by the police.

Now before all you bleeding hearts start breaking mine over this unfortunate incident just ask yourselves in all seriousness what did these muppets think was going to happen. And secondly, if the boot was on the other foot (excuse the pun), what mercy muslims would show to any of our boys (or girls for that matter).

Personally I think people should stop sticking labels on anyone with a beard and a big mouth. Not ever Muslim kid is MDL and not everyone holding a St Georges cross flag has an axe to grind with the whole Muslim population...

Richard Puller

What do I think? I wasn't there, was I? But what I can say with confidence is that whatever the facts behind this incident it will reverberate around the Internet for years to come, adduced in discussions as established fact. Why? Because it's too juicy an accusation (or smear if you prefer — you pays your money...) to let go of, irrespective of the facts.

Such is the joy of the meme.

Spitting Muzzies, eh? Remember Bob Bailey? No? I'm not surprised. He was a senior BNP wallah and candidate during last year's elections. On one occasion he was canvassing in Barking on behalf of Griffin's campaign for the parliamentary seat. The meme, which some on the far left will doubtless repeat as incontrovertible truth until their dying day, was that, apropos of nothing and entirely without provocatoin, Bailey abused a group of young "Asian" men passing on the other side of the street, shouting "How many of you are robbers?". When the young men came across to remonstrate, Bailey assaulted one of them, attempting to kick him in the head while he was down.

Remember it now? It'll be circulating on the web until the BNP is just a footnote in history.

Fortunately, or unfortunately depending on your "position", there is reliable video evidence. A BBC news crew, no less, happened to be filming Mr Bailey's progress. An excerpt from their footage is still available on YouTube via this Daily Mail report (scroll down past all the still photos).

As the video begins, Bailey is calling across the street to the as yet unseen three "Asian" youths. He calls out not, "How many of you are robbers?", a pretty bizarre opening challenge and hardly something even the thickest of BNP candidates is going to come out with while being filmed by the BBC. What he is actually shouting is "How many is there of us?". Perhaps the posh middle-class warriors of the Left had trouble understanding Mr Bailey's demotic accent. I didn't, but then I'm a common-as-muck Manc.

Still a pretty unlikely opening gambit, though. It sounds more like a response to an aggressive fighting challenge from the "Asian" lads. (Other BNP sources at the time suggest that this trio had been following Griffin's entourage round heckling them, so the filmed exchange is essentially a continuation of an ongoing confrontation.)

As the footage shows, the "Asian" lads come over; one of them spits in Bailey's face; Bailey reacts, not unnaturally; a rumble ensues. As far as the "kicking in the head" stuff goes, made much of at the time, I have to say that I would draw a distinction between the deliberate and forceful kicking of the head of a victim who is down and staying down, a commonly reported feature of vicious, often fatal street attacks, and the situation seen here, a flailing and inaccurate reactive lashing out at an opponent who is getting up, probably with the intention of resuming his own attack. Well, your mileage may vary.

Good fun, this truth business. Ever served on a jury? I have; it's not as easy at it looks.

19 June, 2011



I'll let you into a little secret. When visiting CiF, I don't always read the OP, or "above the line article" as it now seems to be called in CiFspeak. Sometimes a glance at the title, standfirst and author's name is quite enough to get the gist of the likely argument. You can then proceed straight to the below-the-line ding-dong where all the fun is and pick up the detail as you go along.

But today's Slutwalk piece by Selma James is a lulu and needs to be read and savoured. A confused rant by a superannuated 1970s ultrafeminist trying to relive her glory days, it attempts to namecheck what must be every "issue" Selma has been interested in over the last 50 years, whether relevant to whatever Slutwalk is about (what is it about?) or not.

I've not read identity-politics bollocks of this quality since I was a hairy lefty 68er myself, rioting (well, in a safe consensual way of course — more arm-waving and chanting than anything else) on the campuses of Germany 45 years ago. It was quite a nostalgia trip. Quoting from it doesn't do it justice. Read the whole thing.

Anyway, I did get to the pub yesterday as planned. Unfortunately there was a total dearth of fit young totty, so I was unable to implement my masterplan of cultivating a warm aura of smug self-righteousness by manfully (if that's the right word) restraining my inner rapist in their presence.

