Friday, December 31, 2010

Read my lips. Lots of tax rises.

Your Reaper has absolutely no idea what he's going to do this evening. I have no plans, and the idea of going out, paying prices that are even more extortionate than normal at the pub for a pint or glass of red, and then paying another extortionate amount for some cabbie to take me back home - I refuse to drive even if I've just had a small drink, it's my personal choice - doesn't appeal too much to me. Though I could yet be tempted. I've just had a look at the TV schedule and it's even more dreary and depressing than it is on a normal day.

In case I'm not back online this evening, The Grim Reaper Writes would like to wish all his readers a Happy New Year. Unlike the Government, your Reaper won't be clobbering you with tax rises in the New Year for reading his blog. He won't be bleeding you dry by increasing the rate of VAT to 20% from next Tuesday. He won't be forcing you to work until the end of May in order to pay his bills. Nor will he be punishing you by pushing up the cost of your petrol and diesel from tomorrow with a fuel duty rise.

He will, however, try to keep giving you his take on news and events from all around the world and all sorts of different subjects through 2011. Can't say fairer than that.

If you're going out, enjoy. If you're staying in and keeping a bottle of red as company, enjoy. Don't get too drunk, though...

Tagging The Grim Reaper

Your Reaper appears to have been the victim of one of those bloody tag things that do the rounds every now and then on the blogosphere. I generally regard them as a nuisance, as nothing better than those stupid emails you receive every now and then which say "if you care about this issue, send this email to at least ten of your friends. If at least five of them don't reply within two minutes of you sending the email, you are a desperately sad cunt and your friends are also a desperately sad cunt.".

Or at least that's what I recall the last one saying.

However, I shall make an exception for this one. It originates from Dick Puddlecote, who started off a “describe your blogspace” tag. It's spreading like wildfire, and now the Waspsnest has tagged myself. Yes, someone out there seriously wants to know what the Reaper's blogging area is like.

Your Reaper doesn't blog in one specific space all the time. I do like to get out every now and then, and I am now starting out with the mobile blogging thing - years after everyone else started doing it. I also blog occasionally from my bedroom, something that the likes of Andrew Marr might be pleased about. However, The Grim Reaper Writes does have its own office and The Grim Reaper does indeed have his own desk. As I look around me at the moment, the door is on the left hand side. Next to that, you have some clothes which are just out of the washing machine, drying off. It's too wet outside, so they've got to go somewhere.

The wireless printer is kept in the next room, although I never actually use the bloody thing. My desk has the laptop on it and associated stuff from that. Things like my various USB pens, blank CDs and so on. I also keep some good old-fashioned stationery on the desk, such as paper and pens. Other than that, there's not a lot else on the desk - aside from a coffee cup that I really should go and clean.

To be honest, the "office" (if you can call it that) is surprisingly tidy at the moment. It's been worse than this.

Now that humanity is so much better off knowing what some minor blogger's room is like, your Reaper is now tagging Ambush Predator, Call Me Ishmael and Obnoxio The Clown. Obo is being tagged merely to annoy him...

UPDATE: I notice that Ambush Predator has already done this, so she's off the list.

A wise career move

Here's a name that might ring a bell from earlier this year: Anna Chapman.

Yep, you've got it in one. She was the supposed Russian spy who was deported from the USA following allegations she'd been spying on them. Later, she had her UK citizenship taken away from her. Never mind the fact that virtually none of the charges against her have actually been proved to be true. The law prefers to work on a whim when it comes to these issues.

She's since gone back to her native Russia and has taken up a role with the youth wing of the pro-Kremlin political party. Giving a television interview, she's now said she wants to be a TV presenter.

Anna Chapman doesn't appear to have any discernible talent, but looks rather good on camera. Not to mention on the right-hand side of this post, in a picture taken for Maxim magazine. (you can click the picture for a slightly bigger version of it, if you're a complete pervert)

Therefore, I suspect she's chosen the perfect career for herself.

How long until we see her hosting Daybreak? Anything to give that bloody miserable git Adrian Chiles something to smile about.

The DVLA: a pointless organ-isation

Anne Milton, the public health
minister. She wants your organs...
One might think that, as a libertarian, your Reaper wouldn't be happy to hear that the Government's launching another effort to try and persuade us to sign up to the organ donation register. You might think that I would talk about how we were going to be forced into doing something else we didn't want to do, simply because Call Me Dave and his clan of cretins thought they knew better than us.

Prepare to be surprised. I don't actually have too much of a problem with this. Apparently, the DVLA are now going to include a section on their form for applying for a new drivers licence about organ donation which you will have to fill in. You can register for it, say you're already registered or tick an option saying "I do not want to answer this now".

At the moment, this question is already present, but you are allowed to skip the question. Under the new system, you'll have to declare one way or the other whether you want to join up to the register or not. Except that by ticking "I do not want to answer this now", you are effectively able to skip the question anyway. So what's the point of this change, if any?

It sounds like nothing more than a gimmick to me.

Oh, and before anyone asks, your Reaper already is on the organ donation register. I signed up to it a few years ago, and it was entirely of my own free will. Mainly because it's not as if I can take my liver and kidneys with me to the next life, is it? Someone else might as well have them if I don't need them anymore...
** To anyone who willingly wants to sign up to the organ donation register, you can do it from here.

The people want sex

Human sex would lead to Ed Vaizey classifying this entry
as pornographic. So here's a dog humping an inanimate
object. That should keep Eddy happy.
So it's sex the people shall have. Well, sex toys, anyway. In Alabama, it's illegal to sell sex toys that are going to be used for the purposes of sexual satisfaction or sexual stimulation. Only in America, as one might say. However, a woman called Sherri Williams, who owns a store called The Pleasures, has managed to find a loophole that means she can open her sex shop and operate within the state's anti-obscenity laws.

Apparently, sex toys can be sold in Alabama if they're required for "medical, scientific, educational, legislative, judicial, or law enforcement" purposes.

Okay, this is a strange one, isn't it? Your Reaper thinks some of them are quite self-explanatory, but others do raise baffling and disturbing images in my mind.

Medical purposes? I'm not sure what would qualify as a medical purpose. I can't imagine that anyone is intending to create medicines that contain traces of anal beads.

