Friday, 24 December 2010

Well, are YOU ready?

What is it with this "are you ready for Christmas"? We always feel slightly bemused when people, doubtless well meaningly, ask this strange question. I mean, is there some sort of deadline when someone at the BBC broadcasts the word "GO"? Is there a point, beyond which, if one is not `ready` that some horrible ill befalls one? Is this why there are people flapping their stressed-out way around supermarkets up and down the land, breathlessly muttering to themselves, "I'm not ready, I'm not ready, when will I be ready, am I ready yet? - OH MY GOD,  I'M NOT F@@KING READYYYYYY!"

Well I'm always ready. Always ready for a pint with friends, a cuddle from any member of the family, especially Mrs Hogday, always ready to chat with friends or strangers, providing they are nice and not pains in the arse. So I just don't get it when I'm asked if I'm ready for bloody Christmas.

Anyway, I hope all my blog pals and acquanitances, who I've enjoyed swapping yarns and comments with this past year, are as happy and as healthy as they can be. Are you ready for this? :)

Friday, 10 December 2010

Putting off the inevitable

My pal over at Behind Blue Eyes is spying on me. He stole my Friday rant in a perfect flanking manoeuver so that I won't come out (until someone sings `Jerusalem` to me), but I salute him. I also salute the first comment.

Having had to re-write my post, I have decided to start from the splash of paint on the Royal car and work backwards. I used to work in Royalty and diplomatic protection. In the earliest of my days in London, it was a very low key affair, primarily because the Monarch did not want Metropolitan plod within earshot or line of sight, to the extent that up until 1973 the Royal cars didn't even have police radios installed in them. Her Maj` felt that in her busy schedule, the little jaunts she spent in the Royal Rollers should, as far as practicable, be a brief respite, a period of quiet and uninterrupted contemplation. Quite understandable. It was the attempted kidnap of her daughter in The Mall and the attempted murder of said Princess's personal protection officer, Insp Jim Beaton and my colleague, Pc Mick Hills, that changed all that and despite the wishes of Royalty to be plod free, their bullet catchers deserve the means to summon help.

These days security, although ramped up considerably, is still tempered with that original wish of the Monarch and her family to be as close to the public as the Met Commissioner and the Government will permit. But it ain't that easy a concept, whereas protecting the US President, with that veto taken out of his hands, is pretty straightforward - and I have experience of working alongside the US Secret Service (Clinton's) at very close quarters. So I wasn't surprised to see that Charles and Camilla copped some aggro en route to the London Palladium last night, albeit I was infuriated that it had happened at all and how they became embroiled but, as anyone who's been in those situations knows, a crowd can shift and reform very quickly indeed. I suppose I should feel relieved that some twat didn't get slotted from several 9mm Glocks - but the use of firearms in crowds presents the greatest challenge to protection officers and it was highly likely that lethal force was not an option - or at the very least the moment had passed in a nanosecond, but then again that's all it takes for a Royal in public to take incoming, which is where the bullet catcher earns it's pay - do you see the dilemma?

This morning, we could have had the arguably worse spectre of a `student martyr`,the incident and the corpse hijacked by the slavering extremists of the various unions and SWP, spouting bollocks on behalf of  their own causes. I can hear the whining now, "Why was he/she shot 6 times"? "Can't the cops tell the difference between a pot of paint and a grenade"? ad nauseum. I think the p.o.s. who attacked the Royal couple weren't the only ones lucky to have `dodged a bullet`, justifiable though a shot under the circumstances might have been, had an armed officer seen it coming - but they didn't.