There was a hen party though. You could tell that because they all had the words "Hen Party" printed on the back of their identical sweatshirts. Otherwise the gathering of, shall we say, amply fed ladies in their 40s and 50s was remarkably sedate, rather like an office Christmas drink-up that's still at the careful stage. They eventually tottered off, presumably in search of a further helping of quiet conviviality in another hostelry.

And there was a small party of friends celebrating someone's birthday. According to the balloon attached to the birthday girl's coat she was 60 yesterday. Strange feeling, being older than someone just now celebrating their 60th. But I did manage to resist the temptation to make some patronizing quip or other.

And there were some very mildly rowdy Millwall fans attempting to engage in mddle-aged banter with the hens.

You never knew Greenwich could be so exciting, did you?

Still, the Polish lager was up to scratch. Bit hard to cock up really; it comes in 500ml bottles and you store it in the chiller cabinet until sold.

18 June, 2011


The rape debate: an alternative perspective

I was going to comment eruditely on la Bindel's latest offering in her ongoing series All men are rapists and should be castrated at birth and on Ross's sterling efforts to inject some sense into the discussion, but having waded through several pages of the CiF comment thread, I have lost heart and am going down the pub where over a glass or two of finest Polish lager I will quietly contemplate the general inadvisability of making suggestive comments to the local Greenwich totty.

I will leave you instead with this shocking and instructive anecdote:-

It's harvest time, and Mrs Dormouse warns her daughter about the dangers of going out into the field when the men are cutting and gathering the crops. Young Miss Dormouse, replete with the self-assurance born of inexperience so characteristic of rebellious youth, pays no heed and, her fur nicely brushed and her bow neatly tied, sets forth in search of adventure. An hour later she's back, a pitiful sight indeed with her bedraggled fur, clumps of it torn out and looking very sorry for herself.

"What on Earth happened to you?" asks her concerned mother. Between her sobs, the young creature eventually replies, "I've been reaped!"

Moral: Ban combine harvesters now!

16 June, 2011


Tale from the Multiculture - No dogs, no English, ...

Seen outside a major building refurb project in central London, these notices direct the visitor to the site office. There is, it is only fair to say, an English-language version nearby, but what a curious selection of languages: Italian, Turkish and French along the top row. As to the last one, well as a pig-ignorant gora I have difficulty telling my Gurmukhi from my Nagari, but I'll take a punt on the latter, implying that the text is in Hindi.

14 June, 2011


One small step for Charlene

From the Blackpool Gazette (via - behind registration wall)

The owner of a Blackpool takeaway has appeared in court charged with a sex assault.

Iyad Albattikhi, 34, who owns the Mr Beanz takeaway – formerly known as Funnyboyz – is alleged to have squeezed a 19-year-old woman’s buttocks in a bar in Blackpool.

Albattikhi of Preston New Road appeared before the town’s magistrates.

Patrick Nelligan, defending, said his client would deny the allegation.

Albattikhi elected to stand trial at Preston Crown Court.

He was remanded in custody and will next appear at Blackpool Magistrates’ Court on Friday.

As a commenter on the EDL forum points out, that Albattikhi has been remanded in custody rather than bailed for what appears to be a simple case of groping suggests that other matters may be afoot.


Tales from the Multiculture - Languages of the world

I encountered another obscure foreign language on the train yesterday. A curious lilting querulous tongue, possibly Germanic. I listened for a while, puzzled, until it gradually dawned on me. They were speaking Geordie. A Geordie so thick it would take half-an-hour to cut through with a decent industrial cutting torch. I could just about follow what they were saying.

I wonder how the East European barmaids coped when those bonny lads hit the boozer. You know, I really must get to work on my scale of charges for interpreting between the non-native retail staff of London and speakers of the more recherché dialects of British English. A whole new career beckons.


Making a mountain out of a pokie

It is probably wisest to ignore the Slutwalk flying circus, a self-righteous me-me-me fest which, like trolls, should best be starved of attention. But since they insist on making so much noise, here's my two penn'orth on the subject.

So what is the cause of this outbreak of righteous worldwide outrage?

Wikipedia says:

On January 24, 2011 Constable Michael Sanguinetti was a speaker at a York University [Toronto, Canada] safety forum, where he was addressing the issue of crime prevention. It was in this context that he commented: "women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized."

