Monday, 12 December 2011

Can't Stand Losing You

One of the reasons I like being a reporter is you do get to hear some interesting stuff. And 'interesting' is a very broad church.
I do get to hear gossip, and intrigue, and truly slanderous stuff, inside information, dirty deals, inappropriate material. And being such an inquisitive - alright, nosy - geezer, I do love it. Downside is you get to hear some very upsetting stuff, and despite what you think about the cold heartedness of reporters, most of the time it does get to us.
I mean, I got all choked up when a Navy sub came home earlier this year, because all of the families on the dock, the hugs, the atmosphere, the brass band playing, the wives and girlfriends breaking down, the sailors clutching their partners and cuddling their children.
One of my fellow reporters recently worried that she wasn't being tough enough because she blubbed at the return of HMS Ocean.
I told her I'd wobbled and it was okay because we are human.
No, honest, we are and I have a doctor's certificate to prove it.
I won't deny I've occasionally cried at funerals of people I don't even know, because the service is so moving, the music so haunting, the words spoken so honest and sad.
I've always cried at funerals for kids.
I hate covering a child's funeral. Really, really hate it. They're always the most heartbreaking things to cover as a reporter and personally speaking, the smaller the coffin, the more awful I feel being there.
One, because any child's death is a sad affair.
Two, because as a parent myself my heart goes out to the parent of the dead child and how much agony they must be in, and three I darkly imagine how I'd get through it if it was one of my kids in that little box with rows of people sitting numbly in front.
Now, there's been a lot of debate online about reporters covering deaths, particularly what is termed in the "industry" as 'death-knocks'.
The main point of the debate boils down to "why do evil, callous, parasite reporters knock on people's doors within hours of them losing a loved one, the evil, callous, parasitic b'stards?'
It's not necessarily an unfair question. But if you've done them, the answer is easy.
You're sent, because that's your job.
What isn't easy is actually doing them. Nor is understanding why people do talk to you.
In fact, understanding why the great majority of people you knock on the door of, do want you to come in and talk to you... well, it doesn't seem to make sense... until you do them.
Because when you've lost someone, you all sit around together, heartbroken, stunned, hollow, trying to come to terms with what to do next.
Then in walks someone who doesn't know this dead person and asks straight out, 'can you tell me about them, what were they like, what did they say that made you laugh, what did they do that infuriated you, what was their favourite music/film/book/meal, what did they want to be when they were little, what will you miss most about them?
'Who were they, that other people could possibly know what they've missed out on. Who was this person they will never know. Can you help me write something they helps explain why they were so wonderful to you, explains why their leaving this world means you feel so terrible right now.'
And so, they do tell you.
And you often wish you did know this person, because they sound just like someone you would like.
I don't like doing death knocks at all.
I do know reporters who are decent people who don't have as much of a problem with them.
I don't think I've ever met a reporter who 'enjoys' doing them.
But the one's I have done, the person who's telling me things is often smiling as they do so.
It's the first chance they've had since their loss to enthuse with another human about the person they love who has gone.
I've interviewed families - parents, siblings, friends - as a group and often they start to tell stories to each other, surprising each other with tales that other family members never knew about.
They often learn new things about the deceased, a tale about who was really responsible for a broken plate when siblings where young, or a dad lets slip about them on a weekend away that mum never knew, or some medal grandad was awarded that no-one but grandma knew about.
The stories are often warm, jovial, endearing, full of humour, admiration, love.
A couple of times, I leave the house and there's been more smiles than tears.
Good memories of a loved one, not sadness.
So, I go back to the office and try and put that person across on paper, the way their loved ones have done so to me, to let you - the readers - know what you missed, never got the chance to meet, to know, to love as much as their family did.
I consider it an onerous task. I've been given a great responsibility. It's not the sort of thing I should take lightly.
And I don't. Ever.
Neither do my colleagues, at least all the ones I've ever worked with.
That's a death knock.
When you've written it, it becomes a 'tribute' piece.
And before you ask, yes, I've done death knocks on people who've been complete gits most of their lives.
But even the most obnoxious git has someone who loves them and mourns their passing.
And I'll record that too.
Until you're there, in that situation, you can't know or understand the way it'll go.
Maybe you'll close the door quickly, maybe you won't even answer it. Maybe you'll open it wide and let the reporter in.
Regardless, reporters will still call, still record what's said, and write it.
That, as I said earlier, is our job.


