Saturday, 30 August 2008

Oh My Darling

He's not the sharpest political knife in the draw. In fact, he's probably a spatula. And yet, of all the sleaze balls in Gordon Brown-Trousers' government, Chancellor Alistair Darling is the only one to come clean about the extent of the economic crisis now engulfing Britain.

Only last week, the soon-to-be-former Prime Minister was toughing things out, putting on a cheery (for him) confident (for him) expression and telling us that the credit crunch wouldn't be biting nearly so hard in a few months' time. I didn't believe him then, and I most certainly don't believe him after reading about the Chancellor's comments to the Guardian.

We're in the thick of the worst economic problems for 60 years, he says, and warns that the impact is going to be more profound and longer lasting that people think. No more than this person thinks, that's for sure. I've seen this problem coming for the past year or more, and fully expected it to be at least as vicious as it currently seems to be.

Still, Darling seems to have his finger on the pulse of the common man, who still can't quite get to grips with the idea that the economic good times are well and truly over. He's also quite accurate divined that voters are "pissed off" with Labour. No shit, Sherlock!

We've been getting ever-more pissed off with them for quite a while, but their behaviour over the past year or so has been even worse than usual. What with the election that never was, the total lack of referendum on the EU Treaty, a seemingly bottomless tide of sleaze engulfing Labour and even the Speaker of the House and the effects of years of Gordon Brown-Trousers' economic incompetence coming home to roost, we've had quite enough of a Labour Government, thank you.

Darling seems to have grasped that, dimly, and hopes that frank admissions of pissed-off-ness will get him through the next few weeks - or, at least, absolve him of the blame for most of the problems created by Gordon Brown-Trousers when HE was Chancellor. And, in a way, he deserves to survive, insofar as any Labour minister should be within 100 miles of Whitehall. Most of his problems really do stem from the incredibly incompetent actions of his predecessor, who, even now that he's moved on, still seems to be balling up the economy.

With the inevitable in-fighting over leadership about to break out again, the Labour party could do worse than consider Darling as a caretaker leader. Nothing on Earth is going to win them the next election, but, in their death throes, Brown, Miliband et al could do an awful lot more damage to Britain before they are finally ejected by a downright disillusioned electorate. Perhaps, if the more temperate Chancellor were to be allowed to run the show, he could at least guide the party to a soft landing instead of the full throttle crash that seems inevitable right now.

They may then be able to sort out their differences in private, without trashing the country in the process, and set about mounting an effective opposition to Crazy Cameron's new landslide majority. And make no mistake, such an opposition is going to be sorely needed. Cameron is little better than Blair (I discount the idea that he's no better than Brown, on the basis that a maddened rhino would be a better bet than the current PM) and we're going to need something to keep him in check. Darling might just be the man to do it.

Billy Seggars.

Friday, 29 August 2008

My What A Big Missile

Goodness me, we seem to be still alive. Several days have gone by, and still those big bad Russians haven't reduced us to radioactive slag. Much as this may be a subject for rejoicing, however, it has (or hasn't, as the case may be) happened despite, rather than because of the antics of Foreign Secretary, David Miliband.

Oh. My. GOD. What the hell is that cocky little bantam doing now? Fresh from trying to upstage Gordon Brown-Trousers and looking like a treacherous little upstart for his troubles, he's had a quick jaunt to Ukraine this week. Where, right under the nose of a highly pissed off and downright twitchy Russian administration, he has preached the benefits of the democratic choices Ukraine has made, and went on to say that supporting those choices was the right thing for a British Foreign Secretary to do.

Democracy. Right. Yes. Good. Well done to those bods in Ukraine, maybe we could have some democracy over here, when the Government doesn't think it would lose power by it? But their Russian neighbour, particularly under the rule of Putin and Medvedev, isn't all that big on democracy, is it? In fact, it's very much like waving a red rag at a bull, except this bull is really a bear, and it's quite red enough already, thank you very much.