"Victimized" is a rather broad and unexpected term. Perhaps it is a technical term of crime prevention. Or perhaps it was intended as a euphemism or polite generalism. It seems to connote a potentially broad range of offences and insults. Given that Canada is one of the most assiduously "politically correct" countries in the world, such a term might well cover everything from a passing wolf whistle to a full-on leap-out-of-the-undergrowth stranger rape. Hard to say; perhaps there is clarification available out there.

What is clear is that in statements by Slutwalk organizers and promoters and in general supportive commentary in the media and on the web, the word has predominantly if not exclusively been interpreted as meaning "rape". This is dishonest and, as I shall suggest below, possibly dangerous.

It is dishonest because it has been used to promote the view that Constable Sanguinetti and by extension the police, the public authorities and males in general, blame women for "causing" rape. The reading is "By dressing attractively, women provoke men into losing control." I don't think that is fair and I don't think that is what Sanguinetti was suggesting.

Let's put a bit of distance between us and the thorny subject of sex in the hope of gaining some perspective. Suppose I have a T-shirt printed, displaying a particularly offensive caricature of His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI with the corresponding caption, "Does the Pope shit in the woods?" Now I might think that a jolly jape and my friends may well agree. They might indeed talk of having a companion shirt printed showing a bear in cardinal's vestments giving a benediction.

Suppose I now decide to exercise my right to do what the fuck I please by walking through a militantly Catholic district, let's say along the Falls Road in Belfast at the height of the marching season, wearing my jolly amusing t-shirt. Hey, it's my human right, innit? A friendly PSNI officer suggests that this course of action might be unwise and might invite at best adverse comment and at worst a violent attack.

Is the policeman thereby endorsing sectarian violence? No, he is dealing with practicalities, while, one would hope, simultaneously condemning and prosecuting sectarian violence.

Take another example. Crime prevention advice suggests that it is wise to lock one's doors when going out and leaving the house empty. Should I claim in response that this practice effectively legitimizes burglary and insist on leaving my front door ajar, railing at the police for any unwelcome consequence?

This, I think, is the context in which Sanguinetti's remarks need to be taken. How you behave sends signals, sometimes unintended ones. You may not like it. You might work to change attitudes, but you also have to deal with the reailty as you encounter it.

And that reality is that you can't always wear what you damned well please without consideration of the reactions of others, be that a microskirt so short that it not only reveals that your legs go all the way up but also confirms that they meet at the top, or be it a crapping Pope t-shirt. Do so if you wish, but if you attract the attentions of an enthusiastic and insistent lothario or an indignant gentleman who removes his left foot from his shovel so that he might more conveniently swing said shovel at your head, then so it goes.

So grow up, girls.

I suggested above that the tendency of the Slutwalkers (and others) to describe all sexual "victimization" as rape was actually dangerous. By that I mean that they are devaluing the force of the word "rape". Ordinary people understand rape to mean forced penetrative sexual intercourse, achieved or attempted. We might distinguish, as Ken Clarke bumblingly indicated, between stranger rape, which is seen as a public outrage, and, say, an estranged husband or partner exacting what he sees as his conjugal rights. I suspect most people would see the latter as a form of extreme domestic violence, different in character to true stranger rape. Nonetheless, both offences would be regarded very seriously.

But what is increasingly happening, not just in the Slutwalk episode but in the broader ongoing debate on the punishment of rape, is category creep. With the enthusiastic support of the misandrist wing of feminism, as typified by the unlamented Harman, we are inching toward the situation, if we are not there already, where a woman can wake up the following morning and think, "Christ Almighty, if I hadn't been so rat-arsed last night I would never have shagged that smelly minger", then retrospectively withdraw consent and accuse him of rape.

That trivializes rape, potentially to the extent that people cease to take any rape seriously.

Let's face it, if you can be convicted of "indecent exposure" for taking a discreet leak down a dark alley, you might as well just piss on a copper's boots instead.

Now, when's the next flight to Belfast?

13 June, 2011


Question du jour

"Spaghetti and Meatballs", it says. Which begs the question, what do they do with the rest of the animal? Sounds offly wasteful to me if they just throw it away. Delving further into the fine print I learn that a mixture of pork and beef balls is used. What, one of each per dish? Heavens to Murgatroyd, no wonder there's a world food crisis. And what do they do with the female animals? It doesn't bear thinking about.

Mind you, I do draw the line at eating faggots. That's altogether too queer for my taste.

