Wednesday 31 August 2011

At last, an honest car salesman (ohne absicht, I suspect)

Morris Minor 1000. If you have the time, 0-100 kph is possible... When I was a kid playing Top Trumps, 0-100 kph under six seconds was a sure fire winner. In those days anything under ten was good. The handbook of my first car, a 1957 Morris 1000 in which I passed my test in 1978, listed the same, er, dash, at 32.5 seconds.

It was the accuracy of that confident prediction consigned proudly to print and presented in the form of an 'Operator's Manual' to no doubt chuffed owners for whom petrol was no longer rationed, which amused me. And I had plenty of time to giggle about it as I trundled between traffic lights as fast as 48 hp could propel me at a rate, if I remember the equations of motion my old physics teacher taught me, I calculate at 0.087 G. Hardly enough to cause a rush of anything, let alone blood to the head but stamping on the brakes to kill off downhill speed induced more by gravity than Morris engineering did provide the occasional sobering rush of adrenalin.

Nowadays, sub six seconds is the norm, even for portly ever more luxuriously appointed saloons. Only less than four seconds will get you into the super car club. So irrelevant has the 0-100kph measure become that now the benchmark is how fast a car can go from 0-160 to rest again. This is good, because it means manufacturers are considering that other essential component of a car, the panic pedal immediately to the left of the accelerator.

Volkswagen amazed those interested by producing the World’s fastest production car, the Bugatti Veyron. Ferdinand Piech gave his design team a simple brief. It must have 1000 hp and do 400 kph. I like clear, concise orders, especially when backed by the resources necessary and, evidently, so did Piech’s team because they did it. But it still failed to be the fastest around Top Gear's circuit, a lesson to car designers to maintain at least a toe in the real world.

Now another German team want to raise the bar. Not by a teeny nibbly little bit, a few extra kilometres per hour here or seconds shaved off acceleration times there, but by a lot. Teutonic balls are evidently the size of planets.

Forget 1000 hp. Try 2800 hp and an acceleration time of seven seconds.

Clearly not seven seconds to 100 kph. As a yardstick this has already been debunked and with the average attention span, as measured by Fox News' bulletins, seven seconds from zero to still less than the national speed limit is soporific.

To 400 kph then, the speed Piech wanted?

No. Try nought to 600 kph in less time than it would take to recite the first verse of the ‘Hail Mary’ in a desperate hurry, never mind having time to confess all one’s earthly sins, the traditional way Catholics babble their way into the next world. Not that Catholics would even think of stamping on that accelerator with any kind of determination of course, suicide being a mortal sin and all that.

No doubt piqued by Piech’s not too shabby benchmark, the guys at Rotary Supercars Germany, are determined to give us the means to go through the pearly gates at such a velocity not even St Peter would have time to check a licence plate, let alone individual ID cards.

Dredging my brain for any last seeds sown by Mr Dawes, I know that starting from scratch and accelerating uniformly to 600 kph, my body pressed back into its seat by seven seconds of sustained 2.38 G, I will have covered just shy of 1200 metres before I could even catch my breath and start thinking about slowing down, covering a High Street a second while my shattered senses mulled over the options, always assuming, of course, that my tyres had not shredded explosively in the first nano second converting me instantly to something useful like a bio degradable sludge in the field across which I had suddenly spread myself. The nought to 100 kph dash will be covered in only 0.9 seconds, that’s over 3G.

And let’s say after a split second I bottled out? With the Dignitas Launch Control button pressed, the clutch released and a leg suddenly weighing 200 kgs, could I even move it and press usefully far forward enough on the brake pedal having bleated as far as, ‘Mother of… Christ All Fucking Mighty!!!?

It was a German and his team who put a man on the moon and if it hadn’t been for the Germans, a defunct Bugatti would have remained merely a name on some dusty document in a drawer and Rolls Royce and Bentley would be remembered only by rheumy eyed old blokes supping pints so we mustn’t under estimate them.

