(Editor, David Clee)
17 August 2000
James Bond Hails a Cab
IF YOU don't want to have your
skull pierced by a poisoned ice-pick my tip is to avoid London
According to reports this week,
cabbies are the latest front line recruits to MI5, Britain's
sinister secret service. Notoriously bigoted in their political
views, cabbies can be expected to provide spook chiefs with masses
of information on the subversive elements that clog up the back
seats of their taxis.
Before it was bad enough having
to sit through diatribe after incoherent diatribe against immigrants,
students, feminists and bloody red lights but now anyone who
fails wholeheartedly to agree with a driver's rant faces a knock
on the door in the middle of the night from some George Smilie
wannabe. ("We have information you support the right of
all men and women whatever their creed to cross the road unhindered
by horn-blowing hackney carriages. For that, my limp-wristed
friend, you must die.")
Of course, there is some evidence
that MI5 has long been staffed by cabbies. Last year's biggest
spy case involved Melita Norwood, an old lady who had avoided
detection for decades thanks to the ingenious ploy of living
in south London, an area famous for its no-go-status among taxi
The Norwood debacle is evidence
that MI5's latest scam could run into trouble. More evidence
comes in the flop of the bizarre scheme to use cabbies as living
breathing adverts, paid to drop endorsements into their conversations.
"See that Tower of London, waste of bloody tax payers money,
mate. They want to chuck out the tourists and shove all those
asylum seekers in there. Mind you, I'm told Diet Pepsi is the
ideal drink for those stuck in the Crown Jewels queue and why
not finish your day of heritage hunting with a trip to one of
London's historic theatres."
Perhaps aware of cabbies' touching
limitations, MI5 are also said to be on a recruitment drive among
the capital's pizza delivery heroes. I cannot tell you how much
I now regret having ordered extra anchovies the other day. Fishy,
Mr Clee, very Fishy.
3 August 2000
Bubble, Bubble, We're in Trouble
From what I can tell, financial
types spend half their expensive time wetting their pants worrying
about when the hi-tech shares bubble is going to burst, and the
other half appearing on radio phone-in shows telling everyone
else that things are gonna be just fine.
They scour the world for signs
of a turn in the markets and even unrelated happenings are vetted
for their universal economic significance. The current craze
for chrome scooters is deemed good for business, if not ankles,
as it reveals a carefree attitude on behalf of the consumer;
the unremittingly hot weather in southern Europe is bad news
because it means people will be able to enjoy themselves without
recourse to such modern fun products as MP3s, DVD players and
clothes; and the way a legion of crumbs has suddenly ganged up
under my toaster is presumed troublesome because it means I might
spend a slice of my huge income on a kitchen utility instead
of a mobile phone compete with unusable WAP technology.
Fine. I'm all for thorough
research. But in their desire to leave no stone unturned, maybe
the business gurus have missed a great big wodge of useless concrete
staring them in the face. I'm referring, of course, to the Millennium
Dome, which is to be turned into a hi-tech theme park. When a
project as riddled with disaster as the Dome jumps on the hi-tech
bandwagon, wise men and women might think now is the time to
To back up my theory of hi-tech
doom, we've been warned this week that London is in danger of
power cuts, thanks to surfers - mostly comprised of frantic City
boys and girls checking their investments - overloading the system.
More evidence is provided by the failure of Greenwich Electronic
Time to become the standard for the virtual world and by the
sad crash of that icon of hi-tech engineering, Concorde.
Okay, so much for predicting
a shares tumble. The clever bit comes in deciding what to do
with your pile of funds once released from the hi-tech prison.
It would obviously be a big mistake to stick it all in nasty,
old fashioned investments such as coal mines and generating plants
that help power the internet, bless 'em. No, all that fixed capital
is so 19th century.
The answer, as usual, is sex.
For returns on capital, you just can't beat it. Before she was
put on trial this week, one London madam, wheelchair-bound Josie
Daly, made nearly UKP4 million a year with just 20 or so women
under her command. Daly is clearly not alone and already there
is a growing trend to use, as she did, desperate illegal immigrants
with no power and fewer rights. Just make sure you get in there
quick, before someone turns the Dome into the biggest den of
vice since they opened Channel 5.
20 July 2000
Queen Mum Kicks Ass
I'M A haddock man myself, but
it was still with some sadness that I learnt this week of the
cataclysmic depletion of cod stocks in the seas around Britain.
There is only one nation on
earth with so strong a claim on the soul of the cod as Britain.
But while the Basques deserve oceans of credit for following
the meaty fish all the way to America centuries before Columbus,
they never had the wit to append the famous go-with "'n'
chips" to their quarry, nor did they seek cunningly to hide
its subtle flavour in layers of fatty batter.
Those achievements required
all the eccentric comic talent over which British people like
to think they have a monopoly. Why then, has the plight of cod
received barely a mention in the nation's otherwise flag waving
press? Why has Tony Blair not ordered a double portion of cod
'n' PR from his spin-doctors as a safe way to show his patriotic
I think you will find a clue
in the pageant for the Queen Mum. For the 99 year old's delight
and education, a century of history was boiled down to its essence
in the form of carnival floats depicting great events and people
dressed in funny suits to show we can still laugh at ourselves.
Mostly, these get-ups were animal costumes. There were horses,
rabbits, camels, dogs
even a zebra made it into the parade
despite only having the most tenuous of connections with these
isles. But, and here is the sinister bit, as far as I could see,
there were no fish-people whatsoever.
An oversight you might say
but, commentators never tire of telling us, these events are
planned with a military precision. No, it is clear that the lack
of walking sea-food was a deliberate act, a vindictive royalist
assault on a populist foodstuff. The Queen Mum, you might remember,
nearly choked on a fish bone not so long ago and she just had
to have her revenge. She might well be everyone's favourite granny,
a loving sort who delights all who meet her, but even a blameless
life attracts its enemies. One, Princess Diana, took her leave
some while back, but the other slippery customer, the poor cod,
has only now seen the sharp side of Ma'am's nature. Pitty those
anarcho-republicans who will undoubtedly become enemy number
three when, as promised, they show their bottoms to the Queen
Mum at the next birthday do.
6 July 2000
The Kid Cops It
WHEN Tony Blair revealed plans
last week for 100 UKP on-the-spot fines for disorderly behaviour
he no doubt thought that he was spinning just the right message.
After all it is less than a
month since mindless English fans re-arranged the street furniture
in Brussels and Charleroi in full view of the world's media.
Adding to the PMs keenness to talk tough on thugs, recent opinion
polls suggest the public believe his government is soft on crime.
Then, to top it all, CBS London correspondent Tom Fenton filed
a report last Monday claiming that cities are more violent here
than in the USA.
Good idea, good timing then
Tony. Actually, no. Critics immediately slammed the plan. Police
officers said it would tie up too much of their ever-so precious
time and civil liberty groups squealed that it would be ever-so
unjust. Even the most despised skinhead in the nation joined
in on the mocking of poor Tony's latest brainwave. Tory leader
William Hague, no doubt spitting that he had not suggested this
get-tough plan first, said the proposals were government by soundbite.
And so just days after the
PM had proudly unveiled his new summary justice scheme in a fanfare
of pomposity the idea was quietly ditched.
Not so fast. Where so many
of these on-the-spin initiatives have a shorter shelf life than
a pack of Pokemon cards this little nugget was destined for an
eternity of "Did I really say that" denial.
For last night, in a simple,
yet cruel twist of fate, Euan Blair, the Premier's sixteen year
old son, was arrested for being "Drunk and Incapable"
in London's Leicester Square. Police were so concerned with the
young lad's behaviour that they initially called an ambulance.
After some reflection they decided a Ford Transit was more appropriate
and whisked the inebriated kid to Charing Cross police station.
The poor wretch, who had been out celebrating the end of his
GCSE exams, was later released without charge.
No on-the-spot fine for Blair
Jr, just a touch of common sense policing from the boys in blue.
22 June 2000
Turning A Blind Eye to the Dead
LAW enforcement is a tough
old game. Not only do police officers have to wear uncomfortable,
starchy uniforms and give dodgy directions to tourists but they
also have to use their own eyes. Col Herman Biki, the man in
charge of Belgium's anti-football hooligan cops is worried. "It
is rather difficult to spot the difference between those who
have committed a crime and those who have done nothing,"
Biki said this week in a commendably frank admission of his own
Biki is not the only lawman
to need his eyes testing. UK immigration officers find it so
hard to spot genuine asylum seekers that they do not usually
bother trying and label as many as possible bogus, 95 per cent
in the case of applicants from China. The thinking seems to be
that if you are fit enough to be standing in front of me asking
for asylum, you cannot have been persecuted too much back in
your own country, so sod off.
