First they came for the pirates…

Morgan Smith is six years old and is going to have a birthday party with a pirate theme. His parents hoisted a Jolly Roger up the flagpole, and…boom, some officious titzypritzel goes bustling off to the city council to complain. Down goes the flag. Now there is what a deranged bureaucrat might call a “happy ending”:

A Stafford Borough Council spokesman said: “A planning application has been made for a Jolly Roger flag to be flown at a property in Stone.

“The application is currently under review and will include planning officers looking at the impact the flag has on the area, with the decision expected by the end of this month.

“Legislation requires planning approval before it can be flown from the flagpole.”

Erk. That’s the antithesis of pirate. I say, hoist the flag, run out the cannon, and give the pretentious stuffed shirts at the Stafford Borough Council a broadside. Give that mob of six year olds cake, ice cream, and good sugary soft drinks, hand ’em each a cutlass, and turn ’em loose on the neighborhood. Yarrr, that’s the pirate solution.


  1. #1 Nick
    June 7, 2007

    Oooh, what a truly free country we live in.

  2. #2 Mobius
    June 7, 2007

    Yarr!!! Good, let it be a boarding party!!! Avast.

  3. #3 Mike Haubrich
    June 7, 2007

    Hoist the colors and out the neighbor. No doubt she is offended by the family’s apparent religious beliefs.

    I am sure there will be some small fine to pay for insolence, but isn’t that the Pirate way?

  4. #4 DaveX
    June 7, 2007

    Pirates vs. Lawn Nazis– sounds like life in MY neighborhood….

  5. #5 Mike Saelim
    June 7, 2007

    The Jolly Roger dates back to the 1700s when pirates would fly it to make their victims surrender readily.

    For the party, I would rent out a school bus for a day and fill it with my son and his friends. I’d drive around and look for the aforementioned neighbour; upon finding him, we would raise the Jolly Roger and the kids would unleash a broadside of silly string, water balloons, and perhaps a few blunt objects.

    It would be as much a party for me as it would be for my son.

  6. #6 Tanya
    June 7, 2007

    PZ, do you ever sleep?

  7. #7 ANL supporter
    June 7, 2007

    It is the stonking great 18 foot flagpole the council objected to, not the flag as this does need planning permission. Unlike the US national flag flying in the UK is relatively unknown and the rest of the time the family flys a st. george’s cross, still largely associated with fascists in the England, as to some extent as is the daily mail.

    Somewhat poor call on your part I believe.

  8. #8 ANL
    June 7, 2007

    Somewhat poor proof reading on my part St. George’s and just England without the the probably more corrector.

  9. #9 Evolving Squid
    June 7, 2007

    When I put up my antenna for microwave digital TV, I had a parade of people going on about how it was unneighbourly, how it would pull in storms (seriously), and how it caused interference (it’s a receiving antenna).

    Everybody knows how other people’s houses should look.

    I always liked the “your antenna pulls in storms” people. I’m not sure what’s more sad – that they get stressed over an antenna in the neighbourhood, or their complete lack of understanding of how weather works, or the fact that MY WHOLE NEIGHBOURHOOD IS UNDER 300 FOOT TALL, 500 kV HYDRO TOWERS. Yes, they bitch about an antenna, but live under high voltage lines. Idjits.

    I took that antenna down a few years back, but last summer I put up a ham radio antenna. Armed with previous knowledge, I just put the antenna up and didn’t attach it to anything for the first month.

    I got one complaint in that time that my “radio was causing interference”, so marched the guy around back, handed him the unattached end of the cable and said “what radio?”

    The best neighbour complaint I’ve ever had was when the police showed up… seems someone had turned me in for shooting cats and dogs with a cross-bow in response to news reports that some weirdo was doing exactly that in the area. Except I’ve never owned a cross-bow, and never shot a cat or dog. This was not long after the “pulling in storms” thing. The nice policeman and I had a humourous chat.

    I think my neighbours are insane. I am tempted to run up a pirate flag, though, just to see what happens.

  10. #10 Andrew
    June 7, 2007

    I would have thought the neighbour would appreciate the pirate flag as being a welcome break from having the Union Jack or St. George’s cross shoved in their face 365 days a year

  11. #11 Monado
    June 7, 2007

    The flagpole has been there for years, and the Smiths usually fly a Union Jack or a flag of St. George with no one objecting. It wasn’t until they raised the Jolly Roger – in their back yard! – that someone objected. And the council ruled that the pirate flag was “unneighbourly” and “could open the door to all kinds of flags.” Definitely too much time on their hands.