Scientific purposes? This raises a contradiction. It's illegal to obtain sex toys for sexual stimulation, but what if the sexual stimulation is being achieved for scientific purposes - for example, to measure what having sex does to one's heart? Where does the law stand on that?

Educational purposes? Well, that one makes some sense - kids wouldn't be able to see what a big black dildo looks like at sex education classes otherwise, wouldn't they?

Legislative purposes? I imagine that's what they must do in police stations all day, then. Though I can't imagine Britain's police farce ever adapting such an idea - all that paperwork wouldn't be filled in very tidily if the person in question was being repeatedly whipped.

Judicial purposes? Perhaps the hammer that each judge has doubles up as some sort of sex toy, I don't know.

Law enforcement purposes? Never mind spraying someone with CS gas or trying to shoot them. No, a good shock to the system with a Rampant Rabbit will do the job as well. Mind you, some people already do regard handcuffs as tools for sexual pleasure. Yet they're not banned by Alabama legislation. Another loophole, surely?

Judging by this list, there must either be a lot of people in Alabama who are very ill, or a lot of people in Alabama who are very horny. And chances are half of those are the Christian fundamentalists who publicly say such laws are needed. The hypocrites.

Here come all the perverts from the search engines thinking this page contains porn.

Sorry to disappoint. Go wank yourselves off elsewhere.

Humanity vs stupidity

Anyone particularly sad out there - and by that, I mean those of you that follow my Twitter feed - will notice that I sent off a tweet from my shiny new BlackBerry a little earlier saying "Choosing the right red wine is never easy, is it?". Before anyone asks, I'm still learning how it all works, so you'll have to bear with me if things don't seem quite right there for the next few days. Your Reaper, being over 900 years old, is not the best at dealing with modern day technology.

As it happens, I was over in ASDA this morning in Enniskillen. Miss Reaper is preparing the New Year's Day dinner tomorrow and wanted me to pick up some stuff. Fair enough - she has to go to work, and I don't. I picked up my trolley and made my way in. The first place I usually go to is to the newspaper stand, usually to have a look at what the tabloids are bleating about that day. Next up, I went over to where the magazines are, and I noticed two women were nearby, talking to one another. As I was mulling over whether to buy one, I couldn't help but overhear what they were talking about.

Maybe you have already guessed what they were discussing. No, not quantum physics, nor plot lines from EastEnders or anything like that.

No, they were complaining about the store's lack of mother and baby parking spaces.

Erm... okay. I would have to take issue with that. Your Reaper has worked in retail in the past and quite frankly, I'd never heard such a ridiculous and frivolous complaint. And this is coming from someone who once spent ten minutes listening to a customer complaining that the golf ball she'd been handed on a crazy golf course was too small - this despite the fact that every golf ball is the same size.

First of all, there ARE mother and baby parking spaces - why not actually try looking for them? Even if those spaces are full, you've no excuse. Anyone who's ever been to ASDA in Enniskillen will know that it's the biggest one in the UK. They've been expanding for ages, mostly due to shoppers from the Republic coming up in order to buy cheap alcohol. If you think alcohol is expensive enough in the UK, try buying a round in a pub in the Republic of Ireland. You'll almost faint when the barman tells you you'll need to re-mortgage your house in order to pay the bill.

At a guess, I'd say there's space for several hundred cars in the car park. Even when the place is really busy, not all those spaces are taken, so you can easily find a space with enough room to open your doors wide, to get the buggy out and so on. I fail to see how this could be an issue to anyone but the most deliberately stupid in our society.

One of them suggested in all seriousness that the disabled spaces should be moved (they're at the very front) in order to make more room for mother and baby parking spaces. I had to move on after that as I would have either burst out laughing or I would have just screamed at them for their idiocy. Just how stupid are some people? You honestly think that spaces for the disabled - people who were in almost every case born with disabilities, let's bear that in mind - should be moved so that you can bloody park closer to the front? Don't you understand there's a small difference here? It's your personal choice whether you have a baby or not. It was never anyone's personal choice to be born with something like cerebral palsy.

If you seriously believe that you deserve priority over someone with a disability, words cannot describe how disgustingly selfish you are. You should be ashamed of yourself.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Awarded for my persistence

Your Reaper doesn't have much time for awards. There's always a lot of them doing the rounds - the New Year's Honours are about to be handed out, and the year has been filled up with meejah people giving themselves awards for doing what meejah people do. It was Frankie Boyle who said this in his book My Shit Life So Far, which sums up how I feel about awards ceremonies generally.

"Can you imagine if the rest of society was wiped out and just the people at the BAFTAs survived? There's no way they could form even a rudimentary society. The future of humanity would be to live as slaves of the insect world. Every year, they would hold a ceremony to honour whoever had collected the most pollen."

He also said that:

"...the Oscars go on for so long now that at the end, they play a memorial show reel of everyone who died during the ceremony."

Every now and then, however, an exception comes along. An award which The Grim Reaper would actually be pleased to receive. And here it is, courtesy of Charon QC. He brings to us "The Charon QC Drinking & Blogging Award 2010", awarded to myself, by myself, on the right-hand side of this post. I must confess I have written some entries here in the past under the influence of some quality red wine, but I've actually surprised myself by how few times I've had to resort to alcohol for inspiration whilst typing here.

Your Reaper shall award himself a glass of quality red wine this evening, when I'm done playing with my new BlackBerry. Expect mobile blogging when I've worked out how everything works on it any day now.

Or year, depending on how much progress I make this afternoon. Must dash...

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sex, snow and my scythe

Unfortunately, your Reaper encountered a problem whilst publishing this post. The Grim Reaper's editorial team refused to allow the picture I wanted to use through, on the grounds Ed Vaizey might deem it pornographic - see here if you've no idea what I'm on about. Anyway, only The Sun could publish this story with a straight face.

"CLEARING snow is just as dangerous for middle-aged men as having sex with a young mistress, a medical expert warned yesterday. Professor Jorg Braun compared the strenuous use of a shovel to energetic bedroom romps that can trigger heart attacks. The prof, who works at a clinic in Hamburg, Germany, spoke after the sudden deaths of several men who collapsed while shovelling snow away from doors over Christmas."

With all due respect, I have to disagree with the professor. Clearing the snow may well leave you feeling a bit tired afterwards, but having sex with a young mistress does carry certain other risks. For example, no amount of snow is going to chop off your balls and feed them to a stray dog when it catches you at it with a young floozy. Whereas your girlfriend or wife probably will chop off your balls and feed them to a stray dog.

