Tag Archives: blind

In defence of blind and dishonest policemen

Up The Creek comedy club in Creek Road, Greenwich, London

Sometimes you need scum to hold society together. Take the police and politicians.

Yesterday I was in Greenwich.

Around lunchtime, I was walking on the other side of the street from Up The Creek comedy club.

Five men were standing outside the club. One man was being repeatedly punched in the face by two of the men. The other two were standing watching.

At around ten o’clock last night, I went out to buy some chocolate for my eternally-un-named friend from a late-night shop. I was walking along the pavement a little way from Up The Creek, near a road junction – If you know Greenwich, it was at the start of Creek Road, where traffic from central Greenwich’s square one-way system comes round into two-way Creek Road.

There was heavy traffic driving along the other side of the road. A man wearing a grey suit was standing in the middle of my side of the road near the junction, facing the on-coming traffic, doing slow-motion tai-chi moves. His back was to the blind corner of the junction. No traffic was coming round the corner behind him (it is controlled by traffic lights). But any vehicles coming round that corner would not see him until the last moment and would, fairly inevitably, hit him.

As I approached him, the man slowly staggered off the road and onto the pavement behind me. A few minutes later, as I was leaving the chocolate shop, the man staggered in asking where he could buy drink.

Yesterday, an MP used Parliamentary privilege to reveal that Sir Norman Berttison (South Yorkshire police chief at the time of the 1989 Hillsborough football disaster in which 96 people died – currently Chief Constable of West Yorkshire) “boasted” about a plot to “fit up the Liverpool fans”. It is claimed he said at the time: “We are trying to concoct a story that all the Liverpool fans were drunk and we were afraid that they were going to break down the gates so we decided to open them.”

The (allegedly) Independent Police Complaints Commission has been given the names of 1,444 officers, including 304 serving police, to investigate over the disaster. According to the Daily Mail, around 164 police statements were altered to make them look more favourable to the agreed police version of events.

And, according to a piece in the Daily Mail on 12th September this year, “Richard Wells, who took over at South Yorkshire Police a year after the 1989 tragedy that killed 96, admitted the scale of the conspiracy to pin the blame on the innocent dead and injured had left him ‘disappointed and angry’.”

Other people might have said that a conspiracy made them disappointed and angry. He appears to have said it was “the scale” of the conspiracy which disappointed him. An interesting distinction.

Samurai swords, as used by armoured Japanese warriors

I was also interested to read a couple of days ago in the Guardian a follow-up to a previous news story in which a policeman used a 50,000 volt taser on a 62 year-old blind man because he thought the blind man’s white stick was a samurai sword.

White cane of a type used by blind or partially-sighted people

I had not realised that this registered blind man, who previously had two strokes and reportedly is only able to walk at a “snail’s pace” was tasered in the back.

The policeman involved has not been suspended pending any investigation and is still allowed to carry and use a taser.

As far as I understand it, police rules on tasers say they should only be used when there is an imminent and high threat to the police officer involved. Quite how this could happen when the “threat” is a man walking away at a snail’s pace with his back to the policemen, is an interesting logistical point.

“Perhaps the police are employing blind people themselves,” I suggested to my eternally-un-named friend last night. “Perhaps it’s an equal opportunities initiative.”

“You’re very unfair,” she said.

“Tell me about the waving knives story,” I suggested and pressed the record button of my iPhone.

“I had just finished shopping at Marks & Spencer’s in Greenwich,” she said. “It was about six o’clock at night and I was stepping out of the door. The pavement was empty except for this child of maybe ten or eleven who was maybe two shops away, stomping along, with his arms moving as he marched. He wasn’t slow. He looked like he knew where he was going. He had a plan. And, in each hand, he had a foot-long bread knife. He wasn’t waving them about over his head; they were swinging backwards and forwards as part of his marching.

