My inner disgusted colonel

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I am DISGUSTED! Are you DISGUSTED? Because I am! Even a supposed liberal has an inner kernel of colonelness, as my distressing reaction to two incident-ettes today proves.

First, there was this from the website of the Crediton Courier, a Devon local paper which has just celebrated the publication of its 800th issue. Originally the rubric on the front page read:

801 See’s are first Flash 3D Flip Webpage Issue

Yes, it took me a few mental run-ups as well. It helps to look at it phonetically. Happily, after some pretty stern words of the blither-blither variety from your correspondent, the folk there have amended it. Froth froth, I say, burble burble, and I should think so too, huff puff.

Pah, but that is not the worst of it, sir, mark my words! My latest whimsical tweak on the already ambitious Lib Dem Voice conference plans (currently under wraps but suffice it to say that we might have to clone Stephen in order to get everything done) was to transmogrify our usual Liberal Drinks/blogging buddies meet-up into a marginally better organized and publicized Lib Dem Voice drinks. And hoorah, I thought, we could do it ON THE BEACH! After all, beach begins with B and so does blogging. It’s a zingy name waiting to happen. What could possibly go wrong?

Ok, it could piss it down so we need a plan B “even if it’s just back to Will’s hotel room” (thanks, Will!) We’d have to look into hiring deckchairs and buying up some “cheap supermarket booze”* in advance, but it wouldn’t cost anyone more than an evening at the pub would have done. And we’d have to check whether drinking was permitted on the beach…

Hm. I made contact with the Guardians of the Beach. I was thinking of organizing an informal meet-up of people from the conference on the beach, an absolute maximum attendance of 40-50, was it permissible to drink alcohol and could we reserve deckchairs in advance?

And this is what I got.

Application pack for holding events on Bournemouth Council Parks, Seafront and Town Centre

“Application pack”? Wh- No, no, no, I only wanted to…Wait, wait, stop!

Want to organise an outdoor event in Bournemouth?

Well, in a manner of speaking, I mean it’s only-

Whether it is a small community initiative or a large commercial promotion the Events Team at Bournemouth Borough Council would like to hear from you! With plenty of parkland and countryside within the borough as well as seven miles of golden beach, Bournemouth is the ideal location for a wide range of events.

Oh, brilliant! So is it ok to have a drink on the beach and-

How do I apply for my event?

1. An application form is attached for you to complete and return to the Events Team giving as much detail as possible about your event to include proposed date, time, location, set-up and content.

Set-up and content? Well, some drinks with maybe, you know, some chairs, and-

Please feel free to continue on another piece of paper if you run out of room on the form.

Oh right, that’s a relief…

Alternatively you can submit a separate, more detailed events proposal along with the application form.


2. On receipt of your application form we will check the availability of your location and the suitability of the event within that location.

Um, what does suitable mean? Cos, I mean, some of us are a bit scruffy to be honest, so…

3. If agreed, a letter of agreement will then be issued detailing the Council’s terms and conditions, which you as an organiser will need to sign up to in order for the event to go ahead.

Terms and conditions? Organiser? Go ahead? It’s some nerds and a couple of bottles of wine…

4. Please do not confirm arrangements or commit yourself to anything costly until a letter of agreement has been issued.

Bum. Well, better cancel the Cash and Carry run then.

5. If you would like to make a collection for your chosen charity as part of your event you will need to obtain a street collection licence.

Oh no, we don’t need to do that, we just-

Please contact Democratic Services on 01202 451163.

You’re shitting me now, aren’t you. “Democratic Services”? Hahahahahah- Oh, ok, you’re not shitting me. Fair enough. No, I don’t have a swearing licence actually, errr, ah bum…

Please note collections cannot be made within the gardens or along the seafront promenade, and any collections in Pier Approach, must be accompanied by entertainment.

Wh. Wh. Why? I mean, not that it matters, but why in the name of ARSE must any collections in Pier Approach be accompanied by entertainment?

