Proud to be British

Originally posted Sunday, 17th January 2010

Just this morning browsing the Internet searching for inspiration, I came across a little story that irked me somewhat. And no, searching for inspiration does not have any unscrupulous subtext. The story dates back to 2002 when the Home Office minister got openly criticised for using a certain phrase by the police. Surely, to be publically criticised in the national press for saying something offensive, it must have been pretty bad… “Nitty gritty”. How can somebody be castigated for using such a phrase? Apparently the phrase dates back to the times of slavery. Was there an indignant outrage from anyone? No, of course not.

Not until now.

Welcome to the Unhinged Kingdom. United just doesn’t feel right anymore. I read stories like the one above and I’m pretty sure I can hear my blood boiling. Either that, or my fridge is making that weird gargling noise again. And it only served to remind me of another little story that enraged me.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m easily angered. Like a ferret in a rave on speed.

Recently a friend on Twitter mentioned that her friend received a fine the other day for fly tipping. A pretty severe charge I think you’d agree. Until you understand the context. Let me set the scene. It’s Christmas time and all of that wrapping paper and packaging is clogging up the house like a Big Mac clogging an artery. As any good citizen of this land would do, they would take it to a recycling point. No point in trying to further destroy our planet right? So what are you to do if the paper-recycling bin is full to overflowing? Do you just throw it away with the normal trash and scupper the government’s efforts to hit their recycling targets? No. Instead they chose to place the bag filled with the paper neatly against the appropriate receptacle. This sounds like a pretty sensible solution to me.

A few days later, that conscientious individual trying to do the right thing for our planet received a letter stating that they were being fined for fly tipping to the sum of £75. Quite the incentive to continue recycling! How did they find who did it? They snooped through the bag to find a document with a name and address on to hunt down said innocent individual. I would quite like to find the person who issued that obscenely ridiculous fine and recycle them. Probably in the gardening refuse section because that one smells the worst and is no less than they deserve. I could list possible revenge scenarios all day but may end up scaring people so I’ll move on. The great irony of the situation is this; the fine was probably sent on recycled paper.

It didn’t take too much Internet surfing to find a few other similar examples that makes me proud to be British. And by proud, I mean ashamed to tears whilst trembling in unequivocal anger. Last summer, a mother took her four-year-old daughter on a picnic in the park. Lovely right? The daughter was eating a sausage roll and part of it (not all) fell to the ground to be instantly removed by a passing pigeon. No harm, no foul. Even the pigeon’s happy. Except for an ingrate of a park official who fined them £75 for littering.

Here’s an interesting one. A gentleman in Cumbria was found to have put too much rubbish in his wheelie bin. You fit everything you can in there because bin men won’t remove any extra bags because it goes against their religious beliefs. But this was considered to be a danger to the bin men; so several people confronted the criminal mastermind in question wearing stab proof vests and armed with photographic evidence of the crime. This poor bastard not only received a £210 fine with a £15 victim surcharge, but also now has a criminal record.

One man on holiday in Ireland dropped a crisp packet on proud Irish soil. Now I will state for the record that anybody who actually litters on purpose, no matter how insignificant, should face a fine. But this inconsiderate individual received a fine that may have caught him off guard. One crisp packet dropped equals a £480 fine in Ireland. You have been warned!

And finally one last story that roughly takes me back to where I started. A man accidentally let one small piece of paper slip into his glass-recycling box. Now this wasn’t a substantial collection of paper like a newspaper. It wasn’t even a pamphlet. He made the foolish mistake of misplacing one single solitary piece of paper in the wrong container. For this most heinous offence he was taken to court by his local council and fined £200. This man said in court he will NEVER recycle again in his life. I’m sure that’s the result they intended.

So there you have it. Our government is doing a magnificent job of disillusioning its populace. Too much importance has been put on getting figures up; they are too frequently going for the easy offence. The sort of offence that maybe could be dealt with by a wag of the finger and up to three moderately stern words. But in most cases even that would seem disproportionate. Perhaps if they used their efforts to concentrate on the real problems we have in the world, we may eventually be able to honestly say one thing once again. I am proud to be British.

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