“He was a little guy, which made the knives look even longer. He was maybe up to my chin and I’m 5’4”. He was stomping along. There was no-one on the pavement near him. I think maybe they had gone into shop doorways. But I was coming out of Marks & Spencer’s and my brain went: Do I just walk past him and assume he’s not going to stab me? Or do I not risk that because he’s obviously off on some odd mindset. It might be a case of Oh, I’ve got a knife… Ooh, there’s a woman. Let’s stab her!

I wasn’t stupid enough to think I wasn’t at risk. So I stepped back in, found the security guard and said, There’s a boy just about to pass… and, as I’m talking to him, the kid passes with the bread knives and the security guy rushed off to have a look at the video they have of what’s passing in the street.”

“And you never heard any more about the kid or anything happening?” I asked.

“No,” my eternally un-named friend said.

“And it was a few years ago,” I asked.

“Yes,” she said, “I think it was before the shooting in my square… We used to have gangs running through from one side to the other.”

“How many?” I asked. “I thought it was just one person on one night.”

“No,” she corrected me. “There was one person who was shot. That was one gun on one night, though who knows how many guns the others had? No, there were gangs of ten or twenty passing through. I didn’t count and it was a bit hard to tell. It was like rats going down holes. And, if you’re coming back from shopping and they’re running towards you – Whooaaa! – You suddenly pass someone who’s charged towards you holding some metal bar in his hand, looking back over his shoulder.

“They were having a whale of a time having fights. It happened for about two or three years. It stopped after the actual shooting. Sometimes the police came, but there was a time when I phoned up and said: There’s a bunch of youths outside. What do I do? 

“What are they doing now? I was asked.

Well, at the moment, I said, they’re just sitting on a bench talking, but one’s just thrown a glass panel from a shower unit into the children’s play area

Well, said the policeman, that’s a past event now, isn’t it?That was a minute ago, so it’s not happening now, is it?

But, I said, there’s obviously something wrong with them. It was a six-foot high pane of glass…

“It was like you’ve heard in Victoria Station. They would have running fights. Wasn’t someone stabbed there? That was what was happening in Greenwich for a couple of years. You would be sitting here and there would be a commotion outside for five minutes or half an hour, then it would stop a bit and you’d look out and see little groups because they were waiting for someone or whatever.

“When the shooting happened, the first I knew was this BANG! and everything went deathly quiet. The next time I looked out, I saw a little policewoman standing with tape at one entrance to the square, cordoning it off. All the entrances were taped off.

“Someone told me They’ve shot someone, but he hasn’t died and I said Well, that’s a pity. One down, nineteen to go – because you got so blasé with it.

“You no longer cared if people killed each other, you just wished they would and would they mind hurrying up about it, please? That’s the truth. That’s how you felt. It’s where you live. The noise was annoying, it was a bit frightening to step out. You’d think Oh, I could do with some milk. Will I go out now? Better not. Maybe that would be a bit daft.

“You just had to live with it, because no-one really did anything about it.”

Last night, I moved my car at about one o’clock in the morning, ready to drive away from Greenwich. I have had it broken-into twice in central Greenwich, so I now park it in a different area. As I turned a corner, there was the man in the grey suit I had seen a few hours earlier. Now he was staggering along in the middle of a side road, heading towards Creek Road, a main road from central Greenwich into London.

As I turned my car right into Creek Road, he staggered onto the pavement at the other side of the street. As I drove away, in my rear view mirror, I saw him turn around, half cross the main road then turn into the road, walking, swaying along the middle of the left side of Creek Road, his back to any oncoming traffic, heading towards London.

I hoped he would meet some police.

That is not a hope I often have.

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Filed under Crime, Police

Three things I cut out of my blogs: Apple computers, racism and bankers

Cutting edge blogging?

Occasionally, there are little bits that I do not include in my blogs which I think are interesting but which just don’t fit that particular blog. Here are three of them:


I mentioned to a friend that I had once interviewed Douglas Adams, who wrote The Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy, in which the answer to everything is 42.

