Email all at sea after pirates broadside Xtra customers

20:44, Feb 17 2013

We live in a golden age, the Golden Age of Piracy, I'm afraid.

Online buccaneers ravaged YahooXtra customers this week, running their cutlasses through firewalls, plundering address books and firing off volley after volley of spam. I was broadsided from a dozen directions.

It's hard to believe, but this brazen attack was set in motion centuries ago, at a summit meeting in the Caribbean.

Old-guard pirates, besieged by the navies of European superpowers, met on the deck of a ragtag brigantine moored in Tortuga Harbour.

"Order," yelled pirate chief Edward "Blackbeard" Teach. "Order - we are not a bunch of ruffians. Now the motion on the table is, ‘We, the United Federation of Brigands, agree to renounce physical violence in favour of privateering in the new dominion of cyberspace'. Any speakers?" A crusty seaman raised his one arm.

"The chair recognises Pottymouth Pete from the Classic Pirates wing."


"Thank you, Mr Chairman. Brothers and Sisters, I see fewer of you here every year. The Spanish galleons and the English man-o-wars are ripping this effing industry apart. For our own survival, we must embrace the new high seas. I've had a feasibility study done and it cost me a pretty penny too. Anyhow,it concludes that as e-pirates we can plunder with impunity. Hardly anyone is brought to account before the law. Why, the banks will even pay hush money to recompense our victims."

A gasp rose from the freebooters.

"What's more, we never have to leave our bases. No shipping overheads. No need for expensive tattoos. No more lessons from personal swagger coaches. No call for these nancy-boy earrings. We can sit at home in polyester and plunder the feckin' daylights out of all and sundry."

A rousing cheer enveloped Pete. As he sat down, a hand waved behind him.

Blackbeard used his pistol as a pointer.

"The chair recognises Long John Quillver from the Perplexing Pirates wing."

A pale, spindly soul dressed in suit and tie rose to his feet.

"Many thanks, Blackbeard, or should I call you Blackberry, judging by the mood here tonight?" The humour was lost on the gnarly seadogs.

Red Legs Greaves rose on his red legs.

"Comrades, hear him out. I've seen Brother Quillver operate. He has a lifetime of banking knowledge and yet he refuses to share any of it with clients as they drown in mortgage options, and then he sails for Oz on a ship so full of dubloons that the waves lap over the Plimsoll line. Argh, it brings a tear to my good eye."

He paused to let the laughter die away.

Quillver took his cue.

"Cheers for that, Red Legs. Comrades, as you know, our brethren in the power company division pioneered incomprehensible billing systems to bamboozle victims out of their pieces of eight, and our banking colleagues unleashed the credit gluttony that has been so profitable for us all."

A murmur of approval rippled through the throng.

"But this," Quillver took off his Ben Sherman bandanna and nestled it to his chest, "well, forcing clients to adopt 50 different passwords and then blaming them for lax security when the whole gimcrack edifice falls over, it just takes flimflam to a new level. We have no choice, shipmates. Our vote is to embrace the digital age."

The pirates erupted in tumult, shivering the timbers beneath their feet.

"Avast, me hearties," Blackbeard hollered, swashing his buckle menacingly.

But it was a "Harrumph!" from the back of the room that killed the chatter.

"The chair recognises the spokesman for the Polite Pirates."

Heads turned. These were the capo dei capi - bosses of bosses. The band of "professionals" who command their own price for services and trade their goods at extortionate markups. Best of all, it's entirely legal.

The other pirates doffed their tri-cornered hats to genius.

The Polite Pirates' legal representative, Calico Jack-Up, cleared his throat.

"Gentlemen, ladies. My colleagues and I feel this is a brilliant transition and, on the other hand, I must advise against it.

"Thank you, my invoice for $1000 will be in the post."

The motion was passed, and with that, a new generation of bandits set sail on kindly seas.

On a brighter note, the closed-off Trafalgar St was fizzing last Saturday for the Market Day.

People sauntered around the stalls, soaked up the music and shared a laugh with friends over a coffee. The Nelson Market in Montgomery Square also had a little healthy competition.

Why can't we have this every Saturday in summer?

The Adam Chamber Music Festival also gave the place pep.

My BS alarm always goes off over the claimed economic spinoff from big events, but the Adam spawned a noticeable influx of well-heeled visitors wandering through town, shopping bags in hand. Encore to that.

Tonight's Opera in the Park makes a grand finale to another grand summer season. However, we are getting a tad highbrow heavy. Perhaps the council could be more inclusive and slot a boyracer burnout contest into the programme.

Imagine smoke clouds billowing into the sky as the massed choir launches into Nessun Doughnut. Stirring stuff.