THAT was it; the last straw, the
final spanner in the works, the fly in the ointment, the worm in the root.
The nuts and bolts of Britain, I believed, were coming apart, the
gibbering and squeaking government was running a burgeoning bedlam and I,
as a downright, upstanding, middle-brow, fair-to-average man at the top of
a middle-of-the road Edinburgh omnibus, had to do something about it.
was no time for futile gestures so, once more, at the place where you
complain about such matters, I encountered my old friend, the man behind
"Not you again," he gasped, clutching a defensive,
Clad in the dignity that suits a man in my
position, I told him that I spoke as a law-abiding, careful-driving,
non-smoking, eco-conscious citizen devoted to social justice, community
arts, free health care for all, further education and skate-boarding rinks
for the increasing number of up-and-at-’em over-seventies.
climate of opinion," I said, "indicates that outbreaks of rage, developing
into periods of fury are sweeping the country with scattered indignation
and widespread areas of depression occurring before the end of the month.
"Much of this turbulence is, I believe, caused by occluded fronts of
compensation culture coming from all directions, which mean downpours of
lolly reaching the gaping wallets of increasing numbers of people."
scribbled furiously as I continued.
"I recently read that a
prisoner is suing the government for £20,000 because he finds life in
Peterhead Prison, Aberdeenshire, boring, that the cells are too small,
that prison work is dull and that he has to slop out, conditions which, he
claims, have caused him loss of self-esteem and stress - all in breach of
the European Convention on human rights."
HE’S stressed," I thundered at
the flinching scribbler. "How do you think I feel when I read that the
court case could cost up to £500,000 of taxpayers’ cash that could
otherwise be used to provide limbo-dancing and high-wire-walking classes
for arthritic pensioners? The notetaker shook his head in shock.
also claims that he has to use a Porta Potty instead of a flushing toilet
in front of a cell mate. With no wish to be indelicate, I can reveal that
on troopships, I, and scores of other well-brought-up servicemen, at such
times, had to sit on planks alongside and facing each other in numbers
that seemed greater than the Dunkirk evacuation. Did we complain? Of
Some prisoners seem unable to appreciate the
bracing, purgatorial, boarding-school-type atmosphere of prisons and are,
sadly, too eager to join the growing compensation movement."
true," sighed the counterman.
"You may not believe this," I
continued, "but I have read that a female prison worker who claimed she
was traumatised by watching a hostage-taking training exercise, and
repeatedly told afterwards that it was just an exercise, was awarded a
cool £100,000 compensation."
PEOPLE," I continued, "are
getting money nowadays for things that once wouldn’t have raised an
eyebrow - hurt feelings, blows to pride, bullying, name-calling, jocular
"You name them; I’ve experienced them all and never
a whimper from one of the old brigade, shoulder-to-shoulder and no crying
"Not many like you nowadays sir," said the good
fellow, his face aglow with admiration.
"Great scholastic heavens, I
was once called a ‘snivelling, little wretch’ by a teacher. Nowadays, I
estimate, that character assessment would be worth £10,000 in the courts
for contusions to my ego and possible adverse effects on my career
"Once, a teacher slapped me for above-average
cheek. Today, I reckon the blow to my pride would have brought me at least
20,000 smackers with the staff forming a hollow square in the playground
and stripping the teacher off her chalk, jotters and job.
courting is all the rage these days and many of us feel litigiously
deprived. Who or what can we sue?
"I suggest the government,
since living in Britain to-day has put many of us in a state of fear and
alarm, leaving us traumatised, with flashbacks, nightmares and a
reluctance to watch or listen to the news. I would settle for a modest
£200,000 and advise others to do likewise.
"In this potty realm. I cannot
stress my advice too much."