Friday, 29 February 2008

Yer Rock & Roll 5

Now I do do requests - up to a point - and promised that everyone in the blogger participation exercise would have prizes, so here is the Velvet Underground.

Jarvis Cocker once posed the question as to why Lou Reed was 'a bit of a turd' as he put it. He answered his question with another one. 'What happens if you create the best rock and roll band in the world and nobody takes any notice?' In their original manifestation the Velvets - I think - never played to an audience of more than 200. They broke up. The rest is history. Some years ago the lure of mammon got irresistible and they re-formed for a reunion tour. Musically, results were mixed, to say the least. The first clip is 'Sweet Jane' from the reunion tour which kinda works - it is one of my all time fave songs and definitely one of the eight for the desert island when I get the call.

The second clip is 'waiting for the man' from the Velvets' original manifestation. It's a song about being messed about by your drug dealer. Can't get the staff these days...

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

The EU and Microsoft...

I'm in favour of the European Union. I think it's a good thing. Does the following story make me any less favourably inclined towards it (from The Register)? Ermmmm..... Nope.
The European Commission has added another €899m ($1.35bn) to the fine Microsoft must pay for failing to comply with the original anti-trust ruling in 2004.
The fine covers the period from the 2004 decision to 22 October, 2007. The decision found that Microsoft was charging competitors too much for interoperability information for its servers.

Competition Commissioner "Steelie" Neelie Kroes was scathing in a statement: "Microsoft was the first company in 50 years of EU competition policy that the commission has had to fine for failure to comply with an anti-trust decision... I hope that today's decision closes a dark chapter in Microsoft's record of non-compliance."

It is the largest fine the EC has ever imposed on a single company.

The fine comes on top the original penalty of €497m, giving a total of €1.35bn or $2.038bn.

Stupid signs and announcements

Full on rant mode today, I'm afraid. It's about the stupid signs and announcements that constantly disfigure everyday life. They are bossy and intrusive and seem to follow the premise that people are sheep and need to be herded.
Announcements first. I spend a lot of time on public transport and in particular on trains. I usually sit in the quiet carriage if possible. Largely people observe the rules as to quietness. The train operators do not. Instead they keep up a stream of intrusive PA announcements. An announcement saying when the next station is imminent is fine. Announcements plugging the overpriced and under-appetising online catering is not. Nor am I interested in the name of the customer services person or where they happen to be on the train at that very moment. Most people have the wit to take their possessions with them on leaving the train unprompted. I can get by without being thanked for 'choosing' to travel with whoever it is or the hope that I had a pleasant journey. London Underground is even worse. At rush hours the major stations have some cattle herder with a hand held device linked to the PA system who keeps up a stream of hectoring exhortations and invitations to do the bleeding obvious for the benefit of 'customers'. 'Move right down inside the cars (sic) and use all available spaces' goes the endlessly repeated mantra. Genius! Who would have thought of that?
Pointless signs are almost as tiresome. I recently read of a restaurant which fell foul of the health and safety inspectorate. The issue was not hygeine or work procedures, which were exemplary. The complaint was lack of 'signage'. In other words this extremely well-run establishment fell foul of some jobsworth who wanted to see notices festooning the walls, no doubt labouring the obvious as usual. I recently had the dubious privilege of visiting HM Young Offender Institution & Remand Centre Feltham to give it its full title, a place I often fantasise about visiting with a wrecking ball. I used the gents in the visitor centre. Over the sink was a notice. It was detailed as to its text, with added illustrations. It was titled...
The temptation to beat my head against the wall was practically irresistible.

Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Yer Rock & Roll 4

Okayokay, the consultation exercise on Yer Rock & Roll 4 has concluded - everyone won and all shall have prizes. Even the two bloggers requesting ska instead - by an indirect route. I'll do the Velvet Underground later in the week but first some reggae. Both the particular musicians selected from a crowded field were mentioned in comments when I posed the question.

The first clip is Burning Spear ruffing up as the guy who posted the clip on YouTube put it. Watch out for the conch near the end. As the guy who presented Jazz Club on The Fast Show would say... 'Nice'.