With this in mind, I'd have to say the sex is probably a more dangerous activity. Though my reader is welcome to disagree, naturally.

Still, I suppose this is the ideal story to distract your Reaper from the news that The Sun have just owned up to their story about the pre-Christmas live episode of Coronation Street being targeted by Al-Qaeda being complete bollocks from start to finish, isn't it?

Or not. Sorry, guys. Must try harder.

Morals below even an alley cat

Your Reaper is quite the old-fashioned fellow. I don't have children myself, but I definitely would like to have some. When I do, I hope that they are able to look up to myself and their mother and view two people whom they can be proud of, two people who they could possibly call role models. In other words, I'd want to be a good parent who provides for my children and is there for them.

What I definitely wouldn't want them doing is believing that the likes of footballers (or maybe tabloid journalists) should be considered people to look up to. The fact that footballers generally have the morals of an alley cat is highlighted by this story today. A charity calling itself the Mothers' Union, who incidentally happen to be heading a Government review into the commercialisation and sexualisation of young children, are warning that the adulterous affairs of sportsmen and women's could have a direct influence on the behaviour of young bairns.

The article refers to footballers such as Wayne Rooney, a man who was caught paying to shag old grannies. It mentions John Terry, a man who has such a conscience he supposedly slept with his best mate's girlfriend. It also notes down the name of Ashley Cole, a man who is an utterly unreedemable cunt in every possible way. A man who cheated on his admittedly rather gorgeous wife a few times. In the three cases, Coleen Rooney is still with her man, John Terry is still with his wife Toni, whereas Cheryl Cole eventually instigated divorce proceedings against her cheating husband.

I'm tempted to dismiss this research out of hand. After all, who would seriously regard footballers as role models? Let's face it, footballers aren't known for their intellect. When you see a footballer being interviewed after a match, you don't expect to hear any fascinating insights into the game or nuggets of wisdom, simply because they never provide any fascinating insights into the game or any nuggets of wisdom. They're people who are paid a stupendous amount of money to do very little at a young age when they simply don't know what to do with it all. They definitely shouldn't be regarded as role models.

Though I certainly have no time for women who would put up with such behaviour from a man. I know for a fact that, were I to cheat on my girlfriend, that she wouldn't have me back. There's absolutely no way she would. That in itself acts as something of a deterrent to cheating. That, and the fact I like having my balls where they are at the moment, of course.

Unfortunately, I have a horrible feeling a number of people do regard them as such. They see young men going around having lots of sex, and when one of the women turns round and says "I'm pregnant", they suddenly don't want to know. Or they try to "encourage" - i.e. force - the woman to have an abortion. I would find such a concept absolutely appalling. As far as I'm concerned, if you're prepared to do the deed, you should be prepared to deal with the consequences. If the woman decided out of her own free will she wanted an abortion, then that might be fair enough. But all I know for certain is these aren't the sort of circumstances I'd want to bring a child into the world.

We could, however, extend this a little bit. We could ask whether the soaps are acting as good role models. Your Reaper knows what's happening in the soaps far more than any man really should be prepared to admit to, partly because my girlfriend is an avid follower of most of them. In EastEnders later this week, a character called Ronnie Branning is going to find that her baby James has suddenly died from Sudden Infants Death Syndrome. She is then going to proceed to swap her dead baby with the living baby of Kat Moon, who's also due to give birth around the same time. It's a disgusting storyline, there's little doubt about it, but can you honestly argue that this is going to encourage women everywhere who have had their babies suddenly die swapping them in the wards?

Over on Coronation Street, the result of the affair between Molly and Kevin (baby Jack) was recently revealed. Tyrone had lost his baby and Molly blurted to Sally, Kevin's wife, as she was slowly dying about the affair and the resulting love-child. Again, can it seriously be claimed that this will result in married men having more affairs with younger women?

I don't think so. No, the reality is that most misbehaviour from children is caused by bad parenting. Think about it. If you were a little boy who saw your father giving your mother a slap because she hadn't cooked something correctly, wouldn't you begin to think that was acceptable behaviour? If you saw a close relative going off with other people, wouldn't you start to think there was nothing wrong with it? As ever, the problem with these things lies closer to home.

What's the answer? Quite simply, the family is the best solution to this problem. It's not the perfect solution - there is no perfect solution - but it's the best defence against bad behaviour and the strongest way of raising well-behaved rounded children who will become hard-working adults that contribute to our society. If this sounds like moralising on my part, tough. Because I also believe that morality should be central to a person's life and what they do.

Here comes the bile from people saying I'm demonising single mothers and the usual drivel...

A must-read for my reader

My regular reader may notice that, on the right-hand side, there's something which provides a live traffic feed, showing who's arriving on the blog, who's leaving, what they're reading and where they're from. Your Reaper doesn't pay much attention to it, but I do sometimes look at it simply for some amusement. Which means that sometimes, I'm left completely unable to think of why some people are paying a visit.

Here are a few examples. Last week, I wrote a post on the blog asking why car insurance in Northern Ireland is so expensive. A few hours ago, there was someone reading it... from Vietnam. Why would someone from Vietnam want to read about that? I'd love to know. The post from earlier today about Sir Elton John and David Furnish becoming parents attracted a reader from Saint Lucia, of all places. And someone from Colombia seemed to spend rather a lot of time reading the Weighty Issues post from Monday. Quite why shall almost certainly never be known.

Ah, the beauty of the internet...

The true cost of unemployment

During the recession, there's been a lot of reporting about how unemployment is due to rise. That's precisely what has happened. Depending on how you calculate the figures, the true number that are not in work, training or education is anywhere between one million and as much as eight million. They're pretty horrendous figures, not just from an economic and financial point of view, but also from a human one.

Your Reaper has suffered from some mental health problems in the past, which is why this story on the Beeb's website concerns me deeply. They're referring to a report from the Prince's Trust. They've done a survey amongst 2,170 people aged between 16 and 25, and the results are very worrying. It revealed almost half of them had problems such as self-harm and insomnia. Now, the sample may well be quite small, but to be honest, I suspect this may only be the tip of the iceberg. Mental health is such a taboo in our society - a strange thing considering that virtually nothing else is taboo anymore - that we simply have no way of knowing the true scale of these things, amongst all age groups. It's also such a personal thing that many people might simply not know there's anything wrong with them, or want to admit they may have a problem.

