Why is this post entitled Walls? There may be a number of reasons. Perhaps it is because one summer, a few years ago, I had the pleasure of working for Unilever at their Wall’s factory in Hyde. I still like to recall that, like Chris Waddle, I used to work in a sausage factory. A few things from that period stick in my mind; the exemplary level of hygiene in the food areas of the plant which was hugely impressive and commendable; the mind boggling amount of waste and inefficiency there, unrivalled by any of my subsequent or previous employers; and most memorably the way that pork sausage wastage was swept up off the floor and fed to the pigs, a fact which still turns my stomach (although I have no idea whether this practice still goes on). But as interesting (or not) as these observations are, the title of this post is Walls plural, not Wall’s with a possessive apostrophe, so there must be some other reason.
Perhaps it is an allusion to prison walls, and therefore a reference to the recent government defeat in its terror bill which sought to allow the police to hold suspects for 90 days without charge? But that is a tenuous link, and anyway it is old news now and I have little to add to the debate. There seemed to be a three line whip across the blogosphere with almost everyone (barring the usual pro-Blair suspects) opposing the new legislation, and I am certainly not going to step out of line. To the best of my knowledge, not one person detained for the full 14 days under the current legislation has had to be released without charge so I cannot see a reason for any extension whatsoever, and I think we got the right result. Admirable as it was, though, for 49 Labour MPs to oppose the bill, that still leaves a lot of sycophantic sheep who voted for something you cannot imagine they would have supported had it been proposed by a Tory government, but we are well used to that by now; like the pigs at the end of Animal Farm, the Labour leadership long ago became almost indistinguishable from the previous masters. More surprising was all the Conservative MPs voting against a measure they would have gladly passed when they were in power. I felt certain the 90 day extension would get through because of some Tory defectors, but thankfully, on this occasion, party politics won out over conscience. It is odd though; a generation of first time voters could grow up viewing the Conservatives as staunch defenders of civil liberties. They’ll get a hell of a shock should they ever gain power.
I didn’t comment on the terror bill at the time because I was away on a short break in York; that famous walled city, and hence another likely reason for the title of this post. We were housed in a Travelodge to the south of the city, just along from Fishergate Bar, site of the only remaining barbican in England, and we had a fantastic time. I didn’t really know what to expect from York before I went, perhaps that it was a similar place to Chester, which I love; but it surpassed any expectations I’d had and knocked Chester into a cocked hat. I think I could spend the rest of my life just wandering around the ancient streets such as Shambles and Stonegate, enjoying a quiet pint in a cosy old tavern like Ye Olde Starre Inne, or demolishing a bottle of red in a modern bar like The Capital with its views across the River Ouse. York is now jostling with Prague and Edinburgh for the coveted third place in my list of favourite cities in the world (Barcelona being first, with London in second place; at the moment). In case you haven’t guessed, I loved it, and recommend it.
When we got home from York we dumped our stuff and set off for the Trafford Centre, for a meal at Cathay Dim Sum with my sister-in-law and her husband, a pleasant way to eke out our holiday. Great food and service, as ever. Then, when we got home and pulled onto our drive, we discovered that our garden wall had been kicked over; the fourth and most compelling reason for the title of this post. Our good humour crashed down like a ton of bricks. The wall was not quite as historic as the famous ones in York; it was just 2 weeks old and replaced the previous wall that had been pushed down only a month before. Bastards bastards bastards. As a gut reaction I briefly thought about extending police powers, or even taking the law into my own hands; but only briefly. I don’t know who is responsible and if I pick a likely suspect there is every chance I may get the wrong person. Even if I do find the guilty party and administer the proverbial clip round the ear that is unlikely to be the end of it; (over) reacting on the basis of a blind if justifiable fury may just mean that the people who are currently only kicking over my wall will start throwing bricks through my windows. It is likely to only make the current situation worse; and I think there is probably a lesson in there, somewhere.