Thursday 22 October 2009

It is a truth universally acknowledged that an industry in the process of dispute wilfully obfuscates the facts

Roy Mayall's oft-repeated piece in The London Review of Books is, perhaps, the best explanation currently available for our lack of letters today. Even that doesn't really explain it. The BOF's abiding memory of the golden age of strikes and industrial disputes is a blur. Not a blur of fading memory, but a memory of blurred reasoning.

Once the pickets are out, each side is served best by emotional calls to old allegiances. Rational examination of causes and arguments is replaced by rallying calls and hooting horns.

Google "walk sequencing machine", and the most recent hit from a newspaper comes at number 8, from the Manchester Evening News of two days ago. Next, at number 12, comes the Daily Mail - on August 30th. Other terms, such as "2007 Pay and Modernisation Agreement" produce equally meagre results. In the BOF's limited understanding, this last, in its 4th protocol, is at the root of all this, but he can't be sure. Throughout news media land, the fog of dispute is all that can be seen.

No doubt there are articles from the last few days which could be found which lay out the arguments in a clear an unbiassed form, but they're well-hidden. More illuminating by far is the blogosphere, where fact and opinion mingle merrily in a cacophony of actual debate. This is where the real news can be found, and it is for this reason that the BOF has returned.

Next up: the BOF's own as-told-to postie story.

Thursday 23 April 2009

wishful thinking

Early smoking days are a memory ringed with the golden penumbra of nostalgia but, even with that distorting illumination, certain parts of the memory retain a vestige of fact. The BOF remembers his first encounter with a budget price-hike on cigarettes, or at least thinks he does.

They went up to 6/7 (that's six shillings and sevenpence or just over 32.5p).

Having just paid £6.30 for a packet (and the brand is almost the same - Chesterfield then, in the beautiful plain maroon, red, and white packet, Marlboro now) a simple calculation reveals that the price of a single cigarette now is almost the same as that for a whole packet then.

Perhaps this is the moment to stop...

Saturday 18 April 2009

c'mon you reds

So it's off to Wem-ber-lee with mixed feelings. Even to a johnny-come-lately supporter like the BOF, Wembley means finals, the top of the heap, last men standing. It doesn't mean semi-finals.

Or it didn't used to mean semi-finals. It does now, and that probably won't change, even though the brand has been devalued. It would be too gomish of the BOF to refuse attending this titanic red/blue clash, this southern semi, on the grounds that it should not be like this.

This is how it is, and so the red shirt will be donned, the vocal chords will be given their lubrication, alternately extravagant and pessimistic predictions will be exchanged, injuries will be bemoaned, past glories will be talismanically resurrected, statistics will be uselessly bandied about, and songs will be sung.

Whatever will be, will be.

Saturday 4 April 2009


Well, well: it's a fool who won't consider changing his mind if the facts change. Despite the rather curious wording of Google's auto-generated reply when requesting the removal of an image, they appear to be delivering on the promise which filled yesterday's airwaves. 

The BOF's house has been removed from streetView, within less than 24 hours. Accordingly, Buckingham Palace Road is now off the bofCam.

Let's hope it's a permanent removal...

Friday 3 April 2009

met trick

The method used by the police on Wednesday to contain the demonstrating crowds, known as 'kettling' , is coming in for some criticism.

The Met is not being given a fair hearing. Their behaviour, as witnessed by the BOF, was almost entirely decent. While one or two donned their helmets with blazing eyes and and a set jaw, the huge majority behaved in a restrained and controlled fashion.

By the time most of the demonstrators had had enough of it all, they had realised that they would have to stay for a little longer. Every exit appeared to be blocked by a double line of day-glo yellow jackets, or helmets and shields. Yet the crowd appeared to be thinning.

How could this be, when every request for information about the opening of the cordons was met with the same answer?

"We know as much as you do. Nothing."

The BOF decided to explore. Moving down Victoria Street, he walked into an alley which appeared to be a dead end. It had a passage leading off at right angles, hidden in shadow, and the passage led to freedom. There was not a policeman in sight.