Now Chinese refugees have seen
the grim logic of the situation and taken the one course available
to them to show the seriousness of their plight. They simply
turn up dead. Fair play, mate. No arguments there, we have every
sympathy with you. Asylum granted.
This, more or less, was the
scenario played out in 21st century Britain this week when 58
Chinese refugees were found dead on arrival in the back of a
lorry at Dover. Media pundits and politicians who would have
demanded their instant deportation had they been alive queued
up to offer wasted words of condolence once the perished were
safely confirmed as representing no drain on social security.
The last time this kind of
trick was pulled was back in the delightfully civilised middle-ages
when the ducking stool had the role now performed by miserable
immigration bureaucrats. Suspected wrong-doers were submerged
in water. If they drowned, their innocent was proved, if they
emerged alive, guilt was assumed and hanging prescribed. But
at least back then there was some genuinely held, if idiotic,
religious justification; God was taking the innocent to his heavenly
Nowadays, the innocent have
only the indignity of being used as the material with which hypocritical
bigots can parade their hastily contrived compassion. Even blind
man Biki could spot that.
8 June 2000
Millennium Bridge to the Beyond
PEOPLE often choose the strangest
partners, a point worked up to gory effect in Eye of the Beholder,
one of the films to open in London this week, where Ewan McGregor
takes a fancy to a serial killer. The royal family, too, are
past masters at the art of improbable couplings of course, with
Henry VIII and Prince Charles but two examples of blue bloods
who would have been well advised to have used Dateline.
But, even in a week that marks
the opening of the first new crossing - the Millennium Bridge
- over the Thames in over a century, perhaps one of the most
bizarre unions is that between north and south London. It is
not quite Buda and Pest, but the two halves of the city have
never really sat well together.
Traditionally the north has
always looked down with snobby disdain on the more workaday south
but the future looks different, thanks mainly to the massive
redevelopment taking place on the South Bank. From the Tate Modern
and the Big Wheel to the new London Mayor HQ, and from the IMAX
cinema to the Globe theatre, nearly all of the interesting new
building is being done in the south. Even once-drab Croydon is
leading the way on transport with its hugely successful new Tramlink.
In contrast, north London is
stuck firmly in Old Britain territory, smugly reliant on historical
(mostly royal and clerical) attractions to pull in the punters.
It will take a while for the
all the changes to filter through to general public consciousness,
but once it dawns on everyone that the action is to be found
in places other than Whitehall and Leicester Square, south Londoners
will rise up, take courage from the Eye of the Beholder and continue
where the terrorists left off at Hammersmith and start a serial
killing campaign on the rest of London's bridges. A clean break
is the best way, and there are no kids to worry about. I was
a kid once with a mother, an odd couple all in herself, who is
ultimately to blame for my malicious meanderings. Only joking
Mum. Have a good one. Happy Birthday.
Let Me Wax You Up, Madame
SPARE a thought this week for
those talented sculptors over at Madame Tussauds. Thinking they
had given Liz Hurley and Hugh Grant enough time, 13 years in
fact, to prove their reciprocal affection, the modelling maestros
recently decided to knock up a couple of love struck dummies
of the love struck dummies.
Doh! Just as the wax was drying,
news filtered through that Hugh and Liz would be splitting up.
Before anyone has a pop at Tussauds tardiness, it should be said
that the wait-and-see approach to celebrity could well have worked
wonders in other cases.
Take Ken Livingstone, for instance.
Back in the 1980s, Tussauds probably decided to wait for a while
until he did something really important before waxing him up;
a ploy that proved triumphantly prescient when the old leftie
emerged from a 1990s wilderness to claim the London mayoralty
earlier this month. And while the music press will bemoan the
drying up of a staple news source following the Oasis split,
Tussauds can afford to be smug. Their crafty 13 year rule means
the mad-for-it Mancs were well short of a good waxing in any
No, slowness in the uptake
has never been Tussauds major problem, for the simple reason
that the museum has always been saddled with an even greater
flaw; namely that its models look absolutely nothing like their
supposed subjects. When wax models were first all the rage in
the last century but one, people had no other reference point
so the waxers could get away with anything. But in an age when
we are bombarded with images of celebrities all the time it has
always amazed me that tourists queue all along Marylebone Road
to get a glimpse of a load of over dressed shop dummies.
Luckily, recent events may
have provided Tussauds with a way to win over sour faced critics
like myself. Death is a powerful theme in any format, but is
uniquely suited to wax modelling, so why not feature subjects
that are, in real life, stiffs like Sir John Gielgud and Dame
Barbara Cartland? Even more of a crowd puller would be a section
devoted to sex, especially now that British censors have given
the go ahead to hard core pornography.
I would suggest models of celebrity
couples (it could have been you, Hugh and Liz) having it off.
Okay, you can probably get that sort of thing by the bucketload
down at the Tate Modern, but Tussauds have an extra incentive
to jump on the sex bandwagon. Genital rich models would at last
stop people looking, squint eyed in disappointment, at those
dismally inaccurate faces.
Turn Off the Power
THERE are two famous disused
power stations in central London, Bankside and Battersea. One
is little more than an empty shell containing piles of rubbish
while the other is just round the corner from a famous bridge,
park and dogs home.
Bankside's reinvention as the
Tate Modern art gallery has cobbled together a bizarre alliance
of arty types and old school patriots who are in thrall to its
new station in life as a power house of, depending on which camp
you're talking to, meaning in a meaningless world or richly deserved
tourist dollars for the greatest country on earth.
Tate Modern trades on its attachment to the ideals of the avant-garde
in general and, as its name implies, modernism in particular.
The things about modernism which continue to attract people are
its engagement to the world of big ideas, passion for often oppositional
politics and commitment to a regime of free, multi-partner sex,
at least if the various biographies of Picasso and the rest are
anything to go on.
Some of the stuff inside Bankside
is seminal but it is pretty clear that Tate Modern itself is
a denial of the modernist heritage, not least because many of
its boosters say it is great by dint of providing a nice, big
space where atomised members of a disparate society can bond
in spirit while they contemplate the mysteries of the things
around them. The idea was to tear the churches down, dummies,
not build new ones.
In any case, the fact that
arch representative of everything modern, the Queen, is opening
the gallery says enough about the fake nature of the Tate's creed.
Her Majesty's presence is also enough to convince patriots to
ignore their previous philistinism and back the new tourist sight
to the hilt, presumably on the basis that it may be modern, but
at least its our modern. See you back in the sticks, hicks.
They'd all do much better to
take a trip west to Battersea and stare in awe at its four majestic
towers that draw the eye to the incomprehensible emptiness within
but really, Battersea Power Station is a fantastic sight. It
is bigger than Bankside, it has big themes staring at you in
the face, from vaulting utilitarian ambition to lumpen industrial
decay, and you can dump your mutt off at the Dog's Home afterwards.
Caffeine High on Turks' Agenda
"CAWFEE is cawfee,"
the owner of a traditional diner in New York told me last week,
before launching into a bitter tirade on the rise and rise of
coffee shop franchises that threaten businesses such as his own.
I'm with the old guy in spirit,
but the turning wheel of history is against him, not least in
London where the last five years has seen an invasion by chain
names like Starbucks and Coffee Republic which trade on the opposite
principle that coffee is never just coffee.
You want it cold? We got it.
You want it infused with Belgian chocolate? Pick it up at the
end of the counter. You want a laughable double shot of espresso
with every last millilitre of caffeine surgically removed? No
problem you lily-livered pseud.
As in New York, this assault
by variety poses serious problems for London's remaining cafes
and sandwich bars. Luckily there is an answer.
Starbucks and their ilk will
have to come up with ever more bizarre concoctions to stay ahead
of the game, thereby sacrificing authenticity along the way.
The route to take for the smaller establishment is not to hope
that caffeine-heads return to their welcoming arms because, frankly,
the watery brews served up by many old-time cafés (including,
sadly, my Manhattan buddy's diner) do not justify such loyalty.
Instead, they should show up
the big boys' comical dance into novelty by turning serious.
Now, the most wonderfully serious coffee you can get is Turkish.
One London based Turk I know sees nothing strange in dumping
five mountainous spoonfuls of instant into his cup after failing
to find ground coffee on my bare shelves.
