Fox (n): carnivore of genus vulpes; crafty person; scavenger; (vb) to confuse; -ed (adj): to be drunk.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

A marriage by any other name...

WEDDED bliss is all well and good but it's the things that go around it which cause a fuss.

The flowers, the dress, the house-buying - and the outlaws. Heidi Withers wants to marry Freddie Bourne but to do that she has to join a family containing his stepmother Carolyn, a woman whose manners are far from relaxed and is not afraid to point out that Heidi does not meet her high standards. It's such a common story that a pernickety email between the two has gone viral.

Then there's the politics of deciding whether to change your name, in what circumstances to keep your own and what everyone else has to say on the matter. Lily Allen now calls herself  'Mrs Cooper' on the grounds she never liked her maiden name and it's 'a new chapter in my life'.

Have you noticed it's only women that agonise over this kind of thing? Men don't have to bother about changing their name and when it comes to the family upsets they generally follow the path of least resistance. Freddie, predictably, is keeping his head down. Whether Heidi will continue to Wither or join the Bourne conspiracy is as yet unknown, and why Lily didn't change her name sooner is a matter for speculation.

This is the fuss that goes around a marriage, but it does not make a damn bit of difference to its chances of success. I got on with my outlaws brilliantly, they liked me and I them and although it later turned out they had raised my husband to act like a twat I never really held it against them. The marriage still went phut, as one in two will do.

I never wanted to change my name either, but my husband-to-be disagreed, not least because he wanted to be seen as the majority partner. I compromised by keeping my maiden name as a middle name, and as soon as we split - before the divorce had barely begun - I changed it right back again by deed poll. There's no power on earth, marriage or otherwise, that could persuade me to change it again. But my views didn't change because of the divorce: they were ever thus.

Yes, it's nice when you're in love and want to be as together as possible and want to shout to the world: "We are ONE!" But you're not. You're two individuals, hopefully going in the same direction and with the same aims in mind, acting as partners and maybe a family unit.

Pretending once the ring goes on that you are a single, entirely new creature is like trying to win a three-legged race by telling yourself you genuinely do have three legs. You'll end up flat on your face.

There are women (and men) who don't like their names and are happy to change, who see nothing wrong with the idea, double-barrel or don't stop to think about it being a problem. Fine, knock yourselves out, free country and all that.

I don't know what to do about names for children if I have any but I quite like the Scandinavian practice of mothers handing their surnames to their daughters, and fathers to their sons. Or maybe the other way around. And I'd be inclined, when the child was 18 or so, to let them choose.

It's a bit right-on perhaps, but when it comes to the crunch the success of any relationship - parent-child, husband-wife, in-laws and outlaws - comes down not to doing the thing others say you ought but what suits you, and trying to remember that if it's to work you have to be friends. Changing your name does not change who you are.

This way! That way! Oh bugger.

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Leg it, love.

AS I've said before, a divorcée like me is no expert on how to have a happy marriage.

But a blind man can see that if you find out something unpleasant shortly before the nuptials, try to flee the country and he sends the police after you to catch you and 'persuade' you to return, it ain't going to be a very happy union.

He might be a prince, he might live in a tax haven, but he's still bald and ugly and weird and named after a genital adornment and if you've an ounce of sense, Charlene Wittstock, you'll dress as a washerwoman and make good your escape from Prince Albert of Monaco.

That, or hope like hell that an honest farm boy called Westley pitches up with a giant and a holocaust cloak.

"It's going to be so much more moving when I strangle her on our wedding night..."

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

I cannot tell a lie.

THERE'S a million news stories to talk about or comment on. Wars, murders, Kate Middleton's increasingly gristly frame.

But the one that's got my goat today is never going to be in a newspaper, because it's about us. The Independent's feature writer Johann Hari has been found out pretending quotes in his interviews were made to him when, in fact, they were said much earlier or to other people.

Yahoo! Ireland editor Brian Whelan got angry about how readers were being misled and went on a bit of a crusade to find out how often Johann had done this. Johann, in response, said The Reader preferred him to fudge the lines of truth a little bit. It's all been covered by the excellent blog Fleetstreetblues and you can read it here.

So far, so media village. Lots of writers (who use a little more licence in their pieces) arguing with reporters (who try to operate solely on facts) about what's right or wrong. Yawn.

But it also provokes many non-journalists to say "ah yes, but you all lie, don't you?" It's the most common accusation hurled at the people in my trade, it is the easiest thing for a red-handed and red-faced public figure to splutter on a doorstep, and personally I find it the most frustrating and offensive. So here's why.

Imagine, for a moment, I was going to break the habit of an entire career and make up a story out of thin air. For example, that Cheryl 'Jiggaboo' Tweedy was having an affair with Jeremy Clarkson.

(For the record, it's not true. Not yet, anyway.)

The first thing I have to do is pitch the story to my newsdesk. They reply: "Great story. Where are the pictures?"

Ah. I don't have any pictures because it's not true. So the newsdesk spend several weeks and several thousand pounds in shift payments to a team of photographers to follow Tweedy and Clarkson around in the hope of catching them in flagrante, in a hotel or at least in the same postcode. They follow them, they lose them, they find them again. They're never in the same place and after three weeks my boss says: "We're not wasting any more money on this." He pulls the plug and I look like a twat.

But I'm desperate to get this lie published, so I tell my boss it definitely happened. It might be historic, but I have a good source. "Who?" he says. "Um," I say, trying to think of something. "Family member/housekeeper/friend/colleague."

"What's their name? How well do they know Tweedy or Clarkson? Will they swear it on oath if we get sued? Do we have to pay them? Why are they telling you this?" asks my boss.

Imagine I lied my way through all of that - God knows how, they normally ask for names, addresses, and contracts, or at the very least a mobile number - but imagine I did. Imagine I dreamed up enough details of the faux Clarkson-Tweedy fling to sustain 1,200 words (and if you think it's easy, try writing a few hundred yourself). I file my copy, and my newsdesk - between them with several decades of experience - against all the odds do not spot the glaringly obvious lies.

They then pitch the story to The Editor, who asks the same questions in a harder tone. It gets looked at by The Lawyer, who rolls his eyes and says: "No pictures? No chance, we'll get sued into oblivion." The Editor thinks about the legal budget, and their job, and says "I'm not publishing it without proof."

Even if The Editor's away, The Lawyer's in holiday mood and the newsdesk have been down the pub and somehow the story sneaks through, it still gets looked at by half a dozen sub-editors and page designers. All of them are more than likely to come over to me and ask me a question which I can't answer because it's a lie.