The intention was clear: by allowing a slow trickle of participants to leave, there would be no sudden rush of hyped-up crowds, no storming of public transport. And all the while those who were either determined to stay and cause trouble, or those who were too stupid to find their way out (and therefore best left in the hands of the authorities) could rant at being held captive.

It was a kettle with a smart leak.

Someone has to say it: well done, the Met.

bugger google

Google are racing up the charts of world's-most-hated companies. There is talk of the company potentially being open to over one billion dollars worth of litigation. So far, they have managed to antagonise the worlds of film, music, book publishing, image banks, and now the ordinary householder.

However, there are a couple of householders in the UK who seem to have escaped the reaches of the Google Street View camera car. Mr. Gordon Brown and Mrs. Elizabeth Windsor can both sleep easily at night, in the knowledge that their London residences do not appear on the intrusive pages.

This 'facility' is voyeuristic and unnecessary. While it is unlikely that, in reality, many burglars will be able to exploit the images, there is no real purpose to their existence.

The BOF suggests that all those who know their houses to be on the system email Google to request that the images be removed. This is done by viewing the image and hitting the (tiny) 'report a problem' link at the bottom. Mentioning the fact that Gordon Brown's house has been removed may help. Good luck!

Wednesday 1 April 2009

happy birthday, dear Tony

On from Threadneedle Street to Trafalgar Square, a more genteel affair. Having escaped the city cordon (more on this later) the BOF arrived just in time to hear Tony Benn's speech and, joy of joys, to join in with the singing of "Happy Birthday to Tony".

He looked a little pained by the experience - but how many people have stood under Nelson's Column and heard the entire square sing to them, and how many deserve it more than he?

business as usual

The lack of life within the RBS building didn't deter be-helmeted police from defending it with full vigour and assorted horses.

Royal Bullshit Show

Don't believe everything you hear - part 1. The so-called Branch of the RBS which had its windows broken today was an empty office.

More later...

Tuesday 31 March 2009

controlled excitement

Today being the 19th anniversary of the poll tax riots and the eve of Financial Fools Day, it was never going to be entirely quiet. And so it was that in the middle of the afternoon, the area of the City containing tomorrow's targets, those vile banks, sprang to life with gaudily striped plastic ribbons, strung from post to post. A small crowd gathered, made up in the large part of newsgatherers.

"You're still too close to it" said the portly policeman, gently ushering inquisitive onlookers back a few feet.

"It" turned out to be either a suspect package or a bomb, depending on which officer of the law was speaking.

A few minutes later, those paying attention heard a small and unremarkable bang - a controlled explosion. Very few on the street appeared to notice, accustomed as they are to London's ongoing background symphony.

All the while, tomorrow's casual dressers whittered into their cell-phones. There was a satisfying look of concern on many of the faces, but no sign of actual fear - yet.

The BOF fell to talking with a veritable Humpty-Dumpty of a City of London Policeman, who informed him that, yes, Bank station would be open all day tomorrow.

Many of the exits from Bank station are in the very spot where the Four Horsepersons (sic) of the Apocalypse marches meet at 11.00 tomorrow.

Oh yes, this is England.

Monday 30 March 2009


The UK Law does not allow smoking in the workplace, under any circumstances.

There will be a Smoking Lounge at the G20...

Saturday 28 March 2009

hundreds or thousands?

Expectation and disappointment are familiar companions. London hosted two major events today, both of which have received pre-publicity that even Max Clifford would be proud of.

First came the march and rally. The BOF attended the latter part of this and was suitably chilled by the starkness of the message: Archbishop Beaver is right: God is not giving any help. Nor, it would appear, are the years spent in the classroom by any of the speakers, at least not the years learning maths.

As early April showers spattered the small crowd, the worm from Blackadder told us that thousands of people were still coming in. This was repeated a few minutes later. The BOF craned his neck, but could see no sign of the arriving masses. A few late-comers were drifting in from the route of the march, many of them wearing the day's must-have fashion item, an RMT logo, but thousands there were not.