I would dearly love to see the terrifying machine these guys propose to create. If only as an exercise in engineering that may mean my normal road tyres are now indestructible and my car, with only 5% of the power, could do 100 miles per gallon while clicking down the autobahn at 250 clicks.

The scariest thing about this car, however, is not the concept, verdant creativity frothing within the minds of lunatics has so often benefited mankind and should be given expression occasionally, it is the company website.

RSC Germany will need to make a huge investment to realise such a car. It is worrying, therefore, that they appear too strapped to afford a decent translation service for their web site.

The most amusing bit for me was their invitation to the reader to become an owner of one of the first RSC Raptors or Predators. They go on to state in execrable English:

“Maximally 12 units per year shall leave the manufacturing plant to fulfill our highest pretence to exclusiveness”


Rotary Super Cars Germany: Pretenders to Piech's Throne... Heaven is just seven seconds away.

Sunday 28 August 2011

Potential Peacekeeping Recruit

I am not sure about the older boys but the young bandy legged kid in the furry jump suit looks pretty useful.

Is Boris Johnson still looking for a new Metropolitan Police Commissioner?

If so, any lad that can clear a street as fast as this is worthy of consideration. Not only would a life time's supply of bananas be far cheaper to the tax payer than a gold plated civil service pension, the incumbant would instinctively be able to relate to tabloid journalists as well as those guilty of riotous assembly (and their parents) at the same intellectual level.

You could imagine him at Thieves and Hawkes getting measured up for his uniform, '38 inch chest but long in the sleeves please, very long...'

Saturday 27 August 2011

White Sands and a Lonely Shore

I have always been fond of Erik Satie’s piano pieces and usually dismissive of those who attempt to reinterpret them, bereft as the authors invariably were of the prescient passion that provoked him to splash ink across manuscripts, many of which would only be found by disinterested strangers clearing out his lodgings post mortem. Musical gems, well chewed, reduced to bedding for the rats living behind his piano.

Satie drank himself to death in 1925 having described the loss of the only person he loved as leaving him with "nothing but an icy loneliness that fills the head with emptiness and the heart with sadness".

Attempting to improve on a Satie original is rather like trying to rewrite Romeo and Juliet or scrubbing a delicate creation by Lalique with window polish.

But I now stand back from the breach, the magazine of the blunt weapon of self righteous indignation I sometimes weild uncharged, offering you instead a truly worthy reinterpretation of Satie’s piece for piano, Gnossienne, performed on clarinet accompanied by strings.

This video, sadly, only provides the very briefest glimpse of Danish born Lone Madsen’s debut album, 'White Sands', but considering that my girlfreind is, as I write, watching Antonio Banderas singing in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s version of ‘Evita’, it is, played on my laptop and through my headphones, not just a welcome but an evocative alternative.

As a child, my breath was taken away hearing this piece on piano. Now, hearing it on woodwind, well, the wind has been taken out of my sails somewhat. Satie's broken heart willed both his creativity and his ultimate demise, and Miss Madsen has captured every nuance of his lonely torment in her haunting rendition.

This is Satie's original piano version, not bad for a man with a broken heart and a fatal gutful of whisky. Or perhaps they were merely fuel for creativity and tragic self immolation on the lonely sands of his wasting soul.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Not really a post…

...just an aside.

I discovered the statistics page for Blogger which, among other things, shows the sites that have referred visitors to my Blog. One was ARRSE.


So I had to follow the link.

Turns out that ARRSE is a loose acronym for the British Army Rumour Service who claim,

“The aim of ARRSE (in so far that it has one) is to provide a useful(ish), informative and amusing site for people with an interest in the British Army. Contrary to duty rumour we are not promoting the overthrow of HMG, nor do we exist to toe the party line.”

Very laudable, on all counts.

Hippo on the lawn was cited, sadly inaccurately, as a good place to go for those interested in living in Namibia. Missed me by a whole country but I am glad I found ARRSE, some of the posts are hilarious. How about the way a certain ‘Jim30’ signs off:

“If all cultures are equal, why doesn’t UNESCO organize International Cannibalism Week festivals?”