Better still, Turks rarely
resort to supplying the kind of super-heated coffee (Sorry, madam,
I appear to have burned a hole through your babies skull) in
those accident-prone paper buckets favoured by the big franchises.
Even better still, café
proprietors would be making a semi-solid (you'll know what I
mean if you've had the coffee) contribution to Anglo-Turkish
relations, hit by recent troubles involving football fans of
Leeds and Galatasaray. Next week: how to save the World Trade
Organisation by drinking China tea.
Eye Spy Hospitality
MASSIVE queues surrounded me
as I strolled along the South Bank the other day. The throng
was waiting to climb aboard the wonderful London Eye. I looked
up and, after quiet reflection on the amazing engineering feat
the big wheel represents, was shocked to discover many of its
pods were half empty.
How could this be? At first
I thought the Eye must have hired the slow motion turn-style
staff you get at football, the kind whose time-honoured perk
of the job is to make you miss the first five minutes of the
game. But then I saw a group of suits emerge from a pod and wander
off in the direction of the nearby Oxo Tower for a slap up feed
on expenses. Yes, I'm afraid to say that the Eye does corporate
As a veteran of countless gentrified
sports events, I have learned that the big thing about being
offered hospitality is to be cool enough not to take it, hence
the half-empty pods. A friend of mine hates tennis but always
turns out for Wimbledon where he holes up in a tent with a couple
of jeroboams of bubbly and never dreams of trying to find his
Okay, so a few spare places
on some revolving folly hardly means cynical waste of the cruellest
kind. The snag is the same kind of thinking appears to be shared
by those responsible for housing policy. You wouldn't think so,
given the welter of anti-asylum-seeker scare stories about there
being no room here for the world's poor and wretched, but London,
with 40,000 homeless people, has 114,000 empty homes, a third
of which have been unoccupied for over a year.
The bitter truth is that for
speculators it's just as cool, though a bit more financially
rewarding, to let their properties lie fallow as it is for Nigel
to smirk from his suite over the river in The Savoy as his desperate
PR agency realise their valued client is not going to show.
Hot Air Blows Cold
GLOBAL WARMING has so far involved
frightening forecasts of future doom, all crazy images of rising
water levels and falling skies but maybe some of its effects
are already seeping through into the very air that we breathe.
It is my belief that that air
is getting hotter. Take the other night. Indulging in my usual
sport of eavesdropping, I was confronted by two Birmingham women
spinning tales so tall that a whirlwind threatened to lift them
both up and deposit them in the merry old Land of Oz. The first
started by outlining her failure to win a sexual partner for
the past year. Her drinking pal countered with the news that
her parents had just announced their divorce. Ah, says the first,
with no little satisfaction, but you haven't heard the reason
for my lack in the sack; I've only got three vertebrae! As I
was saying, mum and dad are splitting up because of dad's relationship
with my sister. You know, once I had to stop him murdering her.
Ordinary people's hot air is
fuelled by that of their leaders. Rumour and speculation is now
such a staple of political debate that mere facts are viewed
by most pundits as too cold to call apon. So we have the London
Mayor debate dominated by the unsubstantiated reports that Frank
Dobson's unseen backroom staff may have possibly once suggested
he shave off his beard, to which he is said to have said "Get
Meanwhile most of our national
newspapers are acing each other with increasingly ridiculous
claims about the so-called tidal wave (in fact a few hundred)
of bogus-asylum seeking Romanian Gypsies to have hit London.
The hacks, of course, refuse to look back at their own archives
from a few years ago when they were wringing their hands over
that same country's brutal treatment of that same ethnic group.
One of the biggest hot air
clouds fell over Covent Garden this week when a man from a company
called Alchemy (that bit is true) joshed with reporters about
the future of one of the major industrial concerns in the UK.
Ha, bloody, ha, thought tens of thousands of soon to be jobless
Rover car workers. The hot air might be nice for rich Londoners,
not least because it helps blow up the internet share bubble,
but it appears to be sending a cold wind up to Birmingham in
its wake, three vertebrae or not.
Passport to the Jungle
CATS v. DOGS is a contest with
a history that stretches back almost as far as the eternal and
titanic battle between Noel Gallagher and Robbie Williams.
In essence the war is one of
honest, if smelly, endeavour against sly opportunism, an ideological
fissure that was once again exposed this week. After years of
quiet lobbying through the official channels, the tail-wagging
fraternity gave a collective woof of delight on Monday when a
leading member of the pack, Frodo Baggins of Battersea, became
the first pet to enter Britain under the new animal passport
But no sooner had dog-mess
been deposited in celebratory euphoria, mostly right outside
my front door from what I can tell, than news dribbled through
that once again those cunning cats had trumped their canine rivals.
According to an astonishing police survey, there are at least
100 big cats roaming wild in Britain, a frightening moggie mix
of renegade lynx, pumas and leopards.
Owners who think it's a nice
idea to set their exotic pets free, global warming and a lack
of natural predator have all been blamed for the emergence of
the feline throng; theories which won't impress all the sad-eyed
dogs now believed to be cowering in their kennels until Lassie
comes home to save them.
But it's not only dogs that
should be worried about the junglification of the nation. The
kitty victory is surely a sign that loyal poodle Frank Dobson
faces a drubbing at the polls when canny Ken Livingstone, he
of the famous Cheshire cat grin, declares himself an independent
runner in the London mayor race. Miaow.
This Way to a Lonely Planet
BEST-SELLING guide books Lonely
Planet and Rough Guide have both laid into Londoners recently,
calling us a bunch of tight-lipped sour-faces whose idea of a
good time is being as unfriendly as possible to foreigners.
Traditionally, Londoners proffer
two kinds of comeback when given such stick. We either ignore
it, which has the happy consequence of annoying everyone else
even more, or shrug it off as we elbow old women and small children
aside in pursuit of a taxi willing to indulge our lust for running
down tourists who reckon the best place to study a dog-eared
map is halfway across Charing Cross Road.
This time round, the reaction
has been different. The London media has been full of sorry pieces
by pompous metropolitan journalists piqued at their city's treatment
by mere travel hacks. Worse still, much has been made of the
nationality of the Lonely Planet scribe who is an Australian
with the temerity to point an accusing finger at the desperate
plight of the many homeless people who still bed down for the
night on London's streets.
From being a city happily,
crazily, obsessed with itself, is there now a danger of London
becoming a city dangerously obsessed with shielding itself from
nasty outsiders? We can only hope not, but the hysterical reaction
to the plight of the Afghan asylum seekers might suggest otherwise.
Virtually every opinion former in town downed pints of xenophobic
hemlock this week before spitting bigoted bile in the direction
of a few score of people whose crime is to come from a country
with one of the most repressive regimes in the world via the
terrifying services of a hijacked aeroplane.
The strange thing is that many
of those same commentators still want to keep their places at
the liberal top-table. Take Late Show pundit Tony Parsons, for
example. On the BBC's high brow arts weekly this Thursday, he
was having a typically sly pop at the "racism" implicit
in Gilbert and Sullivan film Tosy-Turvy, conveniently forgetting
his Monday column in The Mirror which accused the Afghans (Parsons
wittily tagged them "our chums") of treating "us"
like "mugs" who have to "wipe the world's messy
The vacillations of Parsons
and his creepy ilk at least suggest that boorish outsider-angst
has yet to conclusively win the day, but it also reveals how
much Londoners need the occasional roughly guided kick up our
own messy bottoms or we'll deserve to find ourselves isolated
on a very lonely planet indeed.
LOVE AND HATE IN AN ELEVATOR
WE ran a piece this week about
London actress Sadie Frost being thrown in a Berlin police cell
and told to wee-wee on the floor after committing the heinous
crime of getting stuck in a lift with no ID.
The story has a number of fascinating
angles to it; police brutality, the toiletry habits of the rich
and famous, lift maintenance schedules etc. but what sprang to
my mind was the old game played by dilettante student debating
societies, namely Who Would You Least/Most like to Get Stuck
in a Lift With?
For many of us Sadie herself
would figure pretty high on the Most Like list - just visit the
ladies room first, eh, Sades - along with, in my own case, the
voice of Al Green, the smell of the seaside and the fleshy feel
well, you get the picture. Worst list candidates are
legion, though the person delivering the fireworks for this weekend's
Chinese New Year celebrations holds particular fear for pyrophobes
Other strange bedfellows would
include new Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police Sir John
Stevens and the Kurdish actors arrested by London cops for carrying
guns as they rehearsed a play about torture in their homeland.
