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» I witnessed a crime

Not my story...
...but one of my favourites.

Many years ago, some of my friends used to do the rubber-sword live action RP - dressing up as orcs and running about in the woods hitting each, that sort of thing.
One Sunday a group of four or five were driving back in a van from an event where they had been playing Knights Templar when, driving past a bus stop, they happened to see some bloke pushing a girl about.
I often wonder what went through the minds of the bloke and girl as a battered transit van pulled up next to them and a gang of knights in shining armour piled out. They restrained the bloke, hailed a cab and paid for it to take the girl home, and then gave the man a short homily: "Remember, son, hitting women is wrong - and we're watching", before leaping back into the van and screeching away.

I wish I'd been there.
(Thu 14th Feb 2008, 12:19, More)

» Sticking it to The Man

The TV License people. Again
A lot of people have already posted about how they don't own a television and the TV licensing people refuse to believe them. In a way, if you don't have a TV you are unusual - figures from the TV Licensing Authority suggest that 99.5% of households in the country have a telly in them and such is the ubiquity of the gogglebox that the Joseph Rountree Foundation uses non-ownership of one as an indicator of poverty (this surprises me, as the people I know who don't own a TV tend to be both better educated and in better jobs than the average).

There are distinct advantages to not owning a TV. I don't run the risk of wasting my time watching witless crap like Eastenders, X-Factor, Big Brother or the new Doctor Who, and anything decent like Life on Mars I can pick up DVDs of at Cash Converters six months after they come out. However, the disadvantage of not owning a TV is that I occasionally get threatening letters warning me that if I don't buy a license for something I don't have I could go to prison.

In the past I've written back to them pointing out that I don't actually own a TV so would they stop contacting me, but as a tactic this obviously hasn't worked because another letter arrived at David Towers recently suggesting, once again, that any moment now a television inspector might be rolling up at my door and if I don't fancy a hefty fine it would be in my interests to send them a fat cheque right now.

It's the hectoring tone which rankles most - the problem with Civil Servants is that despite the name of their chosen profession they are neither civil nor servile and this really gets my goat. This, coupled with a presumption of guilt and ignoring my sterling rebuttals of their accusations in the past, means I have taken a new strategy in my ongoing correspndence with the TV license authority.


Dear Mr. XXXXXX

Many thanks for your letter of 18/5/10 which I received today. I would refer you to my correspondence of [dates] 2001, 2002, 2003, 2006, 2007 and early 2009 in which I informed the TV licencing authority that I do not own any form of visual broadcast receiving equipment, but the futility of referring your organisation to previous correspondence has now become clear.

You have now been threatening to send an inspector to my address 'soon' for more than nine years. I would put it to you that nine years after your initial promise is now longer 'soon'. Indeed, I would call it 'tardy', or possibly even 'sluggish', 'unpunctual' or even 'dilatory'. I'm glad I did not take any time off work to wait for your promised inspector, because I would have run out of holiday long before now.

You may be surprised to learn that I have no great desire to be visited by some jobsworth functionary with a peaked cap and bristling moustache (who will undoubtedly rifle my underwear drawers when I'm not looking) to demonstrate that I am in fact telling the truth when I say I haven't got a TV. However, I was prepared to put up with this offensive intrusion if it would get you to leave me alone.

With the receipt of your latest letter, and the non-appearence of your long-promised, never delivered inspector, I have come to a shocking conclusion; it is not I who am the liar, it is you and your agency. This 'television inspector' whom you have threatened me with for years is never coming at all.

With this in mind, I am issuing you the following challenge. If the Inspector whom you have been promising me would be visiting 'soon' for the last nine years has not visited me by July 30th, 2010, I shall take this as your personal permission, as a representative of the Television Licencing Authority, for me to go out and buy the biggest, most illegal television I possibly can and watch it until I am blue in the face. Furthermore, I shall take a failure to repond to this as your agreement to indemnify me against any and all fines, fees, charges, costs, forfeits and levies which I might incur resultant to this action.

I must ask that you cease your presumption of guilt against me forthwith and send your inspector - as you have repeatedly promised to do - by the end of next month. They will easily recognise my house. It is the one with the large and shiny new television aerial which I look forward to using after August 1st.

Yours, etc,


I'll let you know if they reply.
(Fri 18th Jun 2010, 12:04, More)

» Nights Out Gone Wrong

My life is a episode of the Benny Hill show.
Some of you might be aware of an annual cancer fund raising event called the Playtex Moonwalk. Every year, hundreds of women in their underwear take a sponsored walk in the early hours of the morning to raise money for charity; they do it in Hyde Park these days to avoid letchers like me, but they used to do it in Battersea and the surrounding streets.

Anyway, a few years ago I went off to a party in Vauxhall on balmy May night. A good time was had by all, although I have to confess to feeling oh, so old in a room where I was one of the very oldest people. By 2:30am I was merrily squiffy and, the party being only about 30 minutes walk from my house, I decided to stroll off home. I walked out of the flat, up to Vauxhall station, and turned onto Nine Elms Lane. And there, striding purposefully towards me, were several hundred women in their underwear taking part in the Moonwalk.

I walked all the way home against the flow of a migrating herd of young women in their bras and each and every one of them, I swear, gave me a hostile little look with a thought balloon over her head that said, simply, "pervert". I was quite glad to turn off the main road and head to my flat.
I arrived at the door.
I put my hand in my pocket.
I had an awful moment of realisation.
My keys, I realised, were in my bedroom, and betwen me and them were two locked doors.
Having no choice, I turned around, and began the half hour walk back to Vauxhall. Walking back down Nine Elms Lane, I discovered that the Moonwalk had reached it's midway point and was heading back towards Battersea Park. For the second time in half an hour I was presented with the now familiar sight of hundreds of scantily clad women striding purposefully towards me.