Later, watching the second event, empty red seats vied with red England shirts on the TV screen. Let us hope that we will be entertained by organisers of the march claiming that many stayed at home to watch the football, while Wembley claims that a real desire to better humanity kept football fans away - a preposterous notion, obviously, what with football being more important than life and death.

Clearly, lessons have not been learnt, as this was a perfect example of the modern desire for sustained growth in expectation. Just as sustained economic growth can only lead to the kind of mess we're in now, so growth in expectation can only lead to cataclysmic disappointment. Expect wailing and gnashing of teeth very soon.

Thursday 26 March 2009

here comes summer

The traditional opening of the rioting season is nearly upon us as the G20 approaches. Even now, effigies of Fred Godwin are being prepared to burn on the street and masks of discredited politicos are selling out in the shops. Associated Newspapers are buying up whole forests for 32-page supplements "PICTURING THE GUILTY ONES". The rozzers are rubbing hands in glee as they anticipate the overtime. Implementation meetings at Broadcasting House are rife with arguments over where the prime camera positions will be.

And the BOF has a vision, a marvellous vision. Imagine Trafalgar Square, that well-known arena of protest; pan around to the north-west corner - what do you see? Oh yes! It's THE FOURTH PLINTH, standing empty and alone, waiting for the Gormless adornment. All around, balaclava-clad figures dive this way and that, smoke and tear-gas intermingle, batons thrash soft and vulnerable flesh and, for a short time, anarchy rules. But what do we see here? A figure is mounting the plinth, a slightly dumpy, matronly-looking woman in her sixties with an eminently sensible haircut. She has a megaphone in one hand and a perfect roast potato in the other.

"Let's be 'aving you!" she cries, and suddenly all is peaceful again. Middle-England's saviour has arrived with a recipe for peace, and it's foolproof. The tumult dies, the rioters troop meekly home, and the Daily Mail now has to use all that paper it has stockpiled as petitions to install Queen Delia. Move over, EIIR, DIR is here.

bye bye beaver

As the BOF awoke from his hibernap (a shortened form of hibernation) he was astonished to discover that the Archbishop of Canterbury is trying his hand at stand-up. Very funny he is, too. Delivered with the straightest of possible faces, he tells us that GOD will not intervene to prevent man from being choked, drowned, or starved by his own stupidity.

This is an old joke, perpetuated in the Old Testament, and maintained down the centuries. Given that the old ones are always the best, what can we expect from him next? One thing's for certain: the BOF will not be allowing him to come anywhere near his pond, which is currently writhing with tiny tadpoles and tuneful toads.

It would be offensive to the BOF's rather old-fashioned beliefs to hear the bearded cleric joking that this was a plague sent from heaven. It has always seemed unfair that these skypilots can work entirely in a universe selectively defined by post-justification and logical certainties masquerading as spiritual insight.

These are serious times, and it is irresponsible of Archbishop Beaver to joke like this. He should receive the same treatment as Ross and Brand did when they misused the airwaves as a vehicle for private and puerile jokes: ban the man. God won't intervene to stop that happening either.

Tuesday 10 February 2009

sorry seems to be the arsiest word

The BOF has enjoyed the company of Dennis Stevenson - he's a witty, clever, personable man. But when he sat before the select committee today (the one that's supposed to be putting these villainous bankers in the hot seat) he seemed to have misunderstood the meaning and usage of the word 'sorry'.

He talked of being "sorry at the turn of events"; he told us:"our shareholders, all of us, have lost a great deal of money, including, of course, a great number of our colleagues, and we're very sorry for that"; and he added: "We're sorry at the effects it's had on the communities we serve."

COME OFF IT, DENNIS, that's not an apology, that's a whinge. The translation reads thus: "I'm really pissed off that I and all the people I know have lost money, and it's a pity that civilians have been hurt in this as well." His words might be interpreted as having sympathy, but shouldering the blame and apologising they are not.