And even if I manage to overcome all of these obstacles, once it's in the paper Ms Tweedy and Mr Clarkson will send a High Court defamation writ by return of post. The Lawyer, The Editor, and the news editor trot over to my desk say "we need your source". I tell them my source has disappeared. "Find them again," I'm told. When I cannot produce any evidence for my story my newspaper will be forced to make, I'd guess, a six-figure payment to both parties and a grovelling apology on the steps of the court, while I would get the absolute bollocking of my life.

How many times do you think I could pull that trick before my boss got fed up? Twice? Three times? This is an industry in which your track record is crucial and word gets around and, had I ever behaved in the way outlined above, I'd have been sacked or quietly let go pretty quickly.

That's how things work with news stories. Things are different with features, because the writer gets to throw in subjective comment about someone's tone of voice, their demeanour, what their house is like and so on. Interviews contain a thing we call "colour", a few paragraphs or phrases used to set the scene and bring it alive far more than the black and white facts of a news story can do. You're still not able to get a lie through without some checks, although big-name writers are given more leeway - such as Mr Hari, who should know better.

Then there's showbiz, a gaping maw demanding, in the national tabloids, two whole pages of new stuff every day, seven days a week. The reporters get their tales from freelances, PRs, people with an axe to grind and things they see and people they talk to at parties they have to attend until the wee hours as part of a constant treadmill that rarely has the benefit of being seen as journalistically-worthy. But without them we'd never sell so many copies, and people would not see our other stories. Sport, strangely enough, is much the same.

No newspaper WANTS to print a lie. It's expensive, we hate paying court costs, and we'd far rather spend the cash on the Christmas party or maybe even stories. Mistakes happen nevertheless and there are plenty of blogs and interested parties pointing it out when they do - as they should, although they are rather monotone and never praise a paper for getting something right.

That's not to say there are no liars in journalism. There are bad apples in every barrel who give the rest of us a bad name and I'll happily come down from the moral high ground to hold my hands up to the fact that I embellish at times; I have flimmed and flammed to drag a one-par quote into a six-par story; I correct people's grammar and 'straighten up' what they say.

But I never, ever, lie. I do not say black is white. I do not say someone told me something when actually they said it a year previously to someone else. When a newsdesk in the past has asked me to do something I think is wrong I have either said "yes, of course" and then not done it at all or - more rarely - told them I am not doing it.

There are thousands of people in this country who work in my industry. There is, so far, just one convicted of phone hacking, but even he's not been convicted of making up stories. There are people who take risks, there are idiots in it for what they can get, and there are terrified young cub reporters whose desks scream at them to get a result and who are taught, I'm afraid, that a quick lie will get you out of trouble in the short-term. I know just a handful of hacks that are out-and-out liars and who, were I their editor, I would sack at the first opportunity.

Most of us are not like that. Most of us do a job which, from local news agency to national rag, does not pay as well as people think and has long hours and a lot of people being horrible to each other and to us, and we do it because we think someone should. We are natural born gossips, we are nosey, we stick our oar in and sometimes we make mistakes. Things get bent at times, and often the people who come to us with a tale are trying their hardest to get a lie published - such as the soldier 'abuse' pictures which got Piers Morgan the bullet. They manage it more often than they should, not least because journalists can be surprisingly credulous and naive - we're so used to having to tell the truth that we forget others are not under the same compunction.

No industry is perfect and yours, whatever it may be, is no better than mine. But mine is the one that is lied about, and to, more than you might realise - and it is also the one in which a premium is put not just on the truth but on one you can prove. Celebrities who say a story is a lie but never sue, PRs who brief against a reporter who caught out their client, MPs calling for more privacy and less scrutiny - none of them has to prove it to a lawyer first. I do.

So next time someone says "a journalist lied" ask them, exactly, how they did it. Because I could not do it if I tried.

Monday, 27 June 2011

A festival of fools.

MARC Bolan, David Bowie, Primal Scream, Led Zep, Blur, Oasis, Pulp - over the years Glastonbury has had some amazing moments.

When Disco 2000 blasted out from the Pyramid stage in 1995 and was screamed right back by 100,000 people who didn't feel like grown-ups yet, when Rolf did Stairway to Heaven, when Screamadelica had just come out and Bobby Gillespie was achingly ugly and cool; all things which even people watching at home on telly still remember.

Those kids grew up but they still want to turn back time and shout his own lyrics at Jarvis Cocker. And because they're now mums and dads, bankers and lawyers and mortgage brokers, the whole thing is safer and less edgy and more expensive, and therefore also attracts what can only be described as the Twatterati.

This year they included Nancy Dell'olio, who calls herself a lawyer but earns her money doing deals with the paparazzi for pictures of her and her latest bloke. Kate Moss is a scraggy-haired fixture, like the Portaloos. Wayne Rooney and his missus appeared in matching Hunter wellies, and the biggest band to play were subject of a demonstration about their tax status. Coldplay's rider for their gig consisted of mineral water, crudités and gluten-free dips, the Sunday headliner stopped proceedings five minutes in to sing Happy Birthday to a man called Steve, and when someone was found dead in the VIP toilets it was the Chairman of West Oxfordshire Conservative Association.

How much more Establishment can you get? What's next, the Queen in the mosh pit?

Most of these people go not because it's fun or edgy but just because they want to be seen. Kool & The Gang were on at the same time as Beyonce and were a million times better but hardly anyone saw them, and last year a friend of mine wandered into a side tent and found The Specials still as angry as ever in front of a crowd of about 20.

Today most teenagers simply can't afford the £200-a-head tickets and the rebellious youth which every generation ought to be doesn't get a look-in, because this is a middle-class music festival which has taken rock'n'roll and strangled the life out of it.

Glastonbury is just not cool. It's not even room temperature. It's that uncomfortably sweaty, buttock-clenching, horridly hot feeling you get with either impending diarrhoea or an unanswerable question from your boss.

And unless it's cool, it's just twats in a field.

"Yes, Dave, this is much better than a week in Spain."

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Letters to Lillys.

THE week began with this Father's Day post on my dear old dad, who after he read it rang me specially to say: "I thought it was quite good."

Others agreed with him, but wanted to say more. Kurt said: "You even managed to get my daughter captivated enough to read all of it, even though she rarely reads anything that has more than a dozen words and a picture!" Flip added: "I had a little cry at your Father's Day piece when I was supposed to be working. It gave the game away but it was worth it. Wonderfully written."