The crux of the report is that unemployment is aggrevating levels of mental health problems amongst young people. Whilst this problem is almost certainly affecting all working age groups, I worry about it most amongst the young, and not simply because your Reaper is a young enough man himself. No, it's because if people end up leaving the workplace at a young age, the harder it's going to be to get back into the workplace. The statistics are pretty terrifying. This isn't necessarily directly related, but for example, once a person has been on Incapacity Benefit for 2 years, the odds are that they'll never work again.

As much as people complain about work and how crap it sometimes is, the fact is it's better to have a job than not to have a job. Even if that job is simply working for 16 hours per week, it's better than nothing. Work is good for you - it helps you create structure to your life, it helps you to get out of the house and meet new people, and of course, it helps your bank balance. This may seem patronising, but I'm speaking out of personal experience here. At one point a few years ago, I was unemployed for quite a long time and only when I was in work did I finally realise just how bad things had got.

This is a very personal area for me, so I won't go into too much detail. I was getting out of bed in the morning and there was, quite simply, absolutely no reason to get out of bed. That just makes things even worse. You stop caring about pretty much everything, even your own personal hygiene. Once someone reaches that stage, it makes things exceptionally difficult not just for that person, but everyone who cares about them, and getting them out of that is horrendously hard. I've managed it, but I couldn't manage it alone. A side of me just needed a kick up the arse, but the trouble is, I'd never held down a job and I simply had no idea how to go about even applying for one. The education system seems to think it's more important to teach about algebra than it is how to find work, for some bizarre reason.

In the end, I was put in touch with a local charity that helped people with mental health difficulties and they managed to get me a work placement. I was given a two-week trial at a place of work, and at the end of the two weeks, the boss offered me a full-time job. It wasn't the end of my recovery, but it definitely helped. It's no exaggeration to say that work was what saved me in the end.

I'm sceptical enough about the claim from the Department for Work and Pensions that their forthcoming Work Programme is going to give "tailored support" to help people return to work, but I honestly believe that such schemes are essential. Ideally, they wouldn't be run by the state, but I don't believe that just giving people a kick up the arse is going to work on its own.

Restraint over Sir Elton story

Probably the biggest showbiz story at the moment - well, if you ignore all the "stories" that MailOnline are reporting which actually originate from Twitter, the source they love to denigrate whilst endlessly following celebrities on it - is the news that Sir Elton John and his partner David Furnish have become parents. The boy in question is called Zachary Jackson Levon Furnish-John and was born to a surrogate mother in California.

Your Reaper wishes them the best of luck. I'm well aware there's always been an issue of whether gay parents are better than straight parents, but it's honestly not one I share. As far as I'm concerned, having two parents is better than one, regardless of what sex they are. Zachary certainly won't want for anything with Elton John being one of his parents, that much is guaranteed.

Mind you, the one thing that has really struck me is, looking through the newspaper websites, just how restrained the coverage of this story actually is. In the past, a lot of reporting in the tabloids regarding Elton John has been laced with a number of puns referring to his songs and his sexuality. The Sun's headline from a few years ago, when reporting on the civil partnership between Sir Elton and David Furnish, referred to Elton taking Furnish "up the aisle".

What readers might not be aware of, however, is the fact that Sir Elton has repeatedly sued newspapers when they printed false stories about him, and he's repeatedly won those legal actions. The most famous of which took place in 1987. The Sun published a front-page story alleging that pop singer Elton John had sex with underage rentboys - I must emphasise that this allegation is entirely false and without any foundation. Sir Elton sued The Sun for libel over this, and also the bizarre claim that he'd had the voiceboxes of his guard dogs taken out on the grounds their barking kept him awake at night, and was awarded £1million in damages and given a front-page apology.

In 1993, he sued the Sunday Mirror when they claimed he was "hooked on a bizarre diet in which he spat out food without swallowing". He won again. Later on in 2006, he sued the Daily Mail and the Sunday Times for falsely saying the "singer banned guests from talking to him at a charity fundraising event". The Sunday Times apologised pretty quickly, but the Mail dug its heels in. The result? They were forced to pay out £100,000 in libel damages and costs.

I'm pretty sure there are more lawsuits here that I haven't covered, but when you consider all that, it's no wonder the newspapers are suddenly being very careful what they're saying, isn't it?

Deference, authority and me

Some controversy was caused yesterday by your Reaper's piece about Debbie O'Reilly and her being sprayed by CS gas for asking why someone was being arrested - or at least, that's what we're told at the moment. Ambush Predator raised a point in the comments that she suspects there's more to it than that. Thinking about it some more, I suspect she may just be right.

However, this is the bit that really interested me:

"As for the question of when the police became 'such brutal thugs', maybe it's when society changed to the point that young men and women seem to lose their inhibitions about fighting, vomiting and copulating in the streets after a drunken night out? And maybe it was when instead of respecting authority in the form of the police, they started to feel free to rampage around the streets, shoot and stab each other and the police, and generally behave like animals?"

The more I think about it, the more complex this one becomes. Are the police farce we've got today merely a reflection of the increasingly violent society that we live in, or is it simply that the police have always attracted more than their fair share of bullies into the profession? There's compelling arguments to be made for both.

Now, it's certainly true to say that in the past, you almost certainly wouldn't have seen people coming out of pubs absolutely hammered and then proceeding to start fights with any fucker that went past, or just started having sex with the latest bit of barely-dressed eye candy to go past them. Back in the day, that would have been regarded as something utterly shameful to do. People would have made a moral judgement, and the moral judgement would have been that their actions were wrong. As it happens, I would totally agree with that. I think there's sometimes something to be said for morality.

I'm quite an old-fashioned bloke myself - I very rarely get drunk and I generally tend to do it in the privacy of my own home. So the idea of having sex with someone I've just met in a back alley, or accepting a blowjob from some intoxicated tart doesn't appeal to me in the slightest. The question is how the hell did we get into a state of affairs where this is deemed to be okay. Why on earth aren't people who do this being arrested by the police for indecent exposure and then named and shamed in the press? You'd have the likes of the Daily Mail arguing that it was the 1960s generation who are responsible for this, with their "Anything Goes" attitude. As much as I don't want to sound like the Mail, I can't help but think they may be onto something there.