I was once on a traffic point in Pall Mall, at 11.30pm, on a freezing winters night. Her Maj` The Queen Mother was returning to her home from a dinner in The City. She had no motorcycle outriders and no SB protection vehicle in tow. It was low key. All we had to do was see that she didn't have to stop, by being at strategic junctions and only intervening should the lights be against her. My job was one of the most crucial I'd ever been given (sarcasm). I was to stand by the pedestrian controlled traffic lights, just before Marlborough Road, to make sure that no one pressed the button to cross Pall Mall and obstruct the Royal. It was a sub-zero cold night. I had my overcoat (called a `British Warm`, and only issued to drivers or r/t operators, so was a bit of a status symbol) and my Walther PP. The streets were all but deserted, the wind was howling and there was sleet in the air. I huddled out of the wind in a doorway, about 30 feet from the traffic lights, knowing that no one would come near them. My radio crackled and I heard "NLT 1, through T-Square". She was on the last leg of the journey back to Clarence House, my leg.

I peeped out of my shelter and gazed up Pall Mall towards Trafalgar Square and tried to pick out the familiar number plate and bulky shape of the old Roller. There it was, about 200 yards away. The driver gave the usual half a second flash of the tiny, high intensity but low profile, blue light concealed along the top of the windscreen. I waved my arm in acknowledgement but decided to stay put, because there was not a soul about. Then, just as the car approached the lights, to my utter horror a tramp lurched out from another doorway, intent on heading up to Piccadilly. He tottered up to the crossing and pressed the button as Her Maj`s car, the only one in the entire f'ing street, was about 50 yards away. The Rolls Royce glided to a halt, as only Royal Rollers do, the tramp shuffled across as the Green Man signal instructed and, as he did, he touched his forehead with his forefinger in a gesture of thanks, without even looking up. I was stunned. The Royal Car continued on its graceful journey and I noticed that the chauffeur was laughing his head off. Hopefully, my sergeant wouldn't hear about it or I'd be stuck on for neglect of duty. I only mention it now, decades later, because I know he's dead.

As for the demonstration, I totally concur with Blue. In the immediate post war years, this country had the most innovative and talented engineering base, from which we stood shoulder to shoulder (and in many cases head and shoulders above) the industrial giant that was America. We produced the first turbine engined transport aircraft and actually sold them to the US, Canada and elsewhere, a remarkable achievement considering the way that the US protected its aircraft industry. We developed the English Electric Canberra jet aircraft, that we sold to the Americans, who then built them under licence and which are still flying, somewhere. We developed the first  vertical take off fighter jet and we sold that to the Americans (and Spanish Navy). The Americans developed and improved it with the R&D money that their Government allowed, but ours didn't. Our Government has just scrapped that aircraft we know better as the Harrier. All of this and more didn't come from people who had degrees in warehouse management, valuable though I'm sure that must be, it came from physicists, mathematicians, chemical engineers, structural engineers... Engineers. This did have an irritating side effect, it was called the Brain Drain, where our brightest and best were lured away by America, Canada, Saudi Arabia and many other nations who can spot a bargain when they see one.

I would support to the hilt the means of nurturing young people with those skills, giving them scholarships, bursaries, supported places in universities, whatever it takes. I'd vote to have our rising stars' fees covered, in part or in whole, from public funds depending on their proven talent and potential. I won't vote to have some lazy-arsed spuds funded to go to `yooni`  just to put off the inevitable day when they have to realise that this world does not owe them a fucking living, just because they think it does because, in a lot of cases, it bloody doesn't.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Money can't buy you....grip

Up here in the frozen wastes there are these folks who like to splash out on everything. They are logophilic bling-mingers. I have studied their antics over the past week in the arctic conditions on our roads and have compiled a shortlist of the crappest blingmobiles you can drive on snow laden roads:

In 5th place: All Jap sports cars
In 4th place:  Anything with "Turbo" or "X" appearing in its name
In 3rd place: BMW X3's and 5's (I know, these have "X" in their name but they deserve an extra mention as they really are naff and slide about like crazy)
In 2nd place: BMW's, generally

and in 1st place, the most hopeless car I've seen on snow, is.....

the new Mercedes 230 series, one of which I had to push, even on a totally level car park under a mere 6 inches of fresh snow - the thing just sat there with its rear wheels slowly revolving like they were on ball bearings. A knackered old Rover on skinny tyres ran rings around it. Beware!