I Watched, Helpless, as a Vicious Staffie Ripped up My Children’s Guinea Pigs

I’m sorry to have to break the news so brutally but there’s no other way: Pickles Deathclaw and Lily Scampers are no more. They are ex-guinea pigs. They have ceased to exist. And all because of one of those bastard, evil dogs you see everywhere these days attached to the arms — or, more worryingly, not attached to the arms — of the nation’s hooded underclass yoof. We were sitting in the kitchen having lunch when it happened. ‘What’s that noise?’ I said. Already I was on my feet and heading for the garden, fearing the very worst because I had been here two months before.

On that previous occasion it had been our beloved old cat Beetle who’d gone for a Burton — hunted down and deliberately killed by a member of a vicious South London gang whose specialities, besides stabbing and drug-dealing, include cat assassination. Hearing a yapping commotion in our garden (which is surrounded by a 10ft trellis), I’d arrived just in time to see Beetle being tossed in the air and having his neck broken by the muscular, tan-coloured cur. The dog, I learned later from the police, had been put deliberately over our wall. Beetle was at least the third neighbourhood cat to have been got in this way.

So when I entered the garden I pretty much knew what to expect. Yes. Sure enough: carnage. Pickles Deathclaw was already dead at that point; Lily was about to be got (their outdoor run had been overturned) and I just wasn’t feeling quite suicidal enough (that would come later) to place myself between her and the jaws of her ravening Staffordshire-terrier-style assassin. Instead, I stood, helpless, just as I had when Beetle died, going ‘Noo! You bastard! Nooo!’

By now a face had appeared at our garden wall. ‘Here, boy. Here!’ called the youth: black, teenaged, hooded, as all the devil-dog-owners are round our part of Sarf London. And I yelled at him: ‘What the f*** is your f***ing dog doing in my f***ing garden killing my kids’ f***ing guinea pigs?’ To be fair he looked almost as upset as I was. ‘It’s not me, man. It’s my dog,’ he said. ‘He won’t come. How do I make him come?’

After that it’s a bit of a blur. Kids crying. Wife fuming. Me going right up to the hoodie’s face to tell him exactly what a s*** I thought he was. Dog bounding nonchalantly over the fence. Hoodie disappearing. Me saying: ‘The camera. Where’s the f***ing camera?’, finding it and, before wife could stop me, tracking down the hoodie via sundry concrete walkways and dingy alleyways to his housing estate.

(to read more, click here)

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If the NHS is ‘fair’, give me unfairness any day

Men without piles

Did I ever tell you about the time the National Health Service relieved me of my piles? It’s a painful story — and for many of you, no doubt, already far, far more information than you want. But I do think it goes a long way towards explaining our ongoing Eloi-like subservience to the great, slobbering, brutish NHS Morlock which we so rose-tintedly delude ourselves is still the ‘Envy of the World’.

Look, if you don’t want to read about piles (‘’roids’ if you’re American), I should skip on a few pars. The key thing to recognise is that from tiny beginnings, they mutate into an all-consuming misery. Enjoying a night in front of the TV? Yeah, but the piles! Having a relaxing bath? Yeah, but the piles! Fancy going riding? Eek! You can see why Napoleon — a fellow sufferer — felt compelled to conquer half the world. Anything to distract yourself from what’s going on down below.

So naturally when a surgeon relieves you of the buggers, you feel exceedingly grateful. I remember coming round after my op in my overstretched local hospital — King’s in south London — two or three years back, and thinking the thought that occurs to all British citizens at some time or another: ‘Gawd bless you NHS! You have saved my sorry arse!’

One reason for my gratitude was that the treatment was free. Gosh, I love being given expensive things for free, don’t you? I like it so much I think I’d almost rather be poor and get lots of free stuff than I would be rich and be able to afford anything I wanted. Free stuff — thanks, lovely Dan from Mongoose cricket bats — feels like a gift from God; proof that life isn’t quite as sucky and thankless and horribly unfair as you imagine.

Another reason for my gratitude was that I wasn’t dead. You do half expect it when you go into an NHS ward. You think, ‘Well if they don’t get my records mixed up with that of a patient marked “Incurable. Please put this man out of his misery now” (or, worse: “Penidectomy”), then I’m almost certain to contract MRSA, as virtually everyone does in NHS hospitals these days, and spend the whole of the rest of my life in a living death.’ (Not that I knew at the time I hadn’t got MRSA. I just took a lucky guess.)

And I suppose the final reason for my gratitude — as with my near drowning experience a fortnight ago — was the pure experience value. Lying in the beds either side of me were people you never get to share such intimate experiences with in the normal course of sheltered, middle-class life: people from the kind of families who mug you or knife you in a pub fight, only wearing their kindly, sympathetic human face because they’re ill in hospital and you’re ill in hospital and it’s all very bonding.

I think I might just have given you the three main reasons why so many British people are so infatuated with their beloved NHS: it’s free; it quite often cures you; it treats everyone equally. But does any of these put the NHS beyond criticism? I should say not, and let’s deal with them one by one.

(to read more, click here)

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Get a Grip

Being a right-wing columnist under New Labour’s liberal fascist tyranny is a bit like being a South Wales Borderer at Rorke’s Drift: so many targets, so little time. And just when you think you’ve got ’em all covered — Harriet Harman, ‘Dame’ ‘Suzi’ ‘Leather’, windfarms, George Monbiot, dumbing down, Mary Seacole studies — another one pops up unbidden from the veldt to torment you with his bloody assegai.