“Oh,” she said, “I have a friend who is a big fan of The Hitchhiker’s Guide. He works for Apple computers in California. He has to alter things and, whenever he comes to some situation where he is not certain of the amount to alter it by then, if it’s vaguely sensible, he puts in the number 42. Obviously, if it should be nearer to five billion, then he doesn’t. But, if it’s a change that might have a numerical value between 1 and 100 then, if he’s not sure, he just puts in 42.”

“Does it usually work?” I asked.

“It does,” my friend told me.


When I was talking to violinist Bobby Valentino recently about his surreally low payments for the worldwide hit song Young at Heart, he told me:

“A few years ago, when I was with Los Pistoleros, I was at a festival up at Newcastle for the Tall Ships Race and the BBC were hosting the website for the festival and we said we were the best honky tonk band in the land and they censored the word ‘honky’. They put five asterisks instead of the word honky. They said it was racist.”

I asked Bobby: “Did the word ‘honky’ as in ‘honky tonk’ ever have a racist meaning?”

“No,” he said, “The poor white folks in the Southern states of America were called honkies because they went to honky tonks. Honky tonk is the origin of the word ‘honky’ but a honky tonk is basically a working men’s club down South. It wasn’t a formal club, just a bar.

“There are loads of songs with the words ‘honky tonk’ in them. The BBC play the Rolling Stones’ Honky Tonk Women without any problem, but they thought the phrase the best honky tonk band in the land was racist!”


When I recently chatted to London Comedy Cafe owner Noel Faulkner about the state of British comedy, we started by talking about Las Vegas.

“The one time I went to Vegas,” I told him, “I decided not to gamble at all, but I went into this massive room with rows and rows of one-armed bandits and a blind Chinese woman was led in to play on the machines. I would have thought the whole point of one-armed bandits is that they’re visual: you see the images on the wheels rotate and you see them either line up or not line up. This woman was blind. I suppose she heard the sound and that was the atmosphere she got from it. But it was bizarre. A blind woman pulling the handle on a one-armed bandit in Vegas.”

“Las Vegas to me,” said Noel, “is all these machines and they’re saying Yeah, just put yer money in here. It’s Amusement! Certainly it’s fucking amusing. To the casino owners. But the banks are a bigger racket than Vegas. At least when you go to Vegas, you know you’re being fucked. Vegas is for the damned.

“You go to Vegas; you get fucked.

“You open a bank account, you don’t expect to get fucked, but you really get it up the ass.

“At least in Vegas you get to pull a handle a few times. When you get involved with the banks, you get to pull your own dick, that’s all, because you feel like a wanker after they’ve fucked with you.

“All these Boris bicycles around London,” Noel said, “are sponsored by Barclays and they have the name painted on them but, instead of RCLAY, I want to go round painting STARD on them.”

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Filed under Censorship, Comedy, Computers, Finance, gambling, Music

True tales from the Comedians’ Cricket Match?

Apparently, during filming of the new movie Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, author John Le Carré was phoned up and a key line was added. It was during a scene in which new information was assessed and the line was:

“Patently a fabrication from beginning to end. Just could be the real thing.”

I have found that the more unlikely a story, the more likely it is to be true. When comedian say something likely, it is often made up; when they say something too OTT to be true… it is often a toning-down of a far more OTT truth.

Yesterday, I was at the comedians’ annual cricket match against the locals at Staplefield in West Sussex. It seems to be held every six months.

Cricket is possibly the dullest game ever invented. But you certainly meet some interesting people and hear some interesting stories at the comedians’ cricket match.

While theoretically watching, I got talking to a retired fireman who used to work in Slough. He told me that, occasionally, he would cycle into work to Slough from Staplefield, a journey of 54 miles. It would take him three hours but keep him fit. And he once cycled from Slough to Northampton and back – a 140 mile round trip – to see a girlfriend.

Clearly Staplefield harbours some hardy people.

One comedian at the match told me about not appearing on the Sky TV talent show Don’t Stop Me Now in which contestants are ejected in various odd ways including being jerked up into the air by a rope or wire or dropped through a trapdoor.

