Folks – what do we make of this, then. For a moment I had to check the date, but given we’re way beyond April Fools’ day, I’ll take this on face value – for the moment. Here goes:
The sensitive mariners aboard the Royal Navy’s HMS Ocean, presently moored on the River Thames at Greenwich, raised a security alert with the River Police on Saturday (12 May 2012} at about 6pm after they spotted a small motor boat named Bin Laden I, occupied by a man and 3 small children, passing nearby.
My boat, a 4 metre dinghy, which has been registered with that name for past 2 years, is one of the least threatening craft on the river. Nonetheless, on passing near HMS Ocean, the largest ship in the Royal Navy, length 200m, 22,000 tonnes, equipped with 8 military helicopters and armed with torpedoes and guns, we evidently alarmed the Ocean’s 500 naval officers and crew and triggered a security alert.
Presumably it was all hands to deck and an hour later, on returning to land in Greenwich, Metropolitan river police apprehended me in a dramatic dusk landing raid on the local yacht club premises. Police demanded to know why the boat was named after the Saudi terrorist. They recommended in the strongest terms that it be renamed for the Olympics so as not to cause any further security incidents. Even if we are not mistaken for terrorists, I was told, the present name is evidently provocative and might be seen as a protest, so cannot be permitted on the river during the Olympics (inconceivable that Londoners could have anything to protest about).
I am considering calling it “Free Speech”, but quite apart from fact that it is believed to be bad luck to rename a boat, I fear that the phrase itself may have altogether passed out of use in the UK.
So – there you have it. Just out of interest, Laurence, why is your craft called Bin Laden I?