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Q: Are we arrogant? A: Just a little Brit; We would fail the granny test, too.

If you've been reading the sleazier tabloids, you'll have noticed that it's been national "Let's Make Fun of the Belgians" week.

A British grandmother was detained by Brussels immigration officials, held overnight in a cell, then sent home.

Suddenly journalists were queueing up to denounce Belgian arrogance and belittle the entire country. It's easy to do.

Q: What goes Bang, 20-second pause, bang, 20-second pause, bang? A: A Belgian machine gun.

Or Q: If you check into a Bruges hotel and switch on your electric toothbrush, what happens next? A: The street lights dim.

After all, any country Leon Brittan chooses to live in must be ridiculous, so, come on, why not let's all put the boot in?

Why not? Because the arrogance was British, not Belgian, that's why. The grandmother arrived without a passport, yet expected to be let in and was indignant when officials refused to accept her bus pass instead.

"The Belgians are notorious for red tape," cried the outraged Press, but do they seriously think anyone would be allowed into this country without a passport?

How many West Indian grannies would be cheerfully waved through at Heathrow on the strength of a permit from the Jamaica Bus Company? Or Asian grannies clutching a Bombay library card? They'd be whisked off to the cells faster than you could say "Repatriation now".

The truth is that part of the British Press still hates foreigners, and can't resist a chance to denigrate them. But they'd be accused of racism if they stereotyped black nations in this way, so instead they choose a white, middle-class country for the same bigoted attacks.

If Britain had signed the Schengen agreement, we could all enter Belgium without passports, but instead, sad Little Englanders indulge in hypocritical sniping, in an absurd attempt to exact revenge for the beef crisis.

I reckon what galls us about the Belgians is, not only do they have a higher standard of living than we do, but they make the best chips in the world.

The sensible Belgians eat their chips. What a pity some of our journalists carry theirs on their shoulder.



I was astounded to see how little media attention was given this week to John McVicar's acquittal on an assault charge.

The Press initially covered the proceedings at Kingston Crown Court with lurid interest but, when he was found not guilty, they suddenly found themselves (conveniently) uninterested.

I sat through every fascinating minute of a trial that made Twelve Angry Men look like The Shipping Forecast.

Here was an ex-armed robber from the wrong side of the tracks, defending himself against the accusations of an ex-public schoolboy backed by the police and a legal team.

Although McVicar hadn't committed a crime for 20 years (this incident arose only because his little dog Clem had been attacked), the prosecution and hacks treated the verdict as a foregone conclusion. "He's reverted to type" was the swaggering consensus in the Press box.

They swaggered too soon. McVicar defended himself eloquently and as he demolished the allegations against him, the Press box began to empty. They'd come to bury Caesar, not to praise him, and they weren't remotely interested in reporting the man's innocence.

I'll never forget the shameful sight of journalists walking out as defence witnesses were called, nor of the prosecution passing notes among themselves like naughty schoolboys, nor of the gum-chewing officer in charge - one DC Nichol - looking like a Seventies footballer and making snide asides.

I also won't forget how old school ties cut no ice with a jury of ordinary people who, unlike the professionals,were interested solely in justice. It was good, for once, to see justice win the day.

As for Clem the dog, he's he's now thinking of seeking compensation - in the Small Clems Court.

Nun nuttier than Wendy

I see that Sister Wendy (not so much a nun as Margaret Thatcher's mannerisms and Shergar's teeth stuffed hastily into a habit) claims to have discovered why the Mona Lisa is smiling: "Because Leonardo da Vinci was gay".

Is the dentally-challenged nun a few beads short of the rosary?

Television loves nutty experts, so it's always been fascinated by peculiar nuns (art-loving, flying, singing, leaping) who combine eccentric behaviour with eccentric dress. Their subject matter may be dreary, but their bizarre appearance is guaranteed to amuse an audience.

A smile, a song and a wimple will do nicely, thank you, but try not to mention any of that eternal damnation stuff, will you?

There's a more sinister side, though. Have you noticed that, whenever there's a news report of some terrible disaster, Mother Teresa is always there?

Famine in Ethiopia, floods in Bangladesh, an explosion in Bhopal - it can't be mere coincidence that the shrivelled brown nun is always on the scene by the time the cameras arrive.

If you ask me, I reckon she's causing the disasters herself in a shameless bid to get more air time.

These nuns love the cameras as much as the cameras love nuns. But please, no more Sister Wendy.

The nun's story is a non-story.


Anthea Turner has admitted to having an invigorating electric current passed through her face each morning before she presents GMTV.

"It really does give the face a kick," says a Harley Street specialist.

How strange. Whenever I watch GMTV, it's always Eamonn Holmes's face that looks as though it's just had a good kicking.
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Copyright 1996 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Features
Author:Lewis-smith, Victor
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Jun 22, 1996
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