"Shall we press the emergency button, Sir John, sir?"
"Stop in the name of the law! It might look like a perfectly
innocent red button to you moustachioed fugitives, but I have
reason to believe it is a fiendishly disguised nuclear detonation
switch. So much as lay a finger on that and I'll do the pair
of you for genocide, before sending you back to Turkey of course."
David Beckham, linked with
a move to Arsenal the other day, and George Best, who belittled
the sulky Manchester United man's talent, would obviously make
an excellent couple. "Stick your left foot in the door,
Davey boy, and we'll be okay." "Left foot? What's that?
I'll have to get Victoria to show me when she's getting me dressed."
Best of all we could use the
lift-fix to solve the problem of what to do with two of our most
despicable criminals, one-time dictator and mass murderer General
Pinochet and Dr Harold Shipman, who gave lethal injections to
possibly hundreds of his patients. Who would keel over first?
New Conspiracy Theory
While the rest of us were bidding
a drunken farewell to the second millennium, Britain's business
leaders were apparently staring at their spreadsheets in disgust.
Killjoy actuaries have worked out that companies spent UKP5 billion
on overtime payments and lost production in the extended holiday
In case your brains' hard drives
have been fatally damaged by one too many Vodka/Red Bulls, let
me be considerate enough to do the obvious sum for you and report
that these figures translate as an average hand out of UKP100
for every person in the country. Like you, I never saw a penny,
so some other begger must have made off with our loot, presumably
while we were staring at the Thames waiting for the Wall of Fire
to spark up.
Police have been slow to act
but I believe together we can crack the crime of the new century
while also starting the first daft conspiracy theory of the new
millennium. My own investigations have revealed two candidates
already well versed in the practise of fleecing the populace:
First up is our Prime Minister,
and the evidence is damning. According to his deputy, John Prescott,
Tony Blair worked throughout the entire Christmas period, ostensibly
in deference to the threat posed by the non-existent Millennium
Bug, but probably because he was desperate for the overtime.
How then, do we explain the sudden influx of cash necessary for
the Blairs to afford their current break in Portugal?
Then there is Posh Spice who,
despite being so poor she has to share her knickers with footballer
hubbie David Beckham, still managed to find UKP40,000 to buy
a medallion for the be-thonged Manchester United star.
No doubt you can add to this
Answers, evidence and lunatic ravings to
Subject heading 'Conspiracy Nonsense In, Real Politics Out'.
New Year Resolutions
it's been a year of unspeakable sleaze and vicious spin, but
enough of the goings on here at LondonNet Towers and enough,
too, of the past. What we need to know about is the next 12 months
and what our elders and betters will be up to. Luckily, some
bizarre mix up at the postal sorting office ended up in my desk
being strewn with the New Year's resolutions of some famous London
I promise to expunge my annoying habit of saying 'actually' and
'y'know' in every sentence I utter and also to actually be, y'know,
nice to Ken Livingstone.
One must endeavour not to use one's family connections to make
excruciatingly boring TV documentaries about one's family while
bemoaning the way one's family faces media intrusion.
Before I marry Jay Kay out of Jamiroquai, I really should listen
to one of his horribly derivative records even though I'd rather
eat one of his daft hats.
I've seen the error of my ways. I've done the Berlin Reichstag,
Wembley, the new London Assembly building and virtually every
other major piece of architecture in the world but such monumentalism
will be old hat in the new Millennium. From now on it's strictly
small-scale stuff for me. Anyone got a garden shed they need
I promise to look up the word 'goal' in a dictionary.
Cooo. We have all decided, cooo, to stop crapping on that poor
motionless Nelson who, cooo, refuses to climb down from his pole.
Instead we'll point our behinds at the dirty vermin who keep
feeding us that all that sawdust stuff. What do you expect for
20p you cheapskate scum? Cooo, f*****g cooo.
I promise to look up the word 'haircut' in a dictionary.
I will never again let Posh Spice start rumours about me moving
to a London club as I know you lot despise me as a spoilt, stroppy,
over-rated dunce, a so-called winger who has about as much chance
of getting past a full back as he does getting past a sarong
I promise to look up the word 'gullible' in the dictionary, followed
by the word 'divorce', and to stop leaving the page of the bloody
thing open at 'fragrant.'
Enough is enough. It was kinda fun to hang out in Soho for a
while but now we've just about had it up to our filters with
all these Sloaney, student and media types who insist on sticking
us between their stiff upper and lower lips. Next year we're
heading for the country. Marlboro man; we miss your kiss.
London Calling to the Faraway
London has attracted fresh
jealousy from the rest of the UK after our city was revealed
as the richest place in Europe.
Londoners' response when confronted
with the fact of their relative wealth has traditionally been
to sneer at their unfortunate cousins, be they countryside in-breds
or northern Neanderthals. 80s football fans, for instance, enjoyed
nothing more than yelling "loadsamoney" while waving
wads of cash in the pale faces of their regional rivals. In the
90s, pranksters at the Bank of England have had great sport with
the interest rate, hiking it up in order to further decimate
whatever was left of boring old northern manufacturing industry.
Nothing wrong with a bit of
vicious vandalism, goes the laissez-faire theory, but everything
has its sell-by date. Now it's time to move on and show some
generosity to our poor relatives and I have just the scheme to
help them out. (Hasty note to pampered Londoners: don't worry,
there's something in it for us).
My plan is to shift, lock,
stock and bureaucratic barrel, all the government departments
that currently leech off London into the regions, thereby handing
a welcome jobs boost to the needy while emptying our own style-conscious
streets and overcrowded transport system of hundreds of thousands
of brown-suited commuters. Better still, we'd be rid of a whole
swathe of politicians whose past-it pomposity disfigures the
capital of cool but which would impress faraway locals who are
movingly desperate to bathe in the glow of importance of any
Frank Dobson, for instance,
could quit the London Mayor race, get his old job back at the
Department of Health and move the whole operation up to his native
Leeds. Good news for friends of Ken Livingstone, good news for
Frank who, we have now been told, never fancied the Mayor job
in the first place and good news for Frank's facial hair which
could make friends with all the moustaches still worn with comical
macho pride by those gritty Yorkshire folk.
Education Secretary David Blunkett
would high tail it back to Sheffield, led by an army of vanguardist
civil servants determined to teach the steel city all about the
new, soft service industries that, unfortunately, won't be coming
their way. John Prescott, meanwhile, would have a Hull-ava time
in his hometown by introducing any number of crazy transport
schemes because nobody else would notice anyway. Bus lanes down
the Humber? An idea whose time has come, Mr Prescott, sir, and
might I ask you to sign this policy document, minister, exempting
Jags from your wonderfully well-thought out and immensely popular
road pricing scheme?
Home Secretary Jack Straw would
be 'dispersed', to use the phraseology he coined for asylum seekers,
to a nice former army barracks where he would pass the time with
his many friends among the refugee community. Once there Straw
would be allowed back to London only after experiencing huge
delays in applying for a passport and if he agreed to give up
all state benefits including his free NHS glasses.
You might think this fine plan
has about as much chance of bearing fruit as the womb of Anne
Widdicombe but that is to reckon without the support of Tony
Blair. This week, the PM is touring the country, banging the
drum for the regions. Don't be fooled into thinking it's just
one more PR exercise for I believe that Blair is actually viewing
properties on his ministerial colleagues' behalf.
Blair wants them out of the
way to combat what he rightly observed this week as London's
own severe poverty problems. Housing is one key area of concern
identified by the PM, and he bravely plans to use his own family
as guinea pigs in a new project to increase living space for
Londoners. His growing clan have already found number 10 Downing
Street too small for their needs and, with another Blair babe
on the way, even their annexation of number 11 is unlikely to
provide enough lebensraum. But with the entire civil service
exiled to the regions, thousands of square feet of prime office
space covering most of Whitehall would suddenly become available
- enough to house not only Blair's brood but his vast collection
of broken promises as well.
Charles Leads Home
LONDON's property prices have
taken the headlines recently, as the cost of buying a house continues
to vastly outstrip the rest of the country.
The snag is that London exists
on a different plane from other parts of Britain, a space occupied
in the main by rival world cities. Indeed, real estate is even
more expensive in the likes of Amsterdam, New York, Paris and
But they all score in the rented
sector which over here is pitifully small.