The second clip is shorter with a longer comment. The cliche about Peter Tosh was that if Bob Marley was a rebel, Tosh was a super rebel. He was in the original Wailers. They made some stunning stuff, mournful elegaic songs with a backbeat with a kick like a mule. Then Tosh and Bunny Wailer left. It was never quite the same again. The Wailers became Bob Marley and the Wailers. Marley went on to be a big international star. Some of the later songs were - dare I say it? - bland. Tosh was never bland. He performed solo. He was murdered in his own home in 1987 by a guy he had tried to help after the guy was released from prison. There is a full length documentary about his life called Stepping Razor -Red X, which is well worth a watch.

Oh and the clip? In 1978 Bob Marley organised the One Love Peace Concert. The background to the concert was a shooting war, principally in the Kingston slums, between armed gangs allied to the main political parties. No doubt Marley meant well but Tosh, who seems to have been dragged there by the scruff of his neck, was having none of it. He smoked a spliff on stage, slagged off the assembled dignitaries and - by way of further giving the finger to the event - ripped into Can't Blame the Youth. I can't find a full length solo version so here is a little taster of the Mystic Man performing Can't Blame the Youth.

Monday, 25 February 2008

Mr Speaker Martin

Overseas readers and those of you who have really, really not been paying attention may need to have it explained that Michael Martin is the Speaker of the House of Commons and in a spot of bother at the moment.
The immediate cause of the bother is expenses and Speaker Martin's allies have sprung to his defence. He is a victim of snobbery, they claim. He is being picked on because he is working class/Catholic/speaks with a west of Scotland accent and these factors annoy a media coterie of snobs. If this were all it was about then I would be the first to spring to his defence.
Sorry, but this won't wash. Undoubtedly, the right wing media scent blood and are a pretty unpleasant bunch, to put it mildly. Equally, some of the 'working class hero' routines being wheeled out in his defence are disingenuous and remind me of the hilarious Blunkett 'Nixon Agonistes' impersonation when that priapic twerp was in some trouble a few years ago.
On expenses, he has broken no rules. Having said that, if it is within the rules to claim an annual £23,000 accommodation allowance for a house in Glasgow in respect of which Mr Speaker has the good fortune to have no mortgage, while simultaneously being provided gratis an opulent apartment in the Palace of Westminster, then the rules are wrong. Similarly, why it is necessary or appropriate for the Speaker's wife to be ferried around in taxis on public funds at a total cost of £4,000 remains obscure.
I suspect the core of the controversy is really two things: Mr Speaker is (a) a dislikeable individual and (b) pretty rotten at his job.
On a completely different topic, Yer Rock & Roll 4 is formulating in my mind and I have decided to put its nature to a public poll. Please state your preference as between (a) Jefferson Airplane (b) Velvet Underground (c) some reggae. 'None of the aforesaid' and 'something else, namely..' will be duly ignored ;)

Sunday, 24 February 2008

France v England rugby...

I duly switched on to France v England rugby on BBC1 last night. Here follow some random observations on the coverage.
1. 'The referee is New Zealand' announces the commentator. What? All of it? I thought. The word 'from' presumably missing.
2. England, having had about 3 nanoseconds possession, take lead when Sackey notices the ball unattended, hoofs it forward and lands on top of it over the line. Wilkinson converts, Wilkinson adds a penalty. England 10 points up.
3. The commentator launches off about the 'fickle' French crowd. First sighting of clunking national stereotype.
4. Half time, England lead 13-7. Over for half time analysis. It must be cold as commentators are all wearing overcoats and funny multicoloured scarves. Did the BBC get in a job lot? The bloke in the middle is Jason Robinson but I can't identify the bloke on the right and didn't catch his name. He looks like Ant. Or is it Dec? Why is it that no-one knows which is which?
5. Pan to young woman with microphone and Frenchman on touchline. The Frenchman is also wearing a funny multicoloured scarf. 'Are you a frustrated Frenchman?' she asks. He talks about the rugby instead.
6. French rally pluckily in second half. English player punches French player under the referee's nose (as it were). 'Fickle' crowd give rousing rendition of Marseillaise (see my blog on subject of Marseillaise below).
7. Wilkinson scores drop goal and penalty. Commentator pronounces on French persons 'smashing their pastis glasses'. Clunking national stereotype 2. I wait for claims that enormous pubic bushes are being anguishedly set on fire. They don't come.
8. Someone called Wrigglesworth wraps it up for England shortly before full time. We had a cleaner called Mrs Wrigglesworth when I was a boy. I wonder if they are related.
9. Where's that Chabal bloke (pictured)? Has he been dropped/injured/indicted for war crimes? He was always a good laugh.
Yes, I wanted England to win. Having said this, I also have Irish and French ancestry so my rugby loyalties can be remarkably flexible save for the one inflexible rule of all sporting events 'anyone but Australia'. Tedious and chauvinist cliches from commentators do grate, though.