It's quite obvious that Miliband thinks he's someone of stature, an impressive figure on the international stage who is in a position to draw subtle lines in the sand and demand that Russia doesn't cross them. In reality, his posturing looks ridiculous. It's very, very difficult to take him seriously at the best of times, and now is most definitely not the best of times. He might look slightly better as he squares up to the old enemy if only he'd get rid of that pathetic bum-fluff moustache, but as it is he closely resembles an ant giving orders to a dinosaur - and by that, I don't, for once, mean Gordon Brown-Trousers.

On the same day, the Sun ran an article headlined, "If the West arms Georgia it's 'war'". The article gave a nice summary of the mounting hassle, stressing that Russia wasn't afraid of a new Cold War, that the situation closely resembled that on the eve of the First World War and that a US ship bringing "humanitarian aid" had docked in Georgia's Black Sea port of Batumi. Of particular interest was the sidebar, by the Sun's political editor, George Pascoe-Watson, titled "Face Up To The Bear".

It gave a bullish list of reasons why we shouldn't be all that worried by Russian posturing, pointing out that "80 per cent of its military hardware is defunct or outdated. Its defence industry is in tatters and its 1.1million-strong armed forces are poorly trained." Which all sounded very encouraging, until I saw today's headline: "Russia tests out new lethal nuke."

Sporting a 550-kiloton warhead, Russia's new Topol missile was launched from Plesetsk and landed on target at the Kamchatka peninsula some 3,730 miles away. Their new toy has a maximum range of over 6,000 miles - which, as the Sun helpfully points out, is far enough to reach the UK - can devastate an area 14 miles wide and is kitted out to avoid "enemy" defence systems. Doesn't sound all that defunct or outdated to me!

It doesn't sound it to the boy Miliband, either, who's suddenly spouting piffle like "nobody wants all-out war with Russia." No, they don't. It's the last thing we want. But we don't want a Foreign Secretary who struts around Eastern Europe then shits his pants at the first sign of a missile that just might reach the UK, either.

Miliband's youthful looks go hand in hand with a total lack of experience, zero backbone and an ego like an airship. Letting him flap around loose in the middle of a crisis is pretty much guaranteed to make things worse, and right now I don't think that's such a good idea. If we can give his job to somebody who actually knows what they're doing, and has a working knowledge of both politics and diplomacy, it might - just - be possible to calm things down before Russian pride, American gung-hoism and New Labour political games combine to kick off WW3.

And besides, how much worse could they do? America will have taken note of the missile test, and, after some careful calculation using all his digits, President Bush will have worked out that the dratted thing can probably reach the US. Russia has made moves and statements that leave it very little room for manoeuvre on the diplomatic front, and one thing Russians really, really hate is losing face to the West. They have effectively chased the donkey up the minaret, and we need to find a way of letting them appear to get it safely down again before Bush makes an ass of himself by blasting both the donkey and the minaret to fine powder. All of which Miliband could have stopped if he hadn't been too busy playing power games designed to boost his standing in the Government, and the Government's position in the polls.

At this rate we'll be lucky to get through another week before someone gets trigger-happy. Again.

Billy Seggars.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

Brown's Green Tax Grab

I'm no fan of so-called "green issues". Global warming, as it used to be called before it was found not to be and was rebranded as the more flexible, less easily debunked "climate change", has always struck me as the perfect means of parting well-meaning folks from their cash on the pretext of saving the world.

Whether the climate is changing or not, clever marketing bods have seized the opportunity to hike prices by imposing a "green premium", allowing folks to get a warm and fuzzy feeling every time they buy a low quality, high cost, allegedly environmentally friendly product. The ability to spot a mug and exploit their gullibility is basic human nature, and most people have learned to distinguish reality from marketing hype - we expect it, compensate for it and even get a kick out of "falling for it" in some cases.

It's all part of the game we play with traders. They want to sell us less for more, we want to buy more for less, and we usually arrive at some midway compromise without too much hassle. It's a great way for an economy to operate, but it's a lousy way to run a government. Unfortunately, according to the Sun, New Labour has been conning the British public out of £800 per year in extra "green taxes".

A United Nations report suggests that the social cost of Britain's greenhouse gas emissions is around $4.6 billion per year. The government estimates (and who would believe them, these days!) the figure to be £16.3 billion. But last year they raised £24.2 billion on things like fuel duty and road tax. BIG difference.