Which reminds me that I never got an answer to my earlier question:

"When you order chicken tikka masala, what do they do with the rest of the chicken?"

Interesting language, this English. I must learn it sometime.


The past is another country, they do things differently there

The wee linguistic controversy about the remake of the The Dambusters is back in the news. Though to judge from the linked Mail article, it's difficult to see what the fuss is about. I hadn't realized that the asterisk was now a recognized element of standard English orthography but, that being the case, I really don't understand why "N*gger", however that may be pronounced, reportedly the name of Wg Cdr Guy Gibson's dog, is even remotely offensive or "controversial".

Or do they actually mean "Nigger"?

Which is part of the problem, of course. The now mandatory precious linguistic pussy-footing makes effective discussion barely possible. It's just as well the Mail piece is in print rather than spoken. Can you imagine a recorded television discussion on taboo language?

— Of course you can't say bleep these days because it is considered unacceptably offensive. However, bleep, and even bleeping bleep bleep, are considered marginally acceptable in colloquial use among people of socioeconomic classes C2DE.

— I see. So, essentially, Professor Scumb, despite all your fine talk, you're just another racist bleep apologist.

— If that's how you feel, you bleep, you can go and bleep yourself, you bleeping bleep. And your bleeping sister.

It's a bit like playing the traditional game of Tweets and Superinjunctions but more frustrating.

Anyway, Longrider represents my views eloquently in his post on this little brouhaha, so I won't rehearse them here, save to retell my own anecdote about the original Dambusters fillum.

I first saw The Dambusters in 1958 or possibly '59. A chappie from some local RAF veteran's association turned up at my primary school and the lads* of Junior 4 were given a peptalk and a screening of the film. To be honest I don't specifically remember Guy Gibson's dog being called "Nigger". Which is very much the point. My ten-year-old sensibilities were not traumatized by repeated exposure to this terrible word; I scarcely even noticed it any more than had the dog's name and the derived operational codeword been "Fido".

At that time "Nigger" was a very common name for any all-black dog or cat. Indeed if all of the animal's fur was uniformly black — entirely devoid of any white socks, white chest patch or similar deviations — then it was damned nearly a statutory requirement to name the animal "Nigger". I was personally acquainted with several such beasties.

It is fair to acknowledge that historical drama may benefit from a bit of linguistic and cultural translation as a matter of practicality to make it "accessible" to a modern audience — you can't expect the audience to learn Middle English in order to follow your excruciatingly authentic production of The Canterbury Tales. But the petty squeamishness of "redacting" or bowdlerizing the name "Nigger" is of a different stripe. It sees historical events through the lens of current prejudices and mores and thus fails to understand them in context. Better to hand the project over to Disney and have done with it.

I attempted to leave a comment on Longrider's post, by the way, but his spam filter took exception to it. I don't have the patience to systematically second-guess the idiosyncracies of spam filters, so I will post it below instead:

Another commenter had opined:
It all seems slightly ironic considering that our forces were fighting Nazism doesn’t it.
to which I wanted to reply
Were they, though? I thought the Second War was about unfinished, largely territorial, business left over from the First, exacerbated by the effects of the Great Depression and the half-baked Versailles settlement. The retrospective idea that it was all an epic struggle fought by reluctant clean-cut lantern-jawed heroes to vanquish Nazi ideology is as much a projection of modern prejudices and wishful thinking onto history as the Nigger/Digger business.

As far as pandering to the Americans goes, why not go the whole hog and make Barnes Wallis a nutty prof from Noo Yoik and Guy Gibson a Texan maverick heading up a team of Dirty Dozen style renegades flying B-29s? You know it makes sense.

Oh, and just to let you know, I have reluctantly decided not to proceed with my plan to get myself a cat, an uncompromisingly all-black cat which would of course be named "Nigger", so that I could then legitimately stand on the front doorstep each evening and call the wee beastie home in a very loud voice.

Regrettably, in these barbarous and unenlightened times, I suspect my motives would be misunderstood — or possibly all too well understood — both by the public authorities and by the increasingly numerous local Nigerian population.

O tempora, o testiculi!

* Lads? Lest readers with feminist sensibilities become agitated at this point, I should explain that in those far-off days many schools were segregated by gender from the age of seven. The infants' department (ages 5 and 6) was co-educational, or mixed as they said then, but in junior school (7 - 11) boys and girls were educated separately. Now whether or not a Dambusters screening was also arranged for the Junior 4 girls in the "other" school in the name of equality, I cannot say. In 1958/59? Draw your own conclusions.

