All Hands To Station

So, Mrs Flashbang has deserted us and is currently somewhere between Cumbria and Northumbria cycling a coast to coast route. That's my girl. Now, that leaves us with something of a change of regime domestically but nothing dramatic, we've been here before and discipline and routine are the order of the day. Stuff gets done. That is, right up until we arrive at this place for food and drink replenishment.

and this is a baby one in comparison to some

For most men, the supermarket trip is an elite participant sport for which they have had little or no training since young childhood, when they were dragged around by their short tempered mothers who never understood the importance of a quick sugar rush at 9am in the morning. Actually, watching badly behaved children is pretty good entertainment up and down the aisles. Take care though not to become obsessively distracted less you be mown down by a pensioner on a high speed mission on his mobility scooter to get to aisle 14 where the girl with the discount sticker gun is busy reducing the price of the tea cakes with raisins. In fact, the supermarket is alive with threats to the unwary. They include, but are not limited to, the wandering Wildebeest I described in Fat Delusional Birds and the unplanned 'just bumped into,' meeting with people you'd rather not stand and talk about nothing to for 20 minutes.

Sorry about the quality but it's a funny clip nonetheless

Then we have the wretched bloody store managers who think it's clever to play grocery hide-and-seek by moving entire rows of condiments and ingredients every six weeks to the nether reaches of the store, the check out assistant who takes the instruction to 'greet the customer,' as a personal lifestyle choice and questions you on 'your day,' as would the Gestapo and of course the moment when you realise that you didn't bring 8 'bags for life,' like the Missus told you to and you're now going to shell out for 8 flimsy plastic bags while attracting looks of contempt and disdain from the queues left and right of you who stare at you as if you're either a complete fool or are personally responsible for the deaths of baby seals and dolphins across the world.

This map becomes inverted though when women shop in supermarkets. Men lose any natural GPS in those places.

Let's face it, rather like childbirth, men are simply not designed for supermarkets. Too much nonsense, distractions, frippery and all out marketing psychological warfare which attempts to get us to do things we don't want to do. That simply reminds most men of their marriages. Most blokes could get by with no more than 30 basic ingredients, and that includes all the home hygiene kit, go home and knock up a pretty spectacular dinner. All of which could all fit in a much smaller retailing space than the modern iteration many of which are built on the scale of American nuclear powered aircraft carriers. We could call it a corner shop. Women though are made for supermarkets. Their normal mode of operations when shopping, say for clothes, becomes inverted when they walk through the doors of a supermarket. They hit the fruit and veg aisle with the sense of purpose of a Russian tank commander storming Berlin and go through the place like a freight train. Woe betide anyone who gets in their way, especially dazed men feeling their way around what for them, is alien space. That I fear, would mostly be me




Petersfield in 'Environmental Incident' Lockdown

Bet she doesn't get pinged by East Hampshire Councils finest...

Smoking isn't getting any cheaper. In fact, its ruinously expensive but apart from the luxury of duty free cigarettes when I was stationed in Germany, I can't really remember a time when it wasn't. One newsflash for the citizens of East Hampshire and West Sussex is that it's got a whole hell of a lot more expensive in the market town of Petersfield. 

The other day I committed the heinous crime in broad daylight of dropping a cigarette end in the gutter in Petersfield High Street before walking into a restaurant. The ‘Law Enforcement Officer' for East Hampshire District Council,’ then followed me into the restaurant and asked me to step outside which I did. ‘East Hampshire Council have a zero tolerance for litter and I am issuing you with a fixed penalty of seventy five pounds.’ I accepted the notice and have no argument that I did indeed, drop a cigarette end in the gutter. Moreover, I wholly accept and support an anti-litter campaign which is to the benefit of all residents and citizens of East Hampshire.


Where East Hampshire and I depart in 'we're all in this together' community spirit is in the size of the fine. Seventy five pounds... seriously? It is a wholly disproportionate number for what they quite seriously refer to as a crime. Hilariously, if I brought one of my dogs into town and it fouled the street the fine would be less. Indeed, the number is higher than any parking offence listed on the councils website which include abuse of residents, disabled and commercial parking, parking in bus stops, taxi ranks, pedestrian crossings, cycle lanes and schools and indeed, parking in a car park without a ticket. All of these come with substantially lower tariffs. That some of these offences infer parking likely to elevate risk to children and pedestrians makes the penalty extreme for dropping a cigarette end in the gutter all the more puzzling. Sorry I forgot. It's not 'dropping a cigarette,' it's now an "environmental incident.' As you'll discover if you take the trouble to wade through the councils web site and the job advertisements for Kingdom Security, there is a common theme of the use of increasingly militaristic language and tone for the most mundane and ordinary things. Time to start watching the watchers.