Who was Chancellor when all these taxes were being devised and implemented? Goodness, it wouldn't be the coward currently masquerading as the British Prime Minister, would it? Can we trust this bungling apology for a public servant with anything at all? Is there any scam he will not employ in his frantic attempt to balance the books before anyone figures out he's been cooking them for years?

Of course there isn't. Because, like all Labour politicians - like all politicians, come to that - they hold the electorate in contempt. Our function, from their point of view, is do what we're told and keep them in power. And, stupidly, that's exactly what we do. It's a bit like the merchant's hype in a way - we expect them to be sleazy, and get a kick out being right, as long as they don't cross the line between self-serving machinations and downright dishonesty.

But it's a disgusting state of affairs when, in the middle of an economic crisis of their own making, the government that wrecked people's pensions is caught out fiddling the levels of taxation on "green" issues. It's easy to see why they would, of course. They think the public are fooled by the scare stories of environmental collapse, they think there's a willingness to pay premium prices to stave of disaster and they want their cut.

But it's not right. The line has been crossed, there is no going back, and Gordon Brown-Trousers will have to go. The sooner the better, too!

Billy Seggars.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

End Of The World?

Right, I've put the plug back on the TV, dug the radio out of the trash, unsealed the letterbox and pulled out the ear plugs. Those damned Olympic Games are over, and I can get back to following the news without being inundated with unappealing pictures of runners, swimmer and, er, ping pong players.

Delighted though I am to see the back of the games, I couldn't resist reading the Sun's intriguingly headlined "Ping pong is coming home". As just about everybody else on the planet will know by now, it looks like Boris Johnson gave a cracking account of himself at the closing ceremony, and I almost wish I'd seen him do it. Buffoon he may be, or at least may appear to be, but I rather like Boris J.

Elsewhere in the world, things are not looking so good. While I've been hibernating, the Ruskies seem to have been upsetting people in Georgia and offering to nuke Poland. What's that all about, then? Just goes to show - take your eye off the ball for a minute, and before you know it there's some mad Russian trying to blow us all to hell. Nice.

Since I'm not in favour of being nuked without knowing the reason why, I found this summary in the Telegraph very useful. Can't say the French attitude of "We fear a war and we don't want one, if its hot, we don't want it'." all that surprising, though. When the Russian tanks start rolling over Europe, guess who'll be the first to lay down their arms.

The tanks might not roll at all, of course. But I wouldn't like to bet on that. I've been peripherally aware of a mounting threat from that neck of the woods for many months, though the Georgia thing came as something of a surprise, and I wouldn't put it past Russia to flex her muscles a bit. Trouble is coming, and it's wearing a furry hat.

But that's not such a bad thing if your name is Gordon Brown-Trousers. The economy and his reputation as PM are in tatters, but an international crisis would go some way towards fixing that. Many of us remember the Cold War, and mention of the old enemy is enough to make us to (metaphorically) adopt a defensive posture and squint narrowly to the East. If he can be seen to be keeping the Russian bear in its cave, he might pick up a point or two.

I can't see it being enough to keep him in his job past the next election, but, then again, that may not be a problem. If things keep escalating the way they have in the past couple of weeks, there may be nobody left alive to vote for him by 2010. Now there's a cheery thought!

Billy Seggars.

Monday, 11 August 2008

Madeleine McCann Madness

I see the whole "Maddie" thing is back in the news, now that the investigations papers have been handed over. At the time, I wasn't at all surprised to read that the parents had been declared suspects, and, indeed, I felt that the declaration was long overdue.

I'm still keeping an open mind on that score, but the newly revealed documentation raises some very interesting points. That credible sightings of the missing child were received and ignored at a time when it was at least plausible that she could still have been alive is nothing short of appalling. Suspicious though they might - and probably should - have been (it's their job to be suspicious, after all), the police officers involved had little more than their suspicions to go on. Suspicion is not proof, and is no reason to ignore leads that contradict those suspicions - unless, of course, you're lazy, incompetent and looking for a "quick fix".