As for the point about authority, I have mixed feelings on this. I'm pleased that people live in a society where we don't have blind obedience to authority. Speaking personally, if I had blind obedience towards politicians, the majority of the content in this blog wouldn't exist. Blind obedience towards politicians leads to dictatorships. I think it's only right that the actions of authority, whether it be in the form of police, teachers, priests and the like are questioned and judged. It's certainly not showing a lack of respect by doing so.

Then again, we seem to have swung from one extreme to the other. At least that's what I can see. Instead of being a society which shows deference to authority, we now hold them in contempt. In some ways, they've brought it on themselves. Politicians being a fine example of this - they tell us to pay their taxes, yet hire accountants at our expense to avoid paying theirs. They tell us to be careful with money, yet waste our money on their vast expenses. They tell us to obey the law, yet ignore the law when it suits them. Quite simply, until they start setting a better example, they don't deserve any respect from us.

However, there's no avoiding the fact that the police have an incredibly difficult job to do. The task they have often involves having to make split-second judgments, and that is often without knowing all the facts at hand. It's no wonder, therefore, that they will occasionally get it wrong. I'm prepared to accept that. Like the rest of us, police are only human beings and they do make mistakes. That's fine. What I'm not prepared to accept though is scenes where members of our police farce, who are supposedly some of the best in the world, are behaving like nothing more than brutal animals. The police has a choice - it can either aim to be just as bad as our society is, or it can aim to be better than our society.

As far as I'm concerned, the first is simply not an option.

NOTE: Just in case anyone didn't notice the corrections on the previous post, I'll repeat them here. The name of the person your Reaper wa referring to when he wrote about "the truly disgusting case of a police officer dragging a disabled man from his wheelchair and hitting him" was Jody MacIntyre. It's also come to my attention that Sergeant Mark Andrews has since been kicked out of the police farce. No burying of errors takes place here at The Grim Reaper Writes...

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Thugs in uniforms?

There are one or two corrections which need to be made to the following post. Firstly, the name of the person your Reaper is referring to when he writes about "the truly disgusting case of a police officer dragging a disabled man from his wheelchair and hitting him" is Jody MacIntyre, as Ambush Predator points out in the comments. Secondly, it has come to my attention that Sergeant Mark Andrews has actually been kicked out of the police farce. My apologies for this error - I shall do my research more thoroughly next time.

If you find someone you know being arrested in modern day Britain, don't do what Debbie O’Reilly did and dare to ask questions as simple as why is someone being arrested. You'll find yourself being sprayed in the face with CS gas by some badge-wielding bully in uniform. She sued the police and was given £7000 out of court, presumably in order to keep quiet. Hush money, in other words. She's not satisfied and she's gone off to the solicitors again.

Debbie O'Reilly, I honestly wish you the very greatest of success with your legal action. For some time now, the police have increasingly thought that they were above the law and that their actions didn't have to be accounted for. When exactly the rot started is hard to pinpoint, but this issue does seem to be becoming bigger and bigger. We have seen numerous cases over the years of police not being held accountable for the consequences of their actions, and it's high time something was done about it.

The most recent case I can think of is the one of Sergeant Mark Andrews. He was caught on CCTV assaulting Pamela Somerville at Melksham police station in Wiltshire and was given a 6-month jail sentence. A rare instance of the cops dealing with wrongdoing in their own ranks, you would have thought. Nope. He appealed and won, so the conviction was quashed. As far as I know, he's still suspended on full pay pending the results of an internal police investigation. Call that justice for Pamela Somerville? I don't.

In the last few years, there have also been cases of an old man being hit by police when he was simply walking home from work, a hit which may well have led to him dying only days later. We've seen a case above where a woman had the shit knocked out of her with truncheons and thrown into a cell, and unless I'm very much mistaken, there was a truly disgusting case of a police officer dragging a disabled man from his wheelchair and hitting him. If I can remember the name, I'll update the post accordingly.

Possibly the most memorable instance in recent years, however, has got to be where Jean Charles De Menezes was shot by police who believed he was a suicide bomber. It turned out less than 24 hours later that he wasn't. Yet what did the police do? Instead of simply admitting immediately that they'd got it wrong and made a huge mistake, they decided to go into smear mode, and started leaking horrible stories to media outlets still bizarrely sympathetic to the police farce. They were never held to account for their actions. Indeed, the best that could be done was to find them guilty of one or two charges of health and safety breaches. Never mind the fact an innocent man was brutally killed by the police, health and safety was far more important!

What the hell has happened to the police? If you commit a serious crime, such as burglary or assault, they seem to do everything possible to avoid having to deal with you, or to get you out of their hair. Yet if you go around 2 or 3mph over the speed limit in an area where it's perfectly safe to do so, you have the full force of the law weighing down on you.

When did the police become such brutal thugs? And what on earth can be done about it?

Just the same old c(r)ap

Here's another one of those stories that your Reaper appears to have missed from last week. By the looks of it, the Government was trying to bury just as miuch bad news as the last bunch of cunts that ruled over us. Different government, exactly the same fucking attitudes and policies towards just about everything.

"Politicians have to obey court rulings? Don't be silly!"
The latest example concerns the temporary immigration cap. The previous limit on this was ruled to be illegal by the courts, so the Government had no choice but to remove it. Now, we all know that politicians generally believe the law applies to everyone but themselves, so I suppose it was only to be expected to see that all they've done is... brought in another temporary immigration cap.

Yes, but this cap is completely different, surely? Erm... no. It's just going to be set at a slightly different number, apparently. It'll still work the same way. In other words, it'll most likely still be ruled illegal by the courts, but they won't pay attention to it.


The Immigration Minister, Damian Green announced it last Monday to MPs. According to Damian, the cap was only unlawful on a "technical and procedural point".

So that's alright then, isn't it?

Even more unusual is who we have to thank for finding out about this. None other than Ed Balls, who now resides as the Shadow Home Secretary until he gets a chance to cause trouble for his boss. He tabled a Parliamentary question, accusing the Government of acting in a "reckless and chaotic manner". Oh, the irony.

And these people wonder why I think they're such despicable cunts. It's no mystery to anyone outside Planet Westminster why they're still hated.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Weighty issues

Your Reaper has little to say about the following story from the Mail:

"More than 60 per cent of women in relationships do not feel comfortable eating in front of their partner and almost half get shy when undressing, new research suggests. And four in 10 women feel like they are always dieting or are constantly concerned about their weight."