11 June, 2011


Tales from the Multiculture - oh don't worry it'll do

Customer orders pint of bitter, what in marketingspeak is now known as "real ale". Turns to companions to confirm their requirements.

Now as an experienced and, though I say it myself, accomplished pisshead, I don't generally approve of this sort of behaviour. You get your order sorted out before you approach the bar, not get bogged down for half an hour in an extended discussion between Sharon and Tracey about the relative merits of Vodka Red Bull and Jägerbombs while the "bar associate" fumes impatiently, and then top the whole order off with a nonchalant "oh, and two pints of Guinness, please" at the very end. This advice applies most especially to parties of amateur drinkers during the "Festive Season", I might add, grumpily.

But as it happened the pub was well quiet and the bar staff were standing around scratching, well, whatever they felt like scratching.

"The same again please", announced the customer confidently, indicating that he would also like another pint of Old Dog Fart for his drinking companion. Here he encountered a slight snag. The lady bar associate in question hails from the European mainland and her command of the Anglo-Saxon tongue is not all it might be. In fact, I recall on a previous visit having to translate between her and a party of German tourists who did actually speak English, but not as she knew it, Jim.

And so the customer received not a pint of Old Dog Fart, but a pint of "same again", or San Miguel as it turned out to be. The drinking companion, being English, acquiesced and accepted this dubious substitution.

Great place London, innit. I mean, everybody speaks English.

My arse.


Yo Dude!

Joseph Harker never disappoints. His piece in last weekend's Observer in the ongoing series Whitey is the One True Racist is a typically rambling, inconsistent affair which is difficult to make sense of, but the title supplied by some anonymous sub gives us a little clue: "Being black and middle class doesn't mean you face less prejudice".

Joseph's thesis appears to be that even when Black people achieve "respectable" status as entrepreneurs, professionals, academics or whatever, White people continue to treat them with disdain, looking beneath the veneer for the underlying happy-go-lucky incompetent Sambo beneath. As if we had fully expected Lord Taylor to have emerged from Southwark Crown Court after being sentenced for fiddling his parliamentary expenses and then to have responded to journalists' questions by giving a big toothy nigger grin and break dancing on the tarmac while calling out, "Yo man! Screw dem motherfuckers, I don' give a shee-it!"

Well, Joe, my old china, my man, bruv, blood, wha'evah innit, I've had a fair bit of experience at being a middle-class White professional encountering Black persons of similar status and I can tell you that when I meet such a person in a business context or any other situation where ongoing interaction and a degree of mutual reliance is anticipated, the unbidden thought which starts nervously pacing up and down at the back of my head is not
"I do hope this presumptuous jungle bunny doesn't revert to type and start limbo dancing under the table."
"I wonder if this is yet another Black guy with a massive victimist chip on his shoulder; how soon can we expect the race card to be played?".
In his piece, Joe offers the fortuitously pertinent example of Lewis Hamilton's recent very tentative flirtation with the race card when asked about his spate of penalties and punishments from the FIA. Joe thinks that this is evidence of Hamilton being picked on by the White racing establishment for being an uppity nigger poking his nose in where it ain't got no godamn business. I say it's more likely to be what it appears to be: a case of an aggressive, ambitious young driver pushing his luck too far and getting his knuckles rapped.

For Hamilton to succumb to the temptation to play the race card would be a shame: it does neither him not the sport any favours. Hamilton is a competent and talented young man who has been badly served by the diversity-obsessed media, by Black pressure groups indulging in frankly rather distasteful (and racist) triumphalism, and by the usual posse of political media whores.

So let's follow it through. What would happen if Hamilton's "Is it because I is Black?" moment was allowed to develop? Cue heavy-duty ranting from the usual suspects and pressure groups. Would the FIA, political animal that it is, start going easy on Hamilton's transgressions out of fear of the inevitable accusations of racism and for a quiet life? Would Hamilton's White colleagues, conscious of this biased treatment, begin to resent him? Would teams, mindful of potential conflicts, start to discourage emerging Black drivers? Cue demands for informal quotas and consequent suspicions that Black drivers are token ethnics.

