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  • Blowing Up Robin Hood Airport September 26, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Actualite , trackback

    Regular readers of this blog will know that Beachcombing is a stickler for chronology. For example, the ‘contemporary’ tag he regularly uses refers strictly to events between Germany’s invasion of Belgium in the summer of 1914 and the birth of Little Miss B in the summer of 2008.

    But every so often an event comes along in the more immediate actualité that is so strange, so jaw-droppingly bizarre that Beachcombing feels it his duty to record it for future generations searching out the curiosities of twenty-first century life. And it is with a certain native pride that Beachcombing offers a story today from Great Britain.

    Beachcombing’s tale begins innocently enough. Early in 2010 a young Englishman Paul Chambers – not to be confused with the great jazz musician – heard that Doncaster’s Robin Hood Airport (UK) had been closed by a snow fall.

    Paul Chambers (henceforth PC) decided, January 6, to write a tweet, anxious that he would miss a flight at Robin Hood the following week. Now PC employed language that Beachcombing would not normally condone. But PC was a whippersnapper of 26 and he was doubtless trying to impress his six hundred odd twitter followers. Perhaps he’d also been watching a few too many episodes of The Wire – though this is pure speculation based on his unBritish-sounding words.

    ‘Crap! Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your shit together, otherwise I’m blowing the airport sky high!’ (There is some disagreement about whether there were one or two final exclamation marks. Beachcombing with his training in textual criticism notes this too for posterity.)

    A week later, January 13, the British police turned up at PC’s workplace and arrested him under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for bomb threats. He was questioned for seven hours and not the least interesting thing for future generations will be that the arresting officers had allegedly never heard of Twitter.

    PC was then suspended from work, had his lap top and home computer confiscated and was banned from Doncaster Airport for life: please believe Beachcombing when he says that the last was the lesser tragedy.

    The British prosecution service chose not to prosecute PC under the Prevention of Terrorism Act, but decided, instead, to go ahead with a prosecution under Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 concerning ‘menacing communications’. And PC was, on  Friday September 24 2010, found guilty by Doncaster Crown Court and ordered to pay a 385 fine pound, a 15 pound victim surcharge (to the airport?) and 600 pound costs.

    Beachcombing wants to put this in as vivid terms as possible for those who do not regularly use Her Majesty’s currency: PC will pay the equivalent of about 50 Loeb classic books or, if Latin and Greek facing translations are not your thing, 70 John Prine cds (prior to them reaching the bargain bins, of course).

    PC had also lost his job by this time.

    Beachcombing has never liked people who throw bombs. Indeed, a couple of days ago he referred to Felice Orsini (obit 1858), the world’s first terrorist bomb thrower, as ‘a nasty little Italian psychopath’. (Before any British race-relations body send in the troops, Mrs B., who is an Italian national, wants them to know that she does not consider this offensive.)

    However, if Doncaster’s branch of the Crown Prosecution Service had troubled to get in touch – they rarely do these days – Beachcombing would have written a memo to the effect that terrorists never use exclamation marks with the honourable exception of Maoists and Stalinists who would, in any case, never have used the word ‘crap’ or ‘shit’.

    Beachcombing hopes that PC will not be offended but he just does not have the ideological fibre to do silly things on behalf of other people’s belief systems.

    Beachcombing sends all his tax pounds and euros – VAT, income tax, sold books, speed fines… – to the British and Italian governments. In Italy he is resigned to the fact that his money will be used to give government jobs to the stupider nephews of important politicians and, of course, to build swimming pools at the villas of other servants of the state.

    In Britain, however, he likes to thinks his tax pounds are spent well. He would certainly prefer to imagine his money lavished on children with cancer or on better night vision goggles for British troops in Afghanistan rather than on the prosecution of PC.

    Beachcombing imagines that this will be still as bizarre in fifty years as it is now: if not Doncaster Crown Court and its minions will bear some of the responsibility.

    Should Paul or the long blueish arm of the law want to get in touch to enrich this account then Beachcombing would love to hear from them: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com


    Since writing this Beachcombing has noticed that the New Statesman has included a piece on PC before the results of the sentence were known. Loath as Beachcombing is to link to the NS – historically his father’s favourite read and thus an ideological enemy – the author, the likeable David Allen Green, does make some interesting points and quotes from Betjeman!