As I get older – it is my birthday today – I realise there is nothing certain in this world. There is no point building your hopes up that there’s a nice little earner you can rely on in your dotage because, as sure as eggs are eggs, some bean-counter somewhere will have blocked up the well of plenty just before it is your turn in the queue.
So far I have managed to evade the long arm of the law although not, sad to say, the long-distance lens of the traffic police but deep inside me somewhere is an unfulfilled yearning to assist the rozzers. Bluntly put, I’ve always fancied lining up for an identity parade, along with a few other well-meaning coves and the suspect. Of course, I would need some kind of security blanket like a cast-iron alibi or a DNA that doesn’t match anything found within a mile of the crime scene or a fervent belief that I do not have any doppelgängers in the local criminal fraternity. But it would be an afternoon out and something to recount and embellish upon down the local. And of course you got paid for your time and trouble.
I was devastated to read the other week that this route to supplementing my pension has pretty much been closed down due to advances in technology and, dare I say it, penny-pinching. West Yorkshire police developed something called the Video Identification Parade Electronic Recording Bureau or Viper for short in 2003 which holds images of individuals – the would-be identity paraders – on a database which the victim of the crime can review at their leisure. Makes sense, I suppose, and it has now been universally adopted by all the forces in the land.
There is now a recruitment drive to increase the number of images held on the national database. Anyone can volunteer provided that they don’t have facial tattoos and/or an inordinate number of piercings. I guess if you are one of those with a heavily pixelated face like suspects invariably have who get caught on CCTV, that would rule you out too. But you get rewarded for your trouble – a measly tenner. And there are no repeat fees! What’s the point of perfecting a mean and moody stare if you don’t get repeats?
The adoption of video based identity parades has reduced the cost of holding one from £800 to £150. That’s all very well, but it has put a big hole in my retirement plans, I can tell you. And with the cold winds of austerity blowing through the corridors of Whitehall you can easily imagine that some of the other benefits of being a retiree such as a free bus pass, a heating allowance and a free TV licence will disappear before I can get my hands on them.
The only consolation is that we are not the only ones in the firing line. In a nice touch the Japanese authorities present those of their citizens who reach the grand young age of 100 with a saucer-like sakazuki or sake cup worth around Y7,000. However, so many are now turning 100 – some 29,000 in 2014 alone – that the government are having second thoughts. They are considering scrapping the gift altogether and leaving the old codgers to make do with a congratulatory letter from the prime minister.
Life isn’t a bowl of cherries being old!