Friday, 22 February 2008

low energy lightbulbs

Aren't low energy lightbulbs a pile of poo?

Just asking.

Extraordinary Rendition

By Beau Bo d'Or out of Banksy - class as usual!

As regards rendition, it goes something like this:

1. The UK doesn't allow UK territory to be used for US rendition flights - at least without permission and in fact it hasn't happened at all. Well known fact - everyone knows that.

2. We know this to be the case because a procession of Government ministers have said so - which is nice. Among others, Tony Bliar said so, which is of course hugely reassuring.

3. David Miliband - Foreign Secretary and seemingly one of the less obnoxious members of the ruling junta has just had to eat a huge amount of humble pie.

4. Woops! Those naughty Americans used a British air base to render a couple of characters without telling their staunchest - and of course hugely valued - ally.

5. Mr Miliband pronounces himself 'disappointed'.

6. Any suggestion that the US administration/CIA regards the UK Government as a collection of supine lickspittles to be treated just as they feel like is of course to be deprecated.

Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma Gate

Just a short blog today as I have a stinking cold and also have good intentions to get some work-related reading done from my sickchair. I mentioned under 'Crap Towns' that Hull has my joint favourite street name in the world: 'The land of Green Ginger'. Here is the other favourite street name: 'Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma Gate', which is in York and really exists as can be seen from the pic. The name is apparently a bowlderisation of Anglo-Saxon for 'neither one thing nor the other street' and is the shortest street in York. 'Gate' (often mistakenly taken to refer to gates in the city walls) is undoubtedly from the old Norse 'gute' meaning street, or at least is in northern England. Thus Kirkgate = Church Street, Briggate = Bridge Street etc. Whip-Ma-Whop-Ma Gate was the scene of public floggings in less enlightened times and I wonder if the bowlderisation has anything to do with that fact.

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Not yer Rock & Roll 1

Something to soothe the furrowed brow. This is Pachelbel's Canon in D. Pachelbel was a Bavarian early baroque composer and described by some wag as 'the original one hit wonder'. So here is his one hit with grateful thanks to the kindly soul who enriched my horizons by introducing me to it. Do yourself a favour. Just take a few minutes out of your schedule. Sit back, maybe close your eyes and enjoy. It is utterly sumptuous.

Crap Towns

I spent two days in Stoke this week. With apologies to any local patriots reading this – and the people were friendly – what a dump! The picture is a bit of ex-industrial dereliction in Stoke. It turned my mind to the books Crap Towns: The 50 Worst Places To Live In The UK and Crap Towns II: The Nation Decides. These two books were linked to The Idler magazine (whose website I have plundered pretty shamelessly for this piece) and were the results of public nominations. For the record, Hull won first time around and Luton second time. Some of the named towns were counterintuitive. As well as the usual suspects, Winchester, Windsor and Clapham figured in the roll of dishonour. Some of the comments are savage. This is Portsmouth: ‘The town during the day is the usual non-stop stream of half-dead pensioners, teenage mums and shell-suit bedecked amoebic life forms. By night these people really come alive, however, but choose to come alive using vandalism, street violence, verbal abuse, glue sniffing and rapid, canine-like sex in public against lamp posts’. Hmmm…

This is not all chav bashing, however. Berkhamstead: ‘A town so utterly inbred and pompous I can’t spend more than 12 consecutive hours there without coming out in hives. Berkhamsted is populated almost entirely by lawyers, and their odious offspring - simply because they are the only ones who can afford to live there’. Know the sort…

Under amenities in Woking is recorded simply ‘a pond’.