Now, finally, someone in authority
has recognised the problem and is ready to do something about
it. Prince Charles has announced that he wants to quit Buckingham
Palace if he ever gets his bum on the throne and shift the court
to Windsor Castle; a move which instantly creates a hugely desirable
central London property ripe for conversion into executive homes
soaked in history, family breakdown and corgi droppings.
At the other end of the housing
market, there are encouraging signs of movement, too. Notorious
north London prison Wormwood Scrubs has closed down one of its
wings for refurbishment and, after the inevitable privatisation,
could easily earn some extra moola by renting out surplus rooms
to hard up northerners down here begging for work.
While people are flocking into
London, those already here can't get out. Thanks to a foul up
at the passport office, tens of thousands of would be travellers
have been queuing for days in the hope of gaining the important
human right to have fat border guards sneer at their badly lit
Renaissance hits London
IN A WORLD in which increasing
specialisation is taken for granted, it is intriguing to bring
you hot news that the great and good of London are doing their
bit to reverse the process, develop wide ranging interests in
the world at large, and become latter day renaissance folk.
An obscure aristocrat led the
way. Tom Parker-Bowles, son of the girlfriend of the future king,
revealed his talents are not confined to the exacting world of
PR when he gallantly offered to obtain cocaine for a winsome
undercover journalist. Then there was England rugby captain Lawrence
Dallaglio, a man possessed of a renaissance-style name if not,
we had thought until now, an Enlightenment-style intellect. But,
as NATO bombing blunders have proved over and over again, appearances
can be deceptive.
Bovine Dallaglio is an expert
in all matters narcotic, is a keen student of national sexual
characteristics and can also spot a good business opportunity
when one pops into his mouth.
Evidence that these two are
but the first examples of the London's neo-renaissance movement
is to be found on the Thames as a new river bus service has opened
for business, adding a pleasing Venetian flavour to the capital.
Alas, there are always stragglers,
even amongst our cultural elite. Yes, we mean you, Hugh Grant.
Just once, can you please try to do something else apart from
act the nervous, diffident English twerp.
Royals to Kosovo Rescue
A FRIEND took his kids to the
Tower of London the other day to gawp at the jewels, ravens and
iron-willed patience of the record breaking queues.
Safely in the souvenir shop
after an arduous hour of royal tittle tattle the two boys were
given permission to choose a momento of their day. One chose
a punk mask, the other a model of a tube train.
Obviously, the only bits of
the Tower tour that did interest them were the tales of torture
and death which leads me to believe the Royals have got it all
wrong in their recent bid for a modernising revamp. Evidence
of the Windsors laughable attempts to loosen up has arisen with
increasing frequency of late.
They try but they can't quite
cut it, bless 'em. Only this week, Prince William was spotted
with once trendy ethnic bangles around his wrist; meanwhile his
cousin Zoe, she of the pierced tongue, is afraid to show off
her own royal jewel in public, and great Aunty Margaret managed
to burn both feet in what was presumably a botched attempt at
No, as my friend's kids realise,
what our esteemed family need is a return to the good old days
of mass murder and crazy killings. That'd bring the bored punters
flocking back to the royalist cause. And what better time to
effect this cunning change of tack but in the middle of a war?
Step aside Tony Blair, let
the Royals take on Milosevic. The Queen could set her corgies
loose to fetch the recalcitrant Serb, sister Margaret could indulge
in some decadent torture and after his ordeal by hot water Prince
Charles could get the poor war criminal to confess and convert
to whatever quasi-religion he liked. Hip, hip, hoorah.
Turn Right at The City
LENNOX LEWIS is but the latest
sign of east London's punchy new role at the vanguard of the
Once upon a time the East End
was flat on the canvas; viewed by polite society as a den of
vermin, vice and venereal disease, an area to be avoided at all
costs unless one fancied a cheap Bengali curry or had to pass
through on the way to the office monstrosities of Docklands.
Not any more. Now there's a
certain cachet, among the type of media folk who decide these
things, to be earned from choosing the east for your home, especially
in club and cafe rich districts like hustling bustling Hoxton.
Even the curry places have
inched up market with no loss of culinary excellence, basking
in the marketing glory of the renamed Banglatown. And just over
the river the Dome and the associated Millennium celebrations
have attracted world wide attention to Greenwich.
The East End is still the poorest
area of London, by quite some distance, but its bit-part renaissance
provides yet more evidence that the capital's culture derives
most of its raw energy and exciting surprises from the level
they call the street. Lewis's fists apart, the other reason for
the upturn could well be Tony Blair's departure from eastish
Islington to the dull environs of Downing Street.
As yet there are few places
to stay in east London for those who wish to explore this fascinating
area with its potent mixture of neo-Dickensian poverty, 90s cafe
society and gargantuan office development. The best bet could
be to hole up in The City and work your way east from there.
There are plenty of hotels in the financial zone to choose from;
LondonNet's own preference being The
for details of staying at The
No one was very surprised this
week when London Underground admitted that its much troubled
Jubilee Line extension to the Millennium Dome might not be ready
In fact, the Tube's problems
only appear to have made people even more keen to get to the
huge round thing come witching hour on December 31st. Take the
Queen, for instance. Such is her desire to see the Dome, it was
reported underlings have arranged for the Thames to be iced over
so Her Skating Majesty can whoosh along to Greenwich.
The rest of us might be advised
to follow her exquisite tracks, because there doesn't seem to
be any other way we'll be able to get there. As well as the debacle
underground, plans for loads of river busses appear to have bitten
the dust and, in a self-defeating concession to environmentalists,
the Dome will have virtually no car parks. But the many would-be
visitors to London for the Millennium Eve - tourist chiefs say
hotel bookings are already high going on overflowing - have no
need to worry.
The good side of the transport
mess is that, with the Dome unreachable, pleasure seeking crowds
will be forced to whoop it up in central London, an altogether
better venue for mass celebration.
LondonNet New Year Predictions
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown deny reports of a rift between them.
Rod Stewart is dumped by wife Rachel Hunter.
Contractors for the tube link to the Millennium Dome refuse to
extend lucrative management bonus scheme to engineers.
Arsene Wenger slams reports that his Arsenal side are dirty.
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown announce they are a tightly knit
team, unswerving in their reciprocal regard.
Newly single Rod Stewart hits the town with Liam Gallagher. Contractors
assure worried ministers that the Millennium Dome tube link will
be ready on time.
Arsene Wenger complains that opponents are consistently getting
away with shoving their faces into his players' elbows.
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown announce they have never, ever been
Rod Stewart hits the town with Liam Gallagher and Patsy Kensit.
Contractors bring in extra shifts to speed up work on the Millennium
Dome tube link
Arsene Wenger issues his players with elbow pads in a bid to
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown share a quiet Easter break in Tuscany,
to discuss policy.
Rod Stewart hits Liam Gallagher with a football boot and runs
off to LA with Patsy Kensit.
Contractors sack "inflexible" engineers refusing to
work the new 23.5 hour shift system.
"Elbow, elbow, we are the Arsenal boys/and we all swallow
the Arse lies" becomes favourite chant at Highbury.
Tony Blair calls Gordon Brown "my closest friend, inside,
or indeed outside, of politics."
Rod Stewart hits LA soccer bars with Patsy Kensit, who reveals
her pregnancy via e-mail to Matt Drudge.
Contractors bring in new team of crack engineers and assure ministers
that the tube link to the Millennium Dome will be up and running
by year 2000.
Arsenal fans wave elbow pads at their heroes as the team walk
out at Wembley for FA Cup final.
Tony Blair and Gordon Brown are seen shopping together in Notting
Hip thrusting Rod Stewart stars in new advert for Viagra.
Contractors forced to admit they have systematically laced engineers
food with a steroids/cocaine cocktail to boost productivity.
Arsene Wenger drafts in former runner Zola Budd as new running
coach, with special reference to sticky out elbows.
Tony Blair praises Gordon Brown's management of the economy,
citing his close friend's safe pair of hands, which, he adds
warmly, "are also incredibly gentle".
Patsy Kensit admits she doesn't know who the father of her unborn
Viagra sales hit the floor.
Contractors appoint Sophie Rhys-Jones as their PR chief to combat
"unfair" criticism of the project which, they say,
is on schedule.
Arsenal players banned from local supermarkets after disrupting
shelf displays with their elbows.
Tony Blair gives his friend Gordon keys to number 10 Downing
Street, arguing the move will save valuable government time.
Matt Drudge reports that Bill Clinton is the father to the Kensit
Percentage of people believing the Millennium tube link will
open on time plummets when Rhys-Jones gives the project her royal
Arsenal reveal new strip for season, complete with body armour,
red and white knuckle dusters and retractable elbow spike.