Why not indeed? I am still giggling like a school girl hours after reading it.

Naturally, UNESCO should schedule this event the week after the Sharia Law festival of chopping off the hands of thieves, the stoning of wives guilty of infidelity (those who haven't already had acid poured into their faces since, as a marinade, it leaves a lot to be desired) and the honour killing of various victims, usually of the tastier, I mean tenderer, female variety, to save costs for the free snacks for visiting dignitaries. If all of us economised so sensibly, perhaps the US would not have lost its triple A rating and now be having to consider how many Police Actions abroad it can afford.

But at least Saudi Arabia could legitimately guarantee the food as ‘Free Range’ thereby keeping the Yoghurt Knitters happy.

Gosh. This is my 100th post. Note to self, 'Get a Proper Job'.

Friday 12 August 2011

The 70 Dollar Pizza, a basic one at that...

I live in the most expensive place in the world. An Irish newspaper has confirmed it.

The really most expensive pizza in the world. An 'edible' gold flaked creation by chef Domenico Crolla which, sold to a Sr. Maurizio Morelli (a man who clearly spares no expense when it comes to gilding his toilet paper) for a whopping US$4,200, gratifyingly knocked a lesser white truffle creation by that noxious, foul mouthed school boy bully and inept footballer, Gordon Ramsey, into a distant second place. Some things are worth paying for.

A friend of mine sent me this link, an article in the Irish Independant about the cost of living in Angola which you really should read before going any further.

Apparently Luanda, where I live, is now regarded as the most expensive city in the world. So while I was considering economising by moving to a far cheaper city, Monaco perhaps (Hong Kong would be no good, I would fall in love with the maids leaving Miss M with no other option but to kill me), I flashed off the following to the Editor of the Irish Independant:


As a UK expatriate living in Angola, I read Mr Nolan’s article on the cost of living in Luanda with great interest.

I was left with a nagging doubt that Mr Nolan had missed the real point, not how expensive things can be in Luanda, but how the more generous a salary, the less likely its recipients are to spend it wisely.

Angolan businessmen, like successful entrepreneurs in any country, will charge what the market can stand. I am sure that Sir Alan would have been less than sweet with me had he discovered I had only charged 200 bucks a night when there were punters, to use his vernacular, willing to pay twice that for a bed.

I agree with Mr Nolan that the high prices one can pay here are fuelled by an apparently insatiable demand from the undeniably large expatriate community some of whom, a few, enjoy better salaries than they could command in their countries of origin, a situation exacerbated by an apparent lack of infrastructure to supply that demand. I remain bemused, however, that having no intention to settle down here so many expatriates, not all by any means but enough, waste a large proportion of their remuneration. Instead of saving it and taking it home, they can be found frequenting every bar, disco, restaurant and shop, the existence of which depend on separating expats from their pay cheques, a part of the economy refuting to a degree, the contention that oil revenues do not filter down to the population. The owner of the restaurant may be part of an emergent middle class, but his staff are working class and they all benefit from the prices some are willing to pay, not the prices they are forced to pay.

Accommodation is in short supply and can be eye-wateringly expensive, there is no question of that and a situation that will take several years to resolve until all the new hotels, those under construction and those planned are finally completed, gradually tipping the balance of supply and demand in favour of the itinerant traveller looking for a scratcher to lie upon but $400 per night? There is only one place in town that charges that much. They say London is expensive but I can get a comfortable room there within walking distance of Marble Arch for forty quid complete with A La Carte restaurant and a bar serving London Pride on tap. I cannot promise a foaming pint of heavy, but as far as decent, reasonably priced accommodation is concerned, it’s here in Luanda as well.

Rental accommodation is also expensive but as more and more residential accommodation is restored now that the country enjoys its post war reconstruction, prices are coming down. In addition, as the perception grows that Luanda is not as dangerous as some would have us believe, new suburbs of the city, now linked by smart, newly built dual carriageways, open up additional rental opportunities increasing supply and depressing prices.