I loved this line too: ‘If the Daily Mail were a town, it would be Sutton’.

High Wycombe: ‘At the weekend it’s full of city twats, who would step over you if you fell down in front of them during the week, wandering around with their families pretending to be awfully polite and pretending they live in the countryside.

Harlow: ‘Harlow bus station on a Sunday morning in November. Vacant acres of grey concrete. Drizzle. Piles of refuse swirling idly in the wind. A native listlessly dismantling a bus shelter’.

I’m sensing a lot of anger here…

Okay, my nominations:
1. Stoke – nuff said
2. Wolverhampton – which would have been top of the list until I discovered Stoke
3. Hull – which does have joint best street name in the world – The Land of Green Ginger – yes really! - but that’s still no excuse
4. Milton Keynes – the concrete cows says it all

5. Coventry – the town planners finished off what the Luftwaffe started

Wednesday, 20 February 2008

Jailhouse lawyer asks...

Why was a Tory MP stoned driving around in a housing estate at midnight looking for under aged children?

Good question, but annoyingly, the answer is much less interesting than the question. And why did 'Tory MP' turn my mind to the Monty Python 'Upper class Twit of the Year' sketch.

No idea...

silly school uniforms

This is a very English topic, so overseas readers, and especially Americans to whom the concept of a school uniform will seem alien and bizarre, please bear with me. There are a lot of silly school uniforms about. They are in over the top colours, usually with added piping in some clashing bright colour. What do these silly uniforms have in common? They are almost all from private fee paying schools and they scream out one message: 'THIS IS NOT A STATE SCHOOL!!!!' There is one London fee paying school which notoriously makes its hapless pupils wear brown corduroy knickerbocker type things with mustard coloured socks and a mustard coloured top. To walk those mean streets thus attired must be a considerable act of courage for the poor little things.
There is a serious point here. It makes these pupils targets. More years ago than I care to remember and before I did the Bar exams, I did a couple of years schoolteaching at one of the type of inner London comprehensive usually characterised as 'tough'. This particular school was tough in the sense that the battle of Stalingrad was tough. Extracurricular activities started at the top of the scale with a successfully executed murder plot hatched in the school playground down to routine lunacy. You get the general idea. I taught in the remedial department, for the 'less able child' and the 'slower learner'. There was also a highly unofficial third category: bright black kids dumped there for disciplinary reasons. It was there that I developed a taste for reggae but that's another story.
Anyway, it was unwise to arrange for school trips to central London for these pupils. Notwithstanding this, the school authorities did so arrange. I took a party of pupils to - I think - the Commonwealth Institute one fine day. En route we passed by Westminster Abbey and there were a group of Westminster School pupils. For the uninitiated, Westminster School is a jaw-droppingly expensive fee paying school and its pupils wore - and may still wear for all I know - cassocks as a kind of school uniform. My oiks spotted them. 'Ere!' They exclaimed. 'Snobs!' There was a gravel path nearby. Instantly, almost automatically as if this were the correct etiquette for such an occasion, my school trippers seized handfuls of gravel and began to pelt the Westminster schoolboys with it despite my wholly ineffectual attempts at restraint. The Westminster pupils disappeared sharpish.
Nowadays, soclal hostility can result in more extreme forms of activity. The sort of uniform under discussion sends a message: 'mug me - better than average pickings highly likely!' Rather like the muppets who wander around with their laptops in shoulder bags with the manufacturer's logo on. Do they want to be mugged???
So perhaps for as long as we have private schools, maybe they could tone it down on the uniform front in the interests of pupil safety? The real answer is this: we have an education system that despite warm words and routine tutting fails to educate roughly half its pupils to the minimum 5 GCSE at A-C level. This is not - contrary to the impression given - a given. It is an outrage in one of the richest countries in the world. Change that and public schools may find that the gravy train runs into the buffers and they are reduced to becoming - erm - public.

Sunday, 17 February 2008

nudge wink...

