Monday, 5 April 2010

A la recherche du temps perdu

It's easy to get nostalgic about the 'good old days', but often they weren't really that good at all, and we should be careful to acknowledge just how much better life has been in recent times. Particularly under the watchful eye of recent Governments, who have carefully legislated away many of the old activities which we may sometimes miss, but which we must acknowledge were iniquitous to modern eyes.

I think a prime example is the sale of grey squirrels. This was, quite rightly, made an offence under the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act (2006). No more would that apple-cheeked old man walk up the village street with a squirming sack over his shoulder, bidding a cheery "Morning, missis!" to the lady of the house before handing over the week's squirrels. I remember, as a lad, going down the pet shop and cautiously knocking on the back door to ask if they'd got any spare squirrels. "They're for me mam!" I would chime in youthful sincerity. "Are you sure, ye young spavin?" "Oh, yes, she'd like three please and here's me tanner."

Ah me. But I think we must all agree that times must change. Squirrels have got rather dangerous of late, as we all know, so it's only right that our trusty Government should step in.

Of course, when that law was brought in by the nice Mr Blair, we then all worried about the nice man who used to come round with the Polish potatoes. Squirrel and chipski was one of our regular Friday night dishes, but it wasn't quite the same with just the potatoes. Fortunately, the Polish Potatoes (Notification) (England) Order (2004) soon brought some sense to that, and banned them. For a while you could get them on the black market, but the Government inspectors soon put a stop to that. When I was a bit older I stopped one of them one evening and asked what his job was like. He said:

"Powers of an inspector
4. - (1) The provisions of this article are without prejudice to the circumstances in which an inspector may by virtue of the principal Order exercise the powers conferred by that Order.

(2) On having reasonable grounds for suspecting a contravention or likely contravention of article 3, an inspector may, for the purpose of this Order, exercise -

(a) the power conferred by article 22(1) of the principal Order as read with article 24(1) to (3) of the principal Order, as if a Polish potato were a plant landed or likely to be landed in contravention of the principal Order; and

(b) the power conferred by article 22(2) of the principal Order as read with article 24(1) to (3) of the principal Order, as if a Polish potato kept on or moved from premises, or likely to be so, were a plant kept on or moved from the premises in contravention of the principal Order."

I threw him over the wall and carried on to the Yob & Asbo where of course I neither smoked, sold squirrels nor attempted to import Polish potatoes, and I'm sure we'd agree that's best. Obviously we didn't do any singing either, what with Abdul not having the Public Entertainment & Enjoyment Licence thingy.

Just between you and me, though - and don't tell anyone else, OK? - I happen to know where we can get a squirrel and some Polish spuds, if you feel like some on the way home. Keep schtum, now, or the bloody inspectors will be in...


  1. Ermm... who out there bothers to pay attention to such laws ? Or such inspectors ?

    Round here Big Charity (wealthy, non-taxpaying, single-issue lobby groups whose prime motivation is making money to pay the wage bill) is trying to introduce the white-tailed sea-eagle. It will make a lot of revenue with the visiting birders and tourists. Unfortunately pig farmers are not so keen. Nor are gamekeepers (the eagles take hares). The bloody thing has a 72-96in wingspan, is common as muck in Norway and if this country was suitable, it would already be here.

    So these re-introduced species will be shot on site or poisoned, Big Charity will bring its highly publicised, "open the purses", prosecution as usual. The red-tops will be conned again (not difficult). And the re-introduction will fail. Until Big Charity finds another money-earning species to bring in money.

    Squirrels and spudski, eagles and chips ! Bah ! Pass the amber liquid quickly.

  2. Well, I'd have to differ with you on the sea-eagle, but in general would agree on the Big Charity you allude to. And would agree whole-heartedly on the amber liquid. Oddly enough, the only time I've seen a sea-eagle was on Islay, a couple of hours or so after a visit to the Laphroaig distillery. (Love the whisky but prefer the Ardbeg distillery - more homely.)