Off with his head, and other sweet revenges

The BBC really ought to show more consideration. Of course, I can understand the attraction to the editors of morning radio shows of running news items with similar themes next to each other. It means that the bulletins flow a little better, and that the presenters' links are easier to write. But these smart folk should remember that some listeners - those who use the radio to wake themselves up - are still barely conscious, drifting in and out of sleep. At such times the different stories leech into each other, the characters of one becoming weirdly entangled in the plot of the other. When this happens, otherwise respected, intelligent men and women can go through the whole of the waking day insisting that the Taliban have just torn through east Texas, killing 13 in a trailer park.

So yesterday, before I had properly awoken, I was convinced that something very odd was happening both in Washington DC and Jeddah.

The first of the two stories concerned Paula Jones, the young lady who claims that - in 1991 - Governor Clinton, unasked, showed her his distinctive manhood. Ms Jones had just won the right to take the President to court for sexual harassment. Meanwhile there was an interview with the lawyer for Frank Gilford, the bereaved brother of the Australian nurse allegedly murdered by two British nurses in Saudi Arabia.

The lawyer revealed that Gilford, as the closest relative, was quite keen on the death penalty, should the nurses be found guilty. Since Islamic law (as practised by the Saudis) allowed him to choose the punishment, he was quite happy to go with the flow. Nice guy. Actually, I'm convinced that he will wait until after the verdict, and if the nurses are found guilty, he will then take the blood money instead. But I'm an optimist.

Anyway, somehow Paula Jones and Frank Gilford got mixed up in my semi- somnolent synapses. The smart lawyer was now speaking on behalf of the unwilling willy-watcher. Should Clinton be found guilty of whipping down his boxers uninvited, and suggesting the kind of treatment that decent people reserve for their lunches, then Ms Jones would have the right - as the aggrieved party - either to accept blood money, or to insist on the relevant amputation in front of the Capitol building. I then awoke, absolutely convinced that Paula Jones (or maybe Frank Gilford) held the future of Bill Clinton's cod firmly in her hands. One word from her, and a bloke with a floppy head-dress and nasty grin would spend next weekend sharpening his scimitar.

I must admit that I thought this over-harsh. Most women over 20 can, I suspect, recount an occasion when a todger has been revealed to them inappropriately, though not with evil intent. As long as it is put away again as soon as the mistake is discovered, many will be inclined to forget about it.

What stuck in my mind was the principle of the thing; the innate superiority of the Saudi system. Imagine a situation where - instead of there being the present cumbersome system of fines, community service, cautions and probation for offenders - all crimes were punishable either by blood money, or by retaliation in kind, to be exacted by the victims themselves.

Those unfortunate readers who are already familiar with my own domestic obsessions will realise what is coming.

My current hate list is made up of three types of people: dog-owners who permit their animals to "foul the public footpath" (actually, "permit" is a very poor word for those crepuscular pooch-lovers who take their animals out at twilight or dawn with the express purpose of fouling the footpath); litterbugs who dump their badly sealed rubbish bags just where the foxes and cats can get at them, or who think that the mere existence of a bin in someone else's front garden is an invitation to stuff their unfinished McDonald's inside; and - finally - cyclists who ride on the pavement, or on paths in parks that expressly bear the legend "no cycling".

In the case of the dog-owners, I would demand the right to dip the shoes of the miscreants in faecal matter of my own choosing. Either that or their dogs would be beheaded in a televised ceremony live from Battersea.

With litterbugs, their victims (which might consist of entire neighbourhoods) would be given carte blanche to place whatever malodorous rubbish they could find, anywhere in the premises or on the person of the offender. Pavement cyclists would be made to stand in the middle of a fairground dodgems rink on Bank Holiday Monday, while old-age pensioners collide around them at speed.

This inspiration may have occurred to me in a peculiar way, but I sense that the present Home Secretary may not be entirely unsympathetic to it. Actually I heard him on the radio the other morning, talking about his starring role in the new Spielberg movie.

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