Saturday, 12 July 2008


Historically some lawyers and many members of parliament have an unsavoury reputation which this week the parliamentarians have shown themselves anxious to retain.

It is interesting that the most venal trade of all, the veterinary surgeon, has escaped opprobrium.

I think I know the reason.

In my view only the atom bomb has been a greater threat to civilisation than TV. Thanks to that devilish invention, violence has become endemic. Our feral young have been encouraged to slaughter each other and aspiration has been replaced by insistence. If we see it we must have it.
The medium affects our judgment in many ways or industry would not spend millions on TV advertising nor would products vanish from shelves after a TV appearance.

Some years ago an amiable Yorkshire vet who looked after my wife’s family’s pets, published a series of moderately successful anecdotes. Anxious to bring out a collected edition, his London publisher hunted round for a title and eventually settled on “All Creatures Great and Small”
It proved a gold mine.

The publishing industry to a man, or more correctly a woman, scratched its hennaed head for biblical titles. I was writing my book on Ken Williams, the policeman naturalist, and I was solemnly assured that it would a best seller if I could establish a biblical connection.

I couldn’t and it wasn’t. However, an ecstatic review in the Police Gazette was read by a Yorkshire policeman who was encouraged to publish his own memoir. That became the TV series “Heartbeat” and I believe he is now a millionaire. It was par for the course in our family. My wife’s book “Prisoners of Santo Tomas” was the acknowledged inspiration for the TV series “Tenko”, though in admitting it, the TV company declined to pay a royalty on the grounds it was “in the public domain”.

The vet’s stories were also made into a TV series that depicted vets as lovable eccentrics who spent their lives with their arms up a cow’s uterus with never a thought about money. It is not sour grapes to say that Herriot had an enviable command of the cliché. The aristocratic eccentric, the wayward charmer, the try harder do gooder and the lovable servant. Surround them with a cast of thousands of well meaning rebel peasants, all speaking impenetrable treacle toffee. Place them in an enviable landscape of empty roads, free of caravans, EC lorries and mechanical diggers. Follow that with interminable series about earnest and often beautiful young people learning how to castrate a newt. The result?

A national perception that all Vets are Good Eggs, and probably Scottish.
Porridge eating philanthropists to a man.

How quickly the perception fades when one of them demands £40 to tell you the cause of death of a five shilling goldfish, as happened to me last week. Or when a pensioner neighbour finds a stray cat which is obviously ill, takes it to the Vet and is charged £218.

“Ah,” you will say, “vets were kinder in my day.”

Rubbish. I have a friend, a vet of the old school, an admirable man who would give you his right arm, and did in fact give me a C C de France split cane game rod. Often sought my advice on books to read and matters of literary style. Yet if I asked him the most innocent question about dog behaviour an iron shutter came down.

TV is at it worst in documentaries. Last week I watched one in which the presenter claimed that Dr Crippen was innocent of his wife’s murder and based it on “ truths” that he claimed to have discovered about the remains found in Crippen’s cellar, which were those of a man and not Crippen’s wife. He also claimed, as a matter for astonishment, that the Scotland Yard man, Inspector True, was corrupt.

I have no doubt Crippen was innocent. A significant number of murderers brought to book by Scotland Yard have proved to be innocent. In fact it was known at Crippen’s trial the remains were those of a man: the judge mentioned it in his summing up.

As to the revelation that True was corrupt, some years ago Dr Howard Taylor, a historian from Nottingham University, conducted a four-year research programme which showed that since the days of Jack the Ripper police forces have been fraudulently massaging crime figures. Until the First World War police efficiency was judged by the LOW number of detections and prosecutions. In consequence crime figures were kept below 90,000 a year and any crimes above that figure were “lost”. From 1880 to 1966 the Director of Public Prosecutions “rationed” murders at a fixed rate of 150 a year, with the connivance of the police.

In 1919 the Government sought for reasons to cut police numbers and budgets. Overnight the crime figures trebled.

Dr Taylor concluded: “It is clear that crime rates have been supply led, rather than demand led, and have little reflection of reality.”

Even traffic deaths, he found, had been manipulated so that they rose precisely in line with the number of extra policemen required.

