The Dreaming Arm’s occasional contributor Phil “Biffa Bacon” Larkin has written a piece on how the power of frozen dairy/londondairy products recently  helped to quell a riot on the streets of West Belfast:

PSNI landrover with full riot equipment
Belfast ice cream men on duty


It is rare to get a laugh from the news in Northern Ireland, so when a humorous item does arrive on the scene I think that it is important that we cherish it – particularly one which pricks the balloon of humourless political correctness.

Because of the daily grind of deadly seriousness over the years of the Troubles and the “peace process” we have lost, or at least misplaced, the ability to laugh at ourselves. I think that this particular news item is so refreshing, I believe that it should be sent to the blog.

On Saturday 22 May the outfit formerly known as the RUC, the now more politically correctly-named Police Service of Northern ireland (PSNI) were called out to deal with rioting on the nationalist Twinbrook estate in West Belfast.  As they passed a group of about 15 youths, the latter began throwing bottles and other missiles at the police landrover.   The police officer in the vehicle then played ice-cream van music over the tannoy system in an effort to use humour to defuse the situation – and it worked!

The youths stopped throwing the bottles.  I suppose it stands to reason that it is impossible to get fired up at anybody or anything that plays ice-cream van music!  It reminds me of the Morcambe and Wise sketch where Eric opens the window to be greeted by the sirens of an ambulance rushing past the house. He closes the window and utters the immortal line: 

“He’ll not sell many ice-creams going at that speed.”

Somewhat amazingly, the PSNI have now “admitted” that it was inappropriate to play ice-cream van music in such a situation. I believe that the officer who carried out the action should not only receive commendation for his cool, clear and quick thinking, but also be recommended for further study and an educative post in crowd control methods.  I have seen in certain TV programmes how venues for underage drinking, drug taking, and anti-social behaviour in England and Scotland have been rendered “off limits” by the simple expedient of having classical music played for a number of hours in the evenings and at night.  No “yoof” who wants to lose his/her street cred will want to hang around a joint like that. No-one is hurt, anti-social behaviour is prevented, and because classical music is educational and cultural, the human rights brigade have nothing to complain about.

However, not everyone saw the funny side of that night’s events.  A local Sinn Féin councillor, Angela Nelson, said that the officer’s actions “beggared belief.”  She continued:

“The PSNI are put on the streets to do a serious job and that is to keep order on the streets and face down antisocial elements.

This is like a sick joke.”

I beg to differ, Angela. The only sick joke is your chronic lack of a sense of humour and your clear inability to perceive the irony in this situation. It reminds me of the comments of Soviet leaders on the West before Gorbachev came along.   Had the PSNI lashed out with batons or used taser guns would you have been satisfied then?

I guess probably yes.   As it was, the police handling of the situation provided no solid grounds for complaint from the usual suspects, and that is why it is sticking in some people’s throats.   I believe that if the PSNI have discovered a truly novel way of diffusing tension on the streets, then its effects are worthy of further study.

Mr Whippy rules ok!


Experimental Short Term Vegetarianism Part 2


Return of the giant hogweed -"Botanical creature stirs seeking revenge..."

Return of the giant hogweed -"Botanical creature stirs seeking revenge..."

 My short-lived experiment with vegetarianism came to an end quite some time ago.

I nevertheless made the effort to try and understand the mind-set of a vegetarian.

I can see for instance why one might treat the idea of eating red meat with revulsion.  One can develop an attachment to a mammal, particularly if its raised from an early age. Cattle and pigs especially can be friendly creatures. In fields, they will often come up to the gate to greet you. Sheep on the other hand stare at you passively and zombie-like, then continue to graze as if oblivious to their own existence.  And leaving aside the welfare the animal in question, there is also the welfare of one’s arteries and heart at stake here.  No pun intended.

Fish, however is a different story.  To my knowledge it’s impossible for a human to have any emotional bond with a fish. OK, there are ethical reasons, such as principled opposition to overfishing, but if one boycotts certain threatened species this problem is solved in one fell swoop.  The health reason argument here is a no-brainer. OK, then lead and mercury contaminants in polluted seas enterig the food chain is a valid point, but think of the essential omega 3 oils and various vitamins, etc you get from oily fish like mackerel and herring.

Despite all this, I certainly eat less meat than I used to. Ironically though I am making a conscious effort to eat more fish.  I’ve even started to use vegetarian mincemeat substitute for spaghetti bolognese. It’s nowhere near as good as the real thing of course, and lacks in taste, but at least it’s filling. I’ve also got into salads more.

So while I would admit that vegetarianism can be quite a noble pursuit in the interests of health and ethical concerns my problem is that roast lamb or beef, good quality ham or bacon just tastes too damn delicious to give up.

In order to be a committed vegetarian it probably helps immensely if you don’t like meat in the first place.

So while I could never envisage becoming a full time vegetarian (unless for health reasons I was forced to), I still feel it does no harm to reduce one’s meat consumption to a minimum.