The comic in question was told he could not use the word “Nazis” in his routine because “people might be offended”. Not offended by the routine or the gag, which was inoffensive, but by any use of the word “Nazis” in any sentence. Another problem was that he turned out to be too heavy for either the rope or the trapdoor. Sky did not use him on the show.

Another comic (and it is fairly obvious to other comics who this is) told me that, in horse racing, there had been a fad a few years ago – if a fellow jockey was asleep – to drop either snot or sperm onto the unconscious person’s closed eyes.

“Snot and sperm,” I was told, “are both at body temperature, so the person doesn’t wake up. But, when they do, they find their eyelids are stuck together for a little bit and they think they are blind… How we used to laugh!”

This story vies with another for most bizarre story of yesterday.

I heard the other story at local pub the Victory Inn from a guy of about 30 who claimed he had been in the Army and had been in Afghanistan. His tour over there is not actually relevant, but I mentioned to him the story I have blogged about before of the Irish Republican sympathiser who was put unconscious on a plane to New York.

The story I was told yesterday was a tale of a personal dispute between a couple of Army men and a non-Army person who had screwed them out of money. When the money could not be recovered, they removed him from his house one night, drugged him so he was unconscious, put him in a container lorry, drove it to the Balkans to a place they knew in a forest on a remote hillside miles from any town or village. They stripped him, gave him a tab of LSD and left him there on the hillside, naked and presuming he was still in the UK.

“What happened to him?” I asked.

“I’ve got no idea,” the man in the pub told me. “Not interested.”

He shrugged his shoulders.

The story seems unlikely but, perhaps because of that, it has the ring of truth about it.

Who can tell betwixt reality and fantasy, especially if you find yourself naked and alone on a hillside where any locals you meet will be speaking in an unknown language.

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Filed under Crime, Drugs, Eastern Europe, Movies

A VIP’s surprise visit to see a burnt-out UK immigrant removal centre

I first met mad inventor John Ward around 25 years ago. Despite being admittedly eccentric, he has held down a stream of very sensible jobs. He used to work for the Barclaycard credit card company and, at one time, held a gun licence for several weapons.

I was never nervous about him working at Barclaycard.

Yesterday, he told me about something which happened almost ten years ago, when he was working at the occasionally controversial Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre for American-owned Aramark Facilities Management who had a contract with the Group 4 security company which had a six-year contract from the UK government to run the detention centre.

No government contracts are ever simple.

On February 14th 2002, Yarl’s Wood was almost entirely burned down during a riot by disgruntled detained would-like-to-have-been immigrants. It did not re-open until September 2003.

John tells me that, “one particular morning, a little while after the place had settled down to sort out the mess caused by the fire, there were phones ringing everywhere, telling people about the imminent arrival of a VIP from the Government who would be on a whistle-stop tour of the site and would we all  ‘please see that everything is cleaned up spick-and-span’ for the VIP who could not be named, even to us, for security reasons.

“All the cleaning staff set-to with a vengeance and not a speck of dust could be seen after the Cleaning Manager went round everywhere with a pair of white cotton gloves on to test for any small grains of dirt which might have escaped the sudden high profile purge.

“Even though the Centre was ‘stood down’ and not operating normally due to the fire damage, cleaners still cleaned everything spotless each and every single day regardless, as the contract to do so was given by Group 4 and was still ‘active’. You literally could have eaten your dinner off the floor it was kept so clean. But it was cleaned up even cleaner than clean for this soon-to-arrive government VIP. They did not want him to see dirt anywhere.

“A short while before the VIP was due to arrive, word got round as to who it was. The reaction on the faces of the staff was something to behold.

“The visit, when it happened, took all of 12 minutes. The ministerial Jaguar sped into the Reception Area and the VIP got out with his entourage and wafted into the building and, almost as soon as the Minister arrived, he departed.”

John Ward tells me they had no feedback on what David Blunkett, the blind Home Secretary, thought of the super-clean state of the Centre and, he adds, “the comments of his guide dog were not recorded either, but I heard some of the comments of the staff who had been desperately re-cleaning everything for the visit. They were not impressed by irony.“


Filed under Crime, immigration, Politics, PR