To end, I'll give an example of what I mean.
I once did a death knock on a mum who's 19 year old son died when his car span off the road and hit a tree.
Lovely woman, really kind, in shock. Her friend was with her, giving support and I called on her for the tribute. We had cups of tea. She told me all about him. He sounded a typical Essex teenager really. A bit of a lad, one for the ladies, liked his motor more than anything.
I got back to the office late and started writing.
Then I got a call from his best friend, effing and blinding, shouting about how evil I was, how obscene it was that I'd bothered his mate's mum, how stinking vile I was, why the bloody hell I'd bothered her?
'Because as of right now, your mate is number 15, and that's all he'll ever be if I don't write this.'
*Eh? What are you going on about?* he shouted.
'Your mate was the 15th person to die on this county's roads this year. Just another number in a long list of people who've died. Next week there will be a number 16, then 17 and so on until we start all over again with number 1 next year. This way, he's John Smith, a teenager who was loved by his mum, who liked cars, liked girls, liked certain music and clothes and had some really good mates. He's not another statistic, he's a person and people will be able to remember him as a person, not a statistic'.
It all went quiet for a while, and then his best friend apologised profusely, stumbling over his words, trying to take it all back.
I made it very clear that it was completely alright, there was no problem at all, it was very understandable and he wasn't to worry, fer chrissakes he'd just lost his best mate, of course he's upset and angry and everything.
He shyly asked if he could add some comments of his own to the article I was writing.
I was more than happy to oblige.
The kid's mum phoned up later, wanting to change a word. She'd said he was a bit of a devil, or something which didn't really match him properly.
I already knew what she'd really meant when she said it, and I'd changed it to something like tyke or rascal.
She said that was what she'd really meant and thanked me.

What I did is nothing unusual. It is what most reporters (local - can't talk for the nationals) do everyday.
It may seem strange, but there it is. I hope that helps the debate.

Friday, 7 October 2011

Listen, do you want to know a secret, do you promise not to tell..?

So, there’s stuff I can’t tell you, there’s stuff I won’t tell you and stuff I shouldn’t tell you. Eventually, after all that, there’s the stuff I do tell you.

You’d think I would be allowed to tell you everything. But there’s the law, like contempt of court and libel. There’s promises, there’s off-the-record, there’s ‘it’s only a rumour’, then there’s a basketcase-full of ‘no, I swear it’s true, no really, would I lie to you?’

Looking back over the past few months there’s been so much stuff I can’t impart. If I go back even further, there’s material I may never be able to print. Like the major drug dealer who got put away for quite a bit, who admitted to me he pretty much did dish out all the torture he was accused of doing but never, ever, stuck a certain something up someone’s Aris.
But back to recent-ish events, I can’t really tell you about two ‘organisations’ in our fair city who decided to get a bit tasty with each other. And possibly why. And how far it nearly got.
I can’t really tell you about who’s buying which business, who they’re linked to, what the person they’re linked to is up to and how frequently they’re linked to questionable people and questionable incidents.
And, despite all this hoo-haa currently in the media and legal circles and blog-world about worrisome links between the police and the media, my conversations with some members of Plod has to stay close to my chest. Sometimes it’s just gossip, sometimes it’s about silly cock-ups, sometimes it’s a bit more, but revealing it would compromise my source. Sometimes it’s a massive, monumental feck up which I try different avenues to publish my other means, but fail to do, due to lack of hard evidence. I’m looking at one currently, and it’s a doozy.

Then there’s who’s about to be nicked, or charged, who’s got a good brief, who’s got a duff one, who’s been found “not guilty” because their barrister was sharper than the CPS and got half the evidence struck out, which if the jury heard it they’d have absolutely, definitely have found them guilty, assuming the CPS hadn’t cut a deal or the judge decided he’d accept the deal rather than go to the expense of a trial. I mean, a jury? What’s the point, eh? It’s not like the justice system is based around trusting 12 people to have the common sense to hear the evidence and decide whether the person in the dock is guilty or not guilty, is it?
No really, I was in a court room not long ago and that happened. You’ll be seeing a person who’s pleaded guilty be sentenced for something that even the investigating officer has admitted to me they didn’t do. This person did something else, but by coughing to an alternative charge, they’ll be dealt with, a jury won’t be necessary and the troublesome expense of a trial will be saved for the public purse. The fact there’s no evidence at all for what they’re admitting is not the point… don’t you worry your pretty little head about it sweetie.
I know. But as the Bard of Barking said: “This isn’t a court of justice son, this is a court of law”…
So, why don’t I tell you?
Sometimes, I’d like to. But there’s reasons – perhaps I can’t stand it up. Perhaps it’d mean a whopping great libel action which means money we can’t afford. Or it’d mean a contempt of court, which means more money on legal fees, an embarrassing time in court and possibly an even more embarrassing time in prison. And I am no Andy Dufresne or Lennie Godber.
Sometimes, it’s best you don’t know.