Tony, holding hands with shy looking Gordon, delivers key note
speech calling for a Third Way in personal relationships.
"Unless I've missed my guess, biology doesn't allow for
pregnancy via the mouth," says Bill Clinton, denying paternity
in Kensit case.
Contractors sack crack engineers for succumbing to sleep on innovative
new 24 hour shift pattern.
Arsene Wenger sends cleaning bill to FA after opponent spills
his blood on an Arsenal shirt.
Tony Blair rushes back alone from Tuscany after row with Gordon
Brown. Rod Stewart hits DC with Bill Clinton.
Thousands of moles employed on a strictly pay-as-you-dig basis
by contractors for the Millennium tube link.
Arsene Wenger refuses to condemn Dennis Bergkamp after the Dutch
striker elbows an air hostess to death on flight to European
Gordon Brown poisons Tony Blair with his own hairspray and installs
himself as Prime Minister.
Rod Stewart hits Bill with press conference lectern and flees
to London with Chelsea Clinton.
Moles demand removal of supervisory hyenas, brought in to improve
productivity on Millennium tube link project, now admitted to
being "slightly behind schedule."
The revered Arsenal back four announce their retirement, blaming
referees, the media and Alex Ferguson for their decision.
In an exclusive interview with The Sun, Gordon Brown describes
his dramatic action as "prudent and cautious."
Matt Drudge breaks the news that Bill Clinton knowingly had intimate
contact with press conference lectern.
Government hands over billions of pounds in extra funding to
finish Millennium tube link on time, praising contractors' "unrivalled
Arsenal employ Sophie Rhys-Jones as their new PR guru to combat
"unwarranted" criticism of their robust playing style.
Tortured By Time
YOU might have thought that
people would want this century, the most bloody in history, to
end. But no, in London at least, it looks like we want the good
old 20th century to stick around.
The evidence is patchy so far
but clear nonetheless; people are trying to defy the venerable
laws of the universe and turn back time. According to the latest
survey, traffic in London is now stationary more often than it
is not and traffic speeds are now officially sub-horse and cart
for the first time since
Dobbin and his hay-munching
pals retired to the glue factory in deference to the new fangled
Meanwhile shops in town report
that last month saw the lowest November sales figures for years.
Put these trends down to economics at your peril. No, here we
have a concrete challenge to Einsteinian physics. If we extrapolate
the traffic survey's astonishing findings, for example, we see
that cars, which are currently able to do 11mph, will soon be
tootling along at minus speeds. Yes, they will go backwards.
No bad thing too, you environment
lovers may argue, and good luck to you. But there is better news
still. At some point, shops, too, will hang up the minus sign
over their goods. In other words, they will pay us to take their
wonderful wares away.
Some sections of the capital's
community are, of course, much further ahead than others in the
race to cheat time. Just like the old days, any politics of interest
is now conducted in an unelected chamber based on the hereditary
principle, and state torturers are handed gracious accommodation
for their pains. Not to worry. Pinochet may be tucked away in
a sumptuous mansion near Wentworth golf course but maybe someone
can club the old murderer out of an upstairs bedroom onto the
fairway for us.
A bit harsh? Not a bit. As
our time-reversers will soon discover when they head back through
the 1970s, one of the favourite methods of Pinochet's henchmen
in dealing with their political foes was called fenestration,
in which the general's enemies were dispatched to death via high
- Blair Snuggles Up to Clinton
Murderous dictators must be
brought to book, counsels Prime Minister Tony Blair as he dusts
off hi military hardware for another pop at Saddam Hussein.
Meanwhile, the slippery PM
refuses to get involved in the fight to hand over General Pinochet,
the bloodthirsty former Chilean ruler to Spanish authorities.
Why the apparent double standards?
It's hard to look further than the other side of the ocean where
a newly invigorated Bill Clinton is keen to push home his recent
electoral advantage and bomb the whiskers off Saddam. Clinton
and US big business are also some of the keenest advocates of
letting Pinochet head home. Little surprise when a former CIA
man revealed last week that it was on the advice of Pepsi that
Pinochet was tooled up by the US back in the 1970s.
Blair lies supine in front
of Clinton, as creepy crawly as anything you might care to dig
up in your garden, but is not daft enough to want to let this
lap dog image stick. Hence his rottweiller attack on the ambitions
of populist left winger Ken Livingstone to become London's Mayor.
In a way you have got to hand it to Blair for he has cornered
the market on the politics of the playground; suck up to the
big boy and kick sand in the face of the class stooge. But when
the rest of the school wakes up to his slimy antics there'll
be a queue a mile long to wipe that smug grin off his face. Trouble
is first in line for a takeover is Gordon Brown.
- Something in the Air
MIMICKING a bizarre plot in
a James Bond movie, we can exclusively reveal that a menacing
mastermind has been pumping funny stuff into the air over London
town. There can be no other explanation for the strange happenings
of the past fortnight.
First our spineless Labour
government rediscovered its radical roots, sending armed police
into a London hospital to arrest a frail 82 year old. Not just
any old man recovering from a serious back operation you understand,
but the former head of state of one of our longest allies, Chile.
It seems even the spin-doctoring party hacks remember their days
of student solidarity. The chance to extradite ex-dictator General
Augusto Pinochet to be put on trial in Spain, for the murder
and disappearance of thousands of supporters of Allende's democratically
elected government, was just too good to miss.
Then our strange but all consuming
cloud drifted east to The Strand where it settled above the Royal
Courts of Justice. There, three High Court judges were 'soberly'
deliberating over the fate of Thatcher's tea-time buddy Pinochet.
They ruled that the strong man enjoyed 'sovereign' immunity from
prosecution because he was head of state at the time of the barbarity.
Dictators the world over breathed a sigh of relief, safe in the
knowledge that they could continue to make their annual Harrods
shopping trip without facing 'unwarranted intrusion' into their
human rights records.
By now our funny stuff had
spread south to Clapham Common where it induced Welsh Secretary
Ron Davies to do "something very foolish", leading
first to him being robbed, then having to resign for what he
called "a serious lapse of judgement". All is not what
it seems of course, but then with just one lung full of this
mysterious gas all logic is thrown out of the window.
Take Prince Charles. He starts
the week facing embarrassing revelations from his 'friends' in
a new work of pap faction by money grabbing author Penny Junor.
From nemesis to nirvana in two days for Charlie boy though, for
by Wednesday the gorgeous Geri Halliwell is serenading him at
a charity bash with a seductive rendition of Happy Birthday.
So my friends this Halloween
weekend why not take a stroll, have a deep gulp and see what
the London air has in store for you.
- Tom Cruise to the Rescue
IT HAS fallen to Tom Cruise,
apprehender of a would-be London mugger, to re-light the path
of righteousness increasingly left darkened by our rulers.
Make no mistake, the hour of
the superhero has come. With some officers on trial for kicking
their own police dogs to death, others tearfully admitting that
the police are endemically racist, and an orchard full of bad
apples in the dock on big time drug conspiracy charges, confidence
in the more traditional forces of order is at an all time low.
Nor can we turn to the government
for succour, as Prime Minister Tony Blair has more in common
with the court-squatting cops than with Tom. Blair wants to give
besieged Serbian towns a right good kicking, but when General
Pinochet of Chile, one of the all time top human rights abusers,
is available for arrest in his own city, he keeps suspiciously
quiet, despite being pressed on the issue by the Spanish government
and Amnesty International.
So we issue a plea to you,
Tom. Stay in town oh avenger of the mighty, and can you begin
your Herculean task by nabbing Mickey Rouke for getting his ass
out in public? Next stop, of course, should be that Nicole Kidman,
who is pulling the same rear-end stunt every night on a London
- Tony Blair - Hero of the West
After recently galloping across
the ocean to support famous moralist 'Wild' Bill Clinton in his
shoot out with the Starrman, this week British Prime Minister
Tony Blair rode his pious horse to northern outpost Blackpool,
dredging up the old one about family values in his keynote speech
to the Labour Party conference.
Happily Sin Sheriff Blair's
absence has spurred the capital into an entertaining orgy of
sleaze right out of a wild west frontier town.