“All the police did was claim that one sixth of the force was needed each year for traffic duties and the accident rate rose accordingly.”

When I was “doing crime” for The People” scarcely a week seemed to pass without a senior officer going to prison on corruption charges. During the investigation in to the Richardson Brothers’ crime syndicate I was given a tip off that one of the gang, a man called Duval, had kept a diary of his time with the gang,. and I was sent to find him.

I was told on no account to ring the Metropolitan police. So many of them were in the pay of London gangs that the Richardson investigation was being conducted from a rural police station in the Home Counties.

Some years later I was hired by Lord Russell of Liverpool, a celebrated lawyer of the day, to check the alibi of Hanratty who had been hanged for the A6 murder, despite insisting he was in Rhyl at the time.

Hanratty had described the room in a boarding house in Kimnel Street where he had slept. He said it had green shiny wallpaper. The police could not find such a room. When I went with Russell, the landlady, after some pretty impressive questioning by him, suddenly said: “There is a room with shiny green wallpaper. The bathroom. And if I am full I let it out to visitors.”

As Deputy Judge Advocate General to the British Army of the Rhine, Lord Russell was one of the chief legal advisers during the Nuremberg war crime trials held after the end of the Second World War. After our investigation, he was adamant that Hanratty was innocent.
Massaging crime figures? I have told here how the Lord Chancellor’s office at the time of the moratorium on death sentences instructed judges that murder charges were to be reduced, Because there were apparently fewer murders, there was no argument for the retention of the death penalty.


I hear the young shun the black pudding.

No one has less respect for the young than I do. But can this be true? Has the Last Pudding Post been sounded on that tastiest of snacks, the Dracula Butty?

Snack, do I say? Feast, rather. Begin the day with black pudding and you will be a stranger to the shiver. It suffuses the body with the thermal equivalent of a three-bar electric fire.

Summon up its sinew, let loose its blood of warmth, preferably with a back-up team of fried egg and riot shields of genuine Staffordshire oat cake. You are as ten men. Buttressed against the winter blast.

One does not wish to be chauvanist, but the ultimate black pudding is sold on Bury Market in Lancashire. I used to work with a Jewish photographer, who, though heavily disguised in case his Rabbi saw him, never objected to a detour via the pudding stall. He said watching Goyem queueing for a Vampire takeaway did much to strengthen his Zionism.

Distance is nothing. Melton Mowbray is the home of remarkable puddings; a Corwen butcher produced puddings worthy of a day’s march, though their shape upset traditionalists. Afficionados prefer them like pneumatic horseshoes. The Corwen pudding was flat like a Yorkshire pudding.

Amateur eaters might be surprised at the distances over the shopping Savannah the Black pudding Shikari ranges. Those who have signed professional forms with the Pudding Club - if you will forgive the expression - will understand. They would go to the ends of the plate for those delicious islands of marbled fat in the wine-dark sea of blood.

The only controversy is in the cooking. Some maintain puddings are best when lightly boiled. Others argue passionately for slicing and frying on the backs of bacon rashers, already themselves frying in the pan. They insist the heat striking through the bacon achieves the precise temperature to ensure the pudding is cooked as the bacon is turned. Others argue that plunging unprotected puddings into hot fat invites the hard shell, the sign of a careless cook. Still others boil and grill.

Wonderful dish for slimmers. Look at Christopher Lee, the definitive Dracula. Not an ounce of spare fat.

POLICE dispatched to a 999 emergency reporting a “bright stationary object” above a caller’s house soon solved the mystery The recording runs as follows.
Control Room: “South Wales Police, what’s your emergency?”
Caller: “It’s not really. I just need to inform you that across the mountain there’s a bright stationary object.”
Control room: “Right.”
Caller: “If you’ve got a couple of minutes perhaps you could find out what it is? It’s been there at least half an hour and it’s still there.”
Control: “It’s been there for half an hour. Right. Is it actually on the mountain or in the sky?”
Caller: “It’s in the air.”
Control: “I will send someone up there now to check it out.”
Caller: “OK.”
A few minutes later, all became clear in the following exchange between the control room and the police officer sent to the scene.
Control: “Alpha Zulu 20, this object in the sky, did anyone have a look at it?”
Officer: “Yes, it’s the moon. Over.”