Express & Star

Mark Andrews: Mike Yarwood v Russell Brand, school uniforms and 20mph speed limits

It seems ironic that the Russell Brand scandal has unfolded just days after the death of Mike Yarwood.

Russell Brand: crude and unfunny

I have no idea whether Brand is guilty of any crime, but somehow I couldn't imagine Mike Yarwood bragging about the different drugs he has used, or giving lurid accounts about his encounters with prostitutes and orgies.

The weird thing about Brand is that his only talent seems to be his ability to offend people. I can't think of a single thing he has ever said that is remotely funny.

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This week has also seen the death of another 1970s light entertainment legend, pop-folk singer Roger Whittaker.

If Brand represents the one extreme of the entertainment industry, it is reasonable to say that Whittaker probably took things a bit too far the other way. Even when he topped the charts in five different countries, he still managed to remain resolutely unfashionable.

So much so that American judge Paul Sacco used to make rowdy youngsters listen to Durham Town for punishment.

Still, you can't take away the fact that he sold millions upon millions of records, and had a major influence on the Sex Pistols, the Buzzcocks and the Boomtown Rats.

In that they all went to great lengths to sound nothing like him.

* * * As it happens, I had a slightly weird fascination with Whittaker in my student days. At the time I thought there was nothing funnier than driving my mates around town, windows down, with Mexican Whistler blasting out of the cassette player.

The only mitigation is that I was in my 20s and very immature. But, given that Russell Brand is pushing 50, what is his excuse?

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September wouldn't be September without a row about school uniforms. And when I heard about the 'stretchy trouser' dispute at Dudley's Beacon Hill Academy, which recently featured in a not-very-flattering television documentary,, my natural reaction was to sit on the fence.

The fact the headmaster sent out a letter referring to 'learners' rather than pupils immediately got my back up, and these stories always bring back memories of officious teachers crawling under desks to check kids' socks.

But having seen the trousers in question, the headmaster is totally right. They are basically drainpipes, which were painfully uncool when I was at school, so I've no idea why anyone would want to wear them now. They are also casual wear, and surely the whole point of a uniform is teaching kids that, like it or not, you have to dress formally when you go to work.

At least one parent is now claiming the rules are bad for their children's mental health. Which says it all really.

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It seems the 20mph blanket speed limit hasn't gone down as smoothly as it might, with signs being defaced and confused drivers causing gridlock because they are scared of breaking the speed limits.

Personally, I don't think it goes anywhere near far enough. They should have brought back the 5mph limit that was in force in the 1880s, and the law that said your butler had to walk in front of the car with a red flag. And while we're at it, let's have some new legislation banning people from running too fast in public places.

Or alternatively, they could perhaps realise that getting from one place to another in reasonable time is pretty crucial to the modern economy. And crackdown on the real menace instead: boy racers in Vauxhall Corsas, and those stupid death-trap scooters that are bringing mayhem to our town centres.