As it is, it is at least possible, and maybe even probable, that the McCanns have been subjected to an awful lot of undeserved adverse publicity, at an already incredibly stressful time, purely because the police didn't seem able to do their job. Shame, indeed, and I begin to understand why they tended to look SOOOOOOOO bloody annoyed in media photos. If, in fact, the were not involved in Maddie's "disappearance", they have done incredibly well to hold things together for as long as they have, and some respect is very definitely due to them.

BUT, and it's a very big but, these new "sightings" of Madeleine McCann that are sprouting like crops of blonde mushrooms in the media every day are not helpful. The Sun is a prime culprit, today running a story under the headline, "I sold an ice cream to 'Maddie'". Antonio Migliardi, a Brussels street vendor, claims to have sold a chocolate ice cream (apparently Maddie's favourite) to an English child of Maddie's age, who had a mark in her eye and was (apparently) unhappy.

"It happened outside a KBC bank minutes after CCTV cameras on the building picked up a girl like Maddie with the North African-looking woman," the Sun says, and proudly displays the said CCTV footage from no less than 5 cameras. Oh, and they breathlessly report that the McCann's have seen the pictures. I just bet they have. I should imagine the poor buggers are desperately scouring every possible clue.

But it doesn't mean the child in the video is Maddie, any more than the many other reported sightings in Belgium and Holland are Madeleine McCann. IF she was spirited away from her hotel room alive, and that is certainly looking more likely than it did previously, it must surely have been a well organised operation.

Madeleine McCann's face is probably one of THE most famous images in the world, having been plastered across the TV, newspapers, the internet, posters and goodness knows where else since practically the moment she vanished. Is it likely that people with the resources to carry out such a snatch would leave her looking just exactly like she does in those images? Hair dye, a change of style, glasses would be in order. For a world fixated, however well-meaningly, on the publicity photos, even small changes would be enough to make the stolen child invisible, just one of the crowd.

These props are hardly difficult to obtain, and I can't imagine many people not having access to them. Even if, for some reason, they wanted to maintain her original appearance, would the kidnappers really risk taking the child out, in public, when her story and images - looking remarkably like she does now - are once again high profile issues? Surely not.

It is foolish beyond belief to imagine that they could mastermind a kidnap, snatch the poor kid from within her own apartment, make her vanish so completely that the whole world couldn't find her (I exclude the Portuguese police from that, on the basis that they couldn't find their own bum), and then parade her around the streets of a major city, in and out of buildings and shops, past security guards, in full view of CCTV indoors and out, to say nothing of street traders and members of the public. And what about local bobbies? Not all coppers are as spectacularly inept as the Portuguese specimens. It would only take one on-the-ball beat bobby to spot the unlikely pairing of an unhappy blonde English child and a surly North-African-looking woman. A few awkward questions, and the whole thing would fall apart right there.

It all seems very unlikely, but there can't be all that many possible explanations for the CCTV images so prominently displayed in the Sun.

1) It's an innocent mistake, like all the previous sighting, and the girl is not Madeleine McCann. Most likely explanation, I'd say.
2) The girl IS Madeleine McCann, and her kidnappers want to be caught or have very good reason for believing they won't be.
3) It's Maddie, and the kidnappers are stupid / arrogant / careless / all of the above.
4) The woman with the child is, for some reason, completely unaware that the girl is Madeleine McCann, the most famous kidnap victim in the world. Highly unlikely, but I suppose it's just about possible.
5) It isn't Madeleine McCann, but it IS a child deliberately made to look like her, and paraded around places where she will be seen until someone notices. That seems pretty unlikely too, but the fact that the kid couldn't easily look more like Maddie if she tried might be suggestive. Who would do that, and why? The same kind of person who tried to get the McCanns to pay a "ransom" for their missing daughter, for one - the world is full of weirdos. But there could also be more nefarious explanations, ranging from publicity stunts (by or on behalf of several possible people or groups) to alibis and all points between.