What about Health and Safety?

Um. [warily] What about it?

We require the following paperwork at least two weeks prior to your event taking place:

A comprehensive and approved risk assessment, a template of which can be provided for your use. If you have a preferred format then please feel free to submit this.  For further information on risk assessments, please refer to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) website –

Erm. “Risk of geekery: high. Risk of excessive discussion of by-election results back to 1987: critical.” Is that ok? No. No, I see, of course not.

A copy of your £5 million Public Liability Insurance.


If you don’t have public liability insurance, you may qualify for cover under the Council’s own insurance (subject to specific requirements).  Please contact us directly to discuss this further.

I don’t want to insure the blogging community. No-one needs that risk.

And so it goes on, through sub-contracted performers’ insurance, land licensed to specific uses, temporary event notices (TENs) and costs (£80 + VAT). It’s bureaucracy gone mad in Bournemouth, I tell you! Fpah!

So that’s that brilliant wheeze down the toilet, which is a tremendous shame because it means I don’t get to fill out the risk assessment form. This intriguingly suggests in ticky-box form not only the usual potential hazards…




noise concerns

flammable materials

food preparation

laser/strobe effects

temporary structures


water (duh)

…but also the far more exciting…

physical/psychological effects


night-time operations

sources of radiation

risk of infection


possibility of violence

Sounds like a cracking night out.

In the course of doing my looking up about all this, I came across this fascinating little document, which will one day form the core text of someone’s monograph on “Paranoia, Prejudice and PR-speak in the early 21st century: a study of the roots of authoritarian repression in a Dorset seaside resort.”

The opener sets out a number of commendable if laughably phrased objectives for the town’s “night time economy”, namely that Bournemouth’s nights be “inclusive, safe, exciting, market leading, sustainable and community owned”.

And yes, by George, you’ve got it, the first way in which they intend to do this is by banning the drinking of alcohol in public. This policy merits a jaunty tick in the “inclusive” box, so they must be using that special Middle England definition of inclusive which means “including the sort of people we like and excluding everybody else”.

It’s odd because, sneery and dismissive as I am (well, I don’t like to disappoint), so much else in the document is common sense and even interesting. They’re developing a night bus and a special under-18s club – and free chocolate handed out to clubbers (of all ages) as they leave is a policy that will always find favour with this colonel. And there is to be an increase in 4am licenced cafes “offering people a place to relax, eat and sober up at the end of a night out”. Fantastic idea.

So if they can see this makes sense, why can’t they see what is wrong with the blanket assumptions about “disorderly groups of youths”, and specifically, the idea that they shouldn’t be allowed to have a night out, even if they aren’t doing the faintest bit of harm to another soul?

That sort of pandering to prejudice will only encourage the less enlightened among the townsfolk who comment on the Bournemouth Echo website in these terms:

I went to the beach on Sunday and was shocked at the amount of people boozing. Do we really need to sit around necking cans of Stella in the sunshine? It made me feel embarrassed to be British. You wouldn’t get that in any other country. Surely it’s illegal to be drinking tins of beer on the beach. Why isn’t it enforced?

On a happier note, I did see a girl with some great cans.

I don’t normally get too excited about chauvinism in its many unlovely forms, because I take the view that, well, in 20 years time many of the worst offenders will be wormfood anyway. But this is just an irresistible contrast. It’s appalling if people consume a legally sold product in public without harming anybody else, and it should be banned solely on the basis that they “shouldn’t” want to do it. And yet it’s ok to make cringily awful comments like that which make even the laziest sub-feminist want to take a number four iron to the bollocks of the offender.

What kind of world, eh? Eh? Froth froth froth!

* This phrase now must be used in inverted commas. It is obligatory.



  1. I’m afraid that if you are being honest, you’ll have to mark down the possibility of violence as “high” if certain other bloggers are going to be attending and I make it down. This is because I am Northern, and have to get into fights at every opportunity.


