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Saturday, 31 December 2011

For what we are about to receive ......

There has been a sense that this break has been the last leave before the big offensive. A feeling that rather than being the raucus, uninhibited celebration of the end of the old year and the starting of the new, it has been a time of rest and recuperation, of checking equipment and buckles, making good defects and preparing to go over the top. There are very few to whom I've spoken over the holiday who don't believe that 2012 will be a year like few others. Just as August 1914 marked the end of the nineteenth century, 2012 could mark the end of the twentieth. 

The advice I'm giving myself is to be prepared for anything, to learn from the Jews who left Germany in 1938. Lives and the bonds of family are infinitely more important than wealth and property. Change can come suddenly, violently and unpredictably and we will need one another, will need to rediscover the benefits of mutual assistance, once the realisation comes that governments will be as powerless and insecure as a fishing shack before a Tsunami. 

There's also been a shakeout going on around the world in which the division is marked not by politics or ideology but but by morality. Those who would follow the Archangel Michael and take a spear to the Devil, who would oppose sleaze, peculation, jobbery, corruption, fraud, deception, nepotism, inequity, selfishness and the compassionless exploitation and use of others please line up this side. We're going to be fighting hard against a determined enemy in 2012. 

As for currencies and economies, the Euro will collapse in 2012 of course, as will the economies of Greece, Italy, Japan, Ireland, Spain, Belgium, Portugal and probably France. Yes, Japan. And intergenerational conflict will loom large - and not as simple as generations X and Y versus the boomers. We boomers must really learn that life is about quality, not quantity, and that sucking in the resources of the planet to extend our lives by another quarter-year really isn't the most equitable use of resources. Frankly, we need to start dying in larger numbers. Then X and Y can have our stuff whilst they're young enough to enjoy it. 

There will be destruction and disorder; our traditions, our honour, our kinships will be thrown down as much as our churches and our council halls. We must rebuild. We must make an alliance between the generations that uses the strength of the young and the wisdom of the old together to build anew our communities and culture. 

Over Christmas a memory has returned of something I've forgotten for forty years - the late-night service of Compline we used to celebrate in the school chapel. It's always been my favourite text in the breviary (well, the pre-1974 version, anyway) not least because my Latin at the time was good enough to realise that 

Hostémque nostrum cómprime,
Ne polluántur córpora

Didn't quite mean the same as the sanitised version sung by the monks;
Our ghostly enemy restrain,
Lest ought of sin our bodies stain.

But mainly I loved the line "Brethren, be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil goeth about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour".

And if I've any advice to impart for 2012, that's it. 

Thursday, 29 December 2011

The State fails, so the people pay

Shifting the responsibility for licensing pubs and clubs from magistrates to the State has been the most colossal failure. Magistrates had a fair degree of discretion as befits those to whom we devolve such powers and although a licensing refusal could be appealed it rarely was; once the bench had decided that a landlord or landlady was no longer a fit person to hold a licence, then time was up. The State's petty functionaries could be allowed no such discretion, and licensing decisions based on a tick-list designed to ensure that Moldovan lesbians were treated equally have given us instead High Streets clogged with half-clothed drunks as they spill from places the old magistrates bench would never have permitted.  

But rather than admit defeat and retreat the limit of the central State, the government in a move so incomprehensible it must be genius has decided that this 'binge drinking' nuisance will be best solved by imposing a minimum alcohol price on supermarket wine. "Yes, I admit that it hasn't worked and that we've got it wrong. But by leaving it as it is and charging you an additional £700m in tax instead will at least ensure our chums in Diageo continue to do well even if it cripples the micro-brewery in your village" 

It stinks like rotten Mackerel. 

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Shoplifter's Charter

The post-Christmas sales on Oxford Street are traditionally the time when the 'bridge and ferry' gangs of South London catch up on their shoplifting. They have several factors in their advantage;
1. Going 'possed up' means the one or two security guards on duty are much less likely to detain you, and that the detainee can be freed by force if required
2. The huge crowds provide good cover, especially if six or eight of you hit a store at the same time
3. Security guards aren't heroes. They know you carry knives, and they know their hi-vis vests aren't made of Kevlar.
4. Most police are still on leave, and those on duty won't even respond to a shoplifting incident
5. Even the kind of legitimate shoppers who use the same shops you target are unlikely to be from that cohort of society who will intervene to stop you. 
I've no idea how much stock Oxford Street loses to shoplifters at this time of year (Bill Quango might know) but clearly it's still profitable. And Oh yes, there's a point number six;
6. Don't target the same shop at the same time as a rival shoplifting gang ...