I very much hope that it is Madeleine McCann, alive and well, and that she will soon be found and returned to her parents. But I also very much doubt it. IF she's alive at all, and I'm not optimistic about that, either, she won't look anything like she did when she was taken unless the kidnappers / keepers are inconceivably stupid.

In the meantime, this constant stream of media images that probably aren't anything to do with their daughter must be hell for the McCanns. Still, I suppose it sells newspapers, eh?

Billy Seggars.

Saturday, 9 August 2008

One Oddball Without The Gravy

Do you have a secret (or not so secret) fear of gravy? Does the very sight of this deep brown, viscous fluid leave you quaking with fear? Does one look at a gravy boat have you leaping for the life belts?

If so, WHY?? I know, it's unreasonable to assume that irrational fears are capable of a rational explanation, but the whole concept of gravy phobia is just... odd. I mean, what is there to be afraid of? Even the most assiduous gravy fan isn't likely to drown in it, are they? I suppose there's the remote chance of burning your tongue on the stuff, but it's not very likely, and it's even less likely to pose any other significant risk to life and limb.

And yet, contrary to everything common sense has to say, there are people out there who allow an irrational fear of gravy to rule their lives and influence their decisions. This I know for certain, because I was chatting with a live, gravy fearing specimen only this afternoon.

Of course, he didn't just announce it to the world, like some neophyte member of the Gravy Is Terrible (G.I.T) support group, or it's sister branch, Sprouts Are Dreadful (S.A.D.), together referred to as the Christmas dinner fearing S.A.D.G.I.T. No, not for him the gut wrenching announcement, "My name is Neville, and I'm afraid of gravy."

Instead, it just slipped out, as these things do. Conversation turned to local eateries, and I mentioned one relatively famous establishment that Mrs S and I are planning to visit when we have a little spare time (i.e. some time in the next 40 years). "Never been," said Neville, looking a little shifty. I should have known better, but something about his expression prompted me to ask why.

"Well," he said, by now looking downright wretched, "the tables are very close together. I'm always afraid that a passing waiter might pour gravy down my neck." Well, what could I say? Silence just wasn't an option, and besides, I was intrigued. "You mean, actually down your neck? In your shirt collar, style of thing?"

He nodded miserably, wringing his hands, and I knew these were waters deeper than any I could reasonably be expected to navigate. My poker face was perfect as I nodded, making vague, "Ah, yes, I see that. Not good. Always best to avoid..." type noises, before changing the subject.

Well, how was I to know? He didn't LOOK like he was going to say something weird about gravy, and it's not exactly a famously contentious subject, is it? But, now that I do know, I'm wondering what might have happened to the poor bugger to make him fear surreptitious gravy deployment in an entirely reputable restaurant.

The place is very well known in this neck of the woods, and I haven't heard ANYTHING bad about it, much less a tendency for waiters to sneak up on unsuspecting diners, claw at their collar and deposit a fresh blob of gravy therein. In fact, I've never heard of any waiter doing that, accidentally or deliberately, in any eatery, anywhere, no matter how close together the tables may be.

And yet his fear exists. I suppose it might be something related to his childhood, some appalling gravy-based incident during his formative years - maybe the school bully coated him in gravy at dinner time. Or maybe his first date ended in gravy humiliation...

The possibilities are endless, and I'm damn sure he's never going to tell me, so I might as well stop speculating. But I can't. Curiosity is a terrible thing, and I keep concocting different scenarios in my mind. Mrs S has long since become bored with them, and I suspect she's scheming to deploy some gravy in my direction pretty soon if I don't pipe down.

Hmm, actually, that might be fun... :-)

Billy Seggars.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Beans Gone

I dislike cordless telephones. In fact, I dislike most cordless contraptions, including doorbells, TV remotes and wireless networks. But it's cordless telephones that really get on my wick.

Sure, they're small, lightweight and easy to carry around with you. But very, very few cordless handsets are designed to fit easily between shoulder and ear, thereby virtually forcing you to hold them in your hand or put them down and use the "loudspeaker" function. Not so much of a problem when lounging on the sofa, but bloody inconvenient whilst sitting at a keyboard.