I'm off on one of Branson's trains later today for a bit of yer long distance criminal defence so, linking yesterday's blog with altered sign on London Underground and train travel, here's the infamous sign on the platform at Penrith railway station for readers' delectation.
Just one thing: this sign is not the act of some unofficial ironist. It's for real, genuine, official. Strange nobody spotted the innuendo!

Saturday, 16 February 2008


Yay! London Underground has relented in the face of universal ridicule and the Cranach Venus will besport herself on London Underground poster sites after all!
On the subject of London Underground, here is a gem by Darius and Downey who are a couple of guys who go around subverting everyday objects by certain unauthorised additions. The bottom line on this unauthorised addition is a lil indistinct on this pic. It reads 'just like everyone else'. Darius and Downey have a book coming out soon which will no doubt do further damage to my already tragic amazon ratings, but there ya go! At least Venus will be there to comfort me as I slog around the tube system.

Friday, 15 February 2008

Yer Rock & Roll 3

Well this isn't really rock and roll at all. I have a difficulty with country music, namely the deeply held belief that it is mostly maudlin dross. But to every rule there is at least one exception. And with country music, the exception is Johnny Cash. I love the guy to bits so here's a Johnny Cash double header.

The first clip is our man performing 'San Quentin' in - um - San Quentin. It's the most outrageous piece of playing to the gallery ever seen. Cash is obviously having the most wonderful time winding up the prison authorities and giving the cons a few brief moments of exquisite revenge. He was very popular with convicts; they could identify with him. 'He's just like us :D' Watch the cons as they stamp and clap and cheer. Just for a few minutes, this is their time.

The second clip is 'God's gonna cut you down'. Only Johnny Cash could carry off a song like that without inducing a cringe. And does he ever carry it off! There are lots of well-known faces in the clip. See how many you can name and let's have a better performance than last time please!

Maybe next time a bit of yer reggae...

Thursday, 14 February 2008

satellite latest

More news on the rogue spy satellite (blog 28 January). The Pentagon plans to shoot it down before it reaches the earth's atmosphere with a missile. The satellite is the size of a minivan, it transpires. Of course all sorts of space junk lands on earth with little or no consequences. "What makes this case a little bit different ... was the likelihood that the satellite upon descent to the Earth's surface could release much of its 1,000-plus pounds (454 kg) of hydrazine fuel as a toxic gas," said James Jeffries, deputy national security adviser helpfully explained. The real danger is apparently from toxic gas.

Bush seems to have been busy as regards this decision, which is less than reassuring and the naughty suggestion has been made that the possibility that classified material may survive re-entry to earth may have figured prominently as regards actual motivation for this decision. Tut! Such cynicism. Equally cynical is the nasty suggestion that a part of the motivation behind the decision may be to show the Chinese what the US military can do. Doubletut! Some experts are of the opinion that it may be better to simply allow the satellite to burn up upon re-entry.

We shall see. It does occur to me that, given the US military's track record on 'friendly fire' the missile is probably as likely to take out Grimsby as the satellite. Actually, that's not a bad idea...

Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Shock! Horror!

This is Venus by Cranach the Elder, a 16th century German artist and big mate of old grump Martin Luther. Offended? Me neither. The Royal Academy of Arts are having a Cranach exhibition in March to June this year and this Venus was to be on the main poster advertising the exhibition. Not any more! Guess why? London Underground has banned it and will not accept the poster for display on the underground! Guess why they have banned it? Yup - someone might be offended. Poor Venus has fallen foul of a guideline that advertising shall not ' a sexual manner'.

Give me a break!!! The sheer ridiculousness of this defies coherent comment. What kind of a demented world do these people inhabit? I'll confine myself to one observation. There is far too much being offended these days. How about a moratorium on being offended? Or at least maybe accept that from time to time everyone is going to be offended but that's how life is and not run around demanding that whatever it is that offends you is banned. Or avoid doing a London Underground and banning things on the off chance that someone else might be offended. Not being offended is not a human right. At least it wasn't last time I checked...