Take this new Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) epidemic. Did you know there was an epidemic? I certainly didn’t till I watched Monday night’s admirable Panorama investigation The Trauma Industry (BBC1, Monday). Rather I thought, probably, as you did, that it was an affliction confined mainly to battle veterans.

PTSD — shell shock as it used to be known — is the terrible shaking men got after they’d been under heavy bombardment in the trenches; it’s the flashbacks Nam vets have about the Charlie ambush that wiped out all their buddies; it’s the fits of rage that Falklands veteran Robert Lawrence suffers as a result of being shot in the head by a sniper. Definitely not the sort of thing you’d ever get after a low-velocity shunt in the Tesco car park.

Apparently, we’re mistaken though. It seems that PTSD is so widespread a threat to the health of the nation that it has now spawned an industry worth £7 billion. Yes, not million. Billion. That is the annual turnover of the personal-accident-injury business in Britain and a massive chunk of it is taken up by PTSD claims. Twice as many more people are treated every year by the NHS for PTSD — 220,000 — than are in the entire British army.

The Panorama reporter getting very angry about all this was the veteran war correspondent Allan Little.

(to read more, click here)

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The Officers Who Played Fireball Hockey with Me Have Been Scandalously Betrayed

Have you ever played fireball hockey? God, what a fantastic game! You wrap a bog roll in chicken wire, douse it in paraffin, set fire to it and then play hockey with it — preferably while drunk and wearing black tie, as I was lucky enough to do myself three years ago in front of the officers’ mess at the Norfolk HQ of the Light Dragoons. I’d been invited by their then CO, Lt Col Robin Matthews, who’d liked my book How To Be Right and wanted me to give his officers a pep talk. He explained: ‘A lot of these chaps are painfully aware how much money all their non-army friends are making [Gosh! That dates this story, doesn’t it?] and knowing you’re such a fan of the military I thought you could help remind them why they’re there.’

So that’s what I did. I told them how utterly crap life was in the real world (‘look at me: I’m a super-successful journalist, I meet lots of famous people, get dozens of CDs sent to me for review every week, am sent on the most stupendous travel freebies — but still it all completely sucks’), how soldiering was the most exciting and honourable profession, and the ‘war on terror’ was a noble and just one. At the time I was much more of a committed neocon than I am now, and was secretly quite pissed off when an earnest subaltern — one of the few non-public-school ones — came up to me afterwards to quibble with the general verdict that I was a splendid fellow who was quite right. ‘I still don’t see what we’re doing there,’ he said, meaning Iraq and Afghanistan. ‘Who are we to impose our values on cultures that don’t want them?’

After dinner, during the game of fireball hockey, I tried to show as much ‘form’ as possible. That lethal flaming bog roll could easily set your hair alight or char criss-cross marks into your skin, but you don’t want to be seen to flinch by men who are about to command light tank reconnaissance squadrons in Afghanistan, at the HQ of a regiment so dashing and brave that a mere squadron of its Hussar antecedents once captured a whole regiment of Frenchmen in the fog.

(to read more, click here)

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Camp it Up | James Delingpole

July 17, 2009

Here’s the fundamental problem with family camping holidays: husband and kids love them, wife pretends to but secretly finds the squalor, the poor lighting, and the lack of bathrooms with fluffy white towels a bit yuck.

And the solution? Glamping. It’s short for ‘glamorous camping’, the theory being that you get to enjoy all the things that are special about life under canvas (proximity to nature; birdsong; sense of pioneering adventure, etc) but with the ghastliness (bad backs, rudimentary loos) edited out.

We tried it over a long weekend in some woods outside York (not far from the battleground of Stamford Bridge) at a site run by Christian and Carolyn, who used to own the weirdest restaurant in London, which was half fireplace showroom, half bijou eaterie, and they’ve done the job just brilliantly.

(to read more, click here)

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Conservative Blacks Are Fed up with Being Patronised by Liberals and Bureaucrats

A friend who teaches at an old-fashioned Sussex boarding school has a zero-tolerance approach to racism. The moment he hears one of the foreign boys claiming to be a victim of it, that’s them chucked out of the class for the rest of the lesson. ‘Well I’m sorry,’ says my friend Duncan, quite unapologetically. ‘But they’re bright kids and they’re enjoying the best education money can buy in a multi-ethnic school where racism just isn’t an issue. I think it’s an absolute bloody outrage that they should try that line…’
Had he been working in the state sector, of course, he would be out of his job by now. Which is an awful pity because people of Duncan’s courage and robust convictions are what the world sorely needs. That overused ‘r’ word has done more to stifle open political debate and poison social cohesion than perhaps any other word in the English language. It’s time we stamped on it and stamped on it hard. But how? To appreciate the scale of the problem, you only had to observe the way an incident involving attacks by locals on over 100 Romanians in Belfast was reported last week. What wasn’t at all clear from any of the initial reports — neither in the BBC, nor, more surprisingly in the right-leaning newspapers — was what had brought the natives of Belfast to this unfortunate pass. Other than their disgusting, abominable and thoroughly to-be-condemned racism, that is.

I first heard the story myself on the Today programme. In the news report, the victims were all carefully described as Romanians, with no clue offered as to their ethno-cultural identity. But then, a Belfast race-relations worker interviewed by the BBC let the cat out of the bag by referring to them more accurately as ‘Roma’. At which point, I swore a lot at my radio then blogged about it for the Daily Telegraph. My main complaint was that we listeners were being treated here like children: children who could not be trusted to be told the whole truth lest they reach the ‘wrong’ conclusions.

(to read more, click here)

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