Memory Lane

Nostalgia isn’t what it was

Richard M.

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How supermarkets promote theft

A 2015 study of self-checkouts with handheld scanners, conducted by criminologists at the University of Leicester, also found evidence of widespread theft. After auditing 1 million self-checkout transactions over the course of a year, totalling $21 million in sales, they found that nearly $850,000 worth of goods left the store without being scanned and paid for. The Leicester researchers concluded that the ease of theft is likely inspiring people who might not otherwise steal to do so…. As one retail employee told the researchers, ‘People who traditionally don’t intend to steal [might realize that] … when I buy 20, I can get five for free.’

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No good deed goes unpunished: Hackney 1968

One of my most horrifying experiences came about when I was called out to a routine job. I was told to replace a cast iron rain water pipe, at Lea View House in the Clapton area of Hackney. I pulled onto the estate, at the central hall, and went looking for the caretaker. When we met, he was agitated. A tenant had reported a horrible smell coming from one of the flats. The caretaker had unsuccessfully tried to make contact. I had a big ladder with me and I offered to look through the flat window. He helped me to erect the ladder, which was a bit of a beast, and so I was grateful for that. I wasn’t grateful for what happened next.

A fan light window was left open in the bedroom, which was unfortunate, as about a billion flies seemed to live in the flat. With an old rag across my face I climbed up to the fanlight window reached over and opened the casement latch. Then I climbed into the flat. The tenant was on his bed. He wasn’t the first dead person I’d seen, but the sight remains with me to this day. He was a mass of maggots, wriggling out of his eyes, nose ears and mouth. I could see that his body fluids had seeped out through the bedding into a large puddle under the bed. It was a horrifying sight. His skin appeared to be black but I don’t think he was actually black. I opened the front door for the caretaker, who was promptly sick.

I told him that all the windows had to be opened, before he went to the telephone box at the entrance to the estate. I told him to call the police. “Fuck the, police,” he said. “I’m going home for a whisky. Do you want to join me?”

He repeated time and time over – ‘Cabbages and Kings’. ‘That smell, that smell’. I’d have happily drunk beer, but he only had whisky and I was driving. Either you know the smell or you don’t, but once you’ve been in a room with a decaying body, you won’t forget it.


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A ten bob note

The sash cords were rotted on
My bedroom window, when it crashed down
Dad said he’d fix it, for about half a crown
Nip round to the oil shop, he said
Ask for a knot of sash cord
He gave me a ten bob note.
By the time I got back
One sash weight was out
Dad pulled out the clout nails
That were punched through the old sash cord.
He passed the new cord over the pulley wheel
And pulled it from the sash weight housing.
A reef knot locked it to the old iron weight
Right pull the weight up, to the pulley.
I did so, while he held the window, roughly in place
Nail the new cord into the cord recess alongside
This I did, and Dad cut off the rest of the cord
OK that was easy, he said, now you do the other side.
He showed me how to prise off the architrave
I then levered out the panel hiding, the sash weight
This time it was me who pulled the weight out
Removed the old cord holding it.
I tied on the new cord, and passed it over its pulley
Tied the old weight onto the new sash
Dad had to hold the window in place
As I was too small, to hold it.
Once nailed in place
I was pleased at how easily the window worked
Up and down, with so little effort
All that remained was to replace the architrave.
Best of all there was still over half of the new cord
So that we could replace other sash cords
As and when, the old cords rotted
I didn’t say anything, but I was so pleased he had taught me.
Dad made everything look easy to mend
From bricklaying to plastering
Electrical work to, even old gas pipes
It was he who showed me how to fix things.
I gave him back the 7/6d change.


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Community service

A barber was convicted of a minor offence and was given community service. As he was self-employed the court ordered him to provide free haircuts for a week.

His first customer was so pleased that he went out and bought flowers for the shop. His second customer bought him a sandwich and coffee. His third customer was a politician and he too was very pleased.

He immediately phoned other politicians telling them where to get a free haircut.


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Book Review: Oliver Bullough ~ Moneyland: Why thieves and crooks now rule the world and how to take it back (2018)

There is an investigative book. Like all investigative books it offers revelations, which alter our perception of the foundations of society itself. Misha Glenny’s McMafia: Seriously Organised Crime (2008) is the grand-father of the genre. His book is now so mainstream that it’s been turned into a TV series. His book is investigative journalism at its very best. Moneyland is also excellent.

The Panama Papers scandal, 2015, leaked 11.5 million secret financial documents to serious newspapers around the world- The Guardian in Britain. Suddenly the ultra-rich were, not so much in the light, as in a sort of twilight: but visible! The Panama papers showed the scale of a parallel global economy and the corruption that oiled the wheels. Moneyland joins the dots and gives us a fuller discussion of that 5 minute news item.

Bullough startles his readers by beginning his book with a visit to 2 Woodberry Grove, Finchley.1 Amazingly ex-Trump advisor Paul Manafort used this location as a hub for his illegal Ukrainian deals which eventually caused Trump so much grief.2 Britain’s lax financial sector is the place to go if you have hot money and want to launder it through property or ‘Hear no evil, See no evil’ investments.

…Somalia [is] the most corrupt country in the world” on some measures but … “Italian mafia expert Roberto Saviano3 can label Britain the most corrupt country in the world. The first assessment is based on where the bribes are paid, and the second assessment is based on where those bribes are laundered.”

If you like thrillers and want intellectual content then the investigative book is the place to go. There is a familiar format and a very high level of writing with well sourced content. This is important because not everyone likes even twilight. Saviano, for example, has been under police protection for the last 13 years.

1 p1ff
2 Actually it didn’t because Trump is Teflon man and nothing sticks to him
3 p129 Saviano wrote a brilliant book on organised crime in Naples. Gomorrah (2006) is a vital read in this context.

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Irony I like

Schadenfreude- My anti-Brexit caption

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