David said: "What a great tribute: lucky dad and lucky you for having him... though I am now feeling a bit of a crap father by comparison..."

Ed: See? I told you he made every other man look rubbish.

The story of the Special Forces soldier subject to a bizarre decision to prosecute him for punching a would-be Taliban assassin who didn't appear to mind caused fewer wet eyes and more debate.

Alex said: "If he admitted it and the authorities said it was fine, there would be a negative backlash... further endangering the lives of servicemen. That's just the way a liberal democracy has to wage war."

Chris added:
"What makes stories such as these particularly sickening/laughable is not so much the persecution of the innocent. When was it ever not so?... However, they can never find quite the same witchfinder zeal when literally tens of thousands of whistle-blowers scream bloody murder at systematic corruption and abuses of power higher up the chain of command. Rank Has Its Privileges - up to and including treason and murder. Do your job, and they'll throw the book at you. Betray your country, and they'll give you a knighthood..."
A second Chris said: "Another depressingly familiar example of our (British) ability to (pedantically) shoot ourselves in the foot. No wonder it's a fight (no pun intended) to attract recruits to our armed forces."

And Jon added: "I'm undergoing something similar for slashing the tyres on a getaway car full of stolen goods. The bad guys thought I was right. The CPS said I was right. My managers are still prosecuting me."

Prime Minister's Questions provoked this post on the weekly announcement of the names of the dead service men and women killed in Afghanistan produced a lot of praise. Fran said: "Such an excellent piece. Needs to be fly-dropped over Westminster." And Justin said: "There's too many career politicians on those benches..."

Hugh was not the only one to point out:
"I'm a huge fan of yours and the message you put across in your latest blog was truly heartfelt and beautifully written. However I think you should remember that Dishface probably does know the sorrow of losing a loved one. Whilst I agree that the cuts to the military are shocking and poorly considered, one should remember that he himself has lost an infant child. I am positive that he knows the pain of the families of the lost. Perhaps he should consider his situation more when deciding where the axe should fall."
Iain, an Apache pilot, added: "Good read, although you are wide of the mark with the GB comments. We are better equipped, paid and prepared than ever. It was the Thatcher years that saw millions wasted on a redundant nuclear deterrent and soldiers sent unprepped to the Falklands."

Tony said: "I've enjoyed your Tweets, bout a book deal, shoes etc, but have you ever hit it home with this blog. Forget book deal. FSF4PM!"

And Frankie said: "Nothing short of the best blog I've ever read, you are saying the things I wish we all could, I can't thank you enough."

Ed: Well, that's lovely. Thank you.

The latest pictures of Zsa Zsa Gabor proved plastic surgery doesn't stop time - or criticism.

Justin said: "Jesus. She looks dead already." Neil added: "Is that a coffin she's in? She already looks embalmed."

Joanne added: 

"Bravo Foxy. The same goes for weight to a degree. The DoC (Kate M) appears more 'plastic' with every pound she loses. Her curves were never over-curvacous but they were what gave her shape, expression, character, individuality and beauty. Another brunette Barbie in the making."
The announcement that this blog had paid for a rather lovely pair of shoes caused Lucy to say: "Would you like to join me in taking over the planet? You show much promise. :) xx" and your correspondent's birthday announcement of a book to be published in time for Christmas provoked a startling revelation from Caroline.

She said: 

"Happy birthday you SEXY, SATIRICAL, SAVVY SISTA. Hope a wise publisher finds you. I shall now unmask you in front of the world because - oh well, many of us here already know. Lillys Miles is really.....(Baited breath from readers)...Fleet Street Fox. (I know the family. Lovely people the Street-Foxes, all of them.). May your blue shoes party!"
Ed: Sssh, don't tell anyone.

And Trevor said:
"23rd June, today: that must mean 'tis The Gorgeous Lillys' birthday. Hope you are, right this moment, making an exquisite yet outrageously good time of it. There's only you, M' lady Lillys, still " ... keeping up the tone" for us... You are our 'Unique Experience' day after day after day. Long may you reign, Princess Lillys Miles, ma'am."
The day before the rest of Fleet Street picked it up (ha) this post on Shane Warne's strange new look produced nothing but scorn for the captive Aussie.

Joanne said: "It's only a question of time - the cobber will be out of the clobber and back down the pub before long." And Adam added: "Shane's face. My word, what they have done to your face. Must have been a trainee surgeon. Good blog and good points."

Which is a nice way to end. Enjoy the weekend folks - looks like the sun will shine.

 Foxy out.

Friday, 24 June 2011

An unhealthy relationship.

ON the one hand, he's lost a bit of weight, has a new girlfriend, and is obviously doing that man thing of keeping himself in trim. All good stuff.

But on the other, Shane Warne's facelift (his eyebrows are an inch higher than last year) and fillers make him look like a dodgy Italian porn star.

I'm sure Liz likes it but Shane love - you look like a pillock. Have a beer and a meat pie floater, and for the love of Mike go back to bonking healthy-looking blondes rather than uptight food fascists from Basingstoke.

Liz: "Ooh, a reflection!"
Shane: "Ooh, a pub!"

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Next year: the world.

TODAY is my birthday.

Well it's not. But then again it is: today the creature which is Lillys Miles is two years old.

Since she was born - created, formed, lurched into view - she has written a book online all about her Fleet Street frolics and personal misbehaviour which has been read by 10,000 people but which, for reasons that range from "huh?" to "who'd read that?", has yet to be published.

It was finished when Lilly turned one, and shortly afterwards she went on The Twitter where after nine months of chuntering on and making silly jokes about things she has 20,000 followers, some of whom buy t-shirts, some of whom know her, and some of whom hate her. But all of whom are welcome just the same.

Just over two months ago she started writing this blog, which her bosses kindly tolerate in between asking sarcastically if she can spare time to do some work. It has had a grand total of 202,211 hits so far and earned her a pair of lovely blue suede shoes in advertising revenue, which is why even people who hate her are welcome to carry on reading.

Who knows what will happen in the next year? Well, I can exclusively reveal there will be a Fleet Street Fox book out in time for Christmas - not The Book, but another one which hopefully you will love or loathe me enough to buy.

And if we're all very lucky, maybe she'll stop talking about herself in the third person.

Have a lovely day, everyone. I'm going t'pub.

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Dulce et decorum est, pro patria mori.

EVERY Wednesday Prime Minister Dishface gets up on his hind legs in the House of Commons and announces the names of the servicemen and women killed in Afghanistan that week.

Ed Miliminor says how sorry he is to hear it, and all the politicians listen while carefully wearing the Sad But Serious Face they keep in a jar by the door.

