Category Archives: nottingham

The lovely British summer

Leftlion cover image issue 36

Writers note:  This column was written last July in preparation for the August issue of LeftLion.  Obviously, the beautiful hosepipe-ban-inducing weather we were having had (in true British fashion) gone to shit shortly after this article was written. Some day I will learn that writing about current events in a column that comes out bi-monthly is a stupid idea.  Just pretend you’re reading this last July. In fact, I’d recommend closing the curtains and reading it in front of a 1000 watt bulb.

Ah, Summertime. Jumping fish, high cotton, rich daddies and good-looking mommas. It’s been wonderful, hasn’t it? This summer has been so good that I can hardly believe I’m in England. Isn’t that cause to celebrate? Of course not, dummy – that just gives Brits more to moan about.

Just this minute, I have had a British woman complain to me about the heat. It is 25 degrees outside. Twenty five. How have you people survived this long? In other countries, if the temperature dips below fifteen, people put on a jacket. If it rises above 23, they wear shorts. In England, if the temperature rises or falls out of that range, people die.

A discussion on which factor sunscreen one should wear is a twenty-minute conversation in this country. Balancing ‘acquiring a tan’ with ‘not dying of skin cancer’ is a tricky business when you’re born with that pale blue British skin. It wouldn’t be so difficult to choose the right sunscreen if the weather forecasters could actually predict the weather more than fifteen minutes in advance.

I don’t know why they bother with a three-day forecast; they’d be more accurate if, from March to August, they said “sunny breaks, low to mid twenties with a chance of showers” every single day. They’d get it right more often than they do now with all their fancy weather-detecting equipment. Cameron should forget canning thousands of public sector workers to save some cash; he could just sell off a couple of BBC Doppler radars.

This summer has also changed my mind about chavs. They aren’t a pinheaded menace at all. They’re actually more evolved than the rest of us; higher beings who’ve developed a gene that makes them impervious to the heat. In June when we had that really hot spell (it actually got to twenty eight one day), I saw a chav standing at the train station dressed in heavy grey sweatpants, a massive grey hoodie and a black nylon jacket. He didn’t seem bothered at all – he just stood, cool as a cucumber, poking at his stolen mobile. I was in a t-shirt and shorts and was sweating like I had just ingested the Sun.

Drunken chav image by Rob White (

But it’s not just the young chavs; the old, tubby, bald-headed chavs who walk around town wearing nothing but pimp shades, England shorts and a pint of Carlsberg don’t feel the heat either. They don’t bother with sunscreen at all, and yet their bald heads and man-tits are both perfectly bronzed, without a hint of sunburn or melanoma. Aside from the slight leathery-ness of the man-tits and the beach ball paunches, you’d almost say they look healthy. Glowing, even.

Unfortunately for me, I seem to have adopted the (non-chav) British sensitivity to the heat. I actually caught myself on a particularly hot day saying to my wife; “Man, it’s hot outside, I think I prefer cycling in the rain than in this bloody heat”. Yes, I moaned about having to cycle on a sunny day. How good is my life that cycling on a sunny day is my biggest worry? It could have only been a more British move if I did it sporting a mitt full of sovs and scoffing a chip cob. After I said it, my wife and I stared at each other in silence for a few awkward moments before turning and walking away, pretending it had never happened.

The most important thing about Summer, however, it that it absolutely sucks if you’re a British sports fan. It’s not brilliant at any time of the year, really, but it’s especially crap between June and August. I’m not even going to get into the football – my God that was awful, but at least that pain is only inflicted on us every four years – but Wimbledon does it to us every year.

Sun image by Rob White (

Watching Wimbledon is like having a delicious steak dangled high over your head that’s lowered slightly every time Murray advances. At first the steak is so high that you can barely see it. You say to yourself; “Sure, steak would be fantastic, but there’s no point in even dreaming about it, just look how high it is; I’ll just have river trout and runner beans instead.” But then Murray beats some shmo in straight sets, the steak is lowered a bit and you think; “Hmm, I still don’t think I’m going to get that steak, but it does look pretty good”. Murray then beats someone you’ve actually heard of and the steak is lowered again. It wasn’t Federer he beat, mind, but it was someone with a number beside his name.