Oh, you think?

Okay – sitting in the magistrates court for Vanessa George when they described what she did in graphic detail. Or in Crown Court to hear what child rapists Robert Rohleder and Darren Campbell did?
I can’t imagine you do want to hear the details, because I know I didn’t when I had to write it down in my notepad, because it comes back to your mind’s eye when you forget to block it out.
Or that a recently convicted rapist targeted a woman who was a prostitute, because her business wasn’t the reason she was targeted, she was targeted because she was a woman and she was there and she became a victim and what she does to get by from one day to the next is none of your damn business.
Yeah, yeah, so maybe you should be allowed to hear more, maybe you deserve to hear more. I agree, no really I do.

But it’s just that, well… there’s just some things I can’t tell you, there’s some things I won’t tell you and there’s some things I shouldn’t tell you…

And let’s be honest… there’s a lot of stuff you lot don’t tell me.

There’s also a lot of stuff the criminals don’t tell me.

And, hardly surprising this, there’s the stuff the police don’t tell me. Like when they get warned off from raising their concerns about the cuts to me, such as the 80 or so civilian investigators who are being tossed out the door next week, which will mean less investigators trying to solve the same number of crimes. Or they just don’t tell me stuff because they think I’m an interfering git, which is more often as not the real reason. Well, I mean they think it… not that I am an interfering git. Well, not all the time anyway.
So, y’know, it all balances out in the end, no?

And you didn’t hear that from me, right?

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

At the tone, leave your name, number and morality...

Thanks to an old friend of mine who suggested the topic, I thought I'd put my half-pee's worth in on the recent "media cack-storm".
Being a local reporter, especially a crime reporter, is mainly about trying to get people to trust me.
I know. It's like the joke about the guy who puts his dick in the mouth of a lion at a circus and asks if there's anyone brave enough to do the same. And one wag shouts up, 'sure, but do I have to kneel down in all that sawdust?'
Actually it's probably not, but I thought I'd put that in there because it always makes me laugh.
Is this Hackergate stuff a laughing matter though?
No, not really.
Personally, I've felt rather pleased to see reporters and news organisations I have loathed for decades - who've behaved in a way that makes me angry and frustrated that my job title is sullied by them, who've come to town and crapped in my field whenever a big story takes place on my patch - finally get their comeuppance.
Problem is, when you've chosen to fart at a disco, everyone standing nearby gets given the same look of disgust and disdain.
Some of the vitriol and bile poured out across the interwebbything has been undoubtedly cathartic for many outraged folk (however faux - I mean, some of it has sounded similar to the righteous indignation from the hysterical whipped up frenzy that was of Manuelgate, and that didn't produce half the resignations).
What's caused me to bang my head against my keyboard in exasperation and depression has been the increasing vitriol and bile aimed at local reporters on local/regional newspapers.
Case in point -this well-meaning article which further down reveals the hatred of the keyboard warriors, who, (quelle surprise) rarely use their real names when they comment. Much like our own 'popular' website, hmm?
Oh, I can handle the jokes from my plod contacts about "are you recording this call Carl?" or "Oi, Eve, have you got a brown envelope with cash for me?"
Mainly because my retort of "I dunno, have you been out killing my paper sellers recently" usually halts all hostilities in their tracks.
The thing is, it's all about ethics. And no, that's not a lisp for my home county.
I was taught journalism with a heavy nod towards the ethics line. I worked on a paper where the news editor was a mean bugger who would swear and shout at his reporters until they cried, but by God he instilled a sense of ethics in you.
If you want to do the job right and get a result you can stand by, then you bloody well behave yourself. However if you are uncovering proper wrong-doing or actual iniquity then and only then can you take the gloves off and fight dirty.
In Essex, I watched as a number of reporter colleagues move onto tabloids like The Sun and the News of the World (and the Daily Mail) and I felt a) sorry for them, b) envious of their new wage and c) absolutely no desire to follow them. (Quick aside - Andy Coulson used to work on my old paper in Basildon, but he left a couple of years before I joined. I know, six degrees of separation, eh?)
This paper is equally tight on its ethics. There are strict rules and Cliff Richard forbid you play fast and loose with them. No impersonating, no bin rifling, no breaching confidence.
Of course, it means we don't get or do some stories. Like all papers you try to get as close to the wire as possible, but you cannot afford to go over it. Not when the margins are so tight as they are these days.
I wrote about the Danielle Jones murder in Grays, Essex and recently heard her phone may have been hacked. I remember her parents. I remember a senior police officer genuinely lament that he had been forced to meet such wonderful people in such an awful circumstance. I would concur completely as Danielle's parents were lovely people who, more often than not, I just wanted to hug tightly and make it all better for them.
If true, then the news about Danielle's phone being a potential target reminds me again of how it was just another cheap and unenlightening story for a paper to swagger about boasting it was the "Greatest Newspaper in the World" with its gargantuan sales figures and 168 year history of paying people to tell them things.
Quick note here - my "payments" to informants? A cup of tea. That's it. Probably at Capn Jaspers and the change goes into the charity Sea Mission box. If I have a spare tenner or twenty it goes to me and my family. My motto is if you have to pay for it, you don't deserve it because you're not a good enough journalist. Just because a source is greedy doesn't mean you should be.
Ratings and sales should not be at the expense of breaking the confidence of the parents of dead children.
I hope that, in the main, the interviews I've had with people who would've otherwise have been snapped up by tabloid hacks with chequebooks, were because they trusted me to not dick them over.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Hi Hooooooo, Hi Hooooooo...