And, as an inevitable result of their portability, you can never, ever find one when you need it most - i.e. when it's ringing. I've lost count of how often I've sprinted around the house, following the siren call of an absent handset. Newspapers, cushions, elderly relatives - all are swept aside in my frantic quest to answer that long-awaited, very important phone call.

But, even when the trilling trophy is, quite literally, in my hand, the battle is not over. Gasping, wheezing and weak at knees, I stab at the "answer" button, only to find that the phone's battery is equally exhausted - tired and shagged out after a long squawk, as a certain parrot purchaser might have put it. And so, in a novel twist on the nuisance call concept, many people have been unfortunate enough to call me, only to hear a few seconds of heavy breathing followed by the click of a disconnected call.

For these and many other reasons, I insist on an ample supply of conventional, wired telephone sockets, all fully equipped with an adjacent telephone. Being tied to the wall, we can always find the buggers, they don't run out of charge at a critical moment, and they keep working during power cuts, too. Who could ask for more?

But, this being real life, there has to be a downside, and there is. Wired telephone sockets require - you guessed it - wires, and these physical linkages in the communications circuit are susceptible to damage. Now, Mrs S is a patient sole, but she doesn't take too kindly to a home festooned with telephone wires (though I note she doesn't object to the actual telephones, and use thereof!). Consequently, the many, many yards of telephone cable running around the property are, where at all possible, concealed under floors and in other invisible but infuriatingly difficult to reach places.

With an eye to self-preservation, I will not, on this occasion, go into the gory details of how Mrs S managed (by dint of much effort and an impressive display of hitherto unsuspected gymnastic ability) to rip the wires out of an under-floor junction box, thereby rendering the wired landline in her study as dead as a dodo. I will skip lightly over the flurry of expletives I may, or may not, have uttered upon realising that I was going to have to empty and move several filing cabinets, pull back the carpet and underlay and raise some floorboards in order to reunite four annoyingly small wires with the correspondingly small holes into which they are usually fixed.

The equally small and fiddly screws with which they are fixed, the awkwardness of their position and the absence of light therein were merely additional courtesy irritations, and need not be dwelt upon. And so, having put this odious task off for as long as possible, last weekend saw me bent double over a hole in the floor, a torch between my teeth, a length of cable in one hand and screwdriver in the other as I attempted to fix the bloody thing.

Having thoughtfully brought me a cup of tea to knock over, Mrs S put her feet up on her desk and turned her attention to the online newspapers, keeping me entertained with choice headlines in between offering sage advice - presumably inspired by women's intuition, because it certainly didn't have much to do with reconnecting four wires in a tight, dark, dusty space. As the wires slipped out of the connectors yet again, she announced, in hushed tones, that, according to the Telegraph, the UK is facing a national shortage of broad beans.

It may be that my screwdriver-muffled answer - "'ugger th' 'uckin 'woard 'eans" was not entirely the answer she had anticipated in response to this terrible news, and she went on to explain in more detail. Broadly, things are looking grim in bean-land due to a combination of last summer's floods and a pesky African beetle invasion that's decimating surviving crops.

Supermarkets have run out of frozen broad beans, leaving fans to await the ripening of this year's crop. A comment was sought from the Processed Vegetable Growers Association (never heard of them, but then I don't associate, or grow vegetables for processing come to that) and, having hyped up the broad-bean crisis as far as possible, the article concluded that new supplies would be available very soon. So that's ok then.

Perhaps because I can't recall the last time I ate a broad bean, much less set out specifically to buy some, and being rather preoccupied with my telephonic difficulties, this story did not immediately strike me as something of vital importance. But later, having repaired the phone, re-laid the carpet, returned the cabinets to their home and restored their content, the story came to mind as I relaxed with a beer and a smoke.

For the no doubt very hard working broad bean producing elements of society, it might well be a fairly large disaster, especially in these hard financial circumstances. The success, or failure, of those broad bean crops might well represent the solvency, or otherwise, of families just like Mrs S and me, who are just trying to make a living and get on with our lives.