And so it goes on, round and round. Nobody wins.

Joe's mistake is to assume this sort of situation is all Whitey's malevolent fault. I don't think it's necessarily any "side's" fault; it's just a feedback loop. Black people, as a newly arrived minority, encountered suspicion and xenophobia from the established population. That happens, in fact it's probably par for the course. Black people resent this, and their grievance is stoked by interested political groups, including White liberals. The White majority, including those well-disposed or neutral towards Blacks, begin to find too many Blacks are resentful and forever on the look-out for perceived slurs and discrimination. The White majority loses patience with this and begins to shun Blacks, cuing yet more discontent.

So it goes. The bottom line, Joe baby, is that this isn't my problem. If I have become just a wee bit leery of "persons of colour", it's because the experience of 40 years of working life tells me that they are just too much trouble to bother with. And if you are very unlucky, one small slip in deed, word and yes, quite possibly even thought, can ruin your career. After all, Sarah Kennedy may be bit of a loose-tongued lush, but who'd have thought she'd be convicted of the previously unknown crime of albedoism?

Personally I can't be arsed.

10 June, 2011


...but facts are sacred

Up to a point, Lord Copper, up to a point.

In a piece in the ongoing CiF series, It's all Whitey's fault, academic Priyamvada Gopal ventures:

The nonsensical idea that "racism cuts both ways" is peddled by the English Defence League, which has escalated violent campaigns of intimidation in the name of "indigenous" Britons.

Well not quite, dear. "Racism cuts both ways" is a BNP slogan and campaign. It has nothing to do with the EDL. And the EDL are an anti-Islam street movement rather than an explicitly pro-indigenous one. And what's with the scare quotes?

But then I guess all us gora look the same to you.

06 June, 2011



Why is it that whenever I read a news report of some bloke being arrested for "being in possession of an offensive weapon", I have this image of an ad hoc panel of WPCs being convened by the custody sergeant to assess the level of offensiveness?

— What do you reckon, Sue?
— Nah! That thing's too small to be offensive. Ridiculous perhaps, but offensive, never.

05 June, 2011


Whistling in the dark

Economists of the political Right tell us that fiscal probity is the way forward: pay down the debt, control public spending, and all will be well.

Economists of the political Left tell us that Keynesian pump-priming is the way forward: spend on the public sector to kick-start and encourage private economic activity and investment.

Both assure us that their patent nostrum will most assuredly promote rosy cheeks and a healthy glow, the regrowth of long-lost hair and above all economic recovery. Letters are written to sympathetic newspapers, with lists of seriously-qualified signatories longer than the letter itself.

Well, speaking as an economic illiterate, I have a question. Do we have an economy to recover?

Some high-end specialisms apart, our manufacturing industry has departed for China.

Senior management and some project and programme management tasks apart, our back office and remotable service work has departed for India.

Our finance industries, which were to be our saviour, turn out to be incestuous scams and are fatally holed beneath the moral and economic water.

For those jobs which perforce remain here we import either illegal third-world immigrants or Eastern Europeans. The former are effectively slave labour paid what their owners feel like. The latter are minimum-wage workers willing to rough it here for a few years because the (current) difference in purchasing power between the pound and the złoty makes the short-term disadvantage tolerable.

So when you've applied your magic poultice to our economic woes, where are the jobs for our debt-burdened graduates and our languishing long-term unemployed? And where's the tax base to pay for their dole money?

Just wondrin. 'Cos it seems to me that the old assumptions don't apply. What we have is a society which has lived by maxing out its credit card. OK, we're trying to pay down the debt by tightening our belts. Or we've made an arrangement with one of those nice debt consolidation companies. But at the end of it, even if we succeed, we still won't have a job to go to.

03 June, 2011


BoJo and the Bendies

No, not a rare gay porn "arthouse movie", nor a deservedly obscure Indie band, but Boris Johnson's manifesto pledge to phase out articulated, or "bendy", buses in London. When bendy buses were introduced to London starting in 2002, there was the usual neophobic grumbling, but nothing too substantial until the months before the 2008 mayoral and GLA elections, when the Een Stannat launched an intensive campaign to (a) get rid of the bendies and (b) preserve the Routemaster which ran on some of the routes planned for bendification. The campaign was orchestrated by the Standard's then resident attack hack, Andrew Gilligan. My impression was and remains that this campaign was more a vehicle (no pun intended) to attack the then mayoral incumbent, Ken the Newtfucker, than a reflection of serious concerns about public transport.