Monday, 11 February 2008

Yer Rock & Roll 2

I'm going to try and avoid turning this blog into the 'music I really, really like blog' but this is irresistible. It's an acoustic version of Jerry Garcia's 'Reuben and Cerise', recorded in Oregon State Prison. The song charms me enormously (the very first blog I posted was about it). I don't know who put together the pictures to accompany the music but they did an amazingly good job. Let's see who readers can recognise. I'll start you off with a few random ones: Frida Kahlo, James Joyce, Jack Nicholson as the Joker. Then there are images of the less well-known and unknown: the then tallest man in the world and his (bemused looking) parents (I think this was taken in New York in the 1950s) and a rather endearing one of two very young looking lovers (I think again New York about 1960). I could be wrong about the provenance of either/both of these photos, though. Then there are images of assorted locations. I must admit I haven't a clue where they are. A lot are in the states but not all. Enjoy...

Saturday, 9 February 2008

Yer Rock & Roll 1

This is Brucie and the boys absolutely belting out 'Atlantic City' in concert in Paris in 1985. Damn! He's good. All together now 'well they blew up the chicken man in Philly last night/and they blew up his house too...'

Sign here.... :D

Petition against the nomination of Tony Blair as “President of the European Union - Site Here

Thanks to Beau Bo D'Or for image -

Thursday, 7 February 2008

in praise of the Marseillaise....

Despite the temptations, this is not a rant on the well-trodden path of how awful most national anthems are. That would be like shooting fish in a barrel. Instead let me praise the best of the lot by a long distance - the Marseillaise. Doesn't it just make you want to be French (well not necessarily literally but you know what I mean)? Stirring stuff! There's a national anthem you can fill your lungs and unashamedly give some welly.

Allons enfants de la patrieeeeeeeeeeee... Yup! Let's allons immediately!


Formez nos bataillonsssssssssssssssss... Yup! Let's get formez-ing!

I think the reason the Marseillaise is so good when the rest are usually such a sorry pile of bombast is that it is in origin a French revolutionary marching song. It is also incredibly violent in parts.

Qu'un sang impur Abreuve nos sillons!

May tainted blood
Water our fields! (I've also seen sillons translated as furrows)

The Marseillaise is not the only violent French revolutionary song. Less well known is the bloodthirsty 'ça ira' ('that shall be' - or that's my translation anyway) which is all about stringing up aristocrats. There is a splendid hags chorus rendition of it in the 1927 film Napoléon. You can just imagine the singers cackling in the front seats before the guillotone.

Les aristocrates, on les pendra!Le despotisme expirera,La liberté triomphera, Ah! ça ira, ça ira, ça ira

We'll string up the aristocrats! Despotism will die, Liberty will triumph, Ah! that shall be, that shall be, that shall be

Stonkingly good stuff :D

Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Tom Jones

I read that Tom Jones has insured his chest hair for £3.5 million. Against what exactly?


Oh dear! When I started this blog I promised myself that I would keep it light and avoid matters political as far as possible but this is irresistible.
Mr Speaker in his infinite wisdom has appointed a panel of senior MP's to look into the present unpleasantness as regards MP's expenses/the employment of relatives etc.
One of the distinguished gentlemen so appointed is a certain Sir Stuart Bell. He formerly employed his son Malcolm (then 19) as researcher. Unlike some apparently, Malcolm certainly turned up for the job. The proof is that he stole 4 cheques from George Galloway's office and used them to obtain over £2,000 worth of assorted goodies. Now I have no axe to grind against Malcolm who may well have been young and foolish and undoubtedly paid the price (he went inside), but his dad as the right man to sort the present unpleasantness out?

Sunday, 3 February 2008

the insolence of office

I'm afraid I'm going to be serious for a few moments. All governments get above themselves sooner or later. It appears to be some sort of a rule and does nothing but further fuel my anarchist streak. Taking this on board, the present British government has the insolence of office dripping from its (closed) ears.

The cause of my ire? The latest counter-terrorism bill proposes not only to eliminate juries from certain categories of inquest but also to replace coroners with government appointees.

Now why would they want to that? One answer is that the classic symptoms of the insolence of office are a hatred of that which cannot be controlled by government, paranoia about information being placed in the public domain and a desire to manipulate the outcome in any forum that may pose a threat to its interests or image.

