When the police declare an amnesty on people carrying knives, it is not just the schoolchildren of the nation they are appealing to, our dear little schoolchildren armed to the teeth with guns, knives, cutlasses and machetes. Nor is it merely to the criminal classes who sally forth festooned with daggers, confident in the knowledge that they will not meet a policeman carrying so much as a penknife. No, it is also the dear old middle classes the police are trying to reach, middle-class households such as those run by Edward and Ursula...
"Knife-sharpening baffles me," said Edward, waving a kitchen knife and a steel at his wife, Ursula. "On Christmas Day my father used to get out a steel like this and a carving knife like this and he used to stroke one gently against the other in a manner reminiscent of Yehudi Menuhin playing the violin until magically the knife was so sharp that you could shave with it."
"How do you know ?" said Ursula. "Did he ever shave with it ?"
"He used to shave the turkey with it," said Edward, nostalgically. "Any excrescent lumps or remains of feathers he would remove with a gentle sweep of the knife. He once demonstrated that he could cut a piece of paper in half in mid-air, as it fell, just by slashing it with his freshly sharpened knife. Shall I show you ?"
"No, never mind," said Ursula. "Just sharpen that kitchen knife. That's all I need."
"I don't think I'll ever get it sharp," said Edward. "It's just going to join that ever-growing pile of blunt knives we never use."
It was true. At the back of the kitchen drawer there had accumulated a stack of knives which had started out as gleaming little French knives or good old English knives or nice serrated bread knives, all of which had got blunter and blunter, especially when Edward tried to sharpen them. They were left undisturbed there, not because anyone thought they would come in useful again, but because nobody dared put their hand down the back of the drawer in case they got cut, though the danger was minimal.
"I thought you were going to throw those away?" said Ursula.
"It's not that easy to throw away knives," said Edward. "It's like throwing away glass. It becomes a hazard for someone else."
"Oh, for heaven's sake, just wrap them all up and throw them away ! Or ... or ... join the amnesty!"
"They said on the news this morning that there's an amnesty for knives. You just go to the nearest police station and hand your knives in. No questions asked. You just pop them in a box."
"Yes, but that's for fighting knives. That's for people who carry knives and go around hoping to stitch up other people, or rather, to unstitch them. It's not for people who go round carrying knives hoping to get a chance to slice some bread!"
"Look, they will accept any kind of knife! They'll take our lot! You yourself said it was getting dangerous, last time you cut your finger...."
"Yes, but.... "
Half an hour later Edward had lost the argument, had cleared out all their unwanted knives (more than 16 of them, not counting two bent skewers and a lethal looking Chinese chopper picked up cheap in Gerrard Street) and was driving down to the local police station with them. Mentally, he was already planning what to do next after the police station (fill up with petrol, go to the garden centre, etc) when he failed to notice the lights turning red and bumped the car ahead lightly. The driver jumped out furiously, a passing policeman came to intervene, and during the taking of notes he asked what was in the suspicious looking package on the back seat. He was amazed to find a fearsome assortment of fighting weapons, enough to arm a gang....
"I said, I'm under arrest!" fumed Edward down the line to his wife. "I've been arrested on a charge of carrying offensive weapons!"
The Home Office writes: Don't be a silly boy like Edward. It's not bread knives we're after. It's lethal knives, good blades, genuine weapons. Stuff we can make a profit on. Sell on to Iraq or somewhere. Iraq won't take old bread knives. So take them to your local dump, there's a good citizen. Thank you.