We knew the old country was down on its luck, skint and forced to fleece those who remain to pay its debts. But maybe we didn't quite grasp the true seriousness of the situation. Britain has gone plain barmy.
This is a country where the PC police roam the land, ready to seize innocent citizens who dare to challenge anyone in authority or any madcap law enacted chiefly for political reasons.
Woe betide anyone foolish enough to step out of line.
Like 64-year-old grandmother Lesley Apps, clearly a law-breaking, dangerous woman better off locked up in some grim jail to safeguard decent citizens from her wicked ways.
In the eyes of the PC police, Granny Apps committed a dreadful crime. She dropped a cigarette packet wrapper in the street, picked it up - and was nicked.
A passing female council officer in the Midlands city of Coventry told her she was guilty of littering the street, and issued an on-the-spot fine for £50 ($105).
An expensive packet of cigarettes, you might think.
Mrs Apps said this in her defence: "I was doing the right thing but I was still punished. Maybe I would have been better off if I had left it.
"I was probably a bit slower than usual because I was having back trouble, but even then it was clear I wasn't just going to leave it there. I tried to explain but she didn't give me a chance.
"She still gave me the fine and it made me feel stupid, like I was in the wrong, like I was a criminal. I felt targeted and it's a horrible feeling."
Under English law circa 2011, the fact that this reckless grandmother was actually picking up the wrapper she had dropped before the council commissar stepped in should not be allowed to enter the debate.
The trouble was that Granny Apps then committed another cardinal error.
She proffered the defence of: "Has the world gone mad, are you sane and/or serious?"
By doing so she risked 20 years in the Gulag for her temerity. Because the word of these council staff, Einsteins every one of them of course, shall not be challenged.
Those who cross their path shall pay up whatever the fine. And for all I know, there may well be other wicked offences Mr and Mrs Joe Public are about to commit as we speak - like looking at the sun, studying a hedge, looking at a council commissar in a strange way.
All manner of bizarre, hitherto unknown goings-on now dictate the everyday lives of simple British folk.
Take the real British police, the good old Bobby on the beat. He's a fearless creature, honest, decent and upright at all times. He's a friend indeed, going where others fear to tread to keep the streets of this land of flowing milk and honey safe.
Well, that's the idea anyway and it used to be the case. But you see, the people who put PC into British society have now become so invasive they have infiltrated the minds of the real PCs and their bosses, if you get what I mean.
Hence the recent case of a police chief in Britain who has banned his officers from entering a children's playground in his town at night because of the number of yobs who tend to congregate there.
The idea that actually, the boys in blue might just be there to sort out a few of the yobs and wouldn't be doing their jobs if they didn't, apparently didn't occur to this perfectly correct PC.
"It's too dangerous for them to go in there," he said, flatly. And that was the end of it.
Good job such men were not in charge back in 1944 when the Allies were about to storm Hitler's fortress Europe by invading the French coast at Normandy.
You can imagine the sort of conversation that fools like this PC chief would have engaged in under those circumstances.
"What? Sail across the English Channel under all those guns and then storm the beaches? Are you mad? That's far too dangerous."
But perhaps there are small pockets of life still remaining in British society where the great institutions of old still flourish and the PC police are barred at the door? What about the BBC, the grandly named British Broadcasting Corporation? Surely they wouldn't indulge in this sort of nonsense. Would they?
Alas, it was reported that BBC producers commissioned 20 dog owners to meet in a street in Preston, Lancashire, for the sole purpose of encouraging their pets to foul the pavement. Well, it's a free country, isn't it (or was)? Why not? Or rather, why?
The brilliant idea was so that the left-leaning BBC could make a programme about the potential impact of council cuts demanded by the Conservative-led Government. The idea was to show what would happen if council staff stopped cleaning the streets.
So Fido, Rover, Benji and their pals had to walk around a BBC-designed circuit for half an hour and do what dogs do in the street. Now wasn't that a wizard jape?
Preston Lib Dem councillor John Potter, whose Cadley ward includes the street where the dogs were filmed, said: "We have got to be careful they are not just doing it for the sake of it."
He didn't say whether he meant the BBC or the dogs.By Peter Bills Email Peter