He is, of course, an ex-bank-boss. Tomorrow, those still in place will be getting their turn. Let's hope this one goes out live - it might just be the most entertaining TV of the month.

Tuesday 3 February 2009

cushioning the cold

As the snows melt and the BOF's gomish incredulity at the pathetic incompetence of the London transport system fades with them, a new sight will flow away from the parks.

We are now well aware that it is quite some time since we last had snow in this quantity. During this period, London's population has been swollen by the arrival of many foreigners, a substantial number of them coming from countries where heavy snow arrives every winter. The BOF is delighted to note that they have introduced us to some new ways of being creative with the white powdery stuff.

Shapes more familiar in parlours than parks have sprung up, some exquisitely crafted. So, without further ado, feast your eyes on the SNOWFA.

This first example is, or was, riddled with detail - cushions, covers, creases - the BOF even noticed a coffee stain.

The second, while lacking in refinement. makes up for it with completeness. Here you see not just a snowfa, but a full lounge set, including easy-chair, footstool and TV. 

Sightings from other parts of the capital have been trickling in all day. Favourite amongst these is the description of meticulously modelled life-sized statues-in-snow of two homeless people, lying on the ground with their arthritic ice-fingers wrapped around a can of wife-beater.

Does this mean the end of the winter market in carrots?

Wednesday 28 January 2009

pee for relief

It has been pointed out to the BOF that he has omitted another group from the modest Guantanamo proposal: the hedge fund managers. What is to be done about these parasites?

There is a solution, and it is cheap, elegant, and efficient. Additionally, it has green credentials.

Consider this image:

Imagine, in place of the Cadillacs, hedge-fund managers with their heads planted firmly in the ground.

Yes, you've got it: a HEDGE of HEDGE-FUND MANAGERS. In the UK, there are grants available for planting new hedges, so, in one fell swoop, the parasites are eradicated, the financial behemoth is saved, wealth is redistributed from city to countryside, and a massive new artwork is created.

Given their preoccupation with leaving others in the ordure, the BOF has no doubt that the only encouragement needed to make the hedge grow is the re-routing of sewage outlets. Individuals can participate in the nurturing of this new feature in the landscape by stopping their cars and getting out for a pee-break.

Growth returns to the roots of its meaning.

"are you now, or have you ever been, a member of a bank's board?"

The BOF is back, ready to bore on about how to make the world a better place. And where better to begin than with bankers?

They have taken over from Al-Queda as the most hated group of people in the western world, with their re-definition of selfish greed, their pachyderminous insensitivity, and their arrow-slit view of current events. They were lambasted by Superman in his inauguration speech, yet continue to ask for more - the Oliver Twists of today. 

Remember, though, that Superman has also shown himself to be determined that Guantanamo Bay should close down, and soon.  

Hold your horses! Here, in one deft switch, is the answer, the real beginning of the New Day. The BOF would like to suggest that all current and past directors of all banks should be rounded up and sent to the Camp in Cuba. This will result in getting rid of not only the hated ones, but also of their culture: there would be nobody left who has come to regard obscene payments as the norm (except for footballers, and there is no possible ven-diagram that can show an intersection of these groups.)

Should this prove to be impracticable, whether because of the carbon footprint involved in their transportation, the difficulty in finding a window in their calendar, or the unwillingness of guards to be in the same physical space as these loathsome individuals, there is an alternative solution. A large number of orange overalls will soon become available. These can be handed out to the bankers with instructions to take them off only when they bathe. Within hours, any credibility they had left would be laughed out of existence, their authority would be gone, and with it their power to steal our money.

Thus CHEAP, ELEGANT, and EFFICIENT will become the new slogan for the new world. 

Pull up the zippers!

Friday 9 January 2009

one will do, thank you

So they've got their knickers in a twist over broadband speeds. They being the people who allowed the small-print "up to" as a "reasonable" qualifier.

And who's complaining? Why are they complaining? We've entered the future as it was always supposed to be.  In parts...