What, only 40% of women constantly worry about their weight?

The cynic in me would suggest that a lot of women who took part in this survey were bloody liars.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to think about sex for the millionth time this nanosecond. Or whatever the survey said.

P.S. Here's a blimp woman who certainly isn't worried about her weight...

Stressed by crap reporting

During the Labour government, there were numerous rumours consistently doing the rounds about Gordon Brown's mental health and his state of mind. From being asked in a rather gentle way by Andrew Marr whether he was taking anti-depressants to the cutting jibe by Guido Fawkes that he was the Prime Mentalist, Brown could never really escape this question altogether.

Now, it begins all over again. This time, the target in question is Nick Clegg. Tim Shipman at the Daily Mail has run a frankly bizarre report quoting from a senior source (unnamed, naturally) who claims that the stress of being in the coalition government is getting to Clegg, and that he could be forced to resign on health grounds.

It's not often you'll hear this from The Grim Reaper, but I think this is unfair, and really not suitable grounds to be having a go at Nick Clegg. Attack the man for his policies. Attack the man for being an impractical statist filled to the brim with rubbish ideas. Attack the man for being a craven, opportunistic, shameless, power-hungry charlatan. Don't attack the man for any unproven difficulties he may or may not have mentally in the next few years.

Oh yes, one other thing. Also feel free to attack the man for being a liar who has reneged on numerous promises he has made - the tuition fees issue is a good example of how the man will say one thing in opposition and another when the carrot of power is waved in front of his nose.

One prat in a hat

With it currently being Christmas, your Reaper isn't really paying that much attention to what's in the news. Far too busy enjoying myself and I'll be far too busy enjoying a Chinese takeaway with some friends later on this evening. However, this is a good time of year for noticing any stories doing the rounds that I may have otherwise missed.

It was something of an honour to discover this one, as it means I get to have a go at yet another politician who is inexplicably regarded as something of a saint. Last week, Vince Cable spoke to his local newspaper, The Richmond and Twickenham Times, after the Telegraph exposed him saying a number of idiotic things which led to him being somewhat demoted in the cabinet, but didn't lead to him losing his job altogether. He complained:

"I feel quite angry and strongly about this, I've had constituency surgeries now for 13 years every week, that's well over 600. Thousands and thousands of constituents have been to see me, often on very difficult and highly confidential issues which have been respected by me and by them. Then somebody who isn't a constituent falsifies their name and address and comes in with a hidden microphone - it completely undermines the whole basis on which you operate as a local MP. All my colleagues, of all parties, feel very strongly that some great damage has been done by this."

Nothing to do with the fact you've been made to look an utter prat by the sting, then?

Rupert Murdoch must be laughing each day when he sees just how useless this cretin, who wanted to declared war on him, really is. So are the rest of us. Must be the first time most of us can agree with Murdoch...

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Driving me crackers

No, not that sort of cracker.
Try again...

Like most of the population, your Reaper sat down to Christmas dinner over the weekend. As it happens, I ended up sitting down to two of them. One on Christmas Day itself at one house, and another one on Boxing Day at another place. At the dinner yesterday, they had some crackers. Now, I've never especially liked crackers. I've always thought they were a waste of money. Not just because of the fact that, once you've used them once, you can't do anything with them again.

No, it's more to do with the absolutely dreadful jokes that are inside of them. It's to do with the rubbish paper hat which you are given, and you inevitably have to wear, despite the fact that you know, and everyone else knows, you look a complete twat whilst wearing. And there's also the fact that the prizes which you get are always, without any exception, crap. Whether it be the cheap crackers you got from Lidl, or the really high-end premium ones from the likes of M&S, exactly the same things appear. Crap joke, crap hat, crap prize.

No, that's still not right. You can't get the staff these days...

After a glass and a half of red during dinner, the topic of crackers came up in conversation. One person suggested that the cracker-making industry was really missing a trick here. Why not have crackers where there are actually decent prizes and decent jokes, they said? Why not have a cracker where the prize is a week for 2 in Spain or something like that? Perhaps a day out shopping in Belfast up to the value of £1000?

For fuck's sake, it's still not right. CHRISTMAS CRACKERS, not computer crackers!

Or even gift vouchers for shops? I'd be up for something like that. Sure, the crackers would probably end up costing a lot more, but if people knew they'd be able to get stuff like that out of them, they'd definitely be keener to go to Christmas dinners than they are at present.

There's a real gap in the market that's been exposed here, methinks.

At last! The person who normally chooses the pictures is away...

That said, I don't think the crap prize element should be dismissed out of hand. I'd be delighted to see a booby prize element kept in. You know, to give to the person you've invited but don't really like. Imagine the look of horror on their faces when they've discovered they've won a fortnight's holiday in Bristol.

At least, that would certainly depress me.

Mystery of the day

According to Ofcom, there are currently 948 television stations that have a licence to broadcast in the UK across various platforms. These include terrestial television, cable, Freeview and Sky Digital. Ofcom also believe that the 1,000th channel will be given the right to broadcast early in 2011.

So how come there's never anything worth watching on?

Your Reaper bets Ofcom can't answer that.

Employers, explain this please!

Your Reaper has a slightly ambigious attitude when it comes to people making suggestions and such on what should be written on the blog. Now, I don't mind if someone writes in and tells me about an experience they've had. It might inspire me to write something about it, you never know. What I especially don't like is people telling me what I should write, and in some cases, even giving me the exact wording that I should use in the post. Those people - thankfully, there aren't many - are given the standard The Grim Reaper Writes reply on these occasions. Namely that they're an irritating cunt who should get lost.

On this occasion however, I'm happy enough to write about this one. On Christmas Day, a reader (who wants to remain anonymous) wrote to me describing some of their experiences in trying to find work. This person is a male in their early 30s who was made redundant earlier in 2010 when the company he was working for went bust. He wrote about his attempts to apply for different jobs and the lack of any adequate response from most of them. Your Reaper knows exactly how this feels.

Why do potential employers never bother to get back to you? It's a question I've asked millions of times in my head. You spend all this time putting together an application for a job, or spend a lot of time writing answers which you've put a lot of thought into for the questions. You send it off and... you never hear from them again. It's typical, isn't it? Speaking from experience, most job applicants now don't even get the basic courtesy of an acknowledgement of their application. Being without work is bad enough, and when you don't even get an acknowledgement that you exist, it becomes absolutely disheartening.