Now, stop me if I lose you on this, but as peaceful chants go, shouting “Allah is a paedo” through a loudhailer with the same charming phrase taken up by around 100 of your mates… well, it’s not one which would readily come to mind.

But that’s just me, eh? A soft liberal communist wet who’s blinded by Islamic brainwashing techniques, clearly.

“I’m England Til I Die” is confusing. English, well yes, unless you emigrate and take up another nationality. But “England”? I don’t think that works as patriotic chants go. It doesn’t really translate that well. I mean, could you imagine someone shouting “I’m United Arab Emirates Til I Die” or “I’m Democratic Republic of Congo Til I Die”?

As for “Who the F*** Is Allah?” I would hazard a guess the question in rhetorical. Otherwise such an inquiry while on a march to highlight your concerns of Islamic extremists would suggest you should first read a book. Possibly all the way through and ideally one without pictures.
My personal feeling is the quality of the chants and banners belonging to the EDL were rather tepid to be honest.

Whereas the three delightful young girls who repeatedly and loudly shouted “Love Peace and Cupcakes” which was echoed on the colourful and arty banner hung out their first floor window in Southside Street? That was bloody marvelous and easily the best, most decent, thoughtful and educational retort of the day. Certainly better than any counter-rally, to be honest.

I later found that the brave youngsters had also used orange chalk to write “All You Need Is Love” on the kerbstones outside their home, which was tramped on by the EDL came to town.

Oh all right, I say came to town, only because saying “arrived in town, drank all morning at a pub and walked around some of the best parts of the city dragging their knuckles along the ground behind them while they shouted, swore and grunted” could be constituted as unfair and unwittingly hurt their feelings.

I must say I did feel a little inadequate about my own Englishness when I returned to the office on Saturday, but I think that was the EDL’s main aim.

While I listened intently to a Scouser bellow -nay screech - into a loudhailer that “We’re not fascists. We’re English and we’re proud to be English” I did find myself thinking “Well, I’m English, and I’m proud to be English and I’ve travelled a lot of the world meeting other nationalities in their countries, and I’ve tried to behave in a manner which would leave them to think ‘oooh, those English people are polite and helpful aren’t they, they’re a credit to their parents and their country’ but clearly I’m not proud of my Englishness enough because I haven’t got any tattoos of bulldogs, Union Jacks, Thai and Maori symbols or my ex-girlfriend’s name on my body, don’t want to march through the Barbican eliciting tuts and looks of worry from tourists and locals and have never suggested that the “UAF [Unite Against Fascism] can f***in’ ‘ave it” while waving a flag of St George with the words “EDL Geert Wilders” on it.

