The Judge RANTS!
Playing Silly Buggers
There are more and more manifestations of official stupidity with
every passing day.
Take this, for example. In the English town of Halesowen, West
Midlands Police have gone flying in, size 12 boots first, to upbraid a
group of children for 'anti-social behaviour'.
The nature of their hideous offence? Playing hopscotch in the
street, and leaving the grids marked on the pavement in chalk.
Goodness! How positively heinous! I say throw them into
Belmarsh without charge or trial!
I do apologise for the crudity, but what the fuck is going
I'm sure Halesowen, like many a similar town, has more than its
share of burglaries, muggings and other crimes. I've no doubt also
that, when the perpetrators can't be apprehended, West Midlands Police
plead shortage of resources as the reason why they can't do what
they're supposed to be there to do. And yet they can find the time to
harass a group of children engaged in one of the most innocent and
amusing of pastimes.
I speak with experience, having been a highly proficient player of
hopscotch in my time: indeed, I was holder of the Argoed and Ffordd
Owain All-Comer's Championship for so long that everyone else forgot to
challenge me, and the trophy (a square, red ceramic tile known as 'The
Super Slidey') remains in my possession to this very day.
As we had nowhere else to play, of course we chalked our
battleground out on the pavement. This was usually outside my gate (so
as to gain maximum home-field advantage), and the smooth surface was
ideal for maximum efficiency when wielding the slidey. It was only in
later years, when beastly Progress led our idiot Council to resurface
the pavements with wretched tarmac that our contests were brought to an
It wasn't just hopscotch grids, though. The few square yards of
path between my front gate and the corner by Auntie Ada's also played
host to an ever-changing layout of streets, junctions and roundabouts,
as my chalk (in reality, the broken edge of a piece of sandstone or
similar) traced the most interesting series of lines and circles seen
outside of the world of the Nazca. What possible harm could come to me
as I guided my Dinky and Corgi toys along straight boulevards or
hurtled them, brakes screeching, around ridiculously tight corners? It
was good training for the adult world, as I realised perhaps earlier
than most that Town Planning was something that anyone could do
(I'd confidently pit my designs against those of the so-called
This, however, is not a view which the West Midlands Constabulary
seem to share. It has attempted to defend its ludicrous behaviour by
saying that they had to deal with 'low-level crime'.
Crime? It's a crime to play hopscotch now?
The statement went on to compound its offence against intelligence
by saying that, by dealing with 'low-level crime', they could stop more
serious problems developing.
This is interesting. By that reasoning, children playing hopscotch
on the pavement today will inexorably go on to rob the local 'offy'
next week, and they'll no doubt be dealing crack to nine-year-olds by
the time the school holidays are over. If this fascinating
criminological theory is correct, then I should be typing this from a
padded cell in a maximum security psychiatric hospital, where I have
been detained for the rest of my natural for having murdered seventeen
West Midlands Police officers, three town planners and the inventor of
tarmacadam surfaces. The fact that I am not, and that none of my fellow
hoppers or mappers has, to my knowledge, ever committed a serious
offence, shows the silly plods of Halesowen up for what they are.
They claim that the feedback from residents to their actions has
been good, but perhaps that merely points up the true root of the
problem. We have developed into a society which, under the baleful
influence of politicians and the media talking up the extent of crime
in our towns and villages, has become a nation of curtain-twitching,
purse-lipped paranoiacs, willing to take offence at the slightest
intrusion upon the studied dullness of their lives.
(I confess that I've recently been guilty of something similar, but
in my defence I plead that it was in response to a drunken
twenty-something yob pissing all over my front gate in broad daylight.
I contented myself with threatening to cut his knob off if he did it
again, and there the matter rests for now).
And so we live in Asboville, where teenage boys are threatened with
five years' imprisonment if they utter the word 'grass' in public;
where people who wear tops with hoods are treated as criminals before
the fact; and where old men are ordered to remove their caps in pubs so
that the CCTV can get a good look at them. We are walking, indeed we
have run, into the Surveillance State and, just as the most
egregious removal of our fundamental liberties is justified on the
basis of 'keeping the public safe from terrorism', so we have allowed
ourselves to be deluded into thinking that 'keeping us safe from crime'
entails putting the entire civil population under watch.
Truly, we all end up with the type of society that most people