Every week they say the same thing, with different names. Heads don't shake, frowns do not appear, and it's almost as though the latest bunch of body bags are no different to the last.

Well, as you'll see if you click on the links, they are different. It's a knock on the door for a new family, another empty chair at a kitchen table. Each one matters, somewhere outside Parliament.

I have had to break that news more than once. To friends, to my family, and sometimes because of the job - and because the police aren't always as thorough as us - accidentally, to strangers on their doorstep. I can remember each one, because it was horrific; you slice someone's world apart with a handful of words, and can do nothing but watch as it collapses in front of you. The best you can make of it is to break the news well and do your best for whoever has to hear it.

Dishface and Miliminor have never had to do that. They've never even watched someone do that. They read out the names and while I'm sure they think "oh dear, more people dead" don't stop to ever wonder how old they were, where they were from, why they joined up, if they were married, had children or still lived at home with mum and dad.

The Armed Forces are, in many parts of this country, the only decent job you can get. In the areas where mining has died, where manufacturing has faded and education has failed the military recruiters have easy pickings among young people who want to get out, get away, and get a trade.

They know the risks when they sign up but they only find out the reality when they're thrown in a 10-year-old unarmoured Land Rover and told to drive over improvised landmines in pursuit of an enemy who doesn't give a shit about living past sundown, and by the way before you go write a letter to your mum in case you don't come back.

Yet politicians think it is their job that's difficult. They bitch about having to furnish a free second home, employ their loved ones as their secretaries and complain about late-night votes sandwiched between drinking in a subsidised bar while being 'targeted' by pretty young researchers.

And then they vote through cuts to the military, decommission warships, ground planes, scrimp on service housing, let it take 10 years for someone to provide a bomb disposal robot and quibble about £30-a-week war pensions for people whose service broke their bodies and sometimes their spirit.

For the past few years every person I've met with links to the Armed Forces has spat acid at the very mention of Gordon Brown's name, blaming him for kit shortages, pension nalls-ups and bad decisions. A lot of them pinned their hopes on a Tory government being better. Yesterday members of 16 Air Assault Brigade - their numbers lighter by 22 after service against the Taliban - marched through Westminster to take tea with the PM, and I'll bet for most of them it was hard to swallow.

Because in the past year all they've had is more cuts, more work, and less thanks. They've been asked to get rid of Colonel Gaddafi in a £500million conflict no-one is allowed to call a war and without making a mess. When top brass quite reasonably pointed out the situation was unsustainable, Dishface slapped them down and said: "You do the fighting, and I'll do the talking." As though the two could be compared.

The problem with so many of those who sit in Parliament is they've never sat anywhere else. They haven't sat through a firefight, they haven't sat through an inquest, and they've never sat and properly listened to anyone. They just hear a political opportunity or problem, and never see the people in the middle of it.

They just read out the names. They do not weep, their voices do not shake, and they do not realise the wars they send those people to fight are never sweet.

If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum es
Pro patria mori.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Tempus fuckit.

KATE Middleton is our future queen and judged, pretty much entirely, on how shiny her hair is and how pretty her frocks. Not on her mind or her achievements, but that's probably just as well.

Prime Minister Dishface had a head start at the election, not because he was up against a fourth-term government during a recession, but because he was better looking than the other guy.

And while I know it's meaningless pap even the X Factor comes down, in the end, not to the talent of its contestants but to the female judges being "at war" over their frocks while their male colleagues dye their hair and wax their brows so they will be listened to.

As shallow as it is, that's the way the human brain is wired. So it's perhaps not surprising that even though they're both young and good-looking minor celebrities Lauren Pope and her boyfriend Kirk Norcross have had his'n'hers matching nosejobs in a painful and expensive effort to appear perfect.

But I've said it before and I'll say it again - it's our flaws that make us special. They're what mean we are individuals rather than an army of lookalike Barbie and Kens. I wear my wrinkles proudly, because I think of them as laughter lines and the battlescars of a life which isn't over yet. If I end my days looking like a happy prune I'll consider myself to have succeeded.

And if you ever doubt it, bear in mind the fact that Zsa Zsa Gabor, at 94, is the just-about-living proof that all the money and cosmetic surgery in the world won't keep time at bay.

No laughter lines, see? FAIL.

Monday, 20 June 2011

The best stories are never told.

A HERO soldier, dragged through the courts for attacking an enemy in the middle of a war zone?

Normally a story like that would make front page news and provoke a scandal that would pitch the Armed Forces against the judiciary and lead to a political bunfight about who's right and wrong. Remember Lee Clegg? That dragged on for years.

But not this time. The story broke on Sunday and has been mentioned briefly here and there, but most of you probably have not heard of it for two simple reasons: firstly it happened in Afghanistan where journalists cannot operate freely, and secondly because the soldier in question was a member of the totally secret Special Forces.

He's accused of beating a Taliban prisoner and is facing a full court martial next month. If he's convicted, the chances are he'll spend a short time in military jail and although he has already left the forces he will have a black mark forever on his service career.

And whatever happens, we'll never know about it.

The facts, such as we know them, are these: Special Forces were on patrol with Afghan troops when two men on a motorbike rode at them head-on. The driver, who was armed with a pistol, refused to stop and was shot dead. The passenger was captured and given to an Army corporal to look after while his colleagues mopped up the mess.

He says the prisoner tried to escape and got a single punch for his trouble, causing "minimal injury". The corporal reported himself to the authorities and was immediately sent back to Britain where he was arrested and charged with assault. He has since left the Army in disgust, and the prisoner has disappeared into the Afghan dust.

Now, I've known more than one member of the Special Forces and I admit some of them are no-neck grunts I wouldn't trust with plastic cutlery, much less a gun. But most are the brightest and best picked from armed services which are already considered - not just by themselves - to be the best in the world. They're not like the Yanks, schooled to shoot anything that moves while shouting "HOO-AH!"; they're taught to engage brain before flicking off the safety.

The Special Forces regiments and their support units are trained to within an inch of their lives, not just physically but mentally as well, and while they'll happily drink a pint of their own piss and fight an entire police station they're generally a professional, if homophobic, bunch. The fact the corporal reported himself for overstepping the line proves that.

But all he's had in return is a smack in the face. Even bearing in mind the possibility there may be more to the tale - that there were several punches, that the prisoner wasn't trying to escape at all, or maybe that the corporal reported himself only because he was caught in the act - it is still not 'prisoner abuse' on quite the same scale as Abu Ghraib. And personally I can't see the soldier did anything wrong.