I can understand that faced with a bottom line of tens, even hundreds of millions, twenty grand a month to rent a house for a senior manager would be dismissed as trivia looking at the ‘Big Picture’ and prioritizing as directors so often have to do. I can also accept that the comparative studies by companies such as Mercer only consider the costs to multi national employers of deploying expatriate employees to developing countries with the contractual guarantee to hand feed them the conditions they demand before they would even climb on the plane. Let’s face it, these companies busting into or exploiting the opportunities of a developing market want the best but propose to send them to a country in Africa, one synonymous with biblical doses of war, pestilence and poverty to do a job and provide shareholder value, not to bond with the natives (although so many do find the time) so they need to offer some attractive conditions and are willing to write an awful lot down to local conditions.

The last house I rented here had three bedrooms and its own stretch of beach in an exclusive suburb and cost the company $6,000 per month yet the article suggests 20K is the norm. If someone pitched up at your three bed semi and offered you twenty grand a month when you knew that your neighbour down the road was willing to take three fifty a week, what would you do? So I cannot blame the ‘Intermediarios’, the agents who find suitable properties for multi nationals, for pushing the prices as high as they can, after all, the system here is that for every six months of signed up contract, the newly enriched landlord must pay one month to the agent. Clearly the agent, who the house hunter assumes is doing him a favour by finding him a good deal, is instead negotiating the most outrageous rent and longest contract he can bleed from his client.

I did hear about one expat who paid $100 for a pineapple. I think that trumps Mr Nolan’s ten dollar cucumber.

The best supermarket in town is one run by a South African group who must have dozens of them all around town but their flagship shop is in the Belas Shopping centre in the southern suburbs where I live. Belas is the only shopping centre, as expats would understand the term, and its shops and boutiques charge a premium. Despite its convenience, the only thing I buy there are the hard to get imported spices, herbs, the little luxuries. Everything else, I buy on the local market.

Imported beer costs me $12 for a case of 24. I pay about $8 for twenty kilos of potatoes and the same for imported Thai rice. I can find imported cheeses for a few dollars a kilo and never pay more than about ten dollars a bottle for a very palatable imported Cabernet Sauvignon. Eggs, tomatoes, onions, fresh coriander leaves and parsley are pennies and I can get a sublime version of Parma ham and buy cured bacon in chunks the size that would moisten Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s eyes, especially if I offered him local cider as well.

I pay ten dollars for two hundred cigarettes and less than that for a bottle of imported Scotch whisky. Real whiskey is a little dearer. Guinness is cheap at eighty cents a can but it is made in Nigeria so is sickly sweet rather than bitter and reminds me why I need to go home now and then.

I can buy 25 kgs of chicken legs for $20, the same for beef filet and silverside and for the same price can even get forest buffalo and freshly culled venison and to make it all taste even better on a Sunday lunchtime, I grow my own Horseradish and other herbs and vegetables in the garden of mine that surrounds the house I built and paid for with those allowances of mine I didn’t drain into a pub urinal.

Although it is not my intention to make anyone back home emotional, I cannot resist pointing out that car insurance here for a young first timer is $300 per annum and fuel is 40 cents a litre and the fishing and shooting are excellent. Expats pay about $750 for a day trip on a sport fisher, locals about half that, even less if they climb on board with a container of fuel (no questions asked). The official green fee for the golf course is $25. Pitch up quietly during the week and let the caddies have a swing and you pay nothing. Income tax works out at 8% and we will not be asked to bail out Greece, Italy and Spain or jack in our belts as tight as the Irish.

I realise that having settled down in Angola, I perhaps know the local market better than some stressed out executive sent here to do a job that has nothing to do with sorting his own life out here, rather everything to do with figures. But I did make the effort to get further than the bounds of the traditional expat stamping ground and it has paid off but I am by no means unique. I and so many others quickly learnt, for example, that a local maid could be hired for as little a couple of hundred dollars a month and she would know exactly where to buy everything needed without access to an expense account. Tomatoes are in season and, combined with cheese and Italian herbs over toasted local bread accompanied by a decent book make a most welcome alternative, as a nightcap, to lying alone in a $400 bed in a Formica and chrome hotel room.

