14 April 2006

SQUINTER: TREVORS’ HORSES IN THE WEST? NEIGH WAY!

Irelandclick

Call Squinter paranoid if you want, but he doesn’t think that any of the horses that the PSNI plan to deploy in Belfast will be coming to the West of the city.

You have to imagine that chasing a Vauxhall Vectra up the Monagh By-pass will not be the horses’ strongest suit; and the nags’ extensive training will come to nought should they be required to go head-to-head with the blue bag brigade in Poleglass on a Saturday night. Should they be at the Orange lines at the Whiterock Road in July it’s likely that they’re in for a baptism of fire – quite literally.

And will the upright Trevors on their fine mounts be seen on crowd control duties at Casement Park this summer? You seriously have to doubt it.

Of course, the horses are here for the cameras and for the cameras only. No doubt the top Trevors believe that images of smiling coppers aboard noble steeds outside the City Hall will make for a smashing postcard. Perhaps that positive image will replace the international perception that Belfast is a sectarian rathole policed by a heavily-armed Protestant paramilitary militia. Maybe this time next year backpackers will want to be photographed standing beside the horses rather than at the mural of Bobby Sands. But you wouldn’t bet on it, would you?

And anyway, those horses just don’t look strong enough to carry all the equipment that your average Trevor is required to bring along any time he ventures out of Grosvenor Road barracks in his Mondeo.

You have to believe that one of those big Clydesdales from the Budweiser ads would be required for the job, or one of those huge nags that knights of old used to ride when they were wearing four hundredweight of steel armour. And while big horses like that are up to the physical demands, they’re hardly manoevrable enough to go up an entry after wee Anto on his uninsured scrambler.

Squinter called the PSNI press office and they were good enough to come back with the following list of kit that an officer is required to take along on mobile patrol. Where they’re going to find space for it on a horse is not exactly clear.

• Heckler and Koch MP5 9mm sub-machinegun
• Glock 17 9mm semi-automatic pistol
• HK L104 plastic bullet gun
• CS gas spray canister
• Video camera
• 6-pack of Coca-Cola
• Value bag of Tayto crisps
• 2 Mars Bars
• 2 Snickers
Clearly, while this lot can quite handily be accommodated in a squad car, there’s not an awful lot of places for them on old Dobbin. So outside the City Hall with the tourists it is, then.

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Murmurs of discontent in Staff room

Look, maybe Squinter got it wrong. He’s big and ugly enough to accept that sometimes he makes a bad call. Dean Jonathan Swift said, “A man should never be afraid to admit he has been wrong, which is but saying that he is wiser today than he was yesterday.” And who is Squinter to argue with that?
It’s about Staffordshire bull terriers, a breed that recently Squinter kind of lumped in with pit bull terriers, which on mature reflection was unfair on a couple of counts:

1) Staffs aren’t illegal
2) They don’t take psycho fits

Squinter was aware of the first of these, obviously, but in his ignorance he had assumed that staffs were perfectly capable of doing a pit bull. Judging by the emails and texts that Squinter has received, it seems he has unfairly maligned an excellent pet and a wonderful companion.

Not that Squinter’s withdrawing his argument in its entirety. Anyone who owns a pit bull (of which Squinter has seen another half-dozen in the past week) should still be required to leave the country and go live on a remote island, where their devil dogs can only lockjaw on rocks, trees and (eventually, hopefully) their masters.

The difficulty is, needless to say, that your ordinary Joe still doesn’t know a staff from a pit bull and it’s hard to see any way round that, other than requiring owners to carry placards or colour-coding the dogs’ leads.

Hopefully those staff owners who wrongly got it in the neck will forgive Squinter, and maybe one or two of them might come up with a way of convincing pedestrians not to flee when they’re approaching.

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SNOWBALLING PROBLEM OF OUR SHRINKING BUNS

A kind-hearted colleague brought in a box of snowballs which he passed round during the afternoon teabreak on Tuesday. Regular readers of this column will know that Squinter’s body is a temple. It may be the Golden Temple at Amritsar after the Indian army attacked, but it is a temple nevertheless.

And so Squinter coyly said that he’d have just half a snowball, thank you very much. He needn’t have bothered. These pathetic little boxed items in their entirety had the proportions of a decent-sized plum – cut one in half and your average adult wouldn’t get two good bites out of it. To add insult to injury, the coconut exterior was off-white and waxy and when the two halves were separated the office let out a collective gasp on observing that there was no jam in the centre.

True, we seem to believe without any empiric evidence to support the thesis that years ago summers were warmer, winters were snowier, chocolate was creamier, burglars were kinder and priests more priestly.

But Squinter’s not imagining it when he says that the snowballs of his lard-rich youth were magnificent to behold – easily the size of a large orange; dry, snow-white coconut covering a sweet, moist interior; a large dollop of jam holding the two halves together.

Squinter supposes that you’re asking for trouble when you buy anything in a box these days. Boxes scream mass-produced supermarket rubbish, which on closer examination was exactly what these mutant snowballs were. Squinter was gratified to learn in the post-snowball office conversation that real snowballs may still be had, except they have to be sold loose and made by a home bakery, precious few of which have survived the supermarket cull.

Later (in the pub, if you must know, serious subjects like this can’t just be forgotten at going-home time) it emerged that currant squares (curn squares, to be precise) have suffered a similar fate at the hands of the large chains.
Where once they were four inches square and an inch-and-a-half deep, today they’re the size of a credit card and only marginally thicker. Flies’ graveyards we called them because the large sultanas and raisins in the centre did indeed bring to mind large numbers of swatted bluebottles, but today the centre is a bland, anonymous paste that looks and tastes like solidified earwax.

And diamonds – for pity’s sake, whatever happened to them fellas? You get one of those with a cup of tea today and you’re likely to find that it’s the size of a Rubik’s cube, with multi-coloured icing on a technicoloured bun.

Of course the classic diamond is the two-coloured sponge layers cemented with jam and topped with white icing, and to qualify as genuine it needs to be approximately half the size of a housebrick.

For those of you who are on the verge of tears about the atrocities being inflicted on our traditional pastries, don’t despair.

Squinter intends to appoint a watchdog body to monitor things, and aptly enough, it’s to be called SOBS (Save Our Buns Society) – if you think you have what it takes to be a member, or if you have any other horror tales you’d like to impart, feel free to go ahead and email squinter@irelandclick.com

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