Murray wins a couple more times and the steak is lowered again and again until it’s at a level where you can smell it, and – if you stand on your tiptoes – you can just about touch it with your fingertips. The peppercorn sauce drips down onto your face, and it drives you mad. “Yes! I’m going to get that steak this time, and oh my God, just look at it, it’s more beautiful and succulent than I could have ever imagined!” And then, just as you’re about to bathe yourself in its delicious steaky goodness, it morphs into a giant turd and falls directly into your salivating, gaping mouth.

If that’s not horrible enough, there actually was a good sports story in this country over the summer – but because it happened at the same time as the World Cup, no one cared. England smoked the Aussies in their one day series, beating them in three straight matches. You just know that next summer when the Ashes have the British viewing public all to themselves, Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood will double team Andrew Strauss’s missus the night before the First test, Shane Warne will come out of retirement six stones lighter with a new bionic arm and he’ll bowl the greatest match in the history of cricket knocking out the entire English side in the first over.

But there I’ll be, mouth agape, ready for another massive turd to be shovelled in, for by then I will be like the rest of you losers and have developed a taste for it.

Watching the World Cup in Engerland

Leftlion cover issue 35

When I worked at a petrol station in high school back home, we had a number of Maple Leaf flags dotted all around the forecourt. One day, an old fella came in, pointed at one of the flags and sneered, “That flag is a disgrace!”

“What do you mean?” I asked, thinking he must be some flag-hating, anti-government nut.

“What I mean is that young men died for that flag and you don’t have the decency to fly it properly. Just look at the state of it!”

You would’ve thought we’d lit the flag on fire and put it out by projectile vomiting on it. If you lowered the Hubble Telescope to gas pump level and pointed it straight at that flag, you’d only just make out the three threads flapping awry at the corner.

No matter how many times we replaced them, we always got complaints about the state of our flags. So I can only imagine what one of those geriatric Canuckian flag-spotters would say if we’d ever written ‘World Cup Special! Fish, Chips & Mushy Peas for £2.99!’ in scratchy black felt tip across the flag, like they do at my local chippy.

No true patriotic English footy fan is happy with the national flag as it is. It needs additions; accompaniments, if you will. The English flag is the tapas of national flags; the more added bits, the better. ‘Nottingham Forest Football Club’ is four words and there are four white rectangles on the English flag. Frankly, it would be an insult to maths not to fill them in.

Russell Brand shitting on the flag

Along with vandalising flags, people who love England grow potbellies and shave their heads. I assume this is homage to Churchill; He was morbidly obese, bald as a bean, and he really loved England, I hear. Obviously, tall, skinny, hairy people must hate England, like, say, Russell Brand. Just look at him – I bet he doesn’t even own a top hat. Kate Moss is obviously another rabid Blighty-despiser – not once have I ever seen her work a monocle into her ensemble. Osama Bin Laden, Jesus, Shaggy from Scooby Doo…the list of skinny, hairy anti-Anglos goes on and on.

Personally, I find most blatant displays of patriotism gag-inducing, especially during the World Cup, but it can be a good thing in small measures. The people I really don’t understand are the ones who don’t care about the England team at all. People who avoid watching the World Cup and who actually whinge about it taking up so much TV time – What is wrong with you? I don’t care if you’re depressed that England lose every time, or hooliganism makes you cringe, or if you hate Frank Lampard (who doesn’t?) – there is simply no excuse for not supporting your national side. Forget this community-volunteering BS Cameron keeps parping on about; watching England play in the World Cup with your mates should be required by law.

I actually had a mate of mine, a Manchester United fan, say to me, “I hope England lose.” He was more concerned about Rooney getting injured than England winning the biggest trophy on earth. Colonials will never understand this. You will never hear an American say; “Daggummit, what dang fool put all this dang track and field on my ding-dang picture box?” If the US had a decent Jai Alai team, Jai Alai fever would sweep the nation. Have you ever heard an Aussie sniveling about all the swimming on TV during the Olympics?

Take me, for example; I am not what one would call sporty. I’m a stumpy Canadian geek with the athleticism of a Teletubby and the coordination of a three-toed sloth on meow meow. I avoid playing sport like the plague, but that doesn’t stop me from watching Canada compete. In fact, when Canada won the ice hockey gold at the Winter games last February, I actually cried. Cried!

