Saturday, 7 June 2008


The Fens is a land of endless horizons and clouds down to the floor. To make any impression on this blank canvas man has created soaring cathedrals, housing estates where every house is different, enchanting streetscapes, magical gardens, fine restaurants and intriguing palaces. Nowhere in the country celebrates Christmas with such a blaze of civic lights and it seems that every village has its festival. Man has created a new art form called ‘Landescape’.

Molly Dancing was practised by farm hands who took a plough round villages to dance for the landowners. If they were not given money they would plough up the landowner’s garden. They blacked up their faces so that the landowners would not recognise them when they later came round seeking work.

Funded by a £125,000 lottery grant, the Cambridge Roots Project exists to revive such folk events. This year it is the turn of the Molly Dance, which is to be revived by primary school children.

There will be one omission.

The children will not be allowed to black up.

Gordon Phillips, who coordinates the project explained:

“They wanted to blacken their faces but they will only be allowed two black dots. We know its not racist BUT SOMEONE MIGHT PERCEIVE IT THAT WAY.”

I ws heartened by the much under rated John Major’s plea for personal liberty in The Times on Friday. Central to Government thinking since the Seventies when our Rulers felt society was breaking down, has been the subtle enslavement of the populace. Since Blair swept into power, proving the British always vote conservative as long as it has a different name, until last June, when I stopped counting, 2,685 new laws had been created. A new law every three and three-quarter hours, or seven laws a day. That did not include the 2,100 laws introduced by Brussels. Worse: according to a report by legal information providers Sewers and Maxwell, 98 per cent of the new laws were introduced by statutory instrument which does not require debate.

By definition, only law abiding people obey the law so the new laws which had not been sought by parliament served no practical purpose.
The way this monstrous mountain of legislation has been accepted is just one more example of the eagerness with which the British public is leaping into servitude. Political correctness, which began as a bad joke, is not only enforced by a swarm of laws: punishment also fits the perception of crime where no crime exists.

Existing laws are both draconian and absurd. It is against the law to stand in a first class carriage, there is legislation governing the importing of bed linen and the availability of free runs for poultry. It is going to be illegal for an adult to teach offspring to drive.

The RSPCA has warned schools they can no longer keep pets. The children might be too noisy, the lighting could be wrong and the care pets receive during school holidays may be variable.

If my children drink in the street, I will be fined. If I drink in the street, I won’t. If my son carries a knife, he could be imprisoned for four years. If the knife folds, he will walk free. Seventy years ago as a nine-year-old, I and most small boys had sets of three throwing knives which we carried in a sheath in our socks in imitation of the Saint, a fictional hero of the time. When I was 11, I was one of thousands of boys who wore a sheath knife as part of my Scout uniform. We also had bowie knives, knives with accessories for taking stones out of horses’ hooves and faux Commando daggers. As a teenager in a Highland Regiment, I carried a dagger tucked into my sock.

In all those years I did not attack, was not attacked, and did not know anyone who had been attacked with a knife.

Our behaviour was conditioned by a fear of authority. But in those days fear was considered an appropriate emotion and quite manly. Not, as it is now, “a bad thing”.

Parliament has removed all restrictions to juvenile behaviour. So what is surprising about juveniles behaving badly?

In our safer society I will be summonsed if my dog chases a rabbit. Possession of an air gun on the street is an offence, yet buying a gun has never been easier. In truth, it is not the armed stranger we must fear. So trigger happy is our police force that hourly I expect a motorist to be shot for speeding.
Thanks to European legislation, people are being fined large sums if their dustbin lids aren’t closed - and the waste disposal system is breaking down. This week the Government has hinted it would like to make it illegal to display cigarettes, which are themselves legal, or sell them in packs of ten.
Does that mean the greater the quantity you sell, the more legal it becomes? What good news to drug importers. How can selling ten cigarettes be illegal when selling twenty is not? How can it be illegal to advertise the legal contents of anything on the package it contains? And how can it not be illegal to profit by millions on the sale of a killer drug, when it is illegal to profit from the sale of other killer drugs?
There was an interesting letter in this week’s Spectator:
"Please let's not miss the nellie in the room, which in this case is EU Directive 2001/37 (“This Directive concerns the manufacture, *presentation and sale* of tobacco products in the Member States of the EU, in particular the use of warnings on packets, the prohibition of descriptions such as ‘mild’ or ‘light’, the maximum tar, nicotine and carbon monoxide yields”). The EU - as with so much else - is behind this latest nannying. Ministers are merely presenting Brussels' legislation as their own.

