Thursday, 25 August 2011

Cornwall Council: Olympic Torch Masterplan

Cornwall Council's reputation with voters has skyrocketed yet again, after spare funding was revealed today for the direct benefit of local people. In times of widespread public service shortfalls and local government job losses, the Council's succeeded in showing its idiotic detractors what financial prudence is all about.

In an astonishing leap of imagination which caught critics off-guard, the Council has passed up dull opportunities merely to fix roads or provide accommodation. Instead, dovetailing current international affairs with local needs, officials have rolled out a financial plan to support the passing through Cornwall next year of the Olympic Torch.

Council tourism officer Malcolm Bellend described the post created to mastermind the scheme. "We're seeking a Project Administrator to assist the Festivals & Events Coordinator in the successful delivery of the Olympic Torch Relay through Cornwall in May 2012," he intoned. "The Project Administrator will help raise awareness of the event throughout Cornwall, while also reinforcing the county's profile nationally and internationally." Bellend declined to say whether the post would be filled by an employee from the Council’s Serco industry partner, but confirmed a total promotional budget of £135,000 has been ring-fenced for the one-day event.

Despite overwhelming local enthusiasm for the Council's carefree innovation, a few 'moaning minnies' have tried to spoil the occasion. Mid-Cornwall MP Stephen Gilbert said: “It’s bonkers for Cornwall Council to throw money around when at the same time they're hitting local projects and services with funding cuts. Instead, cash should be put into schemes which benefit our communities here.”

But the 'wet blankets', say officials, are a tiny minority; most people are setting aside fears of homelessness or unemployment and embracing the Olympics whole-heartedly. It's expected the Council will soon be revealing all the Cornish venues it's secured where Olympic events will be held.

The Council's estimated that as much as £7 million could be made from the torch's journey between Land’s End and the Tamar. However, it has yet to say whether the actual financial out-turn will be independently verified, or notified to the public. It has also to explain what the project can achieve in terms of raising awareness that relentless national media bombardment can't.

Since the torch itself will be carried nationwide, it's not as if visitors will flock to see it in Cornwall. There will be no legacy left of its progress, so no long-term or even residual benefit for Cornish people. On top of that, the £100 million central government-backed advertising campaign to lure overseas tourists to Britain has concentrated on London and south-east England; the Duchy has been snubbed.

£135,000: another waste of public money by cash-strapped Cornwall Council? You decide.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Mind Your Head

Libyan rebels have celebrated their advance into Colonel Gaddafi's former base at Tripoli by firing their guns into the air. Usually it’s the good old Russian AK-47, global automatic firearm of choice for revolutionaries. Shooting a weapon into the sky to express triumph and euphoria is popular across much of the world, particularly in 'dry' countries where you can't get pissed off your head by way of merriment. But it’s also a potentially fatal activity which regularly results in the deaths of bystanders.

After Iraq's football team had defeated Vietnam in 2007's Asia Cup, amid widespread gunshots as fans celebrated in Baghdad three people were killed. Triumphant gunfire across Kuwait at the end of the 1991 Gulf War was blamed for 20 deaths.

In 2010 three people in the Philippines died due to stray bullets fired to welcome New Year's Eve. That year too, a Turkish bridegroom killed three relatives when he loosed off an AK-47 at his wedding.

Such were the problems in Macedonia that the government there ran a poster campaign with the slogan "Bullets Are Not Greeting Cards - Celebrate Without Weapons." Ahead of New Year's Eve 2005, Serbian authorities warned their citizens that "every bullet that is fired up must come down."

Studies suggest that, although the velocity of a falling bullet is lower than that of a round which has just been fired, it’s still sufficient to be fatal. On the evidence above, more than merely a suggestion surely.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Red Arrows: With Sympathy

Two weeks ago I watched the Red Arrows giving an unforgettable air display over the Fal River in Cornwall: blue twinkly sea, a few white puffy clouds, and the most awe-inspiring aerobatic team in the business. They flew for around twenty minutes, impeccable and breath-taking as ever. But last weekend, Flt Lt Jon Egging was killed when his Hawk aircraft, Red 4, crashed during a display at Bournemouth.