Had the same thing happened on the streets of Britain, a policeman who walloped a prisoner would be investigated. Without witnesses or a victim he'd be cleared, and have the right to speak about what happened.

But in Afghanistan - where we are asking hard men to do a difficult job in circumstances most of us cannot imagine, without the right kit and on low pay - we expect our guys to put their lives at risk while demanding they behave like vicars. What was the soldier supposed to do, ask the prisoner politely not to escape?

The Special Forces live by their code of silence; it protects their colleagues and families, as much as their work. They forgo their freedom of expression for our sake but in this instance that sacrifice is being repaid with disdain.

Disdain from the Service Prosecuting Authority, which is persisting in a ridiculous decision to prosecute such a minor offence; disdain for the public who rightly expect that justice is open and public; and disdain for a man who is likely to be cleared of any wrongdoing but denied a voice to decry the way he has been treated.

Because of the secrecy which surrounds this part of the military our newspapers are barely able even to gather enough details to stoke a national scandal over the way this tiny incident has been handled and the unreasonable persecution of a man who had an otherwise-unblemished record.

So if this is the only place you get to read about it, I'd just like to point out that a servant of the Crown is being tried by the courts in almost total secrecy for something I bet most of us don't have a problem with.

Justice really is blind.

There are none so blind as them who cannot see.

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Dear dad...

MY DAD is the man who could not be there when I was born, although he tried.

My dad is the man who, when I was growing up, went to work early and came home after I was in bed except for those times when I'd done something bad enough that I had to wait up until he got home to tell me off for it.

My dad is the person who explained to me why the sky was blue, although it was so scientifically detailed that it didn't really go in and if anyone asks me now I have to Google it; but I do know that it's something to do with refraction.

My dad was the tallest man in the whole world, and when he put me on his shoulders I felt like a giant.

My dad is the parent I argued with the most, hugged the least, and scowled at solidly for pretty much my entire teenage years, and the only adult whose temper I was ever really scared of especially if I slammed a door so hard all the glass fell out of it. But whenever he wiggled his ears he could make me laugh.

My dad is the person who taught me it's important to sort your screws and nails into different sizes and types although I didn't believe him until 20-odd years later, and that various bits of metal and wood will always come in handy at some point if you keep them long enough.

My dad told me about Archimedes and his bathtub, how to grow carrots and change a wheel, the benefits of WD-40 and how not to load a pane of glass into the back of the car unless you want to smash it on your head and you have to take yourself and your young daughter to A&E to get stitched up while pouring buckets of blood everywhere.

My dad is the man who makes a comb-over look cool.

My dad is the man who, when you tell him something's broken, doesn't say take it to the shop or get a man in or what am I supposed to do about it, but says "let's have a look" and always tries to fix it even and especially if he doesn't have a clue, and usually manages it.

My dad can't cook a damn thing except fish fingers and porridge, both of which he is brilliant at but I hope he never cooks them at the same time.

My dad has hands as tough as the underside of a rhino's foot, but when he gets a splinter it still really hurts so he will sit quietly while I use the tweezers to fish it out for him.

When I do something silly or go somewhere dangerous, my dad is the person who tells my mum I'll be absolutely fine and there's nothing to worry about.

My dad is not too fussed about Father's Day, Christmases or birthdays, just so long as you ring your mum and come and see us when you can.

My dad makes every other man look a bit rubbish.

My dad never cries, it's just that his eyes are wet.

My dad is my hero.

 Happy Father's Day x

Friday, 17 June 2011

A flying fox is an angry fox.

THE problem with flying is not making sure you have enough pants to last or working out how much of the local currency is a reasonable amount to pay for a beer; it's the airports.

They are the only type of construction in the history of mankind designed to make your life less efficient and more difficult.

(And before anyone smart says torture chambers, they were models of efficiency and can keep you entertained for months if necessary.)

It used to be that you parked next to the plane, waved your ticket and climbed aboard. Now you park on an unending patch of tarmac four miles from the airport where you will never find your car again, get a bus to the terminal, spend an hour in a queue to check in, spend more hours in queues having your underwear rifled and your toothpaste sniffed for explosives while being repeatedly asked to undress, then get channelled through a series of over-priced retail opportunities before you're thrown into the back of a jet with several hundred other people in various states of rage and most of whom are ready to kill.

Whoever in the world designs airports and various parts of them - in particular the seats which are too uncomfortable to sit on, and the vast, hangar-like ceilings which are exercises in ugliness and lazy architecture - needs a kick up the backside.

The purpose of all engineering and design is to make life nicer, simpler, and more efficient. Yet in the case of airports it causes low-grade misery so pernicious that, even if not manifested via the medium of multiple homicides in the Duty Free, still makes the world a less pleasant place by a factor of millions of people a year.

So, because I am stuck in this terminal for another four hours waiting for the plane which cost £200 more than it should after I missed the one before because I was having such a nice holiday, and for what it's worth, here are my suggestions for nicer airports:

* Sofas. Yes, I know they would all become like the ones in Starbucks within a week, covered in stains and food that has fallen out of someone else's mouth, but they're nice and the metal creation I am sat on at the moment is not. It's vile. It's uncomfortable, it's ugly, and it hurts to sit on it for more than five minutes. We spend hours in airports - some people have to sleep in them. I'm not asking for anti-macassars but I think we should be able to have cushions. We certainly should not have things designed entirely to stop someone having a snooze because it makes the place look untidy.

* No-one has yet found a way to hijack a plane with the use of tweezers. Let us keep them.

* Ditto nail clippers, toothpaste, foundation and bottles of water.

* We do not, generally speaking, have to be on your plane. It would be nice if everyone who works in airports realised this.

* Make some effort with the architecture. I'd happily spend days staring at the vaulted ceiling of St Pancras station, which is proof that just because you have a big open space doesn't mean it has to look like a shed. Add some beauty to the world instead of corrugated steel and plastic.

* Proper heating. Airports are always cold, and there is no good reason for this.

* Public announcements should be made by a member of staff who can speak clearly and has a pleasant voice. Not some toothless stroke victim who can't be trusted to empty the bins.

* There is no earthly reason why a cup of tea in an airport costs twice as much as one outside. Or the clothes, or the sunglasses, or the twatty keyrings.

* Gardens. Play areas for children that don't just consist of a couple of small plastic chairs. A giant piano keyboard like the one in Big. Free massages. Put some paintings on the walls. Have showers for people travelling overnight and provide toothpaste and toothbrushes in the toilets - you're making enough money out of the sunglasses to pay for it.

