Yet another posthumous Darwin Award winner…

An Italian woman artist who was hitch-hiking to the Middle East dressed as a bride to promote world peace has been found murdered in Turkey.

OK, right. So a single woman dresses up as a bride, decides to take a bit of an amble on the streets of an Islamic country, and winds up dead. Now, call me callous if you want but I see this as a simple case of walking into trouble. A simple and clear case of taking what was a pretty obvious risk – a risk somebody even with the most rudimentary knowledge of the region would have been aware of.

People have been quick to describe Turkey as being a country popular with Western tourists, but fail to realise that beyond the confines of the friendly holiday resort lies a country – and a native population – that is infinitely more unpredictable. Despite its status as a popular holiday destination, Turkey is one of those countries were a simple wrong turn can transport you almost into another dimension. One moment you can be in the grounds of the very secular Istanbul university, and the next you could be in the back garden of someone who is still waiting for Richard the Lionheart’s infidel hordes to storm in horseback, with scimitar unsheathed.

OK I am exaggerating with the scimitar bit, but you get my drift.

Nobody asks to be murdered. But it was foolish all the same. One could walk into central Riyadh in one’s underwear championing world peace, but that’s not going to stop a bunch of mediaeval hotheads wanting to throw stones.

According to the woman’s sister, “Her travels were for an artistic performance and to give a message of peace and of trust, but not everyone deserves trust.”

Well no shit, Sherlock.

That Generic French Look…

Yesterday we were having one of those banal discussions – as we do – about people in films and on TV… Caroline has this particular loathing of the ‘Generic Hollywood Blonde’, who according to her all seem to have been churned out of some single factory somewhere in California. The discussion then turned onto the GHB’s Gallic counterpart…

It has been decided that in moving to the new place we are going to take as few VHS tapes as possible, now that we are able to transfer the content to DVD. Now, Caroline has managed to get most of her stuff across but I have almost twenty-five years’ worth of footage to shift. Right back to the LA Olympics of 1984.

Yes, I am a geek.

I have so far managed to transfer almost a decade of Springbok rugby matches, and this week am starting on FCB’s Champions’ League games. I am watching the 2001 final against Valencia again, and it is hard to believe that that wonderful evening in Milan was before Caroline and I had even met. It still feels like it were yesterday. There are some 150 VHS tapes to go, by the way.

The McCanns: back at No. 1

After what was a short holiday from the front pages where their place was taken by the story of Shannon Matthews, the story of Madeleine McCann – or should I say the story of Kate and Gerry McCann (left, looking like politicians) and their ongoing mission of brazen self-publicity and political hob-nobbing – flew back to the top of the headlines with something of a vengeance this week.

First we had the couple make a trip to Brussels in an attempt to pull more strings with politicians and lay claim to the introduction of a single child alert telephone number – 116 000 – which had been reserved by the European Commission for the purpose long before Kate and Gerry McCann or their team of highly-paid professional advisors even thought of the idea. One can only balk at the audacity of these people; it just beggars belief.

It is quite clear that Kate and Gerry McCann are enjoying the media attention they are getting – so long as it is on their terms and with everything dictated by them or their team of professional advisors led by the former BBC journalist and government spin-doctor Clarence Mitchell.

Of course, if things don’t go their way… It is somehow a “smear”.

I have said it before and I will say it again – I am not going to rule out the suggestion – however outlandish it may sound – that Madeleine McCann died in the apartment that night and her parents, not wanting to be charged for neglect and risk their other children being removed, decided to cover it all up with this crazy “abduction” story – which has been packed with contradiction, confusion and anomaly right from the beginning.

The story has been backed by their friends – the “tapas seven” – or at least those members of the group who are in on the whole thing, complete with bizarre, bigfootesque sightings of shifty individuals carrying children wrapped up in blankets. After all, these people had also left their children unattended while they and the McCanns went off gallivanting to gorge on tapas and vino – and as such were equally as guilty of neglect.

In yet another twist to this bizarre story, the McCanns are also threatening “revenge” against the Portuguese police – painted as the master “smear-mongers” – by refusing to take part in a reconstruction of the events that took place on and around May 3rd 2007. Now, maybe this just me being obtuse, but if one was offered the chance of taking part in such a reconstruction, would one not jump at the opportunity in doing something that might help jog peoples’ memories, and put aside whatever petty gripes they have with the authorities in Portugal?

To suggest that not attending would constitute “revenge” is also a rather odd way of putting things. Rather than being a “dish best served cold”, it is more like a case of cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

The constant evasion, side-stepping and refusal by the McCanns and their publicity team to see even the slightest criticism of their behavior as “smears” simply adds fuel to the flames. In short, the couple doth protest too much, methinks.

This couple have presented themselves as social activists, public speakers and martyrs – while at the same time making a complete and utter hash of any attempt to show themselves as good parents. For all their cries about “smear campaigns” and deluded feelings of victimhood, they themselves have forgotten that there is and only has been one victim in all of this – their poor little daughter.