But perhaps it’s not that you don’t like watching England. Maybe you want to participate in the World Cup revelry and drunken pub conversations, but can’t, simply because know nothing of the England team. Let me give you a few pre-World Cup tips that will help get you up to speed:

  1. Peter Crouch is aptly named, as he’s the only player who needs to crouch down to head balls in. He’s the guy that disappears when he turns sideways, which is why he is able to sneak into the box without being seen by the defenders.
  2. David Beckham is the guy attending the World Cup in place of the WAGs. To keep the players from missing their wives too much, David’s going to orange his face up and stagger around the dressing room in high heels, pausing from his cocaine and G&T sessions just long enough to give John Terry a half-time hand-job.
  3. Lampard and Gerrard go together like polar bears and armadillos. Lamps and Stevie G are two creatures that cannot exist together in the natural world. The only place they have any business being within 100 feet of each other is in an artificial environment like the zoo. Or Benidorm.
  4. If you really do hate the England team and cannot watch them without booing, simply restrict your boos to whenever Ashley Cole touches the ball. No one will pay you any notice. In fact, it might get you laid.
  5. Wayne Bridge is the idiot watching the World Cup from his couch because he traded his England career for a big, pink diamond tiara awarded every year to the biggest drama queen on earth.

It really is a lot of fun to be involved, from the absurd hope at the beginning of the competition all the way to the communal whinging when England go out on penalties. Singing songs, binge drinking and spouting borderline racist banter in the office – what’s not to like? Sure, you will be doused in cheap lager at some point, you may be on the wrong end of a shouting match or two, you’ll be embarrassed by other drunken English footy fans and, yes, your town centre will be transformed into a 24-hour townie-barf hell, but believe me, it could be worse:

You could be supporting the Canadian soccer team.

More hood would be good

Leftlion 34 cover

The LeftLion version (including Al Needham’s rebuttal can be found HERE

Oh God – an entire LeftLion dedicated to Robin Hood? I’m surprised you bothered to pick it up. I’m even more surprised LeftLion have done it in the first place, I didn’t think Robin Hood was cool enough for this magazine. I wouldn’t be surprised if this ‘Robin Hood issue’ is just an ironic piss-take. There’s probably a nasty drawing of Robin Hood on the cover, strung out on heroin, selling Big Issues with his cock out.

I don’t care; I’m pro-Robin Hood and proud of it. Yes, man-tights aren’t cool and yes, there have been some truly crap Robin Hood-related tourist attractions in this town but does that mean Nottingham should shut out Robin Hood completely? Frankly, you’d be positively mad to say ‘yes’.

giant perogy on a fork

Do you know what other cities would do to have Robin Hood? There is a Canadian town whose biggest draw is that it sounds like a planet from Star Trek and another that houses the world’s largest perogy. Let me say that again; the world’s largest perogy.

I’m sure it draws Ukrainians in by the truckload, but damn – how bad does Glendon, Alberta have to suck that a giant statue of a meat dumpling (on a fork!) is its main landmark? If the Mayor of Glendon found out that the guy who played Kevin Costner’s butt double in Prince of Thieves once stopped there to have a dump, Glendon would now be known as Robinhoodland.

I’m not saying Nottingham needs to put every penny of arts spending into Robin Hood-related festivities, but how about changing the name of the Goose Fair to Robin Hood Fair and tacking on a medieval market and international archery competition? You would have little Korean kids peeing their pants in excitement at the prospect of coming to Nottingham.

Nottinghamian apathy towards Robin Hood has not just lost you a tourism buck or two, it’s done something far worse—it’s lost you Sherwood Forest—the desecration of which is a national disgrace. I remember how excited I was to see it and how disappointed I was when I got there. Whenever friends of mine from back home come to visit me, that’s the first thing they want to see, and the first thing they whinge about when they go back home.

Nottingham is a very cool town; easily one of my favourite places in the UK even in its current Hood-less state. Does that mean adding Robin Hood back into the mix to attract tourism would be such a bad thing? Definitely not. The world loves Robin Hood – why not make a buck or ten off of those suckers? Maybe then the Sherwood Forest Trust wouldn’t have to rely on donations and failed lottery bids to continue with the very good (and extremely important) work they are doing now to save Sherwood Forest. That can only be a good thing.

Listen up, Nottingham: you need to bring Robin Hood back into your massive immediately. The poor, neglected bastard is in the Thurland on his own and a dirty Yorkshireman has just roofied his drink…

Why Omari Roberts should never have seen the inside of a courtroom.

omari roberts drawing Copyright 2010 Robert Cutforth

Yesterday, the charges against  Omari Roberts, the man who stabbed two teenagers who were burglarising his mother’s home, have finally been dropped.