So what was on the charge sheet against the bendies, according to the Standard's campaign?

1. Obstructive size and poor manœuvrability
2. Fewer seats
3. Prone to fare evasion

Of course any choice of bus is a compromise between competing requirements. The much fetishized Routemaster, manœuvrable, compact and seating 64 (RM variant) or 72 (RML variant) passengers, has the advantage where passengers undertake relatively long journeys with relatively small numbers getting on and off at most stops. They compare poorly, however, for short central journeys where standing may be acceptable or unavoidable, for significant extra standing capacity and rapid loading/unloading during intense peaks (they are certified for 5 standees only and getting on and off practically requires you to climb over standing passengers) and are completely useless for passengers with baby buggies or wheelchairs.

Clearly the manœuvrability issue is a major one, and the introduction of bendies onto London's tortuous and often narrow streets requires careful planning. But I really don't buy into the "Bendies Bad, Routemasters Good" oversimplification.

Now BoJo is a politician and when he found himself cornered into reacting to the Standard's campaign, I did expect that he would find a way of quietly dropping these useless promises after the election. Bugger me if he has not only made a start on replacing the bendies (at great expense) but also on prototyping his entirely pointless replacement Routemaster. Pointless because current legal and operational requirements require so many changes to the design that this overpriced red elephant turns out to be, in essence, a standard decker with an extra staircase and some extra curvy bits in nostalgic homage to the old design. Hardly worth all that moolah for such a travesty, was it BoJo?

Not that it matters. Sunny Hundal thinks that this flight of fantasy can be capitalized on next year to attack Boris and bring us bigots of the outer boroughs flocking back to Ken. Dream on, Sunny-ji. Us bigots remember Ken. Some of us have been around long enough to remember Ken when he was running the old GLC. Believe me, hell will freeze over before we vote for that tiresome rat-faced Marxist and his posse of freeloading cronies again.

So how has the Boris plan worked out in practice? Route 38 has replaced the bendy with a bog-standard modern double-decker. I am familiar only with the Islington - Victoria section of the route, where the bendy was perfectly fine in my experience. But I can't speak for the northern section towards Clapton. I defer to others on that one.

Instead I want to concentrate on the piece of resistance of joined up thinking, the replacement of the 507 and 521 city-centre routes.

Routes 507 and 521 are the successors to the old Red Arrow interstation services, running between mainline rail termini and central London. The traffic is short distance, very peaky, and benefits from rapid loading and unloading at busy stops and minimal ticket transactions between passengers and driver. Manœuvrability considerations apart, these routes are actually very well suited for the bendy bus.

So how were they replaced? With a "fixed bendy". There is no better way to describe it. The replacement vehicle (Citaro LE?) has only 21 seats, with fully half the floor space cleared for standing passengers. Passengers enter and leave by both doors and do not interact with the driver. As with the bendy, Oyster PAYG ticketholders are responsible for "touching in" at an Oyster pad. Other passengers, whether ticketholders or freeloaders, do nothing.

So nul points for seating capacity or fare enforcement. But what about manœuvrability? Surely there's a win there. Well, not in my observation. This rigid bus is 12 metres long, the same as your typical long distance "coach". And it has a correspondingly long wheel base with huge overhangs at either end. The Citaro G "bendy" is an 18m long vehicle composed of two articulated 9m segments. Having both ridden on and watched both types of vehicle and humbly admitting my pig ignorance as a non-driver (of anything, never mind sodding great PSVs), my impression is that manœuvrability when cornering is much the same — basically both types of vehicle have to take the corner just as wide — while the more sinuous bendy has the edge in lane switching and similar manœuvres.

Here's a typical Citaro LE (a Polish one in this picture):

Just clock that overhang!

So no overall difference either way then? Apart perhaps from the obnoxious amount of roadspace taken up by a single bendy.

No so fast! The new buses necessarily have a lower capacity. So you need more of them. And more drivers. In fact the peak vehicle requirement (PVR) for the replacement buses is 80% higher than the old buses to run the same service capacity. In round numbers, the replacement buses require 80% more drivers, have 23% fewer seats in aggregate and occupy 20% more roadspace in aggregate.