I do feel Mr Nolan missed the point. What he should have reported is how much some companies are willing to pay against what it really costs to live here.

Perhaps that is why there is this constant effort to describe Angola as a ‘hardship’ location, a place at the extreme of a map annotated with, ‘Here be Demons’. No wonder auditors readily sign off extraordinary expense accounts rather than come here and see for themselves.

The difference is a charge on the bottom line that shareholders ought to be aware of.

Whilst they profit from their presence, Angolans look on expats in the same light the English did US servicemen during WWII, ‘overpaid, oversexed and over here’ and, just like the English back then, they are taking them for every penny but, unlike their marks, they know where to spend them wisely.

Oh, and the best place to get a Pizza in town is down on the Marginal, just opposite the Sonangol Petrol station. It is run by Angolans of Italian extract and they do great home made ice cream as well. Fifteen bucks might not get you a smoked salmon and caviar topping but it’ll get you an excellent Siciliana with extra chillies and a smile from a friendly waitress to die for.

Yours faithfully

Tom Gowans

Wednesday 10 August 2011

Ban the Burka?

Marcia startled me by suddenly coming to life on the sofa along which she had extended herself to watch her morning soap by declaring, with attention grabbing vehemence, that she hated Brazilians.

Considering we were both very fond of our new neighbour, a Brazilian businesswoman with whom we had spent until the early hours of this morning enjoying one of our other neighbour’s hospitality at a noisy and well catered party (in honour of his son’s fifth birthday), this came not only as quite a shock but also as one of those irritating domestic buzzes that impinges an honest citizen’s basic human right to a cup of tea before he is obliged to engage his brain.

‘I wish you wouldn’t say things like that, Marcia,’ I said, feeling suddenly very uncomfortable knowing that Miss M was unlikely to let it go at that, ‘Perhaps if you said, ‘you didn’t like a particular type of Brazilian’, or their culture or something like that, but not all Brazilians, surely?’

I would be the first to admit that I am guilty of occasional xenophobic outbursts, usually after having been frustrated by some petty bureaucrat, queuing for hours to no avail without even the relief provided by a hastily choked down cigarette or a swig from a hip flask lest I am tossed to the back of the crowd again, stumbling out of the edifice cursing all Angolans to hell and back but such sentiments are fleeting, without real foundation or conviction.

I live in a country which I know is widely regarded as corrupt and dictatorial. I can’t help liking it though. Maybe I have inherited the same rose tinted spectacles that Ernest Hemingway wore when he hung around with Castro and Guevara. Both those two as well as the Angolan leadership, in the early days at least, weren’t shy of standing their political opponents up against a pock marked wall and gunning them down. Hardly democratic, but bloody effective if you need to quell riotous assembly.

It appears the Angolan government is concerned with the content of some of the Brazilian soaps and would like to ban a few. Anyone who has seen the film 'City of God', based on incontrovertible truth and one even I was disturbed to watch portraying as it did not just teenage gang culture, but pre pubescent indoctrination into hopeless violence, would agree that sometimes Brazilian films, and many of those emanating from the US and UK as well, can have a disturbing influence on a developing mind.

The director of City of God, Fernando Meirelles, was making a very valid if shocking point, a comment on the alarming descent of society into degradation and anarchy portrayed so effectively it gave me sleepless nights. One has to question, however, the validity of such graphic portrayals of mindless aggression on day to day TV programmes the motive of the directors of which I suspect are not so much to make serious comment as to chase ratings.

Meirelles wanted to appal and thereby alert his audience not only to weakening social structures but also to venal, self serving and ultimately ineffectual governance.

He certainly convinced me. I cried when the older boy told the younger one who had unwittingly transgressed an unwritten code he was too young to comprehend, a wee lad about the age of my son when I watched the film, that he would have to shoot him in the foot as a matter of ‘honour’ and the little lad stood there, as brave as he could under the circumstances but wet his pants in terror before his toes were blasted away.