But where's the overhead monorail?

Every comic, every artist's-impression, every photo-montage, every futurist set - they all had an overhead monorail in them.  (Some of the gloomier ones even managed monorail disasters.)

We have The Docklands Light Railway.

C'mon, Sir Richard! This is right up your line!

Wednesday 7 January 2009

soul 2 soul

The BOF is a happy man this morning. A message arrived on his facebook page a day or two ago, containing approval and enquiry about his photographs. 

He replied. As ever in these things, the rude and ill-educated Englishman could only use his own language, while his correspondent, hailing from Portugal, managed an exuberant form of a language not her own. 

As the correspondence developed, it transpired that the images Srta. G had selected were identical to his own personal favourites. 

The exchange continued with growing harmonic resonances.

The final phrase in the Senhorita's message read as follows:

"Maybe one day your soul can rest embraced by mine."

How can the day not promise joy when it begins with such a sentiment?

Tuesday 6 January 2009

The de-civilization of millionaires' row

Half-an-hour after midday, the slot occupied yesterday by the TWO STALWARTS was taken by a gentleman who would be central casting's perfect Mossad boss. Nobody was there to bother him.

The BOF feared that all steam had been exhausted - but he was wrong. Returning late in the afternoon, he found a crowd already gathering, albeit many of them the same faces as the day before. It looked initially as if Londoners returning home were ignoring the growing throng, hurrying away from an embarrassment on their streets.

But that, again, was proved wrong. They stopped, they talked, some even made their way back to the barricade entrance, joined in with the protest. How happy they would be, knowing that their faces were now installed on the police database, is another matter.

The crowd continued to grow, and with it the noise. Sad to relate that, even with the greater numbers, it is unlikely that their voices would be heard in the safely-cloistered embassy.

They came from Haringey,

they came from the sixties,

and they came from Orthodox Judaism.

Neturei Karta International do not believe that Jews can enter Israel until the coming of the Messiah. They are a tiny sect, but their consorting with the enemies of Israel brings them undue attention.

And here's the problem: this just protest against slaughter and destruction is riddled with hate. Yesterday, the BOF initially heard the chant as "Calm down, Is-rael!" His aging ears were mistaken. What seemed an intriguingly rational slogan was actually one of loathing: "Down, Down, Is-rael!"

It should have been a wonderful conjunction, those black-and-white scarves and those sombre homburgs,

but the Jewish hand holding the British Muslim Initiative placard is a hand as mired in disgraceful compromise as any US President's.

"My enemy's enemy is my friend" seems clever on first hearing, but watching the slavering of the resulting mongrel beast brings the realisation that it is far from that. 

Hate is never clever, it is crass, it is pointless, it is, above all, uncivilised. For anything to progress here, civilisation must take the upper hand.

Right now, there's no sign of that.

yellow peril

Comedy in the park: The pond edge sign is always there, the ice warning has been added recently. The ideogram is another matter. Any bof would recognise it as the predominant graphic to be found in a banana warehouse. It's the colour that gives it away.

The London Lowering Standard today told us it was MINUS TEN! Strange, then, that the Round Pond was only half-frozen...

Monday 5 January 2009

Come on, you London!

As this morning became this afternoon, the BOF returned to Palace Green, or as close as he could get. 

The Israeli Embassy cowers in a private road, festooned with traffic
 calming and permanent police blockades, where photography is banned, a situation close to ideal for a bullying coward.  

Even the Americans exist in a public square, though it's a relief to note that they're pissing off to Wandsworth and giving central London back to its inhabitants. 

This time, there was activity. One of the morning's stalwarts was still there, but she was frozen to the marrow and soon left. 

The major presence was the Met. Their vans, parked in threes, dominated the side streets and even Kensington Gore itself.