And, speaking of life, the more I thought about those pesky beans, the more I became aware that life is full of problems, and many of them as hidden from the folks who aren't directly involved with them as that phone cable is hidden under the floor. Clearly, there is more truth in the expression "the grass is always greener on the other side" than one might imagine, although, if one could - and did - imagine such a thing, the expression would be redundant.

Does this mean I've learned some kind of lesson? Not to be so easily compared to Victor Meldrew, perhaps? (Mrs S makes that comparison all the time, but I don't believe it!) Hell, no! It just means that my suspicions are confirmed - life really IS a bitch, no matter who you are or what you do, and there's nothing you can do but enjoy your life as best you can. Which probably isn't very much.

Billy Seggars.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Men In Tights

What is so fascinating about the idea of men in tights? I don't know, but the concept of tights for men seems to have just the right combination of grotesque humour, glamour, general weirdness and a Batman news hook, to get coverage in many, if not all, of the daily papers.

Cinematic superhero inspired man tights have made it into the Independent, the Sun, the Scottish Sun, the Telegraph, the Daily Mail and many other over the past week or so. Even the international media has picked up on the story, and now the whole world - well, Germany and Australia, anyway - thinks English men wear tights.

The gist of the story, for those who can't be bothered reading the articles themselves, is that after 500 years in the fashion doldrums, tights for men are making a major comeback. This resurgence of interest in male tights is being attributed to superhero movies featuring blokes in tight fitting legware, and retailers are suddenly finding themselves out of stock in the man tights department.

They are, apparently, hurtling off the shelves at an almost indecent rate, with tights stockists like Precious Collections and Mytights reporting massive demand. It seems that men are putting on tights - from ultra sheer to heavyweight 8 denier - for many reasons, including warmth, comfort and a sense of metrosexual style. In response to demand, manufacturers have started producing tights aimed specially at male customers - i.e. bigger, stronger, with reinforced feet and convenient openings.

But, being the cynical, suspicious-minded guy that I am, I have my doubts. Oh yes, I'm quite sure there is demand for men's tights. But I don't believe it's just been turned on like a tap. Men do not watch a movie and stop off to buy a pair of tights on the way home from the cinema. Well, not many men, anyway. And even if they did, it takes more than a few weeks for manufacturers to notice demand, ramp up production and get their goods into the shops.

No, I suspect the superhero movie thing is just a blind, a trendy-sounding excuse designed to make the inherently bizarre concept of men in tights more acceptable to the general public.
And, if the Scottish Sun article and the Daily Mail's (female) fashion editor are to be believed, tights on male legs need all the positive publicity they can get!

Women don't seem to like the idea, though it's unclear whether they think it's unattractively sissy or they just don't like the competition. Unenlightened guys don't seem to like it too much either, but that's probably because they think everyone else - especially babes - will think it's sissy, and that would never do!

But the hidden truth is that many, many guys have been wearing tights for years, and I fail to see why this should suddenly become newsworthy. Take builders, for example, along with any number of other professions that require hulking great, testosterone-packed, muscle-bound macho men to freeze their ass off while they work outside in the British winter.

If, during the winter months, you could divest them of their trousers in such a way as to avoid a pickaxe in the ear, you would find all but the most inexperienced of tree-trunk legs clad in Pretty Polly's finest. Why? Because tights work for them. They keep these guys warm in the bad weather, and the men are so abundantly, self-evidently NOT sissies that the question just doesn't arise. And if it did, it would be answered in an unashamedly male way, by a fist the size of a bunch of bananas making contact with the questioner's nose.

The attitude reflected in the media reports seems to be largely confined to younger readers and writers of a less open-aired background, probably because older folks have the experience to let common sense triumph over prejudice. They know, in a way that recent victims of the British education system could not hope to match, that the ancient equivalent of tights were once indisputably male attire. To them, the sudden popularity of men in tights probably seems more like guys retaking what was once theirs than a Crossdressers' Invasion.

So, once again, the latest fashion is, in fact, old fashioned if you go back far enough. For the moment, however, I don't think I'll be leaping on the bandwagon - trendy it may be, but I can't see Mrs S taking kindly to me raiding her tights draw in the name of metrosexuality.

Billy Seggars.