Too many directors of the mass produced detritus they call a window to true society are really capitalising on a sickening, primarily urban culture and are driving our descent to anarchy by glamorising and elevating the now evidently laudable, or at least ‘cool’ and ‘hip’ qualities of ruthlessness and pitiless lack of compassion that are justified by a perceived lack of opportunity. Brains and honest hard work won’t get you to the top, muscle and a concealed switchblade will. Our daughters are being sexualised and our boys are being taught how to be Men. Not ‘Men’ in the way we understood it, but GangstaMen. The authors of their anthems unable to even spell ‘Gentleman’ let alone comprehend what it means to be a real man. Even the BBC grace mindless hoodlums by referring to rioting anarchists as 'protestors'.

Yet such freedom of expression is enshrined in the very democracy we stand for so if the Angolan government seek to ban the bits of some reality soap opera they don’t like, then surely that is dictatorial?

Still not having had time to resolve the conflicting emotions that Marcia’s comment had aroused, Sr. Decal arrived and accepted the offer of a cup of tea.

Sr. Decal is diminutive but his intellect more than makes up for that. Sipping his cuppa, he asked me for my opinion of recent events in London. Angolans often quiz British nationals on events in UK, especially events as dramatic as citizens smashing and burning a neighbourhood, just as they quiz French nationals about farmers blocking motorways and spilling Spanish fruit out onto the road. For an Angolan, such unopposed riotous assembly is inconceivable. Just like the rest of the world lump Africa, a region of so many diverse nations into one hopeless amalgam of despair, so Africans consider Europeans the seed of former colonialists, the ancient masters for whom nothing goes wrong and when it does, only confounds and confuses.

Sr. Decal and a now very alert Marcia wanted to know what would happen to the authors of such mayhem, after all, the capital city of Britain was burning under the astonished gaze of the rest of the world.

Quite simply, and to condense a very long and for me weary conversation (weary in that I had insufficient wit or energy left to refute their arguments, my tea long cold and untouched) they wanted to know why the police did not open fire.

When my mentioning due process and human rights was treated with derision by descendents of a formerly enslaved society I thought it best not to add to my grief and the inevitable incredulous onslaught by confessing that in UK immigrants convicted of crimes were routinely not deported back to countries of origin because their right to a family life was enshrined in the European constitution. Instead I thought I had best try what to me was a tougher, but to my audience perhaps a more conciliatory tack. I pointed out that a recent poll in UK suggested that the majority in UK felt the death penalty should be reinstated.

I may be wrong, but to the best of my knowledge the last to be formally tried and executed in Angola, by firing squad as it happened, were some British mercenaries and an American who, until his death remained bewildered by the incredibly short time frame between 'Arrivals' and 'Last Requests' so I was as surprised, when I noted their reaction, as Marcia and Sr. Decal were when they realised that institutionally sanctioned death was no longer the ultimate penalty in UK, or anywhere else in Europe for that matter.

‘You don’t shoot bandits in UK?’ they asked in awe.

What could I say? If I was a Norfolk farmer banged up in jail and watching my livelihood wither simply because I blew some thug away who was assaulting my property, potentially threatening my family, I might think twice. If I were a Copper, I would just close my eyes and let the bastards beat the shit out of me. Let’s face it, a stay in a hospital, even one as inhospitable as those provided by the NHS would be infinitely preferable to acres of paperwork and the unwelcome attention of the IPCC and screaming tabloids if I had been Blackberried burying a truncheon followed by the edge of my riot shield in the bastard’s head instead.

I freely confess that faced with an immediate threat to my family I would, if able, subject the perpetrator to a more than horribly unnecessarily painful death at my own hands and yet I disagree with the death penalty. As I explained to my by now slack jawed companions, I would rather see all allegedly guilty men incarcerated for life than see one innocent man, his heart heavier than any of us should ever endure, bid a really final farewell to his family before having his neck expertly snapped on the gallows. Only those who are absolutely confident in the judiciary should dare to advocate the death penalty, I was quite firm on that.

