It’s 24th November 1952 and you have just finished work. On the way home you decide to divert for a swift half and so you make your way to the Saracen’s Head, a mock Tudor Tavern that is only 500 yards off your track. You order a Double Diamond and as little wifey won’t have your meal on the table for a good hour and a half you buy a packet of Smith’s Crisps, the one with the little bluey of salt. Settling into a corner niche in the Lounge beside the fireplace you glance through the hatch into the Public Bar. Is that Arthur and Ted? They see you and raising a glass they disappear momentarily, only to reappear and head towards you. There is a shaking of hands and a checking that all glasses are adequately charged before they sit down and light up, Arthur a pipe, Ted his usual Park Drive. This may prove difficult to keep to forty minutes, you think to yourself.
About twenty minutes in, you notice out the corner of your eye that across the room, half merging with the gaudy mustard of the velvet curtain there is a chap in a trilby. Strange, you think, that a man should wear a trilby indoors. He takes on the yellow tinge of the streetlamp outside and through the swirl of spent smoke hanging in the atmosphere you see that he has a small pad in his hand. He scribbles, the sort of scribble that is more a prompt than a record; he is noting down what is being said. Perhaps he is a writer, using pub chat for inspiration. Perhaps a poet. Whatever, he doesn’t look at you but there is no mistaking the fact that he is listening, and he is interested.
It’s time to head home, says Arthur. You take it as a cue to do the same. Hands are shaken and best wishes given to carry home for wives and children, and out you step into the drizzle. You get three steps through the porch when you feel a hand on your shoulder, and startled you turn to see the trilby guy. This time he looks you full in the face, a little too close for friendly. A faint smell of halitosis prompts you to jerk slightly, eliciting a firming of his grip on your arm. “Arse,” he bellows. “I’m ARSE.” “Fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck, fuck!” you mumble, in a mixture of both panic and defiance. You’ve heard about ARSE, you’ve read about ARSE, but you never thought you would be nabbed by the ARSE.
ARSE: Anti-Racialist-Surveillance Executive.
“I’ve listened in on your conversation this evening, and there were several things said that break the Code. Ignorance of the Code is no excuse; you know that don’t you? I counted ten infringements of the Code; there were three Gippo’s, two Ragheads, and four Muzzers, oh and a Four by Two. Every one of these words infringes the Code. What’s more several of them were said in such a way that they contravene subsection twelve, namely: ‘Any word uttered in such a way as to be heard as invective will be treated as an assault against the dignity of the person mentioned therein, whether present or not.’ I have to arrest you and take you up the ARSE Headquarters. You are not obliged to say anything, etc, etc.”
You may think the above tale a little bizarre. It couldn’t happen, you say. You are probably right, it couldn’t have happened then, in 1952. Those days were the days of freedom, when, for good or for ill men still had a vestige of liberty and were able to be as arsey as they liked. Today, things are very different. A text, a tweet, an unguarded comment on a blog; any of these can result in you being taken up the ARSE and probed. It could result in your being investigated, fingered or charged, for something you feel you have a right to feel, but are prevented from feeling, by unfeeling people, who do not feel the same way that you feel. And it’s their feelings that matter more than yours.
So beware. ARSE is coming. ARSE is all around us. We are all vulnerable to the all-seeing one eyed monster that is ARSE.