No, it's not a New York suburb, it's Petersfield in East Hampshire.

The use of the  ‘Law Enforcement Officer,’ description is interesting. He is not. He / they are traffic wardens employed by a private security company, Kingdom Security, who work on behalf of East Hampshire Council. That they dress in a black paramilitary rig with stab vests in Petersfield High Street is patently absurd. I did three tours in Northern Ireland and carried less paraphernalia on patrol than do these characters. My sense of persecution wasn’t helped when I was later in receipt of a parking fine on reaching my car ten minutes later than expected, having been delayed in my High Street office. That fine will be paid but the zealous approach from these individuals, while increasing revenue, does not encourage a broader sense of belonging and community amongst citizens. Indeed, it is more likely to feed resentment and irritation which is not a good outcome for anyone. How much better to say, ‘if you don’t pick that cigarette up sir I am going to have to issue a penalty notice,’ as most policeman would do and indeed, are trained so to do to encourage good public relations.

Enquiries to the responsible person at East Hampshire Council solicited the not unexpected reply that informed me, 'Whilst I appreciate that you feel the £75.00 to be an unfair sum to pay, due to it being a criminal offence, the amount set by central government is a fine of no more than £80.00. We feel that the amount we charge is proportionate to the cost of cleaning the district.' These people are detached, delusional and focused on revenue raising, little else. 

Now many people will say, 'disgusting habit, serves you right you filthy dirty individual,' and I genuinely wouldn't stop to argue. There is a problem here for all citizens however and its coming to visit you, wherever you may live as pensioners Peter Marsh, 69, and his wife Gillian Green, 65 recently discovered.

Last week the Telegraph reported that they unwittingly broke the law in Canterbury when they sat on a bench and ate some cherries. Pushing the envelope of the law, they stood up leaving the stones beneath a tree and toddled off. Bingo! Two enforcement officers issued them each an £80 on-the-spot fine for littering.

The couple said the men behaved “more like nightclub bouncers” and they were “terrified”.

“We were sitting under the tree with the circular bench after buying cherries from a market stall. We ate no more than 15 between us and put the stones at the base of the tree.

“When we left to continue shopping, we were approached by two men who were quite intimidating. We thought they were policemen. They did say they were enforcement officers but didn’t explain clearly what was happening.

“It was terrifying. They separated us and were far too heavy-handed. We are law-abiding people.”

He had been in Canterbury for a hospital appointment and said that he was left “shaking” after being approached.

He added: “I believe we were deliberately targeted as an older couple who wouldn’t make a fuss. Surely a verbal warning would have been more appropriate.”

A council spokesman said that there had been a bin within a “reasonable” distance of the couple which they should have used.

He said: “We seek to enforce fairly no matter the age or gender of the person who commits an offence.” The value of one fine had been refunded as a goodwill gesture, he added.

Oh and guess which company Canterbury employs for 'Environmental Protection?' Yes, its the same Kingdom Security we have in Petersfield. 

So what? Well, the takeaway is quite simple. Local and central government alike need money and rather than cutting their own costs will pursue you the individual by every means available to them in more and more creative ways. Moreover, the security companies they employ will be unyielding in their zealotry because they need the next contract. The individuals on the street, the so called self described 'Law Enforcement Officers,' will continue to enjoy their moments of power and swaggering self importance no doubt hoping that a pensioner somewhere will have a go at their stab vests with a rolled up copy of the Daily Mail while clinging to their Zimmer frame.

Those cigarettes, they really are killers.

Selfish Twat

I was in quite a good mood yesterday when I got off the train at Petersfield. That lasted right up until I saw that some inconsiderate clown had parked illegally and blocked me in. If he does that again his vehicle will be removed by the rear end of two and a half tons of Solihull’s finest engineering. Selfish twat.

So, owner of white piece of Japanese rubbish VRN GU14 BXK, and the muppet who parked the blue Merc VRN LG05 FPL behind you, in the words of Billy Connolly, "To the guy who stole ma' bike outside the Carlton Cinema in 1963, you'll get yours ya bassa."


Bloody South West Bloody Trains

05:57 at Petersfield station. Unfortunately, the thing missing in this picture is the 05:57 train which again failed to show. The 06:29 did though and boy did it tear through the station at a lick.

Shame it didn’t stop, that really would have been something of a help. Of course, as all commuters know, these bxstard train operators game the system by cancelling trains which are likely to be late so they don’t incur late arrival penalties. I genuinely hate the government for letting those mendacious thieves get away with it.