But that’s just me, eh? A soft liberal communist wet who’s blinded by Islamic brainwashing techniques, clearly.

As the EDL marchers headed off back to the pub, they were tunefully sent on their way by singers banging out a Christian hip-hop-pop tune as part of the multicultural diversty celebrations organized by the All Nation Ministries which was being held on the Hoe.

The pumping beats could be heard all the way down Exeter Street, over the sounds of clip-clopping police horses, more chants and the words of a kindly elderly lady I met along the way.

“It’s despicable,” she said of the marchers and their hollering. “It doesn’t look good for Plymouth and I bet half of them aren’t even from here. And all those officers having to escort them, it’s such a waste isn’t it? But I suppose if anything went wrong they’d not hear the end of it. I can’t imagine they [the officers]want to be doing this either.”

From the looks on a lot of the 400 plods faces, I can’t imagine they’d disagree.

Monday, 4 July 2011

Saturday, June 11, 2011
And I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For...

Yeah Gods, but the changes at Devon and Cornwall Police are getting on my wick!
As many of the plods have (mis)quoted back to me, the bods at Middlemoor in Exeter were very much hoping the public didn't notice the changes from B'day (Blueprint Day - not exactly Judgment Day a la Arnie Terminator, but not far off for some boys and girls in blue). And to be honest, you haven't.


I mean, you may never really notice, unless you have regular dealings with plod.

For instance, there is no traffic unit anymore. That's not to say there isn't anyone policing the avenues and alleyways, or highways and byways. It's just that traffic is effectively made up of response and patrol units, and the armed response units and a couple of other units who, while dealing with the day to day 999 incidents, are also doing the work which was once the sole preserve of traffic units.

So, let's just say that if the list of critical incidents, mispers, violent domestics, allegations of rape, assaults and the like all got a bit busy for a day, then perhaps it'd be a bit of a stretch to also patrol the A38 for those naughty drivers who like to do a bit over the limit, or do it drunk, or just drive like Stevie Wonder.

Needless to say, there are ugly rumours around of Devon and Cornwall's thin blue line appearing as underweight as a Size Zero supermodel.

The only way to see if there's any noticable difference is by comparing this month's figures for crimes, detections, fixed penalty notices, etc, with this month last year. I'll let you know.

For my part, it's a pain in the chocolate starfish as there are no geographical CID offices anymore. In the past, if I heard of a mugging in Devonport, I'd call Devonport & West CID. If there was a indecent exposure in the city centre I'd call South and Central CID. If there was a donkey sexually abused in Plympton I'd call North and East CID (but only after calling my mates back in Essex and saying "I told you it was true about the donkey-touchers down here!")
But now there's just two CID offices. One at Charles Cross, one at Crownhill. They house the teams who are set in five sections. Each section - A to E - have five sub-sections. They deal with offences covering Plymouth, Saltash, Ivybridge, Tavistock, bits of South Hams, bits of South East Cornwall and everything in between.

So, who I phone to ask for more information is a bit of a lottery. It took me an hour last week to find an officer dealing with the vandalism of a Plympton school which saw thugs kill two chickens - rumoured to be called Tikka and Masala. An hour of call after call, just to find out more information and do an appeal.

But that's not the best bit. Well, there isn't a best bit to be honest, but this I really loved because for me it encapsulates the wonders of how big organisations often forget how the little things matter.

Plod loves its acronyms. I mean it really loves them. You could go half an hour talking to some officers and not hear a whole word with four syllables.

MCIT, SOCIT, ARV, BCU, Pc, SOLO, FLO... gorgeous, aren't they?

The most well-known has got to be CID, which is, as everyone who watches TV copshows well knows, is the Crime Investigation Department.

Which, in their undoubted wisdom, the bods at Middlemoor have renamed... wait for it... LITs.

Local Investigation Teams.

Only - as one female detective pointed out to me - in Plymouth, we have two LITs... one in Crownhill and one in Charles Cross.

Crownhill Local Investigation Team.

Charles Cross Local Investigation Team.



No, seriously, I'm not kidding.

Honestly, would I lie to you?