Straight to jail for smut go
London's formerly esteemed theatre critics, whose jaw-dropping
reviews of Nicole Kidman in The Blue Room (she shows her ass)
suggest they might have spent too many hours hitching their wagons
to saloon bars and not enough in the saddle with their better
Maybe the sex-starved scribes
should take a trek to Streatham in south London where lusty whores
have launched a campaign against police harassment. Or indulge
their voyeuristic tendencies at the London Fashion Show, where
the quota of bare flesh would make Lilly Langtry blush.
Either way, they might be mighty
surprised to find Blair himself saying howdy. Why? Cherie, the
prime preacher's eager wife, was spotted fingering a packet of
Viagra in a quiet moment in Blackpool. Ride 'em cowboy!
- Clinton Hoist by His Own Petard
These were the words that greeted
unsuspecting visitors to London's Leicester Square this weekend:
"Hi. We're from American television. Could you tell us what
you think of the Bill Clinton situation?"
Nice to have you in town, guys,
but where were you when it really mattered?
Why wait to ask what we think
when the issue in hand is what a distant leader does with the
most private parts of his anatomy? When Clinton is up to something
that has public reverberations all over the globe, such as sending
the killers into Afghanistan and Sudan, or standing idly by while
the world economy teeters on the brink of collapse, American
TV crews aren't exactly queuing up to garner our choice words.
But let's not be too hard on
the media's obsession with individuals over policy. Clinton has
brought it all on himself. Not so much because the leader of
the West couldn't keep himself out of Monica's north and south*
but because he has been instrumental in individualising the whole
area of social policy and politics, a strategy he has unfortunately
passed on to cooing lickspittle Tony Blair, our own Prime Minister.
Clinton's contribution to progressive
political thought has been to sound egalitarian by pushing conservative,
middle class ideas of individual responsibility down to the lower
orders. In other words he has connived in cutting welfare. Now
the man who thinks the rest of society should be run by rewarding
talent and effort and penalising sloth and idiocy wants us all
to forgive the fact he was a bad husband, a bad lover (surely
the only man to offer sore knees as an excuse for lack of performance)
and a bad liar.
Abide by your own meritocratic
strictures, Bill, give those knees a rest, and stand down. Al
Gore might not be good copy for TV crews hoping for expenses
paid trips to London, but at least his lack of personality might
just force the news hounds to focus on the big issues and might
give your party a chance to win the next presidential elections.
* Cockney rhyming slang for
- Diana Anniversary Special
Al Fayed shops for new explanation
HARRODS boss Mohammed Al Fayed
last week amended earlier claims that his son Dodi and Diana,
Princess of Wales were victims of some wicked conspiracy in favour
of a more prosaic theory blaming a couple of bungling bodyguards
for their horrific deaths.
But Al Fayed's betrayal of
the conspiracy theorists cause has not put off the suspicious
multitudes, still in a majority, who believe the two lovers were
sent to their deaths by human design rather than divine will.
It is a subject that is sure
to run and run, as LondonNet publisher Peter Clee (that's my
brother), tells viewers on German TV channel RTL this weekend.
Peter (whose birthday it was yesterday) is one of the leading
researchers into Diana conspiracy theories in this country and
has already appeared on TV both here and in the US to discuss
the various notions behind the princess's tragic death.
Internet abhors a vacuum
One of Peter's excellent insights
(okay, so I'm biased) on why Diana's death has attracted so many
conspiracy theories on the internet is that people were almost
bound to come up with their own ideas to fill the vacuum caused
by the almost total lack of information from the official Paris
investigation, a deficiency which has mostly been mirrored by
the usual media outlets.
Meanwhile, the world's press
has gone overboard on grief stricken Diana eulogies, a factor
which helps explain the tiny turn out at a walk on August 23rd
through her funeral route. Organisers expected 20,000 people
on the morbid march but, ignoring the fact the craving for mourning
had already been satisfied, had to make do with just 300 sad
When the time comes, they'll
get a place alongside their mistress in heaven. But it might
take bodyguards of Mr Universe proportions to persuade the maker
into accepting a certain department store boss, with or without
Catch Peter Clee's latest broadcast
on RTL's Der Spiegel TV show on Sunday August 30th, 22.00 CET,
The anniversary of Diana's
death is on Monday August 31st.
To arranage an interiew on
the subject of Diana, or anything else for that matter, contact
LondonNet on: [email protected]
Street Goes Down the Gutter
AN enterprising company launches
a Night Tour of central London complete with sights of the heartrending
and homeless as well as the sleazy and salacious. Sara Phillips,
umpteenth in line for the throne of the United Kingdom, gets
her royal tongue pierced.
Two trivial events apparently
unconnected, right? Wrong. Both pieces of idiocy offer a scary
glimpse of the future decline of London's vibrant, much trumpeted,
Street culture has two main
features; the first that it draws its vibrance from its spontaneity,
the second that it emanates from down there somewhere, that somewhere
commonly referred to as the street.
Once you start to stuff all
that fizzing and popping into neat boxes, tetra packed for gullible
tourists, out goes the spontaneity, and once someone as dull
as Phillips dons lowlife accoutrements, the game is surely up
for the cultural kudos of the street. Next Sara and her posh
pals will take to sleeping in urine infested blankets to gain
cred. But enough of boarding school pranks.
Queen Goes House Hunting
The Royals do have a homeless
problem of their own for this is the time of the year the Queen
and her brood are forced to flee Buckingham Palace in the face
of a mass invasion by tourists, who, for a discreet fee, are
allowed to gawp at the insides of the regal residence.
Besides the fact she cannot
abide sharing her London pile with hordes of visitors, Her Majesty
is wise to clear out of town for a while. With the anniversary
of Diana's death so close, Liz faced trouble following reports
that her first words on hearing of the tragedy were in concern
for the family jewels that may have adorned her daughter-in-law's
On her travels, Her Majesty
would be well advised to avoid the cheeky charms of east London
where last week experts cleared hundreds of people out of their
homes so they could diffuse an unexploded Second World War bomb.
Luckily, the Queen has several other residences on which to call.
Mayor Mystery Deepens
Not so London's new mayor,
who still doesn't know where his or her new assembly will gather
itself. Indeed the whole mayor business finds itself shrouded
in ever greater clouds of mystery as Labour hopeful Ken Livingstone
and Tory eager beaver Lord Archer find themselves attacked with
bitter fervour by their own sides. Such is the climate of intrigue
that no one's got a clue who will stand from which party, or
what strange powers the mystery person will wield.
What we can say with some considerable
confidence is that by the time the long running mayoral saga
draws to a close the lucky winner will not have to pierce his
or her tongue to gain respect. A stab or two in the back will
- The Perils of Diana Pitstop
- Prescott Stinks the Place Out
- Short horror story
- The Perils of Diana Pitstop
Last week many turned their
noses up at news that Princess Diana is to be immortalised in
cartoon form. But the easily offended should be aware that the
tragic royal, in the run up to her death, had already starred
in a real life version of Wacky Races .
One chauffeur familiar with
the Mercedes 280S in which the Princess died has now claimed
that the flashy car was known to have faulty brakes before its
chase with a posse of snap-happy paparazzi. Despite that news,
my bet is that the vast majority of commuters would take their
chances in a plush Mercedes, however dodgy its brakes, over the
daily assault course represented by public transport.
- Prescott Stinks the Place
A sniffy fate confronts the
travelling throng in the rush hour on London's creaking transport
system. And now, thanks to the astonishing schemes of Transport
Secretary John Prescott, Stuffed Trains Induce Nose Kurl-up (STINK)
syndrome is about to get worse as thousands more schnozzes are
forced to wrinkle up to the city's armpits.
Prescott, with the kind help
of countless focus groups, consultants and lobbyists, has noticed
that London's roads are clogged up and has decided to use city
centre tolls and car park taxes to coral drivers into leaving
their beloved toys at home. The money raised from the reintroduction
of highway robbery, claims John, will be used to spruce up the
trains and buses but he is careful not to give any dates. In
the meantime, presumably, the motored classes will fall gratefully
into the waiting armpits of public transport.
In a separate development plans
were announced to start up a peak hours hovercraft service on
the Thames, confirming my long held adherence to the mathematical
law of inverse proportions, which states that as the problem
with public transport approaches tragedy, so its solution hovers
ever closer to farce.
- Short horror story
Travellers weren't the only
ones wishing John had told his researchers to focus off. Backers,
including Martin Amis, of new pocket-sized short story pamphlets
aimed at commuters, must have been choking on their meal tickets.
