Cry Wolf

BBQSo, for a tantalisingly brief spell last week, the clouds parted, the sun shined and in a scene reminiscent of that from ‘Twenty Eight Days Later’, hordes of barbecue deprived Brits converged as one, on every charcoal selling garage or DIY shop they could find. Never mind the mercury barely reached beyond nineteen degrees, that a chill wind made it feel considerably less. England expects, so Nelson said, though in this case I would suggest, England expects showers to follow so best cremate those burgers now whilst we have a chance.

I’m not complaining (yet), I was one of them and like many others took the opportunity to sit outside reinforcing layer upon layer of insulation around my shivering body as the evening wore on whilst pretending to enjoy a rare bout of alfresco dining. Actually I would have enjoyed it a lot more had it not been for the fact that our tranquillity was suddenly broken by the shrill, painfully annoying not to mention utterly pointless onset of the next door neighbours burglar alarm. I say pointless because- and I’d love you to be honest here- do you ever hear a burglar alarm, particularly in the middle of the day and think ‘What ho, there’s skulduggery a foot. Fetch my whip, my crucifix, and my lifetime membership to the neighbourhood watch scheme. It’s time to be a hero’?

No? Or do you think, ‘Jesus that’s the third time this year that’s gone off; the footballs on, I’ve just got the baby/wife/mother in law off to sleep why in Christ’s name can’t he get it fixed? I hope the old coot is getting robbed this time. It’ll teach him a lesson.’ Well?

Yeah I know, don’t be ashamed. The truth is there are actually quite a few things that when invented gained our admiration so inexplicably that we could never have imagined losing all respect for them. Unfortunately, familiarity has bread contempt or rather encouraged us to dismiss what they are telling us. Take the burglar alarms close cousin, the car alarm. It is true that they are a great deal more reliable than once they were. Ten years ago a farting fly would have had the average Ford Mondeo erupting in a paroxysm of bells, whistles and laughably robotic verbal’s ‘Warning this vehicle is alarmed!’ To which I say ‘Warning I don’t give a shit’. Unfortunately for more moderate vehicle security systems that were yet to follow the previous models had cried wolf once too often. Our reaction would be forever tainted and nothing short of the sight of a man wearing a black eye mask, carrying a bag of ‘swag’ and pushing a coat hanger down the crack of the door was ever going to rekindle our interest. And whilst we’re on vehicles can anybody please tell me why certain manufacturers have taken to instigating a nanny state of driving? My dear wife’s car, and I’m sure it’s not the only one, has the annoying habit of beeping loudly at me should I have had the temerity to have driven forward two feet without putting on my seatbelt. Yes I know there are terminally dull, real ale drinking bores who are about to tell me that wearing a seatbelt is non-negotiable, but do we really need cars that nag us- I’m married for Christ’s sake. What next? Will it tell me off for not emptying the bins or refuse to disengage the hand brake because I used the best towel to wipe toothpaste off my face that morning? Anyway I digress-

Motorway speed restrictions are also frequently implicated in the cry wolf syndrome. Now don’t get me wrong, road safety is incredibly important and highway or police instruction should always be adhered to. But I’ve lost count of the number of times a temporary and quite frankly, ludicrously low speed limit for several miles has come and gone with no apparent reason. Oh I know that by the time I’ve got to the cause it’s quite possible it’s been cleared up, but I have on more than one occasion, come back the other way half an hour later to find it still implemented, still, for no apparent reason. It does feel at times like our typically British need to follow all the rules is sometimes being taken advantage of.

But it’s not all about technology. I find it worrying how in today’s age, more and more things are heard but not listened to because they have sunk further and further into what is every day background noise. In London the sound of a woman screaming in the night will only occasionally precipitate a call to the Police. We’ve become so attuned to such a noise being everyday, or at least being misinterpreted, that like many things that probably should be listened to they are not.

And on that note I see the sun is shining, the barbecue (Barby- sic Australian) is warming up nicely and I’ve a fresh pair of earplugs ready and waiting. If you need me I’ll be cremating burgers.