    LotStreetWiz, who knows these kinds of things, said that you need planning permission to fly most kinds of flags in England.

  12. #12 andrea
    June 7, 2007

    DO arm those tykes with a bunch of Wacky Whackers too, while you’re at it! They’re a long-time fave in our family.

  13. #13 Kilgore Trout
    June 7, 2007

    The Flying Spaghetti Monster must be sad, I hope the town council gets touched by his noodley appendage before the lawn nazi ruins a good party. I’d ask FSM to do some smiting, but I like FSM because he isn’t so into the pain and suffering. Ramen.

    All I can think of is my Uncle who had a pool. The Irish Flag was always up and if the Jolly Roger was up that meant open party, of course I can’t actually recall it NOT being up, at least during our short summer. Like ANL said I guess it’s a cultural thing, we like flags.

  14. #14 DaveX
    June 7, 2007

    In my opinion, if they didn’t just raise it straight away and have the part regardless, they don’t deserve to fly a pirate flag at all, LOL

  15. #15 Token
    June 7, 2007

    I would have thought the neighbour would appreciate the pirate flag as being a welcome break from having the Union Jack or St. George’s cross shoved in their face 365 days a year

    Yeah, because someone flying the national flag is really shoving it in your face.

  16. #16 Marcus Ranum
    June 7, 2007

    If Hallmark would get behind it we could have a “national pirate day” — everyone is supposed to fly the skull and bones, dress like a pirate, swagger (of course!) and the really energetic kids could go door-to-door yelling “AVAST!” and “HAUL UP!” collecting candy. I’d totally turn my hay-cart into a pirate ship, I would.

    I have a flagpole on my studio building and often fly a jolly roger (Jack Rackham style, in fact!) from it. Nobody’s said anything but that’s because everyone knows I am a weird gun-toting nut and they all figure I’m gonna be the next unabomber anyhow.

  17. #17 JC
    June 7, 2007

    It is the Daily Mail. The chances of the report being inaccurate are better than evens. The chances of it being an outright lie are pretty good as well.

  18. #18 tai haku
    June 7, 2007

    I don’t know how to quote but replies 14 and 17 are right on the money. What kind of pirate takes instuctions from some pencil-pushing desk-jockey in city hall? Is the age of maverickacy dead?

    Of course this is a daily mail story so the reality is probably quite different….

  19. #19 tom p
    June 7, 2007

    Please PZ, no more stories straight from the Daily Mail. They’re as accurate and honest as Fox News.

    Anyway, why would they [i]need[/i] a flag for the party to go ahead? And if they did, why didn’t they just hoist it on the day of the party? If they usually fly a st george’s cross or a union flag then they’re fascists anyway and they deserve no effing sympathy.

  20. #20 Janine
    June 7, 2007

    If you allow little kids to fly THE JOLLY ROGERS at birthday parties, they will grow up to to causing insurance parties to go rogue and attack other companies.

  21. #21 One Eyed Jack
    June 7, 2007

    I’m with PZ. Fly the flag and bring out the cannon. Seriously, that has to be the silliest protest ever.

    Just grab a Tampa Bay or Pittsburgh flag and fly that.


  22. #22 Kilgore Trout
    June 7, 2007

    Hey Marcus there is an International Talk Like a Pirate Day, Arrrrgh. It’s September 19th.

    Good call Janine, I assume you mean that as a good thing though.

    As much as I’m with everyone who says that they should have kept the flag up, if a cop comes to my door and says that I need to lower it. I probably would, as much as the kids might like the flag, having their father hauled off to jail has a tendency to ruin a party. Society getting in the way of a good time.

  23. #23 Ginger Yellow
    June 7, 2007

    “Yeah, because someone flying the national flag is really shoving it in your face”

    It is in Britain. You hardly ever see it flying, even on government buildings. The main places it is seen are sporting events, royal events and fascist rallies.

  24. #24 Ken Cope
    June 7, 2007

    Hoistin’ the flag be a good start. To see how it’s done all proper-like though, keep an eye out for the festivities down the end of my street this Father’s Day weekend: partyin’ pirates, whether the neighbors like it or no.

