The Loop: Brutal youth

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Welcome to The Loop, the Magazine's letters column, including the best of your thoughts from Twitter and Facebook.

The story of Nicky Crane, a neo-Nazi skinhead who would beat up ethnic minorities but who was also gay, was told at length in the Magazine this week. Crane was often brutal, and became an icon for that brutality among the far right, but he was nevertheless conflicted.

The story fascinated many readers, some of those whom actually knew Crane. Ray Hollier writes on our Facebook page that he was Crane's local police officer in 1979. He thinks our portrayal of Crane underplays the violence, saying that he was feared even by the far right for his "brutal nasty violent discipline". On the other hand Julie Speller writes: "Brilliant reading, I knew Nicky in the late 70s. He looked after me."

Andy Welcome writes that he knew Crane after he came out. "I am as far removed from the far right as can be, so have no time for that sort of stuff. I knew him from when I was 17 onwards for a year or so, maybe a little longer (I was a street urchin at the time), went to visit him a few times in hospital when he was nearing the end of his life. He used to work the doors at any number of pubs and clubs and you wouldn't want to mess with him... I saw him in action a few times and he could certainly handle himself. Outside of those sort of situations he was a lovely man and I don't say that lightly, he was one of life's good people despite his past. I could trust him with my life and he was not just respected but also well liked."

Andrew Hessen adds: "Fascinating and disturbing. Imagine how different his story and the story of the far right, left and LGBT communities [would have been] if there had been an internet with a Facebook or Twitter. I lived in South West London, and whilst I had heard of the riots and racial attacks, it was only in sketchy detail from the media of the day or exaggerated stories from friends of friends of someone who knew someone who knew someone who had been near there at the time."

As regular visitors to the Magazine index will know, each day we choose a random stat from the day's news. The news that one could have dinner with former prime minister Gordon Brown for $350, as reported by the Times, leads one of our readers to tweet that it's possible to pay half that price. (That reader is Northamptonshire-based Gordon Brown, if you're interested.)

Gary Lineker's tweet describing the thieves of his mother's car as "rotters" led Ben Milne to muse on archaic insults. "Rotter is a beautiful word because - to me - it sums up a particular type of person who's a middle-aged untrustworthy cad. I think of the actor Terry-Thomas, someone with a pencil moustache and brilliantine hair who will pick your pocket while smiling," historian of slang Tony Thorne told him.

But Paul Thompson of King's Lynn has another vision: "Only a couple of days ago I was reading Dominic Sandbrook's Seasons in the Sun on Britain in the late 70s. He discusses The Sex Pistols' appearance on the Bill Grundy programme, where Steve Jones says 'you f**king rotter', pointing out that rotter was an odd word to use as 'outside Billy Bunter adaptations, nobody had used the word rotter for decades'."

Nick Payne from Alcester emails: "I have been known to use rapscallion and also poltroon - a word that you left off your list. I picked the latter one up from CS Lewis's Voyage of the Dawn Treader, and instantly fell in love with it as an insult."

Leslie Skipper of Sawbridgeworth would go further back than the 1970s. Tudor insults get his vote. "Mumble Crust. Quake Breech. Dandy Pratt," he says.

Mark Palmer of London is a particular fan of the kind of put-downs that appear as a favourite feature of our 7 days 7 questions quiz for those who get paltry scores.

"For many years now, I have been achieving (largely) miserable scores on the quiz. My question is this: Who writes the comments on 'Your Score'? I ask, because the put-downs are the finest I have come across. I am the biggest Groucho Marx/ George Burns/ Phyllis Diller/ Jack Benny/ Woody Allen/ Milton Berle/ you name it fan out."

We also reported this week that a familiar part of life in the UK - the car tax disc - is being phased out, a victim of technology and direct debits.

Longtime Magazine reader Mike Yeaman from Newcastle upon Tyne offers the following tribute to our R.I.P. Car tax disc: "Six months, a year at most, they said."

Joanna Mooney of Walton-on-Thames writes: "My mum told me that when I was about three or four my dad was stopped by the police with me in the car. He was asked where his tax disc was, I piped up 'I ate it!!!' Apparently I had taken it out and and threw it in the back of the car."

A rare occasion when the honesty of children comes to a parent's aid, perhaps.

But for his admirable ability to confess his own absent mindedness, the last work goes to Don Currie from Edinburgh.

"A few years ago I went out to the car with my new tax disc, sat in the passenger seat in order to extract the old one from its curling plastic holder, and replaced it with the new one. At this moment a neighbour came past and engaged me in inconsequential chat, then wandered off. This had distracted me a bit and, on auto-pilot, I removed the disc from the holder (which was the new one I had just put in), replaced it with the one in my hand (which was the old one I had just taken out) and wandered back into the house, where I ripped up the tax disc I was carrying (ie the new one - are you still with me?) and threw it in the bin. Several weeks later I noticed the disc displayed on my windscreen was severely out of date. Obviously no traffic wardens or police constables had noticed, and I was able to apply for a replacement disc, upon payment of an admin fee. Not my finest hour."

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