I was grateful to Theresa May last week. My world seemed full of people stating the bleeding obvious. At least our great leader broke this mould.
The bleeding-obvious-stating began with my purchase of a Eurostar ticket to Paris. The day before departure, the company sent me an urgent text: “Bonjour, please remember that you can’t bring any real or replica bombs, shells (complete or partial) or weapons on board, even if you bought them from a gift shop. If you bring them with you, they’ll be confiscated at security and may result in the need to evacuate the station. Bon voyage.”
Well, well, well. That’s new. Travellers are advised against carrying explosives. It was most inconvenient as it involved me repacking, which is always a chore. You can imagine my reluctance as I jettisoned my favourite Kalashnikovs and left behind the collection of land-mines I usually take along on winter breaks.
Friends shared my astonishment. The general consensus was that this was an extreme example of health and safety gone mad. I mean, if you can’t take a bomb on a train, what can you do? Other acquaintances were concerned at the civil liberties aspects of automatic weapons being banned from public transport.
I was also intrigued at the news that bombs are a no-no even if they are purchased at the gift shop. This does seem unreasonable. If, while in the souvenir shop, you happen to pick up a cute uniformed teddy bear, a plastic bobby’s hat and a napalm bomb, why should one of the three be deemed unacceptable? I honestly believe station gift shops should stop selling major weapon systems if passengers are not allowed to take them further than the platform.
The incident also made me think how tardy many public transport organisations are about issuing advice to passengers. While I was grateful about the caution concerning weapons of mass destruction on the Eurostar, the company failed to advise me about equipping myself with a clean handkerchief, taking a tiddle before departure or remembering to wear my trousers. It should have. We expect travel to feature bleeding obvious information.
At Kentish Town tube I regularly have my attention drawn to the fact that if it is raining, the floor may become wet. ‘May’, mind. Furthermore wet floors can be slippery. Well, cor blimey guv.
And it’s not just railway stations. I was at the Emirates Stadium recently when, just prior to the kick-off, the PA system roared at ear-alarming decibels: “It’s Arsenal versus Tottenham Hotspur!”
All over the stadium people turned to each other with amazement written on their faces. “That’s a spot of luck!” they cried. “Fancy that! There’s going to be a game of football! What a coincidence that I happened to be standing inside the stadium on a Saturday. Well, as I don’t have anything planned, I might as well stay and watch it!”
Cashews come with a warning printed on the bag to the effect that it may contain nuts. There are signs in Wolverhampton that tell you it is the home of the University of Wolverhampton. There are announcements everywhere telling you to “take your personal belongings with you”. Despite the frequency with which I’ve heard this communiqué, I still wonder what my “personal”, as opposed to impersonal, belongings are. Are they talking coyly about underwear? And isn’t it difficult not to take your undies with you?
So in the midst of this blitz of self-evidences, it was refreshing to find our Prime Minister making an announcement that was far from predictable. I refer to her assertion during the crisis in Harare that Britain is “Zimbabwe’s oldest friend”. Good on the old girl! I didn’t see that one coming!
I mean, how many friends have you met when they invaded your property, beat your family, stole everything in sight and only left when you kicked them out by force? Is it really a mark of a burgeoning friendship to occupy, subjugate, terrorise and rob? Because this was the basis of our early relationship with Zimbabwe, as it was with the rest of the Empire.
Rhodesia, as we forced the inhabitants to call it, was named after chummy Cecil Rhodes, son of a Hertfordshire Church of England vicar. His congenial opinions included Anglo-Saxons being “the first race in the world” and that the more lands inhabited by pale skins, “the better it is for the human race”. He favoured governing the indigenous black population as “a subject race”.
Mrs May might think that such actions and attitudes are the basis for a deep and lasting friendship. More rational minds could be excused for thinking the opposite. What is really bleeding obvious is that we should now become Zimbabwe’s newest friend – and provide that country with copious amounts of generous and altruistic aid.