Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Blind Leading the Blind

I was rather worried to hear the latest instalment from David Blunkett’s diaries on Radio 4 this morning, in particular an entry from September 2001 regarding national security. He described the problems of damping down fear by telling the public that the government knew what was happening, whilst simultaneously having to get to grips with officials to make sure that things were actually done. He wrote of an old school-friend and his wife, Christine, who lived in Vancouver:

“Christine said that a patient in her physiotherapy clinic had told her a curious story. A relative who’d been in London had found someone’s wallet, and having returned it to them were offered money as a reward. They turned this down. So the owner of the wallet, who was an Arab, said, “Well, I’ve got to do something for you. Don’t be in London on the 11th of November.” I immediately registered the significance of this. The 11th of November is Armistice Day – the one day in the year when all leading politicians from the three parties, the Queen, other members of the royal family and the leading personnel of the armed services are in the same place at the same time. A known time. In Central London. I decided that I should at least tell Tony as it was absolutely clear that nobody had fully thought through the significance. We agreed that there was no way we could cancel Armistice Day, but we were certainly going to have to take increased precautions.”

I know it was five years ago, but is there anybody who hasn’t heard a variation on this story and instantly dismissed it as an urban myth? It’s usually Birmingham in the version I’ve been told, and I tend to reply, “Yeah, I’ll stay away – it’s a right dump.”

What if our whole country were being run according to things that had happened to a friend of a friend?

Education
All exams to be replaced by one that just has one question: “Is this a question?” Anyone who answers “Yes, if this is an answer” will get an A. All exam pencils to be sharpened down to less than 4cm in case pupils stick them up their noses and bang their heads down to commit suicide. Because that happened at my mate’s school. And they gave everyone an A.

Health
All money from Aids and malaria programmes to be diverted into eradicating the world of spiders. Because this woman got bitten by one once and a few weeks later this lump came up on her arm, and she went to the doctor, and he cut it open and loads of little spiders came out and she went mad.

Also more money urgently needed for stomach pumps for Marc Almond. Or was it the other one out of Soft Cell?

ID Cards
Passports to be combined with organ donor cards. Because I heard about this guy who went abroad and he woke up in a bath of ice and they’d taken his kidney. It’s true. You can’t trust them.

Arts
All theatres to be closed down to prevent criminals stealing your car, then returning it with a note saying sorry and two theatre tickets to compensate, so they then know that you’ll be out all evening and can burgle you. Subsidies to be spent instead on a memorial for the kid from the Frosties advert.

Also Countdown to be moved to a post-watershed slot. Did you know that the letters once spelt W-A-N-K-M-E-O-F-F?

Transport
Urgent recall of all 32m cars currently on the road to have their door handles redesigned so that they can’t be opened by serial killers who have hooks for hands. Did you hear about that poor woman? The policeman told her not to look back...

Crime
All homes to be fitted with constantly-monitored CCTV cameras in case a burglar ever breaks in and puts your toothbrush up his bottom then takes a photo of it with your camera. And much stiffer sentences for this crime because it happened to friends of mine and I retched when I heard.

Sport
Sarah Greene and a pool table to be drafted in to boost the morale of all national teams.

Social Security
Channel Tunnel Rail Link to be extended in an extra 250 mile loop winding through the back gardens of everyone in Kent. Then a train will be sent through at 6am every day to wake them all up. Too late to go back to sleep; too early to get up; only one thing to do: baby boom, end of pensions crisis. There was this village this really happened in, you know...

Foreign Affairs
There’s this guy at the Foreign Office, yeah, and he says that Iraq have got these WMDs or something and in 45 minutes we could all be dead. It’s true – a friend of a friend told me...