Nice one Boris. At least you fulfilled your election pledge.

02 June, 2011


It don't get any better, do it?

Laban has a post up on the decline of life chances and expectations in Britain's dwindling economy. A somewhat, how can I put it, peripatetic post by his standards, in which he writes

Our children, bar a fortunate few, will not be able to own the roof over their heads, something my and my parents generation could take for granted. We're going back to the days of my grandmother, who lived in rented accommodation all her life

Well, here, for what it's worth, is my nostalgic two penn'orth.

My parents married in 1945 when my father returned from the wars. They lived for the next ten years or so in various rented accommodations. Apart from a brief sojourn in a prefab in the middle of a field in Fallowfield, where I met my first cow, this accommodation always meant a single room in some private house in Moston, with shared access to the kitchen and bathroom. Among the places we stayed was my maternal grandparents' house, a privately rented "two and a half up, two and a half down" property where I was born in 1948. At that time the house accommodated me, my parents, my maternal grandparents and my mother's two younger unmarried brothers.

Despite both of them working, my parents were not exactly rolling in it. One family story, which I cannot verify, was that they applied for the ten-pound Pom scheme to try their luck in Australia but in the end couldn't scrape together the £20 migrant's contribution to the passage. Mind you, do bear in mind that £20 was a significant amount of moolah in the late 1940s. MeasuringWorth.com reckons £580 in RPI terms or £1800 in average earnings terms, which is an interestingly broad range in itself.

So enquiries were made about getting a council house. Again I cannot verify this story, but I have no reason to disbelieve it. My mother sought the advice of our local councillor, a decent Irishman who was also our GP. Questions were asked, including about my mother's maiden name. Now my mother's maiden name is about as archetypically bog Irish as it gets. So much so in fact that I sometimes wonder exactly whom my great-grandfather thought he was fooling when, on migrating to England, he dropped the initial O' off his surname, apparently "to sound less Oirish". My maternal grandmother's maiden name also sounds reassuringly Irish if misheard, but is probably in fact a Yorkshire name. The omens, apparently, were on the whole auspicious. Unfortunately, despite the Irish Catholic resonances, our branch of the family does not in fact dig with the left foot, and when this was made known it was quietly made clear by our Councillor/GP, who was an honest man, that at that time in Manchester, the chances of making progress on the housing list without, shall we say, a personal letter of recommendation from Father Bunloaf were approximately zilch.

If that story is accurate, and it does tally with assorted tittle-tattle I heard from other sources, then any readers from the orthodox righteous left might care to recalibrate their preconceptions of exactly who inflicts and who suffers discrimination in this world.

It's an ill wind of course, and this rejection directed my parents towards buying their own home. Not an easy goal, but with the aid of a low-interest mortgage arranged through my father's then trade union, the AEU, they were able to afford a property "in need of some renovation". (My father's activism as a shop steward may have facilitated this loan, authorized according to family legend by Hugh Scanlon himself.)

After that they never looked back, moving up through a series of properties until, on my father's retirement, they were able to escape the sinking ship of Manchester to spend their declining years in semi-rural Derbyshire.

As for me, well as a member of the cohort of 1948 I'm one of those jammy baby-boomer bastards everybody loves to hate. When I moved to London in the early 1970s, I first of all stayed in bedsit accommodation until, having after a few years acquired sufficient "form" as a saver with the Halifax, I was able to essay the bottom rung of the housing ladder.

Not entirely a cakewalk though. At the time I was working in the public sector and, during the high post-decimalization inflation period of the 1970s, collective wage negotiations were somewhat fraught. The union had, after three years, finally agreed a settlement. Fortunately I was able to persuade HR to report my new salary, agreed but not yet formally implemented, in response to the building society's inquiries. This meant I could just meet the 2.5× loan-to-earnings multiplier.

A mere bagatelle, of course, for we were now entering a handy period of serious inflation, with base rates hovering in the 10 - 13% range and mortgage rates a couple of percent higher. But by the end of the 1980s that loan I struggled to qualify for would be well under a year's salary.

No wonder the younger generations hate us. All I can say is that
  1. It's only in the last couple of decades that us baby-boomer bastards have inherited positions of actual power, and

  2. We didn't do it deliberately. In the 1960s, people genuinely believed the dream would last for ever (when we stopped worrying about dying in a nuclear armageddon, that is).

A different world.

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