  25. #25 bernarda
    June 7, 2007

    In the comments at the Daily Mail, one person pointed out neighbors that put up Xmas decorations well before the date.

    I would complain about every visible, or audible, manifestation of this unneighborly nonsense. I would accept Santa and the reindeer though.

  26. #26 DrMaybe
    June 7, 2007

    Flying the St George’s Cross in England is now normally associated with the football team playing somewhere. Particularly if it has “England” written across it, presumably to avoid people thinking they were supporting Genoa instead.

  27. #27 Moggie
    June 7, 2007

    The family must have figured that the planning regulations are more what you’d call “guidelines” than actual rules.

  28. #28 Luna_the_cat
    June 7, 2007

    I say, let the kids loose on the neighbours with super-soakers full of red grape juice.

  29. #29 Brownian
    June 7, 2007

    #18: “What kind of pirate takes instuctions from some pencil-pushing desk-jockey in city hall?”

    The Crimson Permanent Assurance sure as hell wouldn’t.

    Hoist those landlubbing council members by their own petards, I say!

  30. #30 stogoe
    June 7, 2007

    @18: Yes, the age of maverickery is dead. We’re now in the age where acting out of normal Christian mannerisms can get you beaten up by the local thug cops. The authorities have realized they can watch you all the time, so by Gob, they will. Innormalcy will Not Be Tolerated!

  31. #31 Chaoswes
    June 7, 2007

    I bet that if they put up an “I Love Jesus” flag their nosy-ass neighbor would nary have said a word. The article says the he is an engineer for Bentley. I’m sure he could pay whatever fine was imposed by the council. Piss on them and run it up with great fanfare and a rousing chorus of “Yo-ho-ho and a Bottle of Rum” on his sons birthday. It seems to me that it is the whiny bitch of a neighbor is the problem not the father.

  32. #32 chris y
    June 7, 2007

    If these people have been waving Union Jacks and St Georges flags in their neighbours’ faces for a long time, their neighbours will probably seize any opportunity to shut them up. It’s sometimes hard to explain the attitud of the British to flags, but here’s Rudyard Kipling, imperialist extraordinaire, writing over 100 years ago:

    And so he worked towards his peroration–which, by the way, he used later with overwhelming success at a meeting of electors–while they sat, flushed and uneasy, in sour disgust. After many many words, he reached for the cloth-wrapped stick and thrust one hand in his bosom. This–this was the concrete symbol of their land–worthy of all honour and reverence! Let no boy look on this flag who did not purpose to worthily add to its imperishable lustre. He shook it before them–a large calico Union Jack, staring in all three colours, and waited for the thunder of applause that should crown his effort.

    They looked in silence. They had certainly seen the thing before–down at the coastguard station, or through a telescope, half-mast high when a brig went ashore on Braunton sands; above the roof of the Golf Club, and in Keyte’s window, where a certain kind of striped sweetmeat bore it in paper on each box. But the College never displayed it; it was no part of the scheme of their lives; the Head had never alluded to it; their fathers had not declared it unto them. It was a matter shut up, sacred and apart. What, in the name of everything caddish, was he driving at, who waved that horror before their eves? Happy thought! Perhaps he was drunk.

    If the breaking point comes over a childrens’ party, that’s a pity. But frankly, if the story is true, they had it coming.

  33. #33 Dan S.
    June 7, 2007

    Hmm – one of my wife’s old neighbors used to hoist the Japanese flag each year the day he saw the first Japanese beetle of that summer, and keep it up ’til they disappeared again. Not nearly as fun as hoisting the Jolly Roger to signal an open pool party like Trout’s uncle . . .

  34. #34 Christian Burnham
    June 7, 2007

    It is considered crass, rude and xenophobic when residents fly the national flag in Britain.

    The only time I see the Irish flag prominently displayed is during important football matches.

    I’ve always been puzzled that the Americans are so obsessed with their flag. There are many things worth dying for, but ‘the flag’ isn’t one of them.

  35. #35 yoshi
    June 7, 2007

    This is precisely the reason I don’t live in any area that is managed by an “association”. I can paint my house bright orange with purple trim, stick a pink flamingo in my lawn and fly a flag with barney the dinosaur on it and my neighbors can’t do jack about it (they may actually encourage it – except for the dinosaur – they may just burn down my house because of it).

    As for americans worshiping flags – yea we have an unhealthy obsessions for our chinese made flags. I grew up with them and I still fly one on occasion.

