Ron’s monthly attack on all the world’s wrongs

Armed Police

I was dismayed by the reaction of many of the armed police to the suspension of two of their colleagues over the unlawful killing of a man carrying a wooden table leg. The excuse was made that these policemen have to make split second decisions and I can understand that this may be so in very many instances. A person with a replica gun in his hand might well be shot if the policeman thought it was a real gun that the individual was about to use but it is difficult to understand why a split second decision is necessary to shoot a man carrying a table leg especially so because, if I remember correctly, it was being carried in a bag. Clearly the inquest found it difficult to understand also.

I recognise that the armed police do have a difficult and potentially dangerous job but this does not give them licence to kill without adequate justification. I remember another instance a few years ago when a man driving a Mini was mistaken for a wanted criminal. The police stopped the car and promptly fired six bullets into the man who was completely innocent. How could they justify that? Fortunately and incredibly the man survived. Similarly, I believe, there was a case somewhere on the south coast when an unarmed man was shot and killed whilst he was in bed. I am sure there have been other instances where unarmed people have been shot by the police. There was yet another very unsatisfactory case recently, of a different nature, when armed police were called to a shooting in a private house. When they arrived neighbours told them that the gunman had fled, despite that they surrounded the house and waited for more than an hour before attempting to enter, meanwhile two women lay dying inside of gunshot wounds. We expect these armed officers to be cautious but shooting unarmed members of the public and delaying unnecessarily attempts to rescue victims is carrying caution too far.

At the time of writing some of these officers were refusing to carry arms. In effect they appear to be saying “We must be permitted to kill anyone that we consider we should kill, without fear of reprimand, or we will not do the job.” Killing people is a serious business, no one can expect unlimited licence to kill and we cannot allow armed police to be trigger happy. Equally, however, we should not allow the legal profession to procrastinate for five years before coming to a decision in these cases and we should not expose these officers to the possibility of a charge of murder, except in a case where it can be shown that the officer had a prior intention to kill.

Modern Architecture

The latest new building in London, the one that looks like a fat cigar and has also been christened ‘The Gherkin’, has sparked the usual debate that any new large building will inevitably do. There is no doubt that it is a clever unique structure that perhaps owes more to earlier aircraft structures than to building design. It can be argued also that it is aesthetically pleasing. What might be challenged, however, is whether it is a practical shape for a building; does it provide the best possible amount of usable floor space for the cost? And, more importantly to my mind, whether it fits in with its surroundings? In my view the answer to this latter question is ‘definitely not’. I believe that for anyone entering London it is an eyesore that does not appear to belong. Too many architects seem to design their buildings with no regard for the way in which they will fit in with the environment. My views are best summed up by the words of a John Davis who said: “The trouble with modern architects is that their buildings have no manners, but ignore their surroundings in a way that some conceited conversationalists dominate a party and spoil it for less assertive guests, who may in fact have more to offer if they can get a word in edgeways.”

British Grand Prix

At the time of writing it seems as though there will not be a Formula 1 Grand Prix at Silverstone next year or, perhaps, ever again. As a keen motoring enthusiast (or ‘petrol head’ to use the current jargon) I greet this news with a mixture of sadness and anger. Britain is the home of Formula 1 racing and Silverstone has played a leading role since those very early post-war days. With the exception of Ferrari and Schumacher, the names that have dominated the scene in recent years; Williams, McLaren, BAR, Arrow, Damon Hill, Nigel Mansell, David Coulthard et al, have been mostly British, even the Ferrari engineering team has a British contingent. If we go back in time the list of British names is almost endless, I would guess that there has been more British champion racing drivers in the last fifty years than any other nationality. Not only are most Formula 1 cars built in Britain but there is a considerable amount of Formula 1 engine development taking place in the UK today also, even for some of the foreign engines. It seems inconceivable that there should not be a British Grand Prix. The obstacle that has to be overcome, apparently, is this man Bernie Ecclestone, a traitor to our cause. I understand that somehow he has managed to get complete control of Formula 1. His control also extends to all television rights world wide and copyright on all film and other records; nobody can show film of past grand prix without first negotiating through him. His ‘contract’, it seems, gives him that right until the year 2120, another 116 years!? How on earth could he have obtained those rights? Who was in a position to cede them to him?

Having said all that I do wonder if the days of Formula 1 are numbered, certainly as a spectator sport saloon car racing and sports car racing seem to have more to offer and might have more relevance to automobile development in general.

Annual Moans

Now that we are back in the times of short daylight and morning mists it is time for me to air two of my regular annual beefs: Why is that the clocks go back just 52 days before the winter solstice but do not go forward again until 97 days after? – and – Why do some people drive with their side lights on in daylight mist/fog? What is wrong with their powers of observation? Can they not see that it is possible to see oncoming cars with side lights on before they can see that their side lights are in fact on? Have they never seen a car coming towards them with its dipped headlights on only to discover later that there is a car in front of that one with just sidelights on?

Ron Watts

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