    I have to say, though, I’d be disgusted at seeing a beach full of people drinking cans of Stella. Are there no breweries down South? Can’t they GET Proper Beer? (I say this as someone who is going on a camping trip fairly soon, and is being provided with a barrel of beer and a handpump by the local brewery to take along because it will be cheaper AND tastier than supermarket booze…)

  2. Have you got any particular foes in mind, Jennie? 🙂

    I like Pernod, so presumably you’ll want to avoud me altogether. Good for clearing a space anyway.

  3. Well written, Alex. Every bit as good as a prime slice of Caitlin Moran or Lucy Kellaway. Though a tight Northern git I’ve been known to part with my own money to buy copies of The Times or FT just to read their columns on off-line days. You ought to have an MSM outlet as well as the blog: writing like this deserves as much exposure as possible, preferably to people who will give you money.
    Is that a libertarian streak showing? Don’t fight it. Mmm. Roll up, roll up! Read “The Liberal Libertarian”, here in the Sunday Doorstop.

  4. Simon,

    Perhaps Alix could replace Dominic Lawson in The Independent. I would welcome her, and I’d reconcile myself to the “loss” of Lawson fairly quickly, I reckon…

  5. Alix: I generally avoid the term ‘lol’ as much as possible because it irritates me when people use it in so many inappropriate places, but I genuinely was giggling too hard to keep reading in places. You’re bloody brilliant, you are 😀

    Jennie: come on then, I could ‘ave you any day! You know ultimately you lost the war of the roses and we just had our king marry one of your tarts to keep you quiet… 😉

  6. @Ned and Frank – hm, so clearly everyone else already knows about Democratic Services departments in councils apart from me. Whereupon I am here to tell you, as the resident martian, that it is both hysterical and terrifying at once.

    Steph & Jennie, I hearby invite you to a three-way battle for the coveted title of Mouthiest Cow In The Party (With Medieval History Round) and don’t worry, all, we will still have a meet-up, it’ll just have to be down the pub as usual. Boring. And yet, of course, not at all boring.

    Akheloios, I have no idea who you are or where you’ve come from but I must thank you for that comment, almost Shelleian in its evocation of the stark beauty of a wilderness without beer or, yea, even warm Pimms in horrid plastic cups…

    @Simon – I am most flattered and quite embarrassed, but comfort myself with the knowledge that, contra your confidence in me, I have already written several things for the Guardian Unlimited and y’know what? I’m just not a quarter as good when I’m getting paid for it. Ain’t that just the way. Something to do with a self-imposed feeling of having to fit in to an MSM style, I think.

  7. You’d have done a lot better not to ask but merely assume that it would be alright to drink on the beach unless told to stop (a little bit like the concept of general comptenece in Local Government for those of us who enjoy fatuous comparisons)

    This is what happens when one tries to plan things, it’s one of the reasons why I studiously try to avoid planning ahead (apart from dental appointments and theatre tickets)

    Asquith, even now I have a glass of Ricard in front of me. People should be encouraged to drink more pastis, it’s like gin and tonic but without th faff of having to buy tonic.

  8. Yes. I was interested to read that it started life as the original absinthe, & took its present form during WWI when absinthe was banned. I’d like to find true absinthe… not the aftershave that twats in this country drink, the real deal.

    I also tried to find some khat after reading that the Tories plan to criminalise it, just to show them fuckers like Camoron and Sayeeda Warsi what I think of them, but none of the shops I went to had any and I couldn’t be arsed to do an in depth search.

    I’ll be on the cider this weekend. Fucking delicious!

  9. Alix: If you’re finding you’re not this good when you’re writing for Guardian Unlimited, that’s probably because you’re conscious of trying to fit in with them, where as here you are properly uninhibited and writing for yourself. It’s really just a mind-trick: you clearly have the talent, all you need to do is give yourself mental permission to write for yourself when even you’re filling someone else’s pages. That’s what Caitlin, Lucy K and Clarkson do, and it makes the words just flow.

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