Monday, July 25, 2005


Looking back at a phrase I used in the piece on Nigella, has anyone ever actually shot fish in a barrel?

Surely it's as unlikely as British police pumping seven bullets into the head of an innocent man on a crowded tube train?

Right, I'll shut up now.
Double Coronation Street tonight and what used to be called a 'television dinner'.
What bliss!


At 3:27 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I’m guessing that you didn’t really want an answer – but here goes:

P = (1 - (1/ (T * F * B * G * N))

T = Time since the phrase “shooting fish in a barrel” was coined
F = Availability of fish
B = Availability of barrels
G = Availability of guns
N = Availability of fools to test the proposition that fish in a barrel are easy to shoot

Simply put, there are lots of guns, barrels, fish and fools, so it’s very likely that some have tried shooting fish in a barrel. However, they will have missed the point that the phrase “shooting fish in a barrel” conveys a sense of not merely being “easy” but also “unsporting.” (Apparently, for fishing to be “sporting,” you need to wear rubber boots that come up to your thighs and tie bits of feather to a hook and spend the entire day waving a rod over a remote stream. Why is that sporting? I don’t know. Please ask someone who chases wild animals in his spare time).

Your criticism of Nigela isn’t “fish in a barrel” unsporting. The comment section gives her an opportunity to respond. That's quite sporting. Of course, it's unlikely that she'll post something here...

As for the likeliness of police-brutality, I think that it’s more likely than ever before as an ineluctable consequence of having suicide-bombers at large in London today. The long-term strategy for getting us out of this mess obviously needs a rethink, but in the immediate future, the police are going to have to use extreme tactics to deal with an extreme threat. Under the new rules of conduct, a place with innocent bystanders is actually where a suspected suicide-bomber is most likely to be shot several times without any opportunity for discussion, because that’s where a suicide-bomber represents a threat. (By the way, was the train actually crowded? That would make things very difficult).

I like to think that the police might have given the innocent guy a chance to prove his innocence if he had run into an empty carriage (or some other open space). I also wonder if the confusion could have been avoided by having more uniformed police around. Were there uniformed police at the station?

I know that this “open space” scenario seems unlikely, but I have seen a video-clip of a terrified, young suicide bomber who was successfully disarmed near an Israeli security check-point. The soldiers trained their rifles on the boy from a safe distance. They ordered him to remove his clothing and then to remove the explosives from his body before approaching them to give himself up. I guess that this can only happen when the police can see a way to make an arrest without risking their own lives.

So, if you find yourself being chased by a group of armed men, you might consider running towards some open space while casting off your coat. If you’re lucky they’ll point a rifle at you and tell you to undress. If it’s the non-law-abiding community after your money, they might just take the wallet from your coat and leave you alone. If it’s a gang executing a vendetta on behalf of Nigela Lawson and John Major, then you’re “out of luck old chap and no mistake.”

At 8:31 AM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Thank you for that detailed answer, even if it did bring back unpleasant memories of algebra.

Nigella might respond here anonymously, like you, and then I'd be none the wiser.

Since it wasn't the rush hour, it's probably wrong to describe the train as 'crowded'. But from the accounts, it was still quite busy.
Most of the eye-witnesses said the man was Asian. Presumably the police thought so too. Maybe more training is needed in distinguishing between racial groups?
Also, having put seven bullets in his head, they called not just ambulances but the air ambulance. Was this because they realised their mistake immediately?
And why did they shoot him on the tube but not on the three mile bus journey that they took with him if they thought he was likely to detonate a bomb?
Let's hope the inquiry provides some answers.

At 2:14 PM, Blogger cello said...

You don't actually *need* to shoot fish in a barrel. If you just shoot the barrel the water will drain away and the fish will die anyway, all neatly captured and with unblemished flesh. It might be hard to avoid shooting the fish as well though...

At 3:33 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

Flawless logic, cello.
But how did the fish get in the barrel in the first place? If they were transferred there in a net, why not just leave them to expire in the net, thus obviating any need for the use of firearms?

At 4:32 PM, Blogger cello said...

It must have been a barrel from a shipwreck that was hauled out of the water by crane, with its fish population in situ. Otherwise, you're right Willie. What a waste of time. And a good barrel.

At 5:31 PM, Blogger Willie Lupin said...

You're now creating what I think is known as a 'back story' for this. Maybe James could turn it into a TV series, an 18th century seafaring yarn?
Or would that be scraping the bottom of the barrel?


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