When you do actually get someone asking you to come in for an interview, you go in, you do the best you can and... half the time, you never hear from them again either. I know there's a lot of people applying for some jobs, but this basic lack of courtesy from companies is just downright rude. If that many people want to work for you, you should be bloody flattered about the fact. Creating a simple blanket mail-merged response to all those applicants you're having to reject wouldn't be that difficult, would it?

Everyone would know that it was a mail-merge letter, but at least it's an acknowledgement. The worst thing when it comes to job hunting is not knowing. Rejection, people can deal with, but not knowing just makes life difficult.

Review: Dollakis Restaurant, Enniskillen

A few months ago, your Reaper wrote a post on the blog which had a review saying what he thought of the food at Watermill Restaurant in Lisnaskea. Even now, it seems to attract a hell of a lot of traffic from Google. Indeed, I'd be surprised if someone from the restaurant itself hasn't noticed it by now. If they have, then I haven't received any legal writes, so I'm pretty sure they're happy with what they saw. Should you have been directed to this page by Google, head over HERE instead. I wonder if this page will receive as much attention from the search engines...

On Thursday night, your Reaper was going out to eat with his girlfriend and along with a friend of hers that she knew from university. An evening with two young women? Can't be bad, can it? Anyway, we decided that we were going to go to Dollakis, an Enniskillen-based Greek restaurant. I've been there a number of times in the past and I've always found the food excellent. So it was with high hopes I went there. We arrived slightly earlier than anticipated, having originally booked the table for 7pm, and they were happy enough to let us sit inside. It was either that, or sit outside in the car in temperatures of about -15°C. No brainer really, isn't it?

We were asked if we fancied a drink before ordering. Considering that I had to drive everyone home afterwards on the horrendously bad roads around here, I settled for a strong cappuccino. That was excellent and definitely warmed me up. Now, at the moment, Dollakis have got this special Christmas menu going. There's a lunchtime menu and one for the evening. The evening starter consists of a Pikilia Platter which is for people to share. How many people, it doesn't explicitly say, but it doesn't seem to matter. There were three of us there and it seemed to have enough food on it for us. Without wishing to reveal everything that was on it - don't want to ruin all the surprises now, do I? - it consisted of things such as grilled lamb sausage, beer battered mushrooms and thyme-smoked chicken breast. Lovely.

Incidentally, if none of that grabbed your fancy, you were allowed to choose a starter from the regular menu instead. The same goes with the mains. Now, I'd received a recommendation beforehand from someone who'd been there a few days earlier to go for the turkey. I was told it was delicious, so I opted for that. It was a turkey and bacon roulade with a cream cheese, spinach and mushroom filling. I opted for it, as did Miss Reaper. My girlfriend's friend had something called a stifado instead. Your Reaper has absolutely no idea what that is - perhaps viewing Come Dine With Me some night will assist, it always seems to be on? - local beef with red wine, tomato and shallots. The two of them seemed to like their mains.

Myself? Unfortunately not. I can honestly say, for the first time in a while, I was somewhat disappointed by the food served up. To be honest, I didn't think that it was especially good turkey. From what I know about turkey, it's a difficult meat to get right - if it has even a minute or two more than it needs in the oven, it'll go all dry and horrible. It hadn't gone dry, but I honestly wasn't able to get that much taste from it. A crying shame, as everything else on that plate was excellent. It actually rather pains me to write that, as Dollakis is without a doubt one of the best restaurants that I have ever eaten at, and your Reaper loves his food, it's safe to say that much!

For dessert, I opted for a tried and tested option, perhaps after the less than enthusiastic reception of the turkey on my part. I chose the chocolate bread and butter pudding - which actually consists of a large piece of the pudding, some ice cream, some cream and some grapes on the side. It's quite brilliant and it was, as ever, a brilliant ending to the meal.

I may not have been 100% satisfied with Dollakis on this occasion, but considering how brilliant they've been every single time in the past, none of that is going to stop me from eating there again.

Fancy trying out Dollakis for yourself? You can find them at 2 Cross Street in Enniskillen, just off the Queen Elizabeth Road. You can ring them on (028) 6634 2616 and their website is here.

It's all so uninteresting

Well, your Reaper would have written about this on Christmas Eve, but I didn't really have the time, to be honest. Far too busy getting ready for the festive day itself and such to be working on the blog. The fact that getting everywhere was taking around twice as long as normal due to the dreadful state of the roads didn't help matters either.

I'm referring to the Pope and his Thought for the Day, which was given on Radio 4's Today Programme at 7.45am last Friday. Naturally enough, he wished the nation a "peaceful and joyful" Christmas, and since I'm such a kind soul, I wished him a peaceful Christmas back as well. Much like the Queen's Speech on Christmas Day, it was just another one of those occasions where nothing of any particular importance or anything particularly controversial was said. If you expected the Pope to spend a few minutes doing something such as dealing with the serious accusations that have been levelled at his church this year, you would have been disappointed.

He spoke of "fondness" about his state visit to the UK back in September and also about how God apparently sometimes works in surprisingly ways. Meantime, the Queen just talked about the importance of sport and how that helped people to bond and to discover their common interests. Interesting enough, and none of it particularly hard to dispute. Unless you dispute whether there is a God, of course.

It's claimed that the Beeb's head honcho Mark Thompson spent the best part of a year in negotiations with the Vatican trying to secure this. He'd be half-forgiven for thinking at this point that, if that was all the Pope could offer, he was wasting his time.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas everyone

Your Reaper was going to write a long and hopefully insightful, profound post to finish off for Christmas Eve. I was going to talk about the way that the mass that I went to this evening, (I'm not a Catholic, but my girlfriend is) and that the priest gave a very interesting sermon which was highly thought-provoking.

Then I changed my mind.

Alternatively, I could have devoted this space to answering people who are forever complaining that this blog doesn't contain enough politics. Quite simply, the reason I don't write about just politics is because I actually find the subject to be occasionally very tedious. Take the Twitter nonsense earlier this week about whether Vince Cable was about to resign for instance. Pointless speculation which had no effect whatsoever. Though as it happens, I have no idea where this complaint comes from in the first place. There's several political posts on the blog every single week, but your Reaper does actually want people to read his blog. And political blogging does have a rather niche audience, unfortunately.