*cough, cough*

And yes, I have asked the question.

Apparently a few of the male detectives haven't turned up for work yet because they can't find their new offices.

Thank you, thank you, you've been a lovely audience, I'm here all week, try the crab buffet.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

“WHOOP-WHOOP – it’s da sound of da police” (if you can hear it over the sound of gnashing teeth)

IN A few days time there's going to be a bit of a kerfuffle with the police. They hope you don't notice anything.

In fact, they're counting on it.

The amusingly nicknamed "B'day" will be happening on May 20 and will see the implementation of the Blueprint project. Which is a nice PR way of saying "today we implement the changes which we've been forced to do because the government has cut our budget so much we can now only afford a "nee" when we turn on the siren (meaning "nee-naa" - and for those amongst you who claim police actually only use the US woo-woo-woo sirens, you are the very definition of pedants).

Basically, they've taken what they've got, looked at the finances and said "how do we police with only this much money?" They've then fired civilian investigators, front counter staff, back room civvies and others, told older coppers who've done 30 years to sling their hooks, closed front counters - and probably will be closing small stations altogether - rejigged patrol, response and CID departments, turned the thermostat down, ordered tellys to be turned off as they're not licensed anymore, and cut back on the biscuits. The awfully flash cars belonging to the very senior officers in Middlemore are still there though... even the one's being broken into by thieves while they are left "insecure" outside the Chief Constable's home.

The structure of the police world in Devon and Cornwall will see a seismic shift on B'day. No gradual introduction, no trialing, no testing the water.

New shift rotas, rearranged section teams, new CID units covering much larger (much, much larger) patches, longer hours and new responsibilities for late shift detectives, additional roles for dog handlers, traffic cops and armed response, new prioritisation on crime and non-crime incidents - they'll all take place as of that day.

With less coppers, natch.

Okay, for a great number of you filth-haters, it's no bad thing. "They'll have to work for a living" some will say (invariably those who think a morning's work is watching more chav baiting on Jeremy Kyle).

There is undoubtedly something heartwarming in hearing a copper moan that they've now been posted to the back of beyond and due to police regulations they will have to drive 30 miles - yes, 30 whole miles - to get to their new place of work.

When I've cheekily replied I was travelling around 50 miles every morning when I was 16 to get to work on a train packed with other commuters, and I considered it just part and parcel of needing a bleedin' job, it has gone down like a turkey twizzler at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's proposed Plymouth deli. But, welcoming public servants to the often harsher world of the private enterprise is a gleeful job, all the same.

However, before you all gloat, keep in mind this. Less cops, stretched much thinner, attempting to do the same work as before, but demoralised, angry, fed-up, taking on-going flak from the government and its endless reviews and inquiries over their pensions from the likes of Lord Hutton (remember him, the guy who claimed the BBC had over-egged the suggestion that the 45-minute bombs-from-Iraq claim was rubbish?) and Tom Winsor who scrutinised their pay and conditions – well, I hardly need tell you it doesn't make for a bunch of laughing policemen.

In fact, it makes for very unhappy policemen, very unhappy indeed.

And, let’s be honest, unhappy policemen are a pain in the backside.

I mean, I've been tracking them for more than a decade as a reporter, and bigger moaners you'd be hard to find. 

Admittedly, unlike most of us, their customer base are the kind of people you want to moan about.

I think I'd also get a bit despondent and suffer a sense of ennui after a week of listening to the like of Tyson and his on-off-on-off bird Chantelle and their endless whinging about who's threatened to batter who on Facebook and whether their neighbour should be done over because they "grassed" on them about beating their kids Chardonnay and Reese and leaving their pit-bull Hercules to crap on every square inch of the pavement.

The proof of the smaller and less appetizing pudding, I think, will be in the amount of crimes solved next year. I'm putting my £1 bet down now with the bookies that the detection rate next year will see a marked drop, and the year after.

And when the new Police Commissioners are planted, the Home Office will be able to hold up their hands and say “nothing to do with us anymore Guv, you’ve elected a new Commish, it’s their fault, blame them”. Which is an awfully deft bit of political hand-washing, I must say.

However, the figures won’t look bad for too long. Only until the government comes up with a plan to rejig the Home Office figures and police get the go ahead to screen out certain incidents so they don't appear on the books.

Remember, if you can't lose enough weight, just fiddle with the scales until it looks like you have.

