GOD bless the British. That’s all I can say.
In the dog days of August, when there’s nothing doing in our own country beyond horrific news that nobody could decently ridicule, the U.K. is always there – a perfect, pear-shaped target.
The nanny state’s zealotry knows no bounds. For this week, The Telegraph reported that a painter/decorator from Llanafan, Mid Wales, was fined for smoking, by himself, in his own van. As he is self-employed as a painter and decorator, he stands accused of “smoking in the workplace.”
Smoking is currently banned in offices in Old Blighty. So when the heinous criminal set out in his vehicle to pick up a packet of tea, sucking on a cancer stick en route, council officials from Ceredigion pulled him over and slammed him with a “fixed penalty notice” for 30 pounds.
“I am dumbfounded,” said Gordon Williams, feigning innocence despite having been caught in the act. “The van is only insured for private use and to get me to and from work…. It’s not my place of work – I decorate houses not vans.
“I don’t use it for work so I can't see how they can do me for smoking in the workplace.”
Some folks simply have no shame. That’s when officials step in to make sure they get some, in a hurry.
After all, shame is the great equalizer. Just ask 68-year-old Max Mosley, the British head of the Federation Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA), auto racing’s governing body, who was asked to step down after he was caught on video having what newspapers called a “Nazi-style orgy.” He wound up taking the News of the World to court for reporting on it.
Mosley is the son of Sir Oswald Mosley, founder of the British Union of Fascists, and society beauty and author Diana Mitford, a Hitler fan. Max Mosley claimed no references were made to Nazis at the orgy – despite the participants’ use of German accents, along with uniforms that allegedly resembled those worn by officers in Nazi Germany’s SS. Mosley’s defence? “So what? I like S & M and at this sort of party, you really need a theme.” Or something along those lines.
Mosley kept his job, won his case, and the newspaper will have to pay him 120,000 pounds, but he’s been axed from the A-list of people like the crown prince of Bahrain and Monaco’s Grimaldi family. (Mind you, he now gets 50% off for life at the less popular schnitzel houses.) Honestly, though, can you blame the guy for thinking that taking the strap like a man is the very essence of British living?
It only makes sense. After all, when the macho actor Daniel Craig was announced as the new James Bond in England in 2005, he was forced to wear a lifejacket as he whizzed along the Thames in a military speedboat.
And it was in the U.K. that the British Egg Information Service was forbidden to re-run a famous 1957 ad, starring comedian Tony Hancock, in celebration of its slogan, “Go to work on an egg.” This, because the Broadcast Advertising Clearance Centre felt the ad “goes against what is now the generally accepted advice of a varied diet.”
I just saw the movie version of Brideshead Revisited. True, it’s set in pre-World War II England and not present-day, but among the things people were forced to be ashamed of then (beyond the usual no-no’s of adultery and alcoholism) were: wearing “flannels” to dinner rather than more formal attire; kissing a woman if you were a man; kissing a man if you were a man; kissing a man if you were a woman; being brought up near Paddington Station; admiring a big house; being an artist; supporting a friend rather than his mother; supporting the mother rather than his friend; being an atheist; not being a Catholic; and not being a good enough Catholic. Spit-spot, spankings all round.
Things don’t seem to have got much looser over there since. Canada’s chattering class will be frightened to hear that using a cellphone while driving is already banned in Great Britain, according to The Telegraph.
Smoking is not entirely forbidden yet, although the newspaper said changes to the Highway Code mean it is now officially considered a “distraction,” along with such nefarious activities as reading maps. Smokers in Britain can apparently be prosecuted for “driving without due care and attention” if an accident occurs while they are puffing behind the wheel. (Lest we Canadians feel too superior on this matter, many of our detox facilities, psychiatric hospitals for convicted criminals, and federal prisons are now banning smoking. Yes, that’s right, addictive personalities who’ve hit rock bottom have to not only kick crack, crystal meth or heroin, but, simultaneously, cigarettes. Cue the riots.)
I see Great Britain as a kind of testing ground for other countries who are considering imposing restrictions they suspect their citizens might not swallow. U.K. authorities seem to try out idiotic shame-inducing concepts first over there, and if they prove acceptable to the public, those ideas cross the pond. It worked with Britain’s Pop Idol TV show, which was copied around the world, so why wouldn’t it work with fining people for “smoking in the workplace,” even if they’re bicycle couriers?
Inspired, I’ve unleashed my inner nanny to come up with other things Britons should be forbidden from doing while driving. I hope they’ll soon become verboten (not to be too Max Mosley) over here. They include: picking at their “spots,” which in addition to disgusting other drivers could lead to scarring; eating fish’n’chips, because they might accidentally swallow a wedge of lemon and lose control of the vehicle while choking; measuring their “things” (see The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, Aged 13-3/4); and changing out of their pants and into a kilt while entering a roundabout.
And that’s just for starters. I’d be a perfect nanny for hire, if the British government ever wants to farm out the work. My carpet-bag’s packed, a la Mary Poppins. Just say the word, old sports.