Timewarp: Paying by cheque

This evening we decided that nobody wanted to cook anything – it didn’t help that the grill died a sudden death – and so we plumped for a phone-order curry. Usually we’d have enough cash lying about to cover the bill, but this evening we were left scrabbling around for loose change.

No good.

So, what to do? I was reticent to use my credit card over the telephone, and so we decided that the only option was to dig out the chequebook. I don’t think Caroline had written a cheque since sometime in 2002, and even finding the thing proved to be something of a mission. It felt like going back in time, to an age before credit cards and online ordering.

Anyway, job done – and looking forward to the prawn bhuna. What now needs to be decided is what to have with it – Lithuanian Svyturys or a Kronenbourg Blanc?

Shopping

Unlike most men I actually quite enjoy shopping… There’s nothing quite like picking a ripe Camembert or wading through the increasingly good selection of continental beers on offer. Even paying – which amounts to more than fifty pounds a go these days – is not too much of a bind.

However one type of shopping really does my head in – looking for household goods and furniture. Stuff you cannot eat or drink, unless you are one of those bicycle-eating circus freaks. Unfortunately, with the house move we are going to have to a lot of this. We will be needing a cooker, ‘fridge, washing machine, bed, sofa, bedroom wardrobes… And more that I am sure I cannot think of right now.

Agh.

It’s been something of a relaxing afternoon… Though the rain has hit Port of Spain on a number of occasions, delaying the one-day match between West Indies and Sri Lanka. As a result Caroline now has the remote control, and is watching yet another property relocation programme… Sometimes it feels like Amanda Lamb and the pretty blonde one whose name escapes me are family members.

Better news in the morning though as the Stormers ran home five tries in thumping the Cheetahs 34-22.

Dewsbury…

The talk of the media during the past month or so have been the slowly unravelling story of young Shannon Matthews and her toxic excuse for a family, and the wonderful Yorkshire town of Dewsbury – likened by some to Beirut. In response to the criticism of this potential backdrop for a Christmas special edition of The League of Gentlemen, the Guardian chose to sent one of their scribblers up to the former mill town to meet a few of the natives. This is what they found…

The Real Moorside Story

It goes without saying that this article is highly sanitised, and pretty typical Guardian fare. OK, yes – so the place is hardly Beirut; but then no place in this country can truly fit this description – thankfully.

What made me chuckle is the apparent friendliness between the native British and Asian communities – something that does not fit at all well with the fact that Dewsbury is one of the most popular stomping grounds for the BNP, who have achieved something of a foothold in the local council. This of course sits alongside an increasingly separatist Muslim community that provided a number of operatives that took part in the planning and execution of the 7/7 attacks in London, and was also home to the young reader of the infamous Anarchist’s Cookbook.

This is just the political side of things; on the ground, we have the case of Shannon Matthews and her nasty extended family – but this sort of story should come as no surprise to a community that not long ago was having to read about a twelve-year old girl who tried to hang a five-year old boy from a tree, and which some thirty years ago was the prowling ground for the Yorkshire Ripper, Peter Sutcliffe. In December of last year a Muslim boy, Ahmed Hassan, was stabbed by six white youths at Dewsbury station; earlier this year a mass brawl involving local Pakistani Muslims, Iraqis and Hungarians (?!?!) was reported in the ward of Ravensthorpe, supposedly on the back of claim being made about local Muslim girls being “touched” by loose-handed Magyars. Then of course there are the stories of local girls – Muslim, British, whatever – being sexually propositioned by Iraqi Kurds in the street, and Imams striking British girls for showing off their shoulders. It was even the place highlighted in the news where demands were made on the already pressured NHS to have nurses turn patients’ bed five times a day towards Mecca. (That’s the religious shrine, not the evening entertainment for the non-Muslim residents).

Kirklees District Council has figures that are higher than the English average for violence, theft, sexual offences and burglary – something that is not at all in line with the picture painted by the Guardian article.

Of course, the Guardian scribblers, like me, live far and away from places like this; in fact they live even further away and higher up, based in their nice ivory towers. Their being invited for a cup of tea, to sit on some happy person’s loo, to watch people deadhead their flowers – it’s akin to the Red Cross’ guided tour of Theresienstadt. Not that Dewsbury is that much like a concentration camp, of course.

We need a bloody catflap…

Well, it’s our last weekend here… And the hard and fast business of being a homeowner finally begins. I did like this little place, but apart from the shonky boiler the one problem was the lack of a catflap, and the almost continuous relay back and forth to let the little blighters out of the back door. And then back in again. And out. And in. You get the idea.

Everything has gone to plan so far, and all that remains is getting the keys to the new place. But that’s the easy part – much fun is going to be had choosing, buying and putting together furniture…