For my 30th birthday, my older brother gave me a penknife. An all-singing, all-dancing Swiss Army knife with bottle opener, corkscrew, scissors, nail file and even a little screwdriver. It’s proved very useful over the years, and I still get a frisson of pleasure from the compact neatness of this ‘ready for anything’ little gadget. But that wasn’t the only reason my brother gave it to me: it was also a joke present.
When we were children, my brother carried a penknife. It was a boy-thing, though. Boys all seemed to have penknives. Girls didn’t. Penknives didn’t come in pink, and they were definitely not sufficiently lady-like for those of us growing up in the 50s and 60s. My parents snorted in disbelief at my longing to have one all of my own. Hence my brother’s special present for a special birthday.
Ken Jones, president of ACPO, doesn’t look that much younger than me. Maybe he’s not aged too well, who knows? Perhaps he was penknife-deprived as a child? There has to be some reason for his adding to the latest look-tough pronouncements by saying:
“We are not out to criminalise people who have a good reason for being in possession of a knife, but frankly what good reasons would a youngster have for even carrying a penknife?”
When he suddenly finds one day that his horse has got a stone in its hoof and he’s miles from anywhere, I bet he’ll regret saying that.