When I was sorting out some drawers a little while ago I came across some clippings from the early nineties. They’re nearly all from the New Statesman & Society’s (as it then was) ‘This England’ column. Readers send in clippings from newspapers which typify the extremes of the kind of Briton that would never read the New Statesman. So I can throw these clipping away, I thought I would type them up for both posterity and your amusement or despair.
2 August 1991:
I do think there should be a question time session at city council meetings — but only admit Exonians who have worked and resided in Exeter for the past 40 years. We do not want the views and opinions of outsiders from other parts of the country. (Letter in the Exeter Express & Echo)
16 August 1991:
My friend and I also visited Blackpool to celebrate my 21st birthday and also witnessed the actions of the Asians. They were driving up and down the Promenade in cars, vans and mini-buses, openly displaying their country’s flag, and this was in the afternoon in full view of the many children present. (Oldham Evening Chronicle)
22 September 1991:
On visiting my family grave at Pleasington Cemetery to dispose of the summer plants and split up the polyanthus that are there, I found that the grave had been completely stripped of all plants. As a firm believer in corporal types of punishment, it is a pity that we in this country do not have an Act as do some of the Middle Eastern countries as well as the sub-continent: that is to chop one hand off for crimes of this nature. (Letter in Lancashire Evening Telegraph)
1 November 1991:
How can one hope for the youth of today to behave in a responsible adult manner when they are allowed to appear on public streets wearing clothes more suited to the circus and hairstyle more reminiscent of the decadent days of the Roman Empire. I have seen young so-called men going to work in government departments in this town who wear their hair in pony tails tied with ribbon. Bring in compulsory short back and sides haircuts and above all ban the evil decadent material blue denim from public sight. (Letter in the Hertfordshire Herald & Post)
13 March 1992:
A psychologist now makes weekly visits to Eton to help children who have to cope with four, as opposed to two, homes because parents are remarried, both having two houses. (Daily Telegraph)
3 April 1992:
A woman who smashed a glass into a former Miss UK’s face was given a lenient sentence yesterday after a judge was told she did not “want to mix with criminals”. (Daily Express)
The tragedy of the Labour Party is not that their aims aren’t sincere. It’s just that they have this absurd obsession that high earners are rich. (Andrew Lloyd Webber in the Daily Mail)
15 May 1992:
Regarding the illicit drugs situation in Britain, we should send back 1,000 of the nationals of the country from which the drugs have come — whether it be South America, North Africa, India or Pakistan — for every kilo smuggled in. Then these people would have to put pressure on their respective governments to stop this illicit trade at its source. (Letter in the Bolton Evening News)
17 July 1992:
I opened a Halifax building society joint account with a friend, depositing £1,500 which belonged to me. I went to Thailand for a holiday and my so-called friend looted the account of £1,450. On my return this same individual sold me out to the police by grassing on me for an armed robbery. I was arrested and convicted. I then decided I might as well have the remaining £50, but the Halifax would only let me have half. Acting on this, I said I wanted half of the £1,450 it paid out. I have appealed to the Building Society Ombudsman, but have been offered a paltry £50 in compensation.
— Taking into account your chosen profession, I suppose the obvious answer is to collect your money, with interest, from your friend when you are released from your present address.
(Letter and answer in ‘Questions of Cash’, Sunday Times)
14 August 1992:
I’ve a lot of sympathy for Judith Mellor. But her dad’s statement “If he’ll cheat on my daughter, he’ll cheat on our country” is stupid. When I had my own garage business I cheated on my wife on many occasions, but it didn’t make any difference to the good service I gave my customers. (Signed letter in the Sun)
25 September 1992:
Sir, I take issue with Lord Ridley’s statement that “some people are offensive … for no good reason … abusive in shops”. Recently I visited a City shirtmaker in search of detachable collars. The shop assistant received me indifferently while leaning on a counter reading a book. I drew myself up and said: “You sloppy man. You would never have made my regiment. Stand up and look at me when I am talking to you.” He did!
Naval and Military Club
(Letter in the Times)
9 October 1992:
Judge Geoffrey Jones compared the assault [on a young girl] with two serious sex offences Ian Stevenson committed on two boys. Stevenson, 18, experimented to discover whether he was heterosexual or homosexual, a court heard. The judge said he was a “normal young man”. And referring to the attack on the nine-year-old-girl, he said: “It is a sort of breath of fresh air.” (Daily Mirror)
16 October 1992:
My eight-year-old boy is a strange lad. He’s bothered about the planet and interested in butterflies and insects as well as other animals. He never watches football. Do you think he’s going to be gay? (Daily Star)
Thank goodness the election is almost over, so that I can wear my red rose for St George’s Day. Many of the people who are wearing it at present are not even English. (Letter in the Daily Mail)
There were also two clippings direct from other sources.
From the Guardian, 11 October 1993:
Intending last week to show clips from Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange in an arts documentary, Channel 4 ran into a spot of legal aggro from Warners and were forced to pull the programme. The channel also ran into the British judiciary at its most Beachcomber-esque — viz. Mr Justice Harman, a run-away winner when the magazine Legal Business canvassed lawyers for their “least respected” judge. Harman (a) had to be told what a “video” was; (b) quizzed a female C4 solicitor pointedly about her legal experience; (c) was audibly displeased to learn that C4’s arts chief was called “Waldemar Januszczak”; (d) groaned “what a terrible voice!” on hearing the programme’s Cockney presenter Tony Parsons.
From the Bristol Evening Post, 17 January 1992:
It is not of districts I write, or old buildings, but of the dress wore by girls and young women today. It must be 50 years ago when, at the King’s Cinema, Pathe News flashed on the screen. It showed two women playing tennis. Both wore skirts down to the ground. One jumped up to hit the ball and doing so showed an ankle, a woman sat next to me exclaimed a show of disapproval, and was shocked by the show of a limb. But years later the skirts rose higher up to below the knee, and then crept up to two inches above, which was very daring at that time. What have we today? A few inches of skirts, page three girls, children swearing, glue-sniffing and acid house parties. How will it end? Is this progress?
F W Gardiner