Saturday, 28 April 2012

Turning a crisis into a cash cow

Stripped of legalese, what it means is that the daughter of the only Manxman ever to win a Victoria Cross cannot prevent rubbernecking ‘nature lovers’ pressing their noses up against her windows under the pretext of observing local wildlife. This is really a bad joke, considering such peeping toms are more of a freak of nature than any known wildlife, and get way more public subsidy than the endangered species that dwell in Sites of Specific Scientific Interest around Langness. Bit of a mystery how these freaks breed in the first place really, given that most seem to be of indeterminable gender or age (though all are startlingly bearded and/or otherwise hirsute) and with drab plumage which biologists would agree should repel rather than attract a mate.
As I have mentioned before, I once worked down the road from the cottages, and two workmates were sons of the last lighthouse-keeper, so I know the inside of the cottages, the footpaths and the Bennies (as we nicknamed them) who troll there quite well. So, I have no doubt that (a) there is no need for walkers to go so close to the window (b) the action of the Bennies is deliberately intrusive (c) many are so trapped in a deluded little bubble that they are mentally incapable of understanding that they have duties or that others have rights (in fact there are valid arguments as to why they should not be allowed in a public place without competent adult supervision) but (d) that any court or legal proceeding staffed by objective, capable professionals would be able to find a way through this which allowed decently minded nature lovers to wander around enjoying themselves without the Clarksons having to sit at home with drawn curtains all day. Sadly, the Manx legal system is the last refuge (outside politics and the civil service) of rich, self-serving thickos who would otherwise be begging in the streets, so common sense or justice were never options open to the Clarksons.
Which leaves them with a dilemma – what to do next?
If I was them I would consider turning the tables on the Bennies.
The thing is, when I first encountered examples of this species in the early 1980’s, it struck me I had not seen any offshoot of Homo Sapiens so odd since nursing patients stricken with GPI (General Paralysis of the Insane) in Devon back in the last decade of the Victorian asylums.
GPI was not, strictly speaking, a medical analysis. It was a polite term for the feeble-minded offspring of Plymouth prostitutes born in the days when that city was still a major military port, syphilis was rife and penicillin not widely available. As the poor creatures were inevitably institutionalized once diagnosed the last of them were dying out even as I worked there. Granted, rumour had it that 10p and a Mars bar still bought patients the favours their mothers once sold for slightly more, but in reality once confined to asylums for life they could not have children, and as anti-biotics and the downfall of Empire ended both the oldest profession and its side-effects outside asylum walls GPI ended too.
When you see horror films featuring old school mental hospitals, the wild-eyed stereotype of the patient in the straitjacket is the nearest you will see to the GPI sufferer. Needless to say, it has not been seen in a real mental hospital in decades. In the early 1990’s, while at college, I did a few night shifts at the last ‘old style’ Yorkshire asylum. Staff close to retirement vaguely recalled the name GPI, but no-one younger had seen a living example, which makes the Benny even more of an Object of Interest.
Who can account for it? More importantly, how much cash would you part with to see one?
So, instead of being trapped at home by slack-jawed yokels, why not turn Benny-watching into a business opportunity? If wealthy Brit tourists will pay a fortune to look at lions and tigers in Africa, they would surely shell out for a weekend break watching equally exotic wildlife closer to home? It would be far cheaper, far funnier and less dangerous. While getting the wrong side of a lion gets you half-eaten, the worst a Benny can do is drool on your sleeve – and if the glass between the two parties is thick enough, it need not even come to that.
Forget the heritage-themed loser scripts on which the Manx tourist industry has bet our future. Forget scraping the barrel to try and find even one viable example of Manx life in past times which would interest more than half a dozen anoraks on limited incomes.
We have a real life freak show to sell the world, the Clarksons may own the theatre and they should clean up, if only to get compensation for the injustice and blinkered attitudes they have to put up with from the Manx government.

No comments: