Tuesday, June 01, 2004


"Please listen to the following security announcement," said the pre-recorded South West Trains message. "Be vigilant. Be alert. Please report anything suspicious to a member of staff."

So I did.

Two days ago, y'see, there was a whole line of phoneboxes on Platform Three of Bournemouth station. Today there is but one, sitting there on its own in the exact position under the footbridge that allows the committed observer to look up ladies' skirts while pretending to ring for a cab. Now that's what I call suspicious.

Years ago, enterprising gangs of thieves swept out of Merseyside, armed with crowbars and shonky BT keys, ripping off the contents of telephone cashboxes, making Everton FC the power in world football it is today. But no - that's not good enough for them. These days they're running off with the entire phone box, leaving only a square of freshly laid tarmac as evidence.

Like a good citizen, I told the bloke in the ticket office. He laughed at me. See? My future in comedy is assured.

At the risk of saying "but seriously, folks", the days of the public phone box are numbered. Mobiles have virtually killed them off, and BT is removing "unprofitable" boxes at an alarming rate. I can't remember the last time I used one - either as a means of communication or a public urinal, but I dare say it was during a phase of specialist postcard collecting in central London. I was once caught sans mobile when some bloke stoved my car in on a country lane - I simply knocked on somebody's door.

Here comes the politics: yadda yadda yadda old biddies yadda we haven't all got mobiles yadda yadda emergency calls yadda yadda - no doubt you've heard it all before, and let us not forget the hoardes of unemployed tart-carders with boxes of undelivered postcards offering the services of a "busty dominatrix just off Picadilly Circus". But! We, as a society, really are heading for a huge fall with this mindless ripping out of phone boxes.

Where, pray tell me, are our superheroes going to get changed next time Lex Luthor unleashes his brain-melting death ray. In the fitting rooms of Dorothy Perkins? I think not.

How can we be vigilant if the very fabric of our society is put at risk in this manner? I feel a strongly worded letter to the Dorset Echo coming on.

I am not mad.


Ingrid has been blogging for well over a month now on ethnic cleansing in Sudan. A population of over a million black Africans are being displaced by Arab militias in Darfur, while the Muslim-dominated government looks on. Refugees escaping over the border into Chad speak of wholesale murder, rape, destruction of livestock and villages, while the world has been nicely diverted by the continuing unpleasantness in Iraq and the less-than-effective War on Terrorism. Even in Chad, these refugees are not safe, with Janjaweed militias following them over the border to continue their harrassment.

A recent peace deal has ended the twenty-one year civil war between government forces and the Sudan People's Liberation Army, who were fighting for a Christian state in the south. However, this deal does nothing to address the situation in Darfur in the West, described by the UN as "the world's worst humanitarian crisis", and little or nothing is being done to rectify the situation.

It is in the West's interests to see a stable Sudan. It is a country, after all, blessed with rich deposits of oil, which any government worth their salt would be clamouring to exploit in the current uncertain market. Secondly, Sudan has strong links to Al-Qaeda, with Osama bin Laden being based in Khartoum during the 1990s. If the West is at all interested in winning their War on Terrorism, then a peaceful solution to Sudan's problems should be fostered at the earliest convenience.

Call me Mr Cynical if you like, but the West's reluctance to get involved is absolutely nothing to do with the fact that they are pandering to Gulf oil-producing states who have them by the short and curlies with those all-important fuel reserves. At all. And you can quote me on that. While other humanitarian disasters have brought gasps of disbelief and floods of aid, Sudan has kept this genocide under wraps and away from the prying lenses of Western media. Time to stop dragging our feet, then. Time to act.

Short Break

I shall be away for the best part of a week. I will post here when I can, and will deliver Friday's Scary Story as scheduled, or die in the attempt.

Readers will be pleased to hear that I shall be in the West of Cornwall, officially the maddest place on Earth, so no doubt the experience will provide a rich vein of content for this site for many weeks to come.

The Scaryduck Archive

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