Category Archives: articles

What’s so funny about the Passion?

When I was six, I had a wheeze. I had noticed that gumboots were impermeable to water from the outside, and deduced that they must also be impermeable from the inside. So my younger sister and I decided to fill up all the gumboots in the hall with water, and then watch some adult putting his or her foot in it.

The scheme was a triumph, and we were pursued around the garden by an adult armed with a stick – I am not exaggerating – as thick as your arm. We knew it would hurt; we knew we were for it in a big way. But our very terror reduced us to helpless and invertebrate laughter.

We both laughed so much that we couldn’t run, and we sank to the grass at the bottom of the garden and were soundly and deservedly thrashed.

I mention this because my mind has been much occupied with themes of terror and laughter, ever since a group of us went to see the first showing of The Passion of the Christ. I am afraid to say that I was late, and, as I entered the foyer of the Odeon West End, a man with an earring broke off from his mobile phone call and said: “It’s all right, Mr Johnson, you’re in time for the Crucifixion.”

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We want Kit Kats – not Veggie Vouchers

It was round about 3pm yesterday and all I had eaten for lunch was some kind of measly chicken sandwich, and as I sat at my desk I could feel my resolve weakening like spaghetti on the boil.

It was there, waiting for me in Rudi’s chill cabinet, not 100 yards down the road. It was an extra large Kit Kat. It was a huge chomping chunk, chocker with choccie. Compared to the misery of a chicken sandwich, it was a taste explosion of sugars and fats and scrummy cocoa solids and buttermilk. It would be so gooood, I thought to myself; but no, no, I reflected. It was bad. It was naughty.

No sooner had I decided finally and irretrievably not to go down to the shop than wham, by some teleporting process beyond my comprehension I found myself in Rudi’s, handing over the change, ripping off the wrapper and scoffing that Kit Kat like a psychopathic Bunter.

And across the country, every moment of the day, shopkeepers are witnessing similar disgusting scenes of weakness of will. We know we shouldn’t do it, but we just can’t seem to stop. As our collars swell, and our chairs groan, and our very cars turn into giant inflatable condom-style people carriers, the Labour government has decided that we must be restrained.

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Our teachers are defenceless in class

No doubt there will be many readers who will say that this is milquetoast stuff, and will happily supply reminiscences of “Thrasher” so-and-so, who used to lay about him with a golf-club, jokari bat, crow-bar etc; and no doubt there will be some who say that six of the best never did anyone any harm, made them what they are, etc etc.

My point is not to take issue with them, but simply to show what a yawning gulf has opened between the world then and the world now. There was one truly marmalade-dropping story in yesterday’s paper, and it concerned the poor special needs teacher in Cardiff.

We see her depicted in the defeated pose that newspapers reserve for anyone who is supposed to have been caught out doing something truly inexcusable. She is head down, clutching her handbag and her shopping, keys out, and clearly ambushed by the photographers camped on her doorstep. Her crime? She briefly applied masking tape to the mouth of an 11-year-old special needs child, Ben Deacy, who was talking so much that he was disrupting the class. The mother has complained, the school headmaster has denounced her, and the incident is being “investigated” by the education authorities.

Does anybody agree with me that the reaction to this affair is utterly hysterical? As the cowardly headmaster himself testified: “The tape wasn’t put the long way over his mouth. It was a small piece, going from the top to the bottom lip, and it wasn’t blocking his breathing.” It sounds to me like a joke; indeed, the matter only came to the mother’s attention because Annie Sturrock mentioned it in her report on the kid. “Excellent work – once I taped his mouth up!” she said.

Shouldn’t the headmaster, and the education authority, have defended their teacher, and made clear to the mother the spirit in which the action was intended?

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UPDATE – Teacher who taped boy’s mouth avoids prosecution: Following an eight-week police investigation, the CPS has decided that there was insufficient evidence and that it would not be in the public interest to proceed against Annie Sturrock.

It’s mean to make us live alone

I have before me a letter from an indignant 68-year-old. Her son still lives with her, and this seems to be an arrangement satisfactory to both parties; except that she has now discovered that her son’s presence is a bar to her financial happiness. Her savings have been eaten away by a series of operations, and the NHS queues were so huge that she was obliged to go private. “The truly savage increases in council tax has added to my difficulties,” she reports.

So she noticed that she was so straitened that she seemed to be eligible for Gordon Brown’s new pension credit. She wrote off, disclosing every detail of her financial circumstances, as the benefit people require. Am I poor enough, she asked them nicely. Has the Labour Government taken away enough of my money for me to qualify?

Wee-eell, said the little tin gods who run the benefits department, that depends on your son. What is he worth, then? They said that he would also have to hand over the minutest records of his income and expenditure, no matter how personal, down to the last fiver. As his furious mother wrote: “I think it is an impertinence for a group of civil servants to expect him to hand over all his bank and financial details for a three-month period. There isn’t a businessman anywhere who would agree. My finances are nothing to do with him, anyway.”

Alas, of course, she has no choice…

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The BBC was doing its job – bring back Gilligan

So there he goes again. The cordite is carried off by the breeze. The dust settles and out of the crater creeps the Prime Minister, beaming his chipmunk grin. He acknowledges the cheers of his back benches, flicks an invisible speck from his irreproachable Paul Smith sleeve and saunters off back to Downing Street.

It is just flipping unbelievable. He is a mixture of Harry Houdini and a greased piglet. He is barely human in his elusiveness. Nailing Blair is like trying to pin jelly to a wall.

For weeks we have been told that his extermination at the hands of Hutton has been as predetermined as the convergence of the Titanic and the iceberg. And now what? The judge has decided that the Prime Minister behaved with complete honour and candour throughout.

Blair, Hoon, Scarlett, the whole lot of them, have been sprayed with more whitewash than a Costa Brava timeshare. Hutton has succumbed to blindness of Nelsonian proportions. As snow-jobs go, this beats the Himalayas.

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The hole in the heart of the euro

In the course of the long afternoons of my youth, when I was meant to be reporting on EU agricultural meetings, I brooded on this gnomic Letzeburgish. After deep thought I decided that Sid Gudder Ding Mid Bofferding means, roughly speaking, that you are on to a good thing with Bofferding.

And if ever there was a group of people conspicuously on to a good thing, it is the hordes of lawyers, from all over Europe, who will be descending on Luxembourg to drink the place dry, Bofferding included.

For the next six months the taxpayer will be coughing up the per diems of even more of m’learned friends than will be engaged in the Shipman inquiry and these lawyers will be disputing a case that is simultaneously ludicrous and potentially epoch-making.

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The totality is – the Prime Minister lied

Right. OK then! Now I get it (slap forehead). How could I have been so slow on the uptake? I understood until yesterday that the Prime Minister had been caught out in a great big fat steaming smoking-pants lie. I thought it was clear to the meanest intelligence that Tony Blair had authorised the naming of poor Dr David Kelly to the media, and then pretended otherwise.

But it turns out that we haven’t been paying enough attention to the “totality” of what he said. No, no, he kept saying yesterday, as he wriggled before Michael Howard like a kebabbed witchetty grub. Only the “totality” is operative, said Blair, irresistibly recalling the performance of Nixon’s spokesman during Watergate. Well, let us indeed examine the totality of the Prime Minister’s words and deeds, and discover how we came by this misunderstanding. They total up to quite a lot.

Read the full article as published in the Telegraph