* Travel should be about new experiences so promote a sense of adventure by paying someone to dress up as Indiana Jones and run through the terminal screaming while pursued by a giant stone ball and some angry-looking natives. Failing that, hire a samba band.

* Lastly, if I wanted to blow up a plane I'd post the bomb or get a job as a baggage handler. Bend more of your energies to that end of things and do me the honour of presuming I'm probably not a killer.

Not yet, anyway.

 I ain't gettin' on no plane, foo'.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Letters to Lillys.

THE week kicked off with more on the Cheryl Tweedy sacked/not sacked/do we care? story, which is as good a reason as any to re-use the picture of her assault victim Sophie Amogbokpa.

Whoops, I've done it again.

Anyway the post produced much mirth. Niamh said: "She really gave her a good clattering didn't she! Had forgotten how nasty that incident was. Right as always Lillys!" Colin added he liked it "so much so that I clicked on an ad for 'Rock Salt Suppliers' four times by way of thanks."

And Anthony said: "A very succinct submission indeed re the ghastly Cheryl Cole creature. I commend it to the jury... I didn't realise it was quite that horrendous. Yuk."

Thuggy Ms Tweedy was swiftly replaced by the navel-gazing Sarah Ferguson, who had told US TV shrink Dr Phil that her mother had beaten her and daddy had sold her pony.

Helen said: "Spot on. Bravo!" Meanwhile Annette sympathised with Fergie's family: "I think it's very sad that she has accused her dead parents of physical and emotional abuse when neither is able to counter her allegations."

This post on Lady Gaga's latest outlandish public appearance split opinion, with some praising her talents while others despaired of them.

Brian wrote:
"In general, I can't say I dislike what she's doing. It's 21st century cabaret. And a million miles away from Cheryl Fuckin' Cole. No doubt she'll resign her position at the dressing up box at some point in the future, and someone else will be there to fill her extremely tall shoes."
But Lucy believed: "She's the same as Cheryl Cole - anything to get ahead and get in the papers, despite obvious mediocrity."

But easily the biggest postbag of the week was for Thursday's piece on feminism, the Slutwalk and Playboy bunnies.

Helly said: "I think I'm falling in some kind of love with you. You're the first to arouse these feelings in me, but emphatic nodding along to your posts no longer suffices."

RealNick said: "Enjoyed reading your blog - I could relate to what you said about gran and mother - shades of my family." And Dwiddick added: "That nearly made me cheer out loud. And I'm a bloke! Good stuff. Time for a book deal?" Ceee said: "Your latest blog brought a tear to the eye. Fantastic work as always."

Aaron said:
"I consider myself a (male) feminist and have for years tried to articulate what your blog post says but I don't have the wit or invention... I will be doing my best to make sure that my little girls have the cojones in their adulthood to do what THEY want. Certainly regardless of parental preference or peer pressure. Is that not the true definition of feminism?"
A few took exception. Owen said: "Rather ruined the (very good) point that all women are not the same by saying that they are all the same at the end."

Martin wrote at length about how men do much harder jobs than women - soldiering, building, and so on - and believed men were treated worse on the NHS than women, didn't get free drinks in nightclubs, and that it's "men who build society, the hospital, the school" and wanted to know why more women weren't bomb disposal experts.

He said: "Feminists seen to have a very odd view of equality, they seem to want equal representation in everything but not that which involves dirt, death or long hours. Not being anti girlie or anti Foxy, just putting the other side."

Ed: Can't remember the last time I had a free drink in a nightclub, and I'm not sure but I think women aren't allowed to be bomb disposal experts because it's front-line soldiering which, technically, is still verboten in the UK. EDIT: This link shows both me and Martin are wrong.

And NickTheIdiot added:
"'I'm a girl and I'm nails'. You are such a loser! As much as I enjoy reading your stuff, you really do talk nonsense. Take that chip off your shoulder, Miss Miles. Tit! Actually rather enjoyed it, even though it was nonsense. Good luck anyway - someone surely must be stupid enough to indulge your talents and give you a poxy book deal."
Ed: Charmed.

On a nicer note Jennifer said:
"I just discovered you - so I'm loving reading all your old blogs! I just read your piece from 26th May, regarding divorce in Malta, and just thought I'd give you a wee push in our direction.  I'm from Belfast, NI and I'm not sure if you're aware that women in this part of the United Kingdom are banned from having abortions.  This means we have to travel to England and pay for the termination ourselves, as well as accommodation etc. This isn't part of any political cause on my behalf, but just a personal plea, we deserve to have the right to choose, and this is something that surely needs to be highlighted."
Ed: Next time it's in the news, promise.

And Howard put finger to keyboard to say:
"Last time I said you were top of my blogs pushing Guido and John Redwood down the order. After reading your recent posts - got to say - things have improved and you're the 'Barcelona of Blogs' - in other words, nobody gets even close to you. Great stuff - even my wife and daughters are hooked. Onwards!"
Which is nice.

Have a good weekend, y'all.

Foxy out.

Thursday, 9 June 2011

I'm a foxy feminist.

PLAYBOY bunnies one minute and slutwalks the next: cue the outraged lining up to shout about something they just don't get.

The 'f' word. The dirty word. The word describing stuff that's taken for granted, is almost a joke, and used so often its power has eroded to almost nothing: feminism.

It's a subject I steer clear of, largely because I don't feel the need to do otherwise. I work in a job where being female is a bonus, where it gets you sent on jobs that males can't do and in which a flirty smile can get you stories. If someone else wants to be sexist I've always considered it their weakness and not mine.

That's not to say it's not around. Unlike my male colleagues I can't wear the same clothes to work every day; if I'm on a doorstep for 12 hours and need the toilet I can't go up against the nearest wall while keeping an eye on the front door; and I'm not even going to start on the logistics of menstruation. Yet I have to produce copy same as the men, and without any excuses. I don't much mind because it was my choice.

My grandmother was born in 1916, twelve years before all women had the vote. She was the first in her family to dye her hair and was thought 'fast' as a result; she bought a house when she married, which made her 'a bit above herself'; and she worked, while she could. And those three things were about the only choices she had.

When her husband came back from war a changed man whose random dark moods oppressed the house and her, who loved her until the day he died but still made her unhappy, she had no option but to be miserable at his side. She could not leave, she could not divorce, she could not get a job to pay her own way and raise her family.