I could hear the thoughts radiating from them, as they did little double takes looking as they passed me: "It's that pervert again!" they all thought. All of them. I bet.

I confess for a moment that I considered turning and running, until I realised that if I did, the saxophone would start up and we'd all start running. So instead, I once again had to walk for several miles against the flow of lingerie-clad womenfolk. I didn't know where to look. Honest.

Like I say, my life is an episode of The Benny Hill Show.

Not that I'm complaining.
(Wed 30th Mar 2011, 10:04, More)

» Faking it

Da, Comrade.
I was feeling under the weather a few weeks ago and ended up skiving off on Friday in order to sit around the house, coughing in a decorously consumptive fashion like a Victorian orphan and generally feeling sorry for myself. After a while of this I got bored and fired up Mediaeval II: Total war, in which I quickly got engrossed in conquering Europe as the Scots; a challenging but ultimately possible pastime.
Eventually, after invading Mexico and Jerusalem I looked at the clock and realised it was the early hours of Saturday - I'd played for almost a full 12 hours without really noticing the passage of time and it struck me what a futile way I'd spent my time; rather than making the best of my enforced confinement, I'd done little but clicketty on the mouse for more than half a full day.

As a result of this, on Saturday I got up and headed out into the great wilds of London intending to find something worthwhile to do. Naturally this involved a trip to Forbidden Planet, but walking past St Giles-in-the-fields church round the corner from Tottenham Court Road tube station I noticed a sign on the door saying something along the lines of "Russian Poetry competition today - Admission free" and thought to myself Russian Poetry, eh? That sounds great! and went in there instead.
It turned out that this was part of an International Festival of general Russianess organised by an organisation called "Pushkin in Britain" and the church was full of Babushkas and the like.
Curious to know more and not put off by the babble of Russian that filled the building (there were surprisingly many people about) I snuck in, not wanting to draw attention to myself, and sat at the back in a row of dour-looking types who wouldn't have been out of place in the 1950's politburo. As I sat, an astonishingly pretty in that high-cheekboned-Slavic-way girl came up and jabbered something incomprehensible to me. I nodded and smiled and she jabbered some more and I, not wishing to seem impolite, nodded and smiled again so she thrust a sheet of paper into my hands and walked off. Looking at the piece of paper, it turned out to be a judges voting form for the poetry competition.
So it was that, despite my knowledge of things Cyrillic being limited to Krushchev's "Nyet! Nyet! Nyet!" speech and having no real idea what was going on, I ended up being a judge in a live-reading Russian Language poetry competition.
I don't know what the form is for judging poetry competitions. Perhaps it's like a job rating pornography and you're supposed to sit there saying things like "Phwor, I wouldn't mind some of her internal rhyming structure!" and "Look at the iambic pentameter on that!". I don't know. At least things were helped along by some of the poems being partially in English, which allowed me to infer that the competition seemed to be about the experience of being Russian in London but when it came down it the only way I could do my judging job at all was to base my marking on the overall Russianness of the entrants.
I tried my best. I tried to take it seriously. But I'm not sure that the broad grin of absurdist glee slapped across my face was the expression I was supposed to have.
Nobody else in there looked very happy, I can tell you. It was one of the things I was looking for in my marking. I was looking for: Dour? Check. Passionate? Check. References to Potatoes, Roman Abramovitch and polonium? Check. Astonishingly sexy Russian accents? Boy oh boy, yes. Hoody Hoo.
My overall winner was a woman whose poem appeared to be called "Do not forget the motherland!" and was delivered in the manner of an enthusiastic newscaster talking about the tractor production figues in about 1962.

It was, without a doubt, the coolest thing I did all weekend.
(Wed 16th Jul 2008, 12:17, More)

» Cringe!

I never met a white supremacist who wasn't a wanker.
There's a downside to aquiring lots of music from anyone who leaves me alone with their computer and a flash drive.

One good thing about being alone in the house is that I can have a bath with the door open. I can hit the 'random play' function on my computer and turn the volume up good & loud and have music in the bath. It's really nice; with (at last count) 85ish gb of music, I rather like hitting random - there's a lot of stuff I don't know about in there and random play throws up some interesting variety. Of course, one thing I hadn't realised during my music-filching from friends and acquaintances is some of the stuff I'd pick up in the process, amongst which, it turned out, were the jolly complete works of White Supremacist C&W singer 'Johnny Rebel' sitting in the depths of my hard drive. You can probably guess the rest.

Belting out of the speakers, good and loud, a cheery rendition of a song about what you might expect to see if you walked through an immigrant area of town. Suffice to say, it wasn't a song you want playing at full volume on Saturday afternoon in South London with the window open.
I sat bolt upright, hopped out of the bath, and ran through to turn it off before the neighbours grabbed their pitchforks and stormed my flat. Running through, I stubbed my toe painfully against the step and was reduced to a pathetic hopping and flailing into the living room. As I did so, I looked up through the window and directly into the eyes of the yuppie couple in the flat across the road.
Their thoughts could not have been more clear if they'd held a couple of flags and semaphored them to me.
"There is a fat, naked, wet man covered in bubbles in the flat opposite dancing to loud, White Supremacist Country & Western Music."
I turned the music off and fled from the room. Behind me, as if by telepathy, I could hear their conversation. "I'm going to sue that Estate Agent."

Once I got dried I searched my MP3's and deleted Johnny Rebel.
You can't be too careful.
(Mon 1st Dec 2008, 11:54, More)
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