But then I changed my mind again.

Let's just have a picture of a scantily-clad woman running on the right-hand side whilst I type in some text that most people won't bother to read instead.

Thanks to everyone who's been reading the blog since it launched 3 months ago. Expect lots more blogging after Christmas, and also you can expect some new features to start appearing during 2011. It's time to take things up a notch. The Grim Reaper wishes all his readers a Merry Christmas, and don't have too much turkey tomorrow.

The Grim Reaper Writes is likely to be back on Monday. Though you might get a tiny bit of blogging over the weekend if I'm really bored.

Some people have no heart at all

"Lost, starving and alone, these two innocent 12-week-old puppies were cruelly dumped by their owners and left to die in the freezing snow.

But the helpless pair - who have been named Brandy and Pudding - were fortunately scooped up and saved from the elements.

They will now be spending their first Christmas recovering at a dogs' home. Brandy, a Staffordshire Bull Terrier, was discovered very underweight and alone on a street in Reading, in Berkshire, while Pudding, a Boxer cross, was found with a distended stomach in snowy woodland."

The two dogs in question are pictured on the right.

Pardon the intemperate language here, but I have to ask one thing. Just how much of a heartless fucking cunt do you have to be to abandon a 12-week old puppy like that?

It's probably too much to ask some heartless cunt or other who's done something like this in the past to step up and explain in the comments why they did what they did. They never do.

Margaret Forrester is toast

Yesterday, your Reaper came across one of those stories that appear every now and then that usually have words such as "anti-Christian crusade" or something equally daft in the report. Surprisingly enough, the Mail decided to hold back when writing this, merely stating "It is the latest example of Christians facing disciplinary action for expressing religious views". What's the story, then?

It concerns a Christian health worker called Margaret Forrester. She's 39 years old and works for the NHS. One day, she handed a work colleague a booklet about the potential dangers of abortion. The book contained details of five women who'd suffered "physical and psychological problems" after terminating their pregnancies. She was reported, and her NHS employers took a dim view. They've now launched disciplinary action against her, and she's worried she's about to get the chop. So far, so straightforward.

Now, this woman claims she doesn't feel the NHS gives out enough information on the potential risks of abortion. As a procedure, it has a very good safety record but obviously that doesn't mean things can't go wrong. Of course they can. She's entitled to believe there's a lack of information out there, but she went completely the wrong way about remeding the situation. If she holds this view, she should be bringing it to the attention of people higher up in the NHS, people who can do something about it. What she definitely shouldn't be doing is handing out booklets with questionable testimony and a less than subtle bias against the procedure. I wouldn't go as far to say such a booklet is necessarily anti-abortion propaganda, but it's wholly inappropriate for a NHS worker to hand such a book out.

The line of the Catholic Church on abortion is that it's wrong and immoral. Fair enough. If she holds such views privately, that is also fair enough. Everyone is entitled to their opinions on these issues, especially such difficult and emotive ones like this. However, by handing out this book, she's also left herself open to the charge that she was allowing her personal beliefs to interfere with her job, and that her conduct was therefore less than professional, to put it mildly. Whether it be in this case, or the time that that a Christian woman sued a registry office after she was dismissed for refusing to conduct civil partnerships, this matter keeps coming up. Over the years, I haven't agreed with every decision made by management or everything that the companies which have employed me have done. But that doesn't mean I'm going to start bringing my personal beliefs into it and refusing to carry out orders.

Where would we be if everyone started doing that? What if civil servants suddenly refused to put in place government policies that they disagree with? What about teachers refusing to teach because of certain things on the curriculum that they object to? What about soldiers refusing to take orders on the grounds they believe a certain conflict is wrong or illegal? I could go on, but it's safe to say it would lead to a lot of things not being done.

It's not often you'll hear The Grim Reaper defending anything from the NHS, but on this occasion, her employers are absolutely right to have launched a disciplinary action against her. Unless there's other evidence which I haven't seen, it looks like her days working on the old National Health are numbered. This may be very un-Christian of your Reaper and definitely not in keeping with the Christmas spirit, but I'm afraid that Margaret Forrester is sacked, she will have pretty much brought it on herself.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Coldness and cuteness

Your Reaper is very much what could be considered an animal lover, having grown up with pets around him pretty much all of his life. It's one of few things from my past life that I rather miss - knowing that, no matter how crap a day you'd had at school or work or whatever, there'd be a great big Alsatian and a Labrador waiting in the house who'd be delighted to see me again to name but two. They could also be trusted to get you out of the house. Even if you don't want to go for walkies, the pooches need to!

Which is why this one rather touched me. Stories involving pets do tend to get my attention very quickly, but none more so at the moment than this story from STV News in Scotland. It concerns a Cairn terrier, real name unknown but being referred to as Claus by his rescuers. He boarded a bus on Dumbarton Road in Glasgow yesterday, found himself a warm corner in the bus and refused to leave. Judging by the sounds of this report - apparently, he was so cold he had icicles hanging off his coat - he must have been out in the cold for quite some time.

Now, I don't know how bad it is in Scotland at the moment, but as I was driving back to the house last night, the outside temperature was -14°C. I've actually had to buy some gloves for driving, because at the moment, holding the car steering wheel is like holding a block of ice. God only knows how bad it must have been for this poor mutt. Here's hoping his owner gets in touch as soon as possible. If he doesn't have one, I suspect he soon will. If I lived anywhere near Glasgow, I'd happily ask to keep him myself!

A tip of the Reaper's scythe goes to Subrosa over that one.

Incidentally, another winter-related story closer to home. After I got back home from work on Monday afternoon after an early finish, I was sat in the kitchen drinking a well-deserved cup of coffee. As I was sat there, I saw three robins come to the window and they rested themselves on the sill. When they spotted me, one of them started tapping the window. With all the snow lying around, I figured the poor things must have been hungry. I got out some bread, opened the window, ripped the bread up into little pieces and dropped it down piece by piece. They ate it all up like there was no tomorrow - they didn't even fight for it or try to snatch it from me. I was absolutely astonished. When they'd had enough, they all flew off.

Wrap up warm, everyone. And that applies not just to the humans, but to the animals too. We're stuck with this for a little while longer, it seems.