A Reasoned and Considered Rant against Big Corporate Brands and Globalisation

The anti-globalisation movement hasn’t had the best public image, with the stereotype of the dreadlock-adorned, dayglo-wearing lentil and organic rice-eating new age type with multiple piercings and henna tattoos. But in the age of global economic meltdown and credit crunches, such beliefs are becoming more mainstream.

Opposition to the dominance of big corporate brands over small businesses and traditional cottage industries shouldn’t by any means be in the exclusive interests of dreadlock-adorned, dayglo-wearing lentil and organic rice-eating new age types, nor even of the political left. We should all be concerned.

Do we want the traditional earthy pub like the Blue Tiger, the Frog and Fuck, the Puke of Pork – with their real ales beloved of bearded chunky sweater wearing CAMRA types, the old guy in the corner who reminisces about the old times to anyone who’ll listen to him, the barstool bore who knows the solution to all the world’s problems but will only tell you if you buy him a pint, the amateur Casanova who, despite rapidly expanding beer belly and thinning hairline tries (however unsuccessfully) to chat up the well-endowed barmaid – to be replaced by shallow, characterless chains like Whateverspoons or All Bar None frequented by pin-striped city types crying into their Pimms or trendy designer lagers, (a bottle of which costs the equivalent of the government bail-out of the said banks) after being made redundant by Deutsche Wank and blowing their million pound pay-offs on coke and hookers.

Imagine your local town centre being taken over by Starfucks, Boots, Specsavers, McDonalds, O’Neills (the plastic Paddy Irish pub chain that is, not the popular Irish sportswear manufacturer), WH Smiths et al. Or has this already happened?

It’s a trend that hasn’t gone unnoticed by the comedian and Socialist Workers party supporter Mark Steel in his latest book “What’s It All About”:


“Now you could go to a shopping centre in Croydon, Penzance, Lincoln or Dundee, and guarantee there’d be a Body Shop, Clinton Cards, Going Places Travel, HMV, Waterstones, fake Irish pub, Wetherspoons, Pizza Hut with a little glass screw-top jar of Parmesan cheese, JJB Sports, Burger King, a bloke in a green pullover trying to recruit you into the AA and a bunch of Peruvians playing ‘I Just Called To Say I Love You’ on the poxy panpipes”.


Go to an independent café rather than Starfucks or Costa Coffe (Costa Fortune more like) and you invariably get more generous portions often of superior quality and value for money. Who wants to go to Caffe Grande Cazzo sponsored by Figlio di Putana casual wear and pay £5.50 for a prosciutto and mozarella pannini (basically a glorified ham and cheese toastie) or £3.00 for a thimble full of espresso which you can down in one go and it barely fill a cavity in your tooth?

An Americano used to be what Clint Eastwood in a poncho was called by the Mexican bandits in a Sergio Leone spaghetti western, but now it’s a fucking coffee.  And I thought moccachinos were what Italian American Indians wore on their feet.

You couldn’t make it up.

Experimental Short Term Vegetarianism

Triffids - very much non-vegetarian vegetables

Triffids - very much non-vegetarian vegetables

Over the last few weeks I’ve been dabbling with semi-vegetariansim (“semi” that is I still eat fish). It’s partially for health reasons and partially as a challenge to see how long I can go without meat. If nothing else it’s also a useful excercise in self-discipline. I don’t think I could ever give up meat permanently though, unless forced to under strict doctor’s orders. The thought of never again having roast lamb and mint sauce or chicken as part of a Sunday roast or forgoing the Christmas turkey and ham would fill me with dread. But recently I’ve been forsaking the usual lunchtime ham in my sandwiches for hummus and red peppers or cheddar with onion relish, tomatoes and red onion. Instead of beef or bacon in my pasta sauces I’ve been using celery, aubergines, courgettes carrots and peppers. While it hasn’t been terribly difficult to avoid meat, the food does come across a tad blander without it. I’m not into the meat substitute products like bean burgers or quorn mince though as for all you know what kind of chemicals and crap are in them, you’re probably just as safe eating proper meat. If you’re going veggie you might as well eat real vegetables.

With all the recent scares stories about BSE, battery hens, meat pumped full of hormones and mercury levels in tuna, it’s not surprising that many people have gone down the vegetarian route. But if we knew where the meat came from and could follow its route from bull to beef, pig to bacon knowing it had been reared in natural conditions and free of additives there wouldn’t be a problem. That is if you’re abstaining for health reasons. Then on the far side are those militant vegetaran types who believe it’s unethical to farm animals in the first place. A bizarre position to take when you consider the idea of cattle, sheep and pigs running wild around the country.

The krynoid's out for revenge on Dr Who for eating that lettuce and cucumber salad

The krynoid

John Cleese was supposed to have said something along the lines of “If God didn’t want us to eat animals he wouldn’t have made them out of meat”. He’s got a point. But for the time being I’ll suppress my carnivorous desires. After all Christmas isn’t too long to wait for that turkey drumstick or succulent slices of ham spiced with cloves and honey.

The perils of vegetarianism…the krynoid’s out for revenge on Doctor Who and Sarah for eating that cucumber and lettuce salad…