Monday, 28 March 2011

The first cut is the deepest... unless it's a paper cut, of course

Well, here we all are again. And wouldn't you know it I've been lolly gaggling again and have not put pen to paper for far too long.

My apologies, but it's been a busy few of months.

Look, three young boys multiplied by Christmas is as busy as it needs to get. But there's been other fun and frolics to contend with as well, so don't you start giving me a hard time as well you cheeky little munchkins.

I hardly need point out the last couple of blogs had more of an effect than I could have ever realised. Mostly good, but a few not-so-good ones.

Whereas I was very much touched to have the "and the beat goes on" story printed in The Herald in its entirety (yes, including the F-word put in but asterisked out, which I've been well informed is an absolute first!) but I was honoured - and hugely embarrassed - to be given a Commander's commendation from the local bobbies.

Very nice and all, but a) I didn't really do that much except read it out to be recorded for the cops to use for their presentations about the Operation Encompass domestic abuse scheme and b) a lot of other people do a hell of a lot more and don't get any recognition.

But hey, the certificate has taken it's place in the pantheon of my achievements and exploits in the hallowed halls of Chez Eve (the downstairs bog, which has our shoes, coats, my reporter awards, pics of my travels in India and Nepal and pictures of me DJing over the years).

Yes, come along, relieve yourself and marvel at my exploits... Try to hit the bowl while you linger though...

So, the cuts are indeed starting to cut deep with all manner of complaints from those in the public sector, from nurses, teachers, cops and council workers to soldiers and sailors (although with a new war on, you'd think cutting the armed services wasn't the smartest move top make. Ho hum, perhaps we can make up for it by selling a couple of our warships. I hear there's a colonel in Libya who may be in the market for one or two items.)

You'll probably notice that even the bankers have even been moaning, but only because the great unwashed have had the temerity to keep on voicing concerns about their telephone-number bonuses and the utter front to remind the city-slickers that we were the ones who bailed them out.

Needless to say, the words "tax avoidance" are two words you won't hear much in Number 11 Downing Street in the near future, especially if they're joined by the two words "big business", "property developers" or "party donors". 

"Benefit cheats"... oh, I'm quite sure you'll be hearing those two words rather a lot in the coming months. And for those of you who mischievously add "illegal immigrants" or "bloody students",  you'll find I also have two words for you - (probably not "Daily Mail" if your wondering...)

Speaking of dodgy financial deals, you have to feel sorry for the folk of Plymouth Argyle. Well, I mean the staff anyway. It's hard to feel sorry for players who kick a ball about for fun and get paid the British average annual salary every three months while shifting a wannabe glamour model.

As for the fans, it's like watching a dog return to its master after once again having been given a sound thrashing. Forlorn, obedient and hopeful, it shuffles back with that soft, doleful and sorry look in its eyes, wanting so bad to have a master who won't hurt it so, but instead will cherish, nay, even love it...

But no, once again, the master insists on using it like both metaphorically and physically as little more than a doormat, something to roughly wipe one's muddy boots on before going into the house for a nice G & T, some fois gras on little corners of toast and a delightful conversation with one's friends about the drainage in the lower field and whether the restoration of the west wing will be completed in time for the cricket season.

(I was thinking of using a metaphor of a barrel, a jar of lube and an Argyle support in a prone position with someone shouting "brace yourself", but frankly that's unfair, and anyway, we've already seen too much of that in recent weeks.)

Meanwhile, I would hazard a guess that somewhere out there, there's an Argyle supporter who's seriously thinking about purchasing a high-powered rifle with telescopic sights and keeps listening to I Don't Like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats on a daily basis, but a) there's not a tower over the director's box at Home Park, b) they're probably in the minority of zero, c) they'd more likely be into Cheryl Cole or Tinie Tempah and d) there's still a small part of their heart and mind which cries out every night as they slip into fitful dreams: "maybe, just maybe, either I'll win the Euro-lottery and can buy Home Park with money left over to buy back Holloway and half of Chelsea, or Plymouth City Council will strike oil while digging out North Prospect and we'll be richer than Arab princes... but not the one's who're opposing democracy in Saudi..."

Ah, but "we are such stuff as dreams are made of..." Shakespeare.

(He also wrote of wives: "To suckle fools, and chronicle small beer", although I think he was predicting football in general to be honest).