The prospect of tubes, trains and buses so crowded you can hardly
wrench your conk away from your neighbours pits hardly represents
fertile ground for sticking your nose between the covers of some
Streets of Shame
"Let me take you through
the streets of London," goes the song, to which famous line
will soon be added the miserly coda, "but remember to bring
a few pounds to pay for your trip," if the tight arses at
the Corporation of London have their way.
Corporation bosses, who run
London's financial district, are set to charge driving visitors
to the area UKP3 for the privilege, a move which is targeted
deliberately against less financially well endowed Londoners.
Meanwhile, those even lower
down the pecking order who use the city's streets as their home
have been handed an apparent boost with the appointment of a
so-called 'Streets Czar'. But the suspicion remains that the
Czar's main motive will be to clear the alleys and doorways of
their human debris so as not to offend tourists and City types,
rather than to improve the long term lot of people at the bottom
of the pile.
So far, for instance, few clues
as to where the homeless will be sent can be gleaned. And in
a country which, it was revealed this week, houses its darling
Princess Diana on a former dogs burial ground, the homeless can
be forgiven for not greeting the Czar's appointment with serf
Rival fans fought it out on
London streets this week with Kensington the surprising choice
But this was no hooligan-driven
World Cup war, although some London landlords, good enough to
install big screens at their pubs, have reported minor trouble
Instead, fans of the scheme
to plant a Memorial Garden to Princess Diana in Kensington have
found themselves attacked by local residents who fear an influx
of tourists. So far the attacks have only been verbal in nature
but it may not stay that way for much longer. Leading the assault
on the Diana garden is Kensington MP Alan Clark, one of the few
men in authority to publicly back English hooligans in France.
Clark paid tribute to the "martial spirit" of the bottle
wielding throng, claiming they were provoked by rival fans, a
justification he may well use when the glass (presumably from
bottles of bubbly rather than lager) starts to fly down Kensington
If future tourists do have
a Diana Garden to visit, they will be able to get there quicker
than ever, thanks to the new Heathrow rail link which boasts
a connection time of 15 minutes to Paddington station in central
London. About as long as British interest in this year's Wimbledon
tennis tournament, in all probability.
AS TWO emerging nuclear powers
get ready to blow each other to bits on the other side of the
world, in London it appears to be sad celebrities who face impending
The last week has seen a huge
cull of faces which have adorned the West End celeb circuit for
some years. First to go was London Spice Girl Geri Halliwell
who pulled the plug on girl power to head out of town for LA.
Then there was Gazza, spat
out of the England World Cup squad after eating a kebab in Soho
the other week.
Next up the Rolling Stones
revealed, to huge sighs of relief all around, that they would
not be turning up for planned dates in London, claiming new tax
rules gave them no satisfaction.
And the slaughter of the famous
is apparently not over yet. Would-be London Mayor Lord Jeffrey
Archer looks like getting the elbow from the big race after colleagues
from his own party raked over his iffy past, and next many of
his fellow lordships, the hereditary ones, are set to be chucked
out of Parliament. Now London is living in fear that world leaders,
as with India and Pakistan, will impose tough sanctions on this
celebrity graveyard of a city, threatening the whole edifice
of Cool Britannia, the Blair government, and life in the next
millennium into the bargain.
London Looks East
Look East appeared to be London's
slogan this week as news in the capital acquired a distinctly
oriental flavour. Flying in from points east were two British
nurses freed from a Saudi Arabian jail and Japanese Emperor Akihito
who shared the unhappy attentions of tabloid reporters keen to
dig up past misdeeds.
Unlike the tight lipped Emperor,
the nurses were able to cash in on the tabloid interest but it
is doubtful whether Akihito was planning to fly back home on
new cheapo airline Go!, launched last week, in any case.
Akihito did, however, come
under fire from former Japanese prisoners of war who demanded
a bigger apology for their war time miss-treatment than has previously
On the same day it emerged
that London was planning a cheeky bid to poach the 2002 World
Cup final from Tokyo. With economies in the Far East on the slide
doubts have been expressed as to Japan's capabilities of hosting
the event, a situation immediately capitalised on by British
Minister of Sport Tony Banks, a London Mayor hopeful.
While Banks tries to bring
the biggest football prize of all to the west, a smaller trophy
went the other way when south east London football club Charlton
Athletic gained promotion to the Premiership after a thrilling
win in the First Division play off final against Sunderland.
With Crystal Palace relegated, Charlton's ascent brings the London
quotient in the top flight back to six. Something, no doubt,
Akihito will mull over as he heads out of town.
PS. Thanks for the letters
from our foreign readers re British Tourist Authority Offices
(BTAs) abroad. Surprisingly you all had good things to say about
the BTAs, from USA to Canada to Holland you all gave them the
thumbs up. So fellow AHOY readers may wish to note that the local
BTA is worth a call when planning your next trip. Other views?
Email us at [email protected]
Hanging On The Telephone
Getting to grips with the
arcane world of travel bureaux
This week' s survey by the
Consumer Association highlighted some of the difficulties UK
tourists face when seeking info about foreign shores. Callers
to the Greek office face a wait measuring 105 rings. The Florida
office charges serious money just to get a pithy brochure on
the Sunshine State. "We were left wondering if some staff
really wanted to encourage visitors" said the survey.
Well I am left wondering exactly
what visitors to London and the UK are dished up by our representatives
abroad. One shudders at the prospect. The image of the average
English civil servant working abroad is at best "well-meaning,
nice but dim, drinking whisky and gin" and at worst "hey-ho,
I travel the world at the taxpayer's expense". As for queues,
face it, for us Brits standing in line is a national obsession.
So dish the dirt, put us out
of our misery and tell us if our money is being well spent. Do
our British Tourist Offices answer the phone, are they helpful
and friendly? Do they charge for advice?
Email us at [email protected]
with your views and experiences.
Hurry While Stocks Last
- On the crumbling Buckingham
This week's news that Buckingham
Palace is having trouble staying in a vertical position should
act as a spur to those of you who have not yet tasted the delights
of London's most famous royal residence.
It is now only a few months
before the Queen opens the majestic doors of her living quarters
to tourists, casual visitors and the downright nosy. And, judging
by the amount of masonry tumbling down from Palace ceilings,
as revealed on LondonNet's news service this week, the annual
opening up this August may be your last chance to see the insides
of one of the world's top tourist sites.
Just remember to bring your
Clinton's Career Choices
Her Majesty the Queen Mother
did her best to stand up to the news challenge from across the
ocean but to no avail. The Queen Mum's brave attempt to hog the
headlines fell down as all eyes in London turned westwards to
the travails of poor old Bill Clinton. The old girl might have
needed surgery to replace her broken hip but what's that against
the story of the guy who needs a woman's gaping mouth to replace
his broken zip?
Over here, Clinton's plight
has been viewed sympathetically. People have less difficulty
accepting the western world is led by a man with serial trouser
trouble than they do working out what the word 'intern' means.
Internet? International? Internuffalready!mymouth'sfull?
Indeed the sympathy has reached
such a pitch that we have an idea for the put-apon President.
Sir, you're due to quit the Oval Office in a couple of years.
So why not head our way and become London's first elected mayor?
Tasteless allegations of a sexual nature would not, we can assure
you, dog your every path.
Just look at your main rivals
for this coveted post. Richard Branson has been accused of molesting
a woman, Jeffrey Archer has admitted handing over brown envelopes
stuffed with cash to a prostitute and Ken Livingstone likes newts.
Yes, sir, they suck. Get down on it and blow them all away.
The Greenwich Dome
promise, a pilgrimage to the home of Mickey Mouse and a huge
dome where people will come together in love and harmony ...
1960s retro chic? No, 1998
The news from the capital of
cool has been warmed over again and again as the Millennium Dome
continues to dominate the headlines. First Prime Minister Tony
Blair dropped in on his Japanese counterpart, begging bowl in
hand. We all knew Tony could lay on the charm, but to win cash
for the Dome from the likes of Toyota and Nissan at a time of
financial apocalypse on the Japanese markets must have meant
Blair outdid even his famously polite hosts in the bowing and
With Tony out east, chief henchman
Peter Mandelson had no option but to turn to the wise old head
of Mickey Mouse for advice. Mandy returned from Disneyworld full
of ideas but still won't repeat anything that Mickey had to say.
Not a squeak.
What Preachy Pete did allow
was that the 750 million pound Dome would feature a good, clean
Christian theme. On no account, came the word from the New Labour
pulpit, would the giant sized man - planned as the centrepiece
of the touchy feely exhibition - have an, ooh madam, penis.
No cock. Just one helluva lot