The police have postponed Everton's home fixture with Stoke so the BNP can have a get-together in Liverpool. With any luck, this means that Nick Griffin has got on the wrong side of the Blues' vaguely Christopher Walken-esque manager David Moyes.
I've met the Hungarian police a few times this week. On Tuesday, a couple of pensioners burgled a flat in our block (you've read that right - Jenny's description makes it seem like a particularly vigorous outing for Compo and co). The Rendőrség pulled up in their car about two hours later, just as I was attempting to get into the block without my outer-door key. The leader walked over to me and tried gamely to speak English while I tried gamely to speak Hungarian, a conversation which eventually elicited the information that I 'should' drink the bottle of wine I was holding in my hand. Still, at least he didn't confuse me with the superannuated robbers.
Then, on Wednesday, I made my usual short-cut to WestEnd mall, an implausibly large shopping outlet containing about three million shoe shops, through Nyugati Station. The station had been evacuated the day before because workers had found some unexploded WWII grenades on a construction site next door, so the Rendőrség had decided to go and do some tokenistic 'anti-terrorist' quota-filling in the station. As in Britain, this generally involves stopping all men between 14 and 40 and making them feel guilty for a couple of minutes. In this case, they checked my passport briefly and returned it politely, without the supercilious attitude that I've seen so often from British police (particularly at football matches, where I've witnessed some absolutely ludicrous timesheet-completing activities.)
Don't get me wrong, I'm very far from being one of those 'maaaan, the police are, like, always bad and that' type people,* and I've met some very polite and helpful PCs in Britain, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, and Spain (where an officer just chuckled and gave me the right answer when, rather tipsy, I asked him for directions to the train station I was standing right outside at five in the morning. In Italian.) But I'm convinced that I have one of those faces. My criminal record is pristine, but I have:
- been asked for my name and address whilst mucking about innocently in a park, aged 14.
- been thrown out of a W.H. Smith store by a security guard, aged 13, because I'd been in there 'too long'. (I was looking for Christmas presents, you wanker.)
- had my luggage and all my possessions heavily scrutinised by the French douanes at Calais on two separate occasions. I admit that the second time this might have been provoked by my making a sarcastic remark, but I only did that because the police were treating everyone like idiots, as they generally do in France.
- been put into an 'escort' on my way to a match at Lincoln, only to realise that it was full of the full complement of Hogan's finest, who'd travelled en masse to the end-of-season fixture in the hope of a 80s-revivalist pagger.
- Been accused at Carrow Road of beating up a Dagenham & Redbridge supporter outside the ground and stealing his ticket. In all fairness, this was due more to some lacksadaisical organisation (it's a long and boring story) on an ex-girlfriend's part than to over-zealous policing
, but still...
I used to sit opposite a hopeful for the police when I had a rubbish job at a stationery wholesalers. He was a nice guy, and intelligent, but he had this spooky regard for 'the law' as this immutable, inherently correct thing which made me wonder about what his attitude would be if he lived in a country which places less emphasis on personal freedoms than the UK - Berlusconi's Italy, for example. One of the many ways in which I used to kill time in that job was by constructing ethical dilemmas of ever-increasing baroqueness for him to solve, but his answer was always 'if it's against the law, it's against the law, and I'd arrest them.' I hope that not all potential PCs are so dogmatic. I should add, in mitigation, that he had an uncanny attractiveness to muggers and random assailants, and that he was from Grimsby, a town which could make anyone yearn for some Dixon of Dock Green-style idyll.
Anyway, I'm thinking of going to the football this afternoon, so we'll see how they do 'crowd'** control in Budapest.
* My uncle is a raconteur ex-policeman with a caché of good stories. He arrested Keith Moon at Prestwick Airport once. Moon pulled a 'gun' on him, and pulled the trigger, only for a flag with 'bang' written on it to protrude from the muzzle...
** Average attendances at Soproni Liga 1 games have dropped below 2,000 this season, largely due to the fact that Hungarian football has been ruined by corruption since 1989, and everyone in BP supports Italian, German, and English teams. 2,000 would be understandable in a country the size of, say, Slovenia, but Hungary's population is twice Scotland's. I'm thinking of going to see my local team, current champions MTK, play Kaposvar at 5.00pm, but I'm slightly depressed by the thought that they've had <1,000 gates this season.