My gran was one of the most brilliant, ballsy, fascinating and political women I've ever met. She was like Barbara Castle but without the privilege, so she got to sit only at the head of the dinner table rather than in the House of Commons. She taught herself to walk again after a stroke, but the one handicap she retained all her life was the belief that there were some things you cannot change. She was wrong.

When my mum left school in 1960 she was told she could be a nurse or a secretary. She didn't like shorthand so picked nurse, and on a night out with a friend from her first job met my dad. They married a few years later and thanks to the Pill she got to choose when and how to have children. But she never got to decide between family and career, or even whether to do both.

But when I left school in the 1990s the careers adviser asked me: "What do you want to do?" And that, right there, is what feminism changed. I got the right to choose.

My gran got the right to choose which politician to vote for. My mum got the right to choose when to have her family, and I got the right to choose my entire life. I can choose to get married, to get divorced, where and how to live, who to sleep with and when to do it.

There is one major wall I still hit my head against though, and that's the idea that women have to be one thing. That all women like pink, that they read books but not newspapers, that they are either whores or mothers and that if a woman asserts herself with any kind of spirit she is 'aggressive'; that a female must be passive, or she is not a proper female, never mind that every female icon in history has had balls of steel. If she ever uses the 'f' word to describe herself, she is a militant, hairy, lesbionic 1970s cliche.

Those descriptions do not fit me, they don't fit my mum or my gran or in fact any woman I've ever met.

Which brings us back to the Playboy bunnies and sluts. If a woman wants to dress in a satin leotard and get letched over by idiots that's up to her - I wish she had a higher aim in life, but so long as it's a free choice she can make it. The women protesting against it should - and largely do - remember it's not the bunnies they mind, so much as the 'dollification' of women in general. In this instance it's Hugh Hefner who is the anachronism, a man stuck in the 1950s with so little financial acumen he sold out his business empire and his mansion and now has to keep flogging his flaccid old man's dream simply to pay the rent.

We are not dolls, we are people. So if thousands of women, young and old, are going to assert the right to wear whatever the hell they like on a march through London on Saturday I think it's brilliant. I hope there's a bunny on it, and a woman in a niqab, and a hooker and some wannabe-WAGs. The slutwalk is not about being a slut; it's saying that rape is never justified, that women are many things, and that feminism is not a dirty word.

I can't go on the march, but I can say this: I am a feminist. I shave as necessary, dye my hair, flirt for a living, mong my feet up in high heels, enjoy fact as much as I do fiction, and am neither a whore nor a mother. Apparently I'm a member of the weaker sex, but I'm tougher and cleverer than most men I know.

I am many things, but in short: I'm a girl and I'm nails. And so are the rest of us.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Bored of boobies now.

THE problem with setting out to shock people is that you get to the bottom of your bucket quite quickly.

You do something outrageous and then have to come up with something worse next time or you're boring. The whole point about surprise, you see, is that it's surprising.

Which is why, I imagine, Lady Gaga is running out of ways not to wear clothes. 

We've seen body stockings, we've seen bum, boobs, and nipple covers. Apparently we're now at metal-studded lady parts.

I predict that within a year she'll announce she's converted to Islam or taken the veil; she's nowhere else left to go.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Earth calling Fergie.

IT is wrong that a mother is banned from spending Christmas with her children, that she is not allowed to work and provide for herself in case it embarrasses her former in-laws and that the world mocks a woman who doesn't have a supermodel's arse.

I want to feel sympathy for Sarah Ferguson, I really do. But every time she opens her mouth I want to smack her in it.

"Daddy sold my pony," wails a FIFTY-ONE-YEAR-OLD WOMAN. "Mummy was mean, nobody loves me, I didn't get to go to Wills' and Kate's wedding, boo hoo hoo."

Well, I didn't have a pony either, not that I gave much of a toss. But had I later in life married into one of the wealthiest horse-owning families in the world I'd have been up to my neck in nags, wouldn't I?

"I'm still a duchess," insists the bankrupt, penniless, woman who lives with her ex-husband FIFTEEN YEARS after they got divorced and expects to travel everywhere by Bentley and private plane. Can anyone tell me which she has less of to rub together: brain cells or pennies?

A few weeks ago Fergie was bemoaning how "difficult" it was not to be invited to the wedding, even though no divorced-mum-of-the-groom's-cousins would normally get invited to a nuptials. "I felt so totally worthless," she whined. "The last bride up that aisle was me."

She spent the whole day on the phone to her ex-husband, who had to talk about how wonderful their own wedding was to calm her down, and then she went on Oprah - where else? - to lament: "I really love the feeling that sort of Diana and I both weren't there."

Yes, it's great the groom's mother was tragically killed while he was still a child.

Everything with Fergie is 'me'. Me, me, me, me, poor bloody me. Princess Di's dead but it's about ME. Someone else gets married and it's ME. I entirely understand she's had a tough draw from the deck in a couple of respects, but on the other hand she's had a pretty good deal.

And she's fifty-one. A mother-of-two. She's had a lot of experiences from which she really ought to have learned: instead she's as needy as a four-year-old whimpering for attention. GROW UP.

It can't be long til we get the "I'm dyslexic, you know" interview and she starts sucking her thumb in public.

The only good thing that seems to have happened to Fergie recently is that after her wedding snub she went on holiday to Thailand - presumably paid for by someone else.

"The jungle embraced me," she beamed.

If only it would.

Charles: "And this is the plant we're training to eat Fergie..."
Queen: "What a wonderful idea."

Monday, 6 June 2011

As sweet as salt.

Dear The World,

I do not wish to hear any more about Cheryl Tweedy unless and until she smacks in the face and calls him a jiggaboo.

Yours sincerely,


Sunday, 5 June 2011


THIS man, a footballer called Ryan, went to court demanding the British justice system, the internet and the general public respect the family life he had built with his wife Stacey and two children:

This woman, a model called Imogen, went to court demanding the right to defend herself against the above man's accusations, and make a buck out of his misbehaviour, after which she was subject to death threats:

Meanwhile another woman, an estate agent called Natasha, knew all along the man had been cheating on his wife for eight years with her, while simultaneously betraying his brother, called Rhodri, who she was dating at the same time and later married:

Natasha is now upset after finding out Ryan was 'cheating on her' by sleeping with Imogen, even though he was married to Stacey and Natasha was married to Rhodri, and they were both cheating on people already. "It's the worst possible betrayal," she wailed, with a total lack of irony.

All of the above people have complained about how unfair everything is and that they should be treated with more respect than they have been. And not one of them understands why they're not going to get it.

