Tuesday 29 August 2006

Things can only get better

Don’t tell me, it’s been the worst fortnight of your life. You turned up at the airport with the family just as all hell broke loose on the security front, and were stuck in a queue for over three hours. At least that gave you plenty of time to re-pack all your hand baggage into the big suitcases destined for the aircraft hold. How relieved you felt when those eventually shuffled off down the conveyor belt, never to be seen again.

Determined to make the best of things, you persuaded the kids that they’d find a nudist holiday a refreshing and mind-broadening experience. And it wasn’t going too badly, either, until the forest fires forced you out of your hotel to huddle by the waterline, trying to recover from the effects of smoke inhalation.

Yes, it was unfortunate that you got kicked off your plane home for making those politically incorrect remarks about the two Middle Eastern gentlemen who were sitting next to you, wearing heavy coats and constantly looking at their watches. But surely you must have realised that they were only having a bit of fun when they inflated their sickbags and burst them with a satisfying pop? At least the taxing overland journey back to Britain was more environmentally responsible.

As you finally staggered into the house, what a comfort it was to pick up the newspaper and read Sir Ian Blair’s pronouncement that his boys and girls are doing such a terrific job that it is now safe to leave your doors unlocked. Which you duly did when you went out for a celebratory dinner. Now you find yourself studying an insurance claim form which makes it clear that they won’t be reimbursing you for the entire contents of your house, since it was your own fault for failing to secure it.

Of course, you should have read the small print more closely. And realised that Sir Ian, as Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis, was talking about the crime-free paradise that is London. Not Newcastle or Sunderland. Mind you, not wishing to be outdone, the Chief Constable of Northumbria may well be poised to tell us that it is now quite all right to leave our cars out on the street with a full tank of petrol and the keys in the ignition. Though I don’t think I’d risk it if I were you.

Any pronouncement from that unfeasibly PC PC, Commissioner Blair, needs to be treated with a fair amount of caution. He is, after all, the genius who went on Radio 4’s Today programme to boast about his force meeting the ‘gold standard’ for preventing terrorism, about an hour before the 7 July suicide bombs last year. Then there were his unfortunate comments about Jean Charles de Menezes, executed at Stockwell station in what turned out to be a disastrous case of mistaken identity. It is quite hard for the casual observer to work out how on earth he keeps his job.

Indeed, I sometimes wonder if he isn’t actually a spoof figure, dreamt up by our own local hero Lord Stevens of Kirkwhelpington, to make his own stint as head of the Met seem like a golden age of commonsense coppering.

Still, it could have been worse. If you’d been away a bit longer, you might have come back to find that your house had been deemed empty by one of Ruth Kelly’s gauleiters, and confiscated to provide much-needed accommodation for some of those half million economic migrants from eastern Europe. You remember, the ones that the Government said would never come here, attacking those who suggested they might as xenophobes and racists.

Now they say that they’re ‘good for the economy’, which means that they’re keeping wages down for the rest of us, including you. And this from what was once the party of organised labour. No wonder you’re starting to think that perhaps a bomb really did go off on the first day of your holiday, blasting you into an unrecognisable parallel universe.

© Copyright Keith Hann, 2006.

Written for The Journal, Newcastle upon Tyne, but deemed unsuitable for publication.

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