The TV was tuned to the Chinese news channel and at that moment impartial coverage of the London riots came on again. I had already been subjected to their opinion of the right of police to shoot a known (alleged as I futilely pointed out) bandit who opened fire (allegedly) on the police trying to arrest him, the spark that ignited this round of violence.

As far as they were concerned, the guy was a known thug and should have been drilled into the back of his taxi seat and his body set on fire and then hung on a lamppost as a warning to others, the way it works here, but instead I was a lone voice trying to argue a case for democracy and human rights.

The Chinese program director, presumably for darker emphasis, froze a frame that captured a masked hoodlum, flaming Molotov cocktail in hand, about to launch it into a building, no doubt some honest citizen’s about to be destroyed livelihood. An image captured not in Libya, Iran or Iraq, not even Syria or Afghanistan, but in London, England.

To Sr. Decal and a horrified Marcia, this single image represented all those stupid laws I was unable to adequately explain, laws elaborated with the best of intention in Europe but now routinely exploited to protect not only chancers, but also the violently disaffected minority who are, let’s face it, screwing up our society and giving yet more excuses for weak and ineffective governance to monitor and restrict the freedom and basic civil rights of the rest of us, providing yet more fuel for the racist conflagration extremists seek to propagate.

‘Why’, repeated Sr. Decal, ‘Why didn’t the Police just shoot him?’

A good question and one for which I did not have a ready answer. Try to torch a building in Angola and there would be a very short and very one sided exchange of gunfire. Show violent disrespect to a policeman here and, I suspect much to the envy of many a routinely abused English Bobby, your legs would be shot from beneath you, no IPCC enquiry necessary. If you are a known gangster and the police catch up with you, they don’t even have to arrange the delivery of your body to your relatives. All they have to do is tack a message on the corpse saying it was lawfully killed, and leave it in the street or wherever its late owner was assisted to shuffle off this mortal coil until a relative collects it. Naturally it, in its former life having been a criminal, there is no such thing as compensation for its surviving relatives and they know better than to shout about it or they'd get a kicking too for having spawned such evil.

Now I know there will be those who say the lack of riots in this country, the speed with which the authorities repatriate illegal immigrants (those having committed crimes here spending a few miserable years in the notorious Bentiaba prison first before getting their one way tickets home), and the relative inhibition with which police would open fire at any of those intent on criminal violence, are examples of state sanctioned repression but, as Sr. Decal pointed out, crushing any remaining arguments I may have had, I can safely stroll through my neighbourhood at night to catch a breath of fresh air and the chances of my son being knifed in a school yard are negligible. The thought of me having to defend my restaurant and its clients armed only with a rolling pin instead of allowing my guards to, here at least, legally open up with their AKs was to them utterly incomprehensible.

There is crime here, just as there is anywhere in the world but the right of a citizen to use any means to protect what is his is enshrined in the law. A few months ago, I disturbed two burglars in my house, both of them armed with my own kitchen knives. They had already relieved me of my laptop, the TV, the decoder and stereo and were on a return journey for my tools. Rather than plunge the sword I had in my hand into their worthless torsos, I just threatened them and they left. At first light Marcia, with skills that would put a bloodhound to shame, tracked them down and we recovered all our property.

As the property was being returned, one of the lad’s parents thanked me for not killing their son. I’d like to think I didn’t do so through an innate sense of fair play, a recognition of my assailants’ right to life, a fair trial followed by rehabilitating incarceration but, the real reason I did not slash the bastards into sushi was because I was scared of what would happen to me, a foreigner killing locals, even though they were armed and cleaning out my house. All the neighbours, and even the attending police when I asked them, told me that I could have legitimately run them through. Would that the British Police were graced with similar impunity.

There are plenty of police on the streets here. Do I get annoyed when they pull me over to check my documents? Occasionally. Do I argue with them or give them abuse? Never. Am I likely to see a shopping centre burnt down by a load of balaclava clad mindless thugs? I think not. Say what you like, Marcia and Decal have a point. They weren’t taking the piss out of UK. Like me, they were shocked. What they could not understand is how it could have happened in a country so apparently civilised and why the Police and security services could do so little to stop it.

