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PETER HITCHENS: Yet another slice of happiness is gone for ever with the closure of a baker’s shop

In an age of poncy, expensive sourdough bread as dense as a black hole, and of steam-baked supermarket loaves, it is good and rare to find proper English bread, baked as it should be. 

Few delicacies in the world beat the taste of new white bread spread with salted butter. 

Where I live, in an ancient city where progress is treated with proper suspicion, we have for many years still been able to do this.

We also still have the remnants of a real covered market, with actual butchers and greengrocers. 

But those of us who shop there fear it cannot last much longer, because others cannot be bothered to do so. 

It is hard to see how the shopkeepers can make it pay much longer. Anyway, this week, the baker’s shop just shut. Bang. The notice taped to the metal shutters said flatly ‘Closed Down’.

Those of us who shop there fear it cannot last much longer, because others cannot be bothered to do so

We also still have the remnants of a real covered market, with actual butchers and greengrocers. But those of us who shop there fear it cannot last much longer, because others cannot be bothered to do so

There had been no warning that I had seen, though I had feared for the place ever since some mad edict closed the airy, spacious covered market, with its high roofs and broad avenues, on the pretext of Covid. 

At the same time dozens of airless supermarkets stayed open. A grim silence fell. Even when it eventually struggled back to life, a customer was an event.

I rang up the bakery, based in a nearby town, and am glad to say they still survive. But that particular shop, which had flourished since 1955, is gone for ever. 

The spokesman bristled when I suggested that the Covid panic had done for it, but I really can’t see how it was not involved. A lot of shopping is habit, and if you break that habit you often never return to it. 

Certainly other shops in the town have had a very hard time indeed. I don’t think we have found out yet just how many other shutters will clatter down for good by the time it’s over, and the bills for more than a year of furlough and mad borrowing finally come in.

I rang up the bakery, based in a nearby town, and am glad to say they still survive. But that particular shop, which had flourished since 1955, is gone for ever

I rang up the bakery, based in a nearby town, and am glad to say they still survive. But that particular shop, which had flourished since 1955, is gone for ever

It’s another piece of real life gone. It’s replaced by clones, imitations of genuine freshness, lit and displayed to look good in the supermarket aisle or on TV, but actually a bland disappointment. 

Never again on a dark, chilly winter’s afternoon will I be able to take a child to that counter, in that handsome, busy, friendly market, and buy the sort of bread and buns and cakes I used to eat in my childhood.

Not much, really, is it? An event about as small as any you could find. So why do I feel such a huge sense of irrecoverable loss?

There never was an ‘Atlantic Charter’. The defunct newspaper The Daily Herald gave this grandiose name to the press release issued after Churchill and Roosevelt’s unfriendly, failed meeting off Newfoundland in August 1941. 

The event, at the time, was greeted with almost total disappointment in Britain. We had been hoping in vain that America would enter the war on our side. 

There is also no such thing as a ‘special relationship’, a phrase met with cackles of mirth or shrugs in Washington DC. The USA really isn’t very interested in us, and it is time we grew up and grasped this. 

Our hellish prisons are run by crime lords. And here’s why…

The BBC should, I suppose, be praised for screening its new prison drama Time, in which Sean Bean plays a middle-class wimp, an ageing teacher who gets banged up with hard men. It’s a powerful event which leaves a nasty taste in the brain hours after you’ve watched it, as it should.

But many people simply won’t watch anything so miserable. It’s all too easy to imagine falling into such a pit, in a country where justice is increasingly back-to-front. Just hope the police, the CPS, the judge and the jury in your case don’t all subscribe to the view that ‘victims’ must be ‘believed’. You may be disappointed.

But Bean’s character is not in that position. There are, no doubt, too many unharmful, gentle souls misplaced inside our jails. 

The BBC should, I suppose, be praised for screening its new prison drama Time, in which Sean Bean plays a middle-class wimp, an ageing teacher who gets banged up with hard men

The BBC should, I suppose, be praised for screening its new prison drama Time, in which Sean Bean plays a middle-class wimp, an ageing teacher who gets banged up with hard men

But a man who sinks four large vodkas before getting behind the wheel of his car, kills a cyclist and then drives off, is not one of them. I view such a crime as premeditated murder, made worse by the fact that the killer does not even care whose life he ends. But the courts don’t. Google the words ‘driver spared jail after killing cyclist’, and see how many references come up.

But there we are. And then we have the upright prison officer Eric McNally, beautifully played by Stephen Graham, fair but firm (as far as I know, this is a pretty true portrayal of many prison officers, to whom we owe a lot).

Yet somehow this wise, brave man and his long-suffering, loyal wife have a son in his 20s who has gone so wrong that he is now in prison, which most people have to try quite hard to get into.

Well, perhaps such things happen, but in real life wouldn’t the authorities spot the problem before it turned bad?

Everything which then follows, which I think is pretty well-researched, backs up a point I have been derided for making for years, particularly after visiting two jails to see for myself. Our prisons are increasingly run by the inmates. Sean Bean’s character has to learn to be violent to protect himself. Worse, when he is in trouble he goes to a crime lord to get help, not to the officers or the governor.

But this Left-wing drama, while admitting this horrible fact, makes no sense of it. When prisons were for punishment and run by the warders, the inmates and the staff did not live in fear of criminal hardmen. And most people were careful to stay out of jail.

The monstrous failure of our criminal justice system means that almost nobody goes to prison until he is already a hardened criminal. It so totally fails to deter that the prisons are fuller than at any time in history. The jails themselves are sinks of crime and drugs, pointless warehouses we prefer not to think about. But this BBC drama openly sympathises with the soppy ‘restorative justice’ which has done so much to help create the hell it portrays.

Make your mind up, BBC. This is what liberal crime policies have produced. Yet you rightly hate the outcome.

Actually, I think we should just give Northern Ireland to the Americans, in full and final settlement of all our remaining debts to them. They claim to love Ireland, after all, so why not have a bit of it which is their very own? If they’re so clever, and know so much about it, no doubt they can sort it out. I wonder how long it will take all the Americans who once put money in IRA collecting boxes, or who finance Sinn Fein today, or the US politicians who win votes by embracing crude nationalism, to discover how stupid and ignorant they have been. But it will certainly solve the sausage problem. 

Sometimes Left-wingers like to claim that the BBC presenter Nick Robinson is proof that the Corporation is really Right-wing. Mr Robinson was once a Young Conservative, a phrase which rings as odd to me as ‘thin pig’ or ‘quiet rock concert’. Well, Mr Robinson may have been such a thing once. 

But he now fits in beautifully with the BBC, The Guardian and the rest of the cultural Left. The other morning, discussing Kate Winslet’s amazing performance in the TV series Mare Of Easttown, he called her an ‘actor’ rather than an ‘actress’ and referred to her as ‘Winslet’, unadorned, a style once kept only for convicted criminals. Just like The Guardian. 

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