This government hates juries. It has been obsessing about getting rid of them in fraud trials for years. It very much wanted to get rid of the right to choose jury trial in 'either way' offences (offences that can be tried in the Magistrates Court without jury or by jury in the Crown Court at the election of the defendant). This is partly motivated by cost cutting but at core there is a distrust of juries - juries are independent and can do as they see fit. As regards inquests, the bill has a clause that would allow the home secretary to prevent a jury being called to an inquest and even to change the coroner for "reasons of national security". When the "national security" card is played alarm bells should ring, not least as this power is not restricted to terrorism cases. As proposed, a politician can direct that an inquest takes place without a jury in circumstances where it ordinarily would (for example a death in police custody) and a politician can insert a placeman in substitution for the coroner.

Proposition one: that the actions of agents of the state, when they cause fatalities, should be considered by a jury of citizens (okay subjects - but that's another story) of that state.

Proposition two: that the judiciary should be independent and not placemen substituting for the 'ordinary' coroner when it suits the home secretary's purpose. This follows from the seperation of powers - okay we don't have a full seperation of powers but it is recognised that the judiciary (and the coroner is a sort of judge) should be independent of the executive or indeed legislature. Remember why a Supreme Court?

Proposition three: why do they want no juries and placemen in substitution for coroner? Answer: so they can hear evidence in secret on grounds of "national security". The nasty suspicion arises that "national security" includes "embarrassing stuff we don't want in the public domain because it is - um - embarrassing". Justice is done in public. If there is any reason why it should be done in camera it had better be a bloody good one. Who decides if the reason is good? An independent judge, that's who. We come back to the placemen problem.

Sooner or later they will have to have an inquest into the DeMenenzes shooting. Could it be that an inquest in the open could bring out a lot of embarrassing stuff and a disobliging verdict by any jury? I only ask. Also, do they seriously imagine that this stuff will stand up to scrutiny under the ECHR? Somehow, I don't think so.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Law Minx asks about bow ties...

For example this?


I think ties are silly things. Okay - trivial, but there ya go. When I say silly, I don't mean just novelty ties, though there there is something peculiarly grating about them. I confess that I own a large number of ties. When I am 'on show' workwise I am expected to wear a tie. It's apparently something to do with 'looking professional'. I wish I didn't have to bother and am pleased to note that the tie seems to be going the way of the hat before it. A couple of generations ago, hats were almost universal for men unless you wanted to make a working-class statement and wore a flat cap instead. Nowadays, the traditional hat is a rare sight. It is becoming more and more acceptable to go about tieless and in an open necked shirt, even on quite formal occasions.

Tielessness has even affected the gentlemen of the bar. By way of explanation, we must the last people in the world who largely wear tunic shirts. The tunic shirt has a detached collar and slots at front and back of the neck for studs to secure the collar. The collars used to be stiff and were sent off to some mysterious laundry for cleaning and starching. The stiff collars have also fallen into disuse and tunic shirts come with a couple off soft collars that can be washed in the usual way - thus saving mucking about and expense - and stiffened by a couple of spills in the slot thingies on the underside of the collars. The reason for the tunic shirts is that for court we change into wing collars and bands (rather like undersized bifurcated bibs). A lot of barristers now just turn up to court tieless in their tunic shirts and put on the wing collars and bands as needed. Someone told me he had told off a junior member of his chambers or doing this as it was not acceptable behaviour for a member of a reputable chambers. 'Pompous old git'. I thought.

But what is the point of ties? Some make statements about what school you went to/regiment you served in/club you are a member of. So what? Snobby stuff mostly... Novelty ties are pretty dire - okay there is the odd clever one but they are few and far between. I admit to ownership of a Bart Simpson tie. I bought it some years ago in a moment of madness. I now never wear it. I also admit to ownership of a tie that says 'hello handsome' in mirror writing. My excuse is that it came in a job lot of ties from a charity shop and I have NEVER worn it! Then there are the dull - the overwhelming majority. I do agree that there is the odd good tie but they are very much the minority. When did you last see a tie you thought 'I really like that'? Or indeed a tie that made an impression at all? Thought not...

Let's bin the silly things for everyday use and maybe reserve them for the odd special occasion.