Meanwhile this woman, a mum-of-two called Leanne, has married a man called Rick without money, legs or wedding tackle after he was blown up just two years after they met online:

Leanne and Rick haven't demanded anyone's respect. They haven't complained about what's happened to them, and are campaigning for soldiers to have their sperm frozen before deployment so they can still have children if they are injured as seriously as Rick was.

They love each other, and have treated the problems life has thrown at them with a resilience which is inspiring.

Leanne said: "I have never looked at another man since the day we met. He's my hero... sometimes I have a little cry but I pick myself back up because it won't change anything... He's still the same Rick."

They know and love what's on the inside, and to them that is more important than the sort of life-changing injuries which would have made others head for the hills.

That's the kind of thing we respect, and it doesn't need to be bought or enforced by the courts. It's automatic, and given freely to those that deserve it. And it's only stuff that's free that's really worth having.

Except Ryan Giggs wouldn't understand that if you spelled it out in letters of flame a foot high on his forehead - which is something I hope his wife is giving some serious thought to.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Wanted: Bond villain superYoda.

I HAVE long thought the family home of Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin must be a total fun vacuum and now we have the proof.

The world's most watery couple have advertised for a tutor to give their two children, aged five and seven, some extra-curricular lessons - in ancient Greek, chess, Japanese, Latin, sailing, philosophy, art, and drama. They must also be young, humourous and sporty, and able to play at least two musical instruments.

Never mind that such a gifted candidate would probably be more interested in building an underground lair, instructing young Jedis or rescuing semi-blind female reporters while wearing pants on top of his tights, than teaching two little rich kids on macrobiotic diets that lentils are fun.

Never mind that someone with those skills could probably rule the world and make billions, and thus may well turn their nose up at the £62,000-a-year salary, west London flat and a half-share in a hybrid car.

And never mind that he or she would have to let Gwyneth win at chess, even when she's following the rules for Ludo and complaining it's all too phallocentric.

What's more important about this is that a great deal of the topics listed are the kind of things parents normally teach their children.

I never had a tutor outside school. Instead my gran educated me on politics and feminism; my mum taught me sociology and how to live; my grandad showed me wit and the art of argument; my dad the sciences and Greek principles of engineering (he's fond of quoting Archimedes); and I picked up the art of being a drama queen all by myself.

If they hadn't done those things, I might still have learned them. But then I wouldn't have had half as much fun or happy memories, and nor would my parents and grandparents.

It all makes me wonder what the hell La Paltrow and Piss Martin's children must think. I can only imagine them tripping sadly downstairs in their organic, non-gender specific dressing gowns, like Jane and Michael Banks in Mary Poppins, with their own idea of a perfect tutor.

Except that rather than asking for "a cheery disposition, rosy cheeks and no warts" I bet they'd be asking for trips to KFC, fizzy drinks, unfettered internet access and an XBox.

"No, mummy! Not more lentils!"

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Just say no, kids.

OVER the years Robbie Williams has both courted and criticised the Press, like a toxic ex who won't go away.

He made ambiguous statements in interviews about his sexuality in order to sell records, and then sued newspapers when they openly wondered if he was gay.

He'll sit and talk about his personal life, his mum, and his wife to the point you wish he'd just shut up, yet two years ago he lodged a series of claims with the Press Complaints Commission moaning newspapers had used a picture of his house.

It apparently intruded on his privacy to report that he had purchased a building, the records of which are publicly available at the Land Registry along with the date and value of the transaction. Naughty us, how dare we.

And now, at the start of a comeback tour so popular he doesn't need to do any interviews, he's revealed he injects himself twice a week with the sex hormone testosterone because he "has the libido of a 100-year-old man".

Yes, Robbie, and you've also got the brain of a duck. If a newspaper had got hold of your medical notes and reported exactly the same thing when you didn't have anything to promote you'd send your lawyers to tear them apart. So what are you going to do next week if someone does exactly that?

Hearing Robbie's winky gave up on life après Geri Halliwell doesn't add much to the sum of human understanding, and I can't see any point beyond stupidity for telling us it at all - although I was amused to learn the injections may give him moobs.

If I didn't know better I'd say his brain and body had been raddled by decades of drug abuse.

Quack, quack, quack.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

It's not fair, waaa waaa waaa.

PERSPECTIVE is a tricky thing to grasp when you think the world revolves around you.

So Cheryl Tweedy lost her job but still got paid £1.2m for it and is authorising her 'people' to put out stories that she is "fragile" and "depressed" and, far more believable considering her criminal record, "raging". Never mind there are 2.4m unemployed who don't get that pleasure, and thousands a week who join the dole queue with the bare minimum redundancy payout.

Prisoners whinge they lost the vote along with their freedom, and demand the right to IVF with their wives and girlfriends on the NHS. Perhaps you should have thought about that before you committed the crime, you anti-social sods?

The reason selfish people complain about "poor me" is that after a bit people give in just to shut them up. That's why Ratko Mladic, the man known as the Beast of the Balkans and alleged mastermind of the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 people, was arrested and promptly sent on a day trip to lay flowers on his daughter's grave.

(The same grave, FYI, that journalists have been reporting his regular visits to for at least five years. Why were the cops never there waiting for him?)

Rights are wonderful things but the current mess of our hotch-potch legislation leaves a lot to be desired. The Human Rights Act is an exercise in vagueness so open to interpretation that judges have built a de facto privacy law on the basis of 17 words outlining "a respect for privacy and family life". It doesn't say anything about protecting adulterers, criminals and the corrupt from public disgrace, but that's what it's being used for. And the same words are being used by prisoners to demand IVF so their partners can conceive while they're in jail.

It all comes back to a general complaint of "but it's not fair". But as my first chief reporter used to growl at me while dragging on a ciggie: "Life's not fair, get used to it."

What's needed in these matters is a little perspective. And the best way of achieving this would be for us to send all our prisoners, Ratko, and yes even "Ya jiggaboo!" Tweedy, to a nursing home.

If they had cold food, a wash once a week, were left alone and unsupervised in a tiny room, had food put just out of reach and were left to rot in their own urine while paying £1,000 a week with no hope of ever getting out, they might understand what unfairness really is.

Meanwhile our grandads and nanas could go to jail, where they would have access to showers, hobbies, walks, a library, gym, pool, education, free prescriptions, dental treatment, IVF if they felt like it, bedding washed twice a week, their laundry done, a guard to keep an eye on them and bring meals and snacks to their private room in which they could have a computer, TV and radio. They could have daily phone calls and regular family visits and pocket money from the taxpayer.

And that, my friends, would be fair.

 Try looking at it again.