Bearded man gets shirty with Uncle Sam

I'VE never been a great fan of uniforms, though I did once buy a very heavy British Rail coat from a charity shop.This week, however, a surprising item of clothing came into my possession.

I'VE never been a great fan of uniforms, though I did once buy a very heavy British Rail coat from a charity shop.

This week, however, a surprising item of clothing came into my possession. I don't propose to tell you exactly how it came my way, though I'm pretty sure it wasn't stolen.

I can't really see myself wearing it, though it's in perfect condition, hard-wearing and exactly my size. If it wasn't for the slogan and insignia on the breast pocket, it would do me very well indeed.

It is an olive-green twill shirt made by the Selma Apparel Corporation. It has an inch-long brown rectangle embroidered on each wing of the collar. And it bears the name and badge of the US Air Force. An organisation regular readers will know is not one I'd choose to associate myself with in the way I might wear the colours of my favourite football team, say.

It might, I suppose, be the official property of Uncle Sam, though it doesn't say so. Either way I wouldn't want to be accused of impersonating one of Uncle's proud pilots.

I doubt whether the impersonation would work very well, anyway, as I'm sure none of those young men sport goatee beards.

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Why, apart from the sheer wackiness of it all, do I mention this?

Well, this good-as-new garment, which has years of life left in it for the right wearer, was plucked out of a wastebin – along with nine others like it.

They had just been chucked there as a party of USAF servicemen prepared to leave Lakenheath and return home to the Land of the Free.

Knowing that this column is avidly read in the USA, I thought GW Bush's electors might like to know what their taxes are going on.

OK, you could probably give free shirts to the world for the $87billion Bush has just asked for to keep his boys in Iraq.

But it does seem to sum up the attitude of get-it-new, chuck-it-away America – the land whose government seems determined to burn up the world and its resources as fast as possible.

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TALKING of burning, I find myself in the odd position of having to praise the British government.

It may be strange timing to announce on November 5 that there will be a crackdown on fireworks next year. But the principle is sound anyway.

No fireworks to be bought or carried by under-18s. No airbombs. Stiffer penalties for twerps who chuck squibs in the street.

All good moves – though I can't be alone in thinking they don't go far enough.

I did enjoy Chris Opperman's nostalgic piece in last week's Evening Star about bonfire nights gone by. But I think the time has long since come for fireworks to be made unavailable to the public.

I'm sure many of the families who have been kept awake at night for the past few weeks would agree.

So too, no doubt, would the owners of thousands of terrified pets. Not to mention the distraught Lanarkshire family whose dog died last week of burns and shock after a firework was tied to its tail.

Whizzbangs are all very well at the right time and place, but that is not night after night in my street, thanks very much.

Come to think of it, the foiling of the "gunpowder plot" is a pretty poor excuse for a party too.

What's to celebrate in a government propaganda coup against Catholicism?

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NO doubt, as the Tory press has been keen to persuade us, Michael Howard has an attractive wife. He himself is still the oily individual who brought us the Poll Tax, backs the death penalty and was dubbed by Ann Widdecombe (no liberal herself) as "something of the night".

I feel quite nostalgic about good old Iain Duncan Smith already.

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IF you fancy an as-new USAF pilot's shirt, size 15 and a half, go take a look in one of Ipswich's many charity shops. You might also be lucky and pick up a British Rail overcoat, vintage 1980.

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