Hardly a day goes by that I don’t recall Mr Bumble and his immortal ‘the law is a ass.’ Dickens probably didn’t think he was uttering a prophecy, but that’s exactly what it has proved to be.
I had the chance to mutter the Bumblian phrase yesterday, when taking my car in for a routine check. Now most people can talk your ear off with horror stories inspired by garages and mechanics. I can chip in with a few of my own, but they all go back at least 20 years.
Since then, ever since we moved to Fulham, I’ve been going to a local garage just down the street, and the experience has always been pleasant.
The business was started some 40 years ago, and the founder has never missed a full workday on Saturday, never mind the rest of the week. His son is also always there, and he’s as hard-working, knowledgeable and obliging as his father, though without the old man’s hard edge normally associated with self-made businessmen.
I doubt the two of them have ever taken a course in customer relations, but I’m certain they’d be qualified to teach one. They make the customer feel comfortable in the knowledge that the job will be done well and quickly. If a repair is unnecessary, they’ll say so. And the price they charge will always be fair.
Moreover, they routinely provide free services. Not just checking one’s levels and tyre pressure – most garages will do that. But once the old man spent an hour applying some mystery compound to a few scratches on my paintwork and then refused to accept any payment. His son, as outgoing as the old man is grumpy, gives me invariably useful automotive advice and once, when I was looking for a new car, gave me several issues of What Car? for free, to save me a walk to a newsagent’s.
Yesterday I met an 18-year-old youngster, the third generation of the same family, who has just started working in the garage. But his grandfather isn’t there to witness this generation shift. A month ago he was murdered by a burglar, in the house where his son and grandson grew up.
I had read about the murder in the papers, but without realising I knew the victim. When Mark, his son, told me about it I was shaken, while he bore his grief with traditional English stoicism, something rapidly falling out of fashion. ‘A burglary gone wrong,’ he quoted the police.
That statement presupposes that some burglaries go right, according to form, all perfectly civilised. A vicious criminal breaks into a house, helps himself to whatever he fancies and walks out whistling a merry tune. The owner offers no resistance, smiles benignly, thanks the burglar for his custom, then calls his insurance company first and, if he has nothing better to do, the police second.
Of course things don’t always go according to plan, and some burglars may fancy not just a few electronic gadgets but, say, the woman of the house, or perhaps the man if they practise an alternative and equally valid lifestyle. Occasionally, they may fancy a bit of nonsexual violence. Some of them may be homicidal maniacs. Others may be so drugged up that they can kill just for the fun of it.
So the occasion is replete with possibilities one doesn’t normally expect from other social encounters, such as having tea with the vicar. That’s why some people resist burglars – this without realising that they’re in fact resisting the modern ethos.
This was inadvertently made clear to me by an erstwhile colleague who reacted indignantly to my offhand remark that, if I found a burglar in my house, I’d do all I could to kill him. ‘How can you say that? The man is just doing his job!’ was my colleague’s reaction. Right. Just doing his job. Like a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker. No moral difference – and increasingly no legal one.
The ratio of burglaries to arrests is about fifty to one, and burglaries to convictions hundreds to one. That means that the police make only nominal attempts to solve such crimes, and the judges only token efforts to punish them.
Clearly they act under instructions from government officials, who also regard burglary as just another job. Their motives are clear enough.
Though I know one aristocrat who once did time for knocking off a corner shop, it’s a safe, if non-PC, assumption that most burglars come from the underclass created and cultivated by our spivocracy to ensure its own self-perpetuation. All that good work would go to waste if the government went all out to punish burglars. Let’s put it this way: welfare recipients deliver more votes than Fulham house owners.
God forbid someone would resist a burglar, perhaps even injure him. It’s the house owner who’ll go to prison, not the brutal criminal. The spivocrats know which side their bread is buttered.
The old man must have resisted. I’m sure it wasn’t the thought of losing his TV that made him so obstreperous. It was probably a sense of injustice: he started from very humble beginnings, worked hard every day of his life to make a good life for his family and to be able to afford a few expensive trinkets.
And now he was supposed to hand them over meekly to some worthless scum who has never worked a day in his life. The law offered him little protection, so he had to protect himself. And he died for it.
Since the burglary had ‘gone wrong’, as opposed to just right, the police actually caught the murderer. ‘He’s a 19-year-old south European,’ was how Mark described him. He didn’t specify the exact origin, but – call me a bigot and report me to our thought police – I’d bet a small sum the murderer is more likely to be Rumanian or Bulgarian than French or Italian. Nothing wrong about those people of course – the law, which is to say the EU law, says all are equally welcome.
You know what Mr Bumble would say about our laws, domestic or foreign-imposed, so I shan’t repeat it. Mr Griffiths at Shelby Motors, RIP.