The charges were dropped not because the Crown had taken a second look at the case and decided that Omari had in fact acted lawfully; no, they were dropped because their entire case hinged on the lies of a teenaged burglar.

According to reports on the BBC news site and others,  the second burglar changed his testimony by telling social workers three things that differed from his original statement:

  1. He was, in fact, carrying a knife at the time of the burglary. He originally said he wasn’t carrying a weapon.
  2. He “would have killed” Omari if he had the chance
  3. Omari did not chase him down the street as he had originally stated.

However, if you read the CPS’s own definition of “reasonable force”, Omari should not have been charged with murder, even if this boy’s original statement was in fact true.

According to the CPS’s joint public statement on reasonable force:

“Anyone can use reasonable force to protect themselves or others, or to carry out an arrest or to prevent crime. You are not expected to make fine judgements over the level of force you use in the heat of the moment. So long as you only do what you honestly and instinctively believe is necessary in the heat of the moment, that would be the strongest evidence of you acting lawfully and in self-defence. This is still the case if you use something to hand as a weapon.

[You do] not [have to wait to be attacked] if you are in your own home and in fear for yourself or others. In those circumstances the law does not require you to wait to be attacked before using defensive force yourself.

If you have acted in reasonable self-defence, as described above, and the intruder dies you will still have acted lawfully.”

So even if the boy was telling the truth, and he wasn’t carrying a knife, Omari could still lawfully use a weapon to defend his mother’s home. But what if he had chased the boy out of the home?

“[Chasing a burglar] is different as you are no longer acting in self-defence and so the same degree of force may not be reasonable. However, you are still allowed to use reasonable force to recover your property and make a citizen’s arrest. You should consider your own safety and, for example, whether the police have been called. A rugby tackle or a single blow would probably be reasonable. Acting out of malice and revenge with the intent of inflicting punishment through injury or death would not.”

This is the bit the CPS used to bring a charge of murder on Omari. The boy’s original statement said that Omari chased him down the street; The Crown’s argument is that the time spent chasing the boy could’ve been used to call the police. But hang on, the boy he allegedly chased and attacked lived. The boy Omari killed never left the house, so how can the chasing of the second boy result in a murder charge? If the chasing of the second boy is the part the CPS used to bring charges, then surely the only charge that could be laid is GBH, is it not?

But this is not the biggest problem with this case. The biggest problem is that the prosecution’s entire argument revolved around a teenaged burglar’s testimony; a teenaged burglar with an Asbo and a number of previous convictions. Why is a burglar’s testimony given more consideration by the prosecution than the victim’s statement? With whom does the burden of proof lie?

It’s just another case that illustrates what a grey area “reasonable force” is under UK law. This law needs to be strengthened so when a situation arises where it’s one’s word against another’s, the victim’s statement is considered to be at least on par with the attacker’s statement. The word of a teenaged delinquent should  simply not be  enough to bring charges.

Life would be easier if all burglars told the truth and had the good sense to run away when confronted by a homeowner, but it doesn’t work that way. Sometimes the bad guys lie and sometimes they have no intention of leaving without a fight. Sometimes they’re just kids.

However, Burglary is not a petty crime even if it is perpetrated by kids. It’s a very serious crime; one in which split-second decisions are required by the homeowner if he’s going to get out of it alive. Omari Roberts made remarkable split-second decisions. He protected his home and his family by attacking two burglars, he ignored the urge to chase a burglar down the street and he even had the mental wherewithal to refrain from stabbing the boys in obviously lethal areas.  He stabbed the boy twice in the knee and Juett once in the shoulder; if he really wanted to kill them, he could’ve gone for their necks or chests. Then, once both boys were incapacitated, he stopped attacking them and called the police. In short, he did absolutely nothing wrong.

The death of Tyler Juett is an unfortunate and a very sad thing, but if Omari Roberts had received a life sentence for murder, that would’ve been the real tragedy in this case. Frankly, it should never have seen the inside of a courtroom.

The CPS now need to step up and do the honourable thing. They need to compensate Omari for his court costs, apologise to him and his family for all the hurt and distress they’ve caused and above all, change the law so another innocent man does not get charged with murder for simply defending himself and his home.