We were walking in the street the other day when we saw a bunch of gendarmes arresting a kid. When I say “bunch”, I mean there were even more of them than the usual phalanx: roughly six or seven cops and one docile teenager, handcuffed behind his back. As we watched this rather one-sided encounter – which looked a bit like Manchester United versus the Dagenham Girl Pipers at Old Trafford with Howard Webb refereeing - up screeched a van-load of reinforcements. As the spectators on the pavement gave ironic cheers and someone suggested they send for the US Cavalry, one of the cops broke away from the crime scene and ran over to confront us, shouting, “We’re not cowboys!” and miming the drawing of a pistol. I took it to mean that he thought overwhelming numerical superiority was better than shooting first and asking questions afterwards.
Then last night I saw Lord Blair of Boughton on TV, labelled as "Consultant on Strategic Policing". Wasn’t he the Prime Minister who said he had been advised by the Lord Chancellor that he could legally start a war? No, that was another Blair – he hasn’t been ennobled just yet. This was the police commissioner in charge when that guy was shot by Met police on the Underground. OK, you mean the Blair who said that de Menezes had been warned before he was shot?
Perhaps the gendarme got it right after all.
Ricky Swannell has trouble with her vowels. She’s the woman who reports on the Australian Open Tennis every morning from “Milbourne”: “Fidera wan the furst sit sucks throy…”. She has no problem with the “the”.