It was cold by today's standards, the protesting turnout was small (maybe 100 or so) and so most of the bobbies stayed in their nice warm battle-wagons. Some, however, couldn't resist the chance of a ruck. One over-enthusiastic officer had donned his balaclava immediately he hit the street, looking for all the world like one of the terrorists he's supposed to protect us from. A gentleman of the barriers leaned forward as he shouted his slogans. This was all that balaclava-man needed. A tiny scuffle ensued.

This did not go down well with his superior.  A bollocking was delivered.

The BOF believes it was noticed.

And here's the problem: it only takes one or two twats to cross the line at a moment of tautness for vileness to happen. Reacting to provocation is a fool's game, yet this is what they were here to protest about. 

The ironies abounded. Children have been obliterated in Gaza and, perhaps, Israel. And there were children here, bearing witness no doubt, but also being dragged into the fray.

As the evening drew in, the odd passing driver tooted his horn, a few pedestrians stopped to enquire what it was about ("Where is the Israeli Embassy, anyway?") and the chanting continued, through the obligatory bull-horn.

As the temperature dropped the Met went into cold-weather-kit, looking like the opposition at a fancy-dress party.

But all the while there was empty space. The boys in blue had clearly expected to see a larger crowd, looked almost disappointed - the Police Cameraman in his SWAT hat had done his job in a matter of minutes.

And the BOF was ashamed of London. You walked by, hurried on your way, turned your heads, and left the field for those stalwarts of the Mail, the Professional Demonstrators. All the talk that could be heard was about "next time" and "getting the others". True, there were some genuinely home-spun placards

but the majority were pre-printed, pre-used slogan guns, complete with URLs. 

Perhaps, as the week moves on, a few more might attend the 5.30 appointment with the death-dealers, and not leave this as the memorial for London's reaction to a bleaker place's misery.

Disappearing demo

The demo is an irrefutably good thing. Sometimes misguided, sometimes pointless, sometimes unnecessarily aggressive, it nevertheless stands as the visible peak of the iceberg of freedom. 

This weekend's attendance at the gates of the road housing the Israeli embassy seemed to show that freedom being exercised in true London fashion. Sad to relate therefore that the BOF has discovered demos to have been relegated to a weekend activity. 

True, today is the first day back at work after the absurdly extended Christmas break, but at 10.30 this morning, this was the scene:

Just two demonstrators. The BOF was told that "the Committee" would be there some time in the afternoon.

The Committee? Are we now so accustomed, so subservient, to bureaucratic systems that we only bother to protest when a committee tells us it's time? Do we now only care at weekends? Is every unemployed person in London indifferent to the murderous events less than half a world away? Is London no longer concerned about blinkered bullies blasting ballistics over borders and making the lives of both sides' civilians a terrifying misery?  Is it just last week's thing?

Shame on you, London. Get back out there.

Thursday 1 January 2009

New sheds

Yes, New Year's Day: so preferable to the debilitating eve.  The BOF witnessed one of his oldest contemporary friends undergoing change. Not massive, but significant, this was change for the good. 

We would have to describe his attitude towards this screen and the gubbins behind as, frankly, out of kilter until now. 

He was a techno-gom. Yet this evening he was seen to be absorbing the benefits of file sharing. Admittedly, when graffiti-boy started talking torrents, gomness strayed back into the eyes - BUT NO! - he would fight this! Suddenly, he knew: that stuff was really there. Not just the squirters, but the Seasons in the Sun, were sitting on their servers, just waiting for his call.

Maybe even now he is noisily discovering the grating reality of tunes and clips held for so long as unvisited icons. 

What better way to start the year than clearing rubbish from the loft of memory?

Listing from port

And a Happy New Year to all of you, too. Although bofs famously enjoy lists, there have been too many of them published in recent days, so we will call time on them here. The New Year, apparently, is meant to start with a clean sheet. Another list would just soil its virgin blankness. The BOF has read enough about who has been or might be the next big thing - parlour games to prove you've been paying attention is how he sees them, and that's their weakness: if you have been paying attention, you know this stuff anyway; if you haven't, IT'S ALL MEANINGLESS, merely an excuse for clever-dicks to whip their thing out.

Put it away!