Monday 7 April 2008

Not laughing about the policemen

14st 1lb; zero alcohol; 1,397; Peking.

So there I was last night, snoozing gently under my duvet on the sofa as a result of trying to watch ITV’s computer animated successor to Spitting Image, Headcases. Before I nodded off, I was thinking that the graphics were really rather good and that humour wasn’t as completely lacking as I’d feared it might be after enduring a long run of endlessly repeated and remarkably unfunny trailers. That is to say, it wasn’t very good, but then I seem to recall that Spitting Image got off to a pretty shaky start, too, and much of it was crap even at the best of times. As in most things, we only remember the good bits, like Mrs Thatcher and the vegetables. Though my personal all-time favourite Spitting Image sketch featured David Attenborough whispering excitedly about a bizarre and extremely rare rain forest creature which had just laid a solitary egg after 50 years. Cut to animal sitting with a napkin tied around its neck, tucking into an eggy soldier, and resulting Attenborough despair. Well, it made me laugh. But then I’ve always had a rather peculiar sense of humour.

My second favourite was the song “I’ve never met a nice South African”, which I enjoyed for itself and even more retrospectively, when a university friend who shared a house with a white South African expatriate described how he had been forced to keep a straight face while he watched the programme with his landlord and several visiting Boer boors, who kept saying “What’s supposed to be funny about that?” Only in a silly accent.

But I digress. I was woken from my slumbers by the theme music for the news, which I rarely see, and was too lethargic to get up and switch the set off. So I was treated to the absurd spectacle of the Olympic torch being escorted around London by a posse of Chinese thugs in blue tracksuits, who were barking orders and pushing people around as though they actually had some sort of authority in this country. Ably assisted, of course, by huge numbers of the Metropolitan Police, who were handling things with their customary good manners and self-restraint. Culminating in the ITN cameraman himself being knocked over and subjected to a good kicking in what looked like Parliament Square, either just before or just after the torch was paraded up Downing Street so that the Great Ditherer could ceremonially receive it while carefully not actually touching it, thereby making himself look ridiculous (as usual) and managing to get up the noses of people on both sides of the argument about China’s actions in Tibet.

All in all, the whole thing made me so bloody cross that I was out of bed before six this morning, writing a completely different column about the way that the police have developed from a friendly and approachable local presence into a sort of occupying army, spending most of their time shuffling papers in their cosy offices and proclaiming themselves “too busy” to respond to burglaries or other “petty” crimes, yet curiously able to turn out mob-handed for publicity stunts, particularly if there is the chance of a bit of gratuitous violence.

I sent it off to the paper with an unusual sense of satisfaction, then thought, “Oh dear. I hope I don’t need to call on the police for any help in the foreseeable future. Or, indeed, ever.”

Our walk this afternoon was considerably milder than yesterday’s. And maybe my luck is finally changing, because we kept seeing hail belting down at other points on the circuit, while we remained in constant sunshine. At the farthest point from home, the traditional point for a blizzard or horizontal rainstorm to break out, I stood in the sun admiring a rainbow through the hail that was lashing the little group of houses that the dog and I call home.

What awful timing: just missed the rainbow

Apart from the news, another thing I never watch is Tonight No Longer with Sir Trevor McDonald, sandwiched between the two segments of Coronation Street. But I stuck with its shock undercover exposé this evening because I stayed in a Radisson Edwardian Hotel the last time I had to go to London when my club was shut for August. I don’t think I’ll be doing that again.

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