Wednesday 8 March 2006

Madhatters cap on civil liberties

Humphrey, not Bogart
One would not look out of place in the 1950s being not what you might call trendy. Well, once I found myself seeking a Nigerian “restaurant” in Amsterdam South-East which has a train-station facing fa├žade of modernity and newness which concealed an interior which might have been a 1982 throw-back with a sign “Welcome to Beirut”. Out of place, out of heart, out of my comfort zone.
The point, I wear hats, a boater in the height of summer, a bowler in deepest cold winter – these represent extremes that include a trilby, a fedora, and a bushman’s hat made of kangaroo leather – so soft and tender – yea, a panama but never a top hat – just one under ten for all occasions and weather.
The solemnity of retail therapy in a milliners or hat shop is refreshingly enlivening, a time to be enjoyed as you test the patience of the shop-keeper – but I like the idea of them making it if I cannot find what I want – delivered 2 weeks hence.
Not an obsession, but half of them are bespoke from a milliners in Cologne; a dear couple who have been master milliners since before 1969.
Hats for pats
Very occasionally, one sees a bowler on display, however, when last I was in England, the other three people I met wearing bowler hats were landed gentry who had come up from the country to see their attorneys or accountants. Three times my age and three hundred times as wealthy.
In Amsterdam, it is probable that after asking 10 people you could almost narrow down whom I am. Man, suit, cravat, pouchet, hat and cane (mostly for my back after long walks) or sturdy full length umbrella.
The distinguishing part being the hat – in some quarters, I might be dandy – I think I am just well turned out.
When indoors, obviously, the hat comes off; however, taking the hat off is not required of ladies and caps are just not so.
M’ lady, the hat comes off
So, this lady visits a pub in England and she is advised to take her hat off, not so much as a matter of courtesy but because her hat obstructs views of the Closed Circuit TV system in the pub. Utterly, utterly uncouth – I cough.
Maybe, that is understandable for both crime prevention and the recording of events if an altercation breaks out.
They have 13 cameras inside the pub – blimey! The sanctum of English conviviality; the English pub - has been invaded by modern technology.
Nothing wrong with trying to maintain a sense of security for person and property, but it is also now a dangerous place for a fling.
Surveillance, definitely not security
Imagine a partner filled with scorn being able to subpoena the tapes in some legal battle, and before long VHS or Betamax would have a revival as a legal pub license would require retaining recordings ad infinitum.
That is just one social angle, I have not returned to the UK since February 2001, I hear they have one camera per 14 people making it the Big Brother country in the world. [1] [2]
Even so, it is quoted that you might appear 300 times on camera in any one day in London. It is surveillance for the sake of more tape leading to the rape of civility.
A fine day for a fine
There is a thin line between the need for security along with crime prevention and the unwarranted invasion of privacy as one caught a caught a man “jerking the gherkin” in a secluded station car park – Episode 4.
We all are used to those cameras that flash your crime as you go a smidgen above the speed limit; however, there was the case a lady who was under the speed limit but was nabbed for having her hands off the steering trying to look beautiful.
How have our liberties departed
One fears for what it all means, but I dread the day when someone walks up to me with a compliment, “Suits you, sir” and then asks me to take my hat off, on a London street – I lament – Oh! How have our liberties departed.

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