The Old Grumpies: Our legal expert left us speechless...and who the hell is Fanny Cradock?

Signed - or rather sealed - and delivered: A medieval copy of Magna Carta
Signed - or rather sealed - and delivered: A medieval copy of Magna Carta

At our recent meeting there was the usual clash between those who want to have a serious discussion about important issues and those who prefer to recycle old jokes, insult all and sundry and strive to prove that laughter softens many a problem.

Sometimes the battle is so intense that most members stay awake.

When someone suggested we should be serious and discuss what we would include in any new Bill of Rights, a member asked if anyone knew where the Magna Carta was signed.

When the reply came back “at the bottom” our resident clever-clogs informed us that it wasn’t signed at all but received the Royal seal and he then explained that it was many years before the Barons took much notice of it.

Not taking much notice of the serious direction the topic had developed or what had just been said, a member asked if the speaker believed in free speech.

When he said he did, it was obvious that he was going to be asked if everyone could borrow his phone.

But the subject of free speech did not go away.

Our legal expert pointed out that free speech is allowed provided it is not threatening, insulting or abusive, likely to cause harassment, alarm, anxiety, distress or a breach of the peace.

That it isn’t racist, indecent, grossly offensive or defamatory. That it doesn’t incite racial, sexual or religious hatred or glorify or incite terrorism. That it doesn’t contain obscenity, corrupt public morals, outrage public decency or break court restrictions.

“Well, I’m speechless,” said one member. “Quite” said another.

But when the chairman announced that he had secretly recorded most of the recent meetings there was genuine alarm etched on many a pale face.

Just imagine what could happen if the tapes got into the hands of the Thought Police or the “Have you ever been insulted?” firm of solicitors.

Not to worry, apparently, because none other than the President of the Supreme Court, Lord Neuberger, has stated that “ We must be free to offend each other.”

According to the provider of that piece of information he also said: “A tendency appears to be growing in some quarters which is antithetical to diversity in a rather indirect and insidious way”.

The chairman quickly realised that hardly anyone understood any of that and suggested that it might be a good topic to discuss the recent General Election results.

A member started the ball rolling and stated that he thought that Nicola Sturgeon was the sexiest thing since Fanny Cradock, and although that did not contribute much to the discussion on politics, it did demonstrate the diversity of people’s sexual fantasies.

The meeting was then reminded that we seem to have forgotten that we are supposed to be the Old Grumpies and although we are certainly old we don’t seem grumpy enough.

The speaker said he would start the ball rolling by complaining about the refreshments that had been provided for the meeting.

He said: “The coffee, like me, was old and weak, and the biscuit, like me, was well past its sell-by date.”

At this point the provider of the refreshments said he would be happy to only charge £4 next time if people were going to complain.

However it was accepted that we had spent most of the morning asking silly questions and laughing a lot.

Not a single mention of traffic lights, potholes, demolition sites, doctors appointments, taxi drivers, wind farms, dog dirt, litter-louts and the referees at Burnley’s football matches.

Unfortunately the chairman then announced that the tempo had almost fugited but there was just time for one last question, provided it was not a silly one.

A member, who had had his hand up a lot, was allowed to ask the final question.

He said: “ I am aware that my memory may be failing, but who the hell is Fanny Cradock?”