It is the dishonesty which appals. The Government cannot be honest even about the danger nicotine imposes. I have told here how statistics were managed to support the abolition of hanging, against the wishes of a vast majority of the electorate. The decision to ban smoking in public places must rate as one of the greatest victories ever for mass-hysteria. We were told this would save thousands of lives; how the evidence for the damage done by passive smoking is overwhelming; how, since bans were imposed elsewhere, as in Ireland, pub trade has been booming.
One study after another showed that health risks from passive smoking were nonexistent. One 1998 study concluded that regular exposure to "environmental smoke" is equivalent to smoking six cigarettes a year.
A seven-year study for the World Health Organisation the same year found the risk of cancer from passive smoking was "statistically insignificant".
The largest study, based on 118,000 Californians between 1960 and 1998 and published in the British Medical Journal in 2003, confirmed that smokers had a "higher than average risk of mortality", but found their partners were unaffected.
The anti-smoking lobby squealed at such unwelcome findings. But the most conspicuous effort to refute them, by Professor Nicholas Wald, was found to have been largely based on studies carried out in Japan and China, where the epidemiology of lung cancer is quite different from that in the West.
A study by Insight Research showed that 67 per cent of Irish pubs have lost trade following the ban, and that for two thirds the losses have been significant. The only pubs bucking the trend are those which have created outdoor "smoking areas", such as heated patios.
With uncharacteristic honesty, the Government did admit that the number of units of alcohol which it claimed were harmful were figures plucked out of the air, with no basis in truth. Yet last week saw the launch of a massive and costly campaign warning us of the number of units which will kill us on the spot.
We are told the figures for drunken driving deaths are appalling. They are not. The statistics which are designed to make our flesh creep include the number of road deaths in which drink is a factor. That includes the number of drunken pedestrians who walk in front of a car; accidents where the victim, not the driver who caused it, had been drinking.
The latest flesh creeper is global warning. A cursory study of history demonstrates that climate change is cyclical. There have only been 25,000 years since the beginning of time when life could survive on the planet. Our coasts have more drowned villages than lighthouses.
Perhaps the worst aspect of all this is that the lawmakers believe themselves to be above the law. People have gone to prison for less serious expenses frauds than our MPs commit with impunity. Yet they demand a £23,000 annual bribe to conform. This week yet another MP resigned because of “confusion” over his £500,000 expenses. He was the one whose job it was to seek out expense frauds. The Speaker of the House, whose own expenses have been questioned, led the costly court fight to keep MPs’ expenses sub rosa. The MP charged with overseeing MP's expenses used hers to pay her nanny's wages, two more Euro MPs paid huge sumns into firms in whuch they had an interest

Local Government refuses to return the millions it has made from illegal parking signs. A spokesman for London Councils told a BBC News reporter that to return the money stolen would be “an improper use of public money”. A defence for the Great Train Robbers?
When we train a dog we get it do all sorts of things which have no real purpose, to instil a habit of obedience. Clearly, it works with people too.


"The Americans are better than Ministry of Interior prisons. They will torture you. Maybe you will die. With the Americans, if you enter Abu Ghraib, they will only wage psychological war on you."
MAHMOUD ABU DUMOUR, A former detainee, on the thousands of American detainees who are set to be turned over to the Iraqi government.


Yet you will scarcely credit it, but she is still banging on about my weight. Who? The Head Ferret, who else?
“It is your cooking, bewitching minx,” I said, hoping to turn the attack. No use.
“It’s all that booze,” she insisted.
“Come, come,” I said. “I only graze in public once a week and take a modest slurp for the joy of having my fellow man around me.”

“The camel only goes to the watering hole every three months,” she countered with bitter cruelty, “but he can still put away enough liquid at one visit to last till his next.” “I often think,” mused the Moon of My Delight, “you display some of the characteristics of the camel.“

It was at this point I began to pout. Prettily, of course. Any hint at humps sends me off. Most pear-shaped chaps are the same. We cannot help feeling that if our humps had been on our backs and not fastened to our waists no one would dream of mentioning them. Much less patting them as though they owned them. Try patting them back, these indiscriminate patterers. If you don’t get landed with a sexual harassment charge, at least you get a dirty look.

As if being patted isn’t bad enough, it comes with the same weary witticisms. “Bet this cost you a fortune,” they say.
There is really only one reply to that and I offer it to come to the aid of all stout parties. You fix the patterers with a beady eye and you say: “If your parents had spent on your education what it cost me to achieve this contour, you would know that it is very rude to draw attention to other peoples’ appearances.”

Of course, the truth is that it is the burden of being an endomorph - round, soft and cuddly - as psychologists have perceptively defined us.

Better than being a squat, muscular mesomorph like Mussolini or a lean, bony ectomorph like Hitler.

Endomorphs of the world unite! Look who marches in our ranks: Sam Johnson, John Falstaff, Winston Churchill, Peter Ustinov, the glorious beer-stained G K Chesterton. During the First World War a woman demanded, “Why aren’t you out at the front?” “Madam,“ said Chesterton, “if I turn sideways you would see that I am.”

Our list is endless, but who have the ectomorphs got? I’ll tell you. Twiggy. Mesomorphs? Rambo. Rambo? Sounds like a dog food.


The Sultan of Oman’s two Pipe Bands are a magnificent sight. They play their bagpipes in white uniforms on the backs of bedecked and braided camels.

They look spectacular until they open their mouths. None of them have any front teeth – the consequence of their mounts lurching unexpectedly and thrusting 18 inches of hardwood chanter into the pipers' mouths.

MacCallum Bagpipes, pipe makers from Kilmarnock, have come up with a chanter that flexes as the animals sway.

Stuart MacCallum from the company explained: “It’s a flexible plastic tube that bends as the camel moves and can be adjusted in length depending on the height of the piper. There is a padded bit on the tip for added comfort.”

Mr MacCallum has offered the improved pipes to the Red Hot Chilli Pipers, a Scottish group which plays rock tunes and dances about on the stage, incurring occasional mouth injuries.

From ‘The Times’ (rapidly becoming the last of the real newspapers and I don’t care who owns it. He can be no worse than Beaverbrook, King or Kemsley. Monsters all.)And for two more good reads try