  36. #36 Chinchillazilla
    June 7, 2007

    I plan to fly a Jolly Roger in my front yard in solidarity. And because I’ve actually been looking for an excuse to do so.

    In related news, I used to have a sword just like the one the kid is holding in that photo. But I broke it when I had a Halloween party swordfight, so I went to Halloween express and got an official PotC one, which is much sturdier. My friends and I tested them by having a swordfight with the employees. It was pretty much the best day ever.

  37. #37 Efogoto
    June 7, 2007

    It is the Daily Mail. The chances of the report being inaccurate are better than evens. The chances of it being an outright lie are pretty good as well.

    Which answers the question I had: Why would dad have raised the flag before the party, rather than the day of the party? Just so the neighbour had time to complain?

  38. #38 Ali
    June 7, 2007

    Rape! Pillage ! Conquer! Fill out an application in triplicate!!!!

    You people are so fucked. And by “you people” I mean the American people. I’m sorry, I truly am. It’s sad to watch it unfold.

    I don’t think even Switzerland would be this anal about a birthday party flag.

  39. #39 Ali
    June 7, 2007

    Oh dear, i’ve made a terrible mistake. Mea culpa! Sorry Americans. It’s a British story, not American.

    Go ahead, make me walk the plank. I deserve it.

  40. #40 Barbara K
    June 7, 2007

    Titzypritzel? Does that word have pirate origins? It sounds like a tasty crunchy snack.

    Aaaaarrrrrrrr who took me last titzypritzel?

  41. #41 Iain
    June 7, 2007

    I have to agree with the other Daily Mail commenters – I would be *very* wary about accepting anything from that rag, especially if the story is putting the boot into a local council – one of their favourite targets.

  42. #42 Nona
    June 7, 2007

    There’s a house in my old neighborhood that flies the Jolly Roger. It also has red-and-white striped curtains in all the windows and a stuffed parrot on the wall, visible through the sun porch window. Basically it is the coolest house ever, and I kind of want to be friends with whoever lives there.

  43. #43 John C. Randolph
    June 7, 2007

    Too bad the brits didn’t overthrow their king and write themselves a bill of rights..


  44. #44 bernarda
    June 7, 2007

    For some strange reason, “Swing Low Sweet Chariot” is the anthem of the English rugby team.

  45. #45 tom p
    June 8, 2007

    Bernarda (#44) There’s a moderately interesting story behind that: In England rugby union is traditionally a white middle class game. The English team is also typically quite dull and doesn’t score lots of tries (the rugby equivalent to touchdowns in american ‘foot’ball), preferring to kick their points.
    In a match in 1988 Chris Oti, a winger (a bit like a wide reciever), who happened to be black, was making his debut. He scored 3 tries (which is rare in rugby). The rugby crowd wanted to celebrate his hat-trick and, what with him being black, sung probably the only song they knew that they could associate with black people, namely a negro spiritual.
    Sweet Chariot had been sung traditionally at some rugby clubs for many years before, the origin of which is unclear, but probably stems from hymns they will have sung in school. Since it contains the word “coming” it allows for much sniggering amongst rugby players, who have a particularly base sense of humour.

  46. #46 MarkW
    June 8, 2007

    Iain at #41:

    Strangely enough, Stafford is a Conservative-controlled council, so it’s not as if this is the usual Mail Labour-bashing.

    “Confuse Daily Mail readers; tell them that Asylum seekers are the natural predators of paedophiles” — VIZ comic (I think)

  47. #47 Jurjen S.
    June 8, 2007

    It’s a funny thing…
    Along the county highway I take to the wolf sanctuary where I volunteer is a house which, whenever I have observed the flagpole, flies a Confederate flag. In Washington state, people, as far from the Confederacy as you can get without leaving the contiguous United States. Now, I would (and do) consider such a flag to be downright unneighborly, but far be it from me to complain to the authorities. In my book, the owner of the property has the right to fly whichever flag he wants off his pole. Provided I get equal recognition for my right to spit out my car window at that filthy rag as I drive by.

  48. #48 Bengt Larsson
    June 8, 2007

    So it should really be called “Criticize Evolution”. Point out that it’s dishonest to say “explore” when you mean “criticize”.

    Another tack is to write an equivalent book to “Explore Religion”.

  49. #49 Bengt Larsson
    June 8, 2007

    Forget previous comment. Wrong thread.

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