Thoroughly subdued now, I poured myself a stiff scotch and lit a cigarette. It had been readily accepted that flaws in any legal system meant that a death sentence based on the result of a lengthy and expensive investigation and subsequent trial was not only wasteful, but possibly unsound and, therefore, unpalatable so I thought I had scored a victory for democracy. Difficult, though, to refute their notion that it would have been better just to kill those caught in the act of violence or, as the Angolan police are trained to do, shoot them in the kneecaps and sort them out later in the calm and peaceful environment of their increasingly efficient hospitals.

In a rare moment of sanity, the UK Crown Prosecution Service recently declined to prosecute a householder who stabbed an assailant, a thug who in company with his mates, had smashed a way in through the back of the man’s house clearly with evil intent. The wounded assailant died and was left by his fleeing accomplices on a nearby street. Surely the same fate is appropriate for the hooded thug who stands on a high street intent on throwing a Molotov Cocktail, or those that trash and loot neighbourhoods or overturn cars before setting them alight? Even the dead man's father stated, despite his obvious grief but with a comprehension and sense of responsibility not normally given column space in tabloid fuelled indignation, that by setting out to rob another citizen of his property, his son had left his Human Rights at home.

Unable to rely on a legally and politically castrated and demoralised police force, we now see the citizens of London, Birmingham and other cities, once the industrial root and foundation of an empire, protecting their own properties with kitchen implements and broom handles and even being murdered in the attempt. Turks, Bangladeshis, Hindis and, let’s be honest, ordinary and traditionally ever so slightly racist white blokes standing shoulder to shoulder facing a baying, hooded mob in defence of everything an Englishman holds dear, their castles, all they have worked so hard for.

Unlike in UK or many other civilised and democratic countries, the Angolan security services, be they police, intervention forces or the Army, have more of a choice than the hard pressed Police or vacillating Home Secretary of UK enjoy. Not only that, they have the support of a strong government, the judiciary and above all, public opinion.

This all started with a discussion on the right of the Angolan Government to censor Brazilian programmes showing gratuitous violence.

I have now decided that not only do I agree with Marcia that it is OK to hate Brazilians (but only those who through their ‘art’ encourage my two year old son to point a make believe gun at me, cradling it and making use of available cover in a manner that would make any small arms instructor proud, and without any remorse, blow his Dad away), I also feel that, in order to allow the rest of us to enjoy our lives, it is perfectly OK to let the police have a bit more litigation free latitude and if that means shooting looters, so be it. It would save a lot of time and money. Instead of fielding 15,000 coppers to give a load of missile hurling yobbos some target practice, you would only need a few well trained marksmen and, if there were still a need to keep the trendy leftie yoghurt knitting tree huggers happy, yes, we could just shoot rioters and looters in the legs, a concession to Human Rights that I, and the manufacturers of wheel chairs and crutches, could probably live with.

Mr Cameron and the Mayor of London both baulked at the suggestion that one of the most successful coppers in the business should replace the two top Bobbies in UK (who were forced to resign under the most shameful political and tabloid fuelled pressure), just because he is a Yank. Who gives a damn what nationality he is? If he managed to halve gang crime in LA and the Big Apple, probably two of the toughest cities in the world, I think we need him in London now and stuff the stuffed shirts. Get him down to Thieves and Hawke’s, kit him out with a smart uniform, pat him on the bum and push him out into the streets. Maybe not pat him on the bum, thinking about it. In UK’s warped system, that would land you in jail for a far longer term than torching Debenham’s.

In the meantime, rather than follow the example set by the French, the Belgians and other countries by banning the Burka (did any of you see an ambulant tent hurling petrol bombs during Sky News’ extensive coverage of the riots?), we should simply declare open season on Hoodies.

Or at least their kneecaps.

'Now remember chaps, targets will fall when hit. In your own time... Fire!'

But that is the subject of another post...