It's too early to say what happened. Certainly though, Flt Lt Egging appears to have flown the aircraft away from built-up areas; he made it to open country, where he came down. At Bournemouth, two books of condolence have been opened for people to express their sympathy. Jon's widow Emma described him as "an amazing friend and husband." Today a memorial service is being held at the Red Arrows' base, RAF Scampton in Lincolnshire.

Group Captain Ian Dick flew with the Red Arrows in the 1960s and 1970s, and was team leader between 1972 and 1974. In an interview with the BBC he said there would be some people who'll now be calling for the disbanding of the Red Arrows but that "in these hard times for the UK, one should hold fast to what is good, and the Red Arrows epitomise for me, much of what is good about the UK." I'll second that.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Bird-Box Speed Camera: Council's Dilemma!

A Somerset man has put his foot down on speeding motorists by erecting this bird-box outside his home near the village of Williton.

Ian Magee was fed up with motorists breaking the 30mph speed limit on the main road. After a typically feeble response to his protests from West Somerset Council, he decided to take direct action. He created a bird-box and painted it the trademark yellow of a roadside speed trap. Nesting holes are where the camera's lens should be. The box even has its own CCTV camera alongside, to stop vandals damaging it. Mr Magee says the device has been effective in slowing traffic. “It’s convinced a lot of people. Even off-duty ambulances and police cars slow down when they see it.”

Unsurprisingly perhaps, the bird box has caused a split between local authorities. A representative of Avon and Somerset police said: “We’ve checked it out, however it’s on private land and as far as we're concerned it's not breaking any rules.”

But the same Council which was unhelpful about speeding motorists is more diligent over planning regulations; Mr Magee could be ordered to remove his bird-box. A Council spokesperson said: “This is something we are currently looking into, as we feel this kind of object requires planning permission, which it doesn't have. We also believe the box should be taken down as it's providing unnecessary clutter to the area. It's also causing rather a lot of interest, which isn't necessary, and this is something we want to stop.” Public money well-spent on such a debate? You decide.

But in a hammer-blow to the idiotic Council’s wishes, Mr Magee has reported that Pipistrelle bats have started nesting in his box. This could be a problem for anyone who wants it removed, as the bat’s a protected species.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Extreme Shopping: Politicians Speak Out

After England's urban riots, politicians have spoken out against the feral youths who've ignored common decency as well as breaking the law.

These vocal people include
Cabinet minister Francis Maude, who's made tens of thousands of pounds by habitually breaching the spirit surrounding MPs’ allowance claims. Rotherham MP Denis MacShane has roundly condemned the looters yet under his allowances claimed £5,900 for eight laptops, their purpose never explained. Veteran left-winger Gerald Kaufman, who on Wednesday asked the Prime Minister to consider how the rioters can be “reclaimed” by society, previously submitted three months’ expenses totalling £14,301.60. This included £8,865 for a Bang & Olufsen television.

Salford MP Hazel Blears has been particularly strident in calling for draconian action. But it's not straightforward to distinguish between the Red Dwarf’s previous record - expense cheating and tax avoidance - and the robberies carried out by rioters.
If some sections of youth seem oblivious to decency and morality so do the venal rich and powerful, despite their comparative advantages in life.

It's beyond me to make any suggestions as to what might be done about the riots. I don't have personal experience of the problems which allegedly caused them, nor am I a Daily Mail reader. But a couple of observations:

During Clapham's riots the only shop untouched was Waterstones.

In the news clips of youths arriving at court, none seemed to be accompanied by parents.

Yesterday a thirteen-year-old was released from custody, despite previous form considered too young to face the charges brought against him. What message does this send to the boy, and to all his little friends?

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Arse of the Century: Corrie vs Middleton Shootout

Today's a right royal celebration of lovely girls, as Britain's beauties compete for the title Arse of the Century. Two of our finalists have been drawn from plebby soap-opera Coronation Street while the Middleton family, recently in the news, represents the nation's adored toffs.

Which of the lovely girls below would you vote for? And who comes from which background? Chav or posh, as you can see they all look pretty much alike!

But whoever wins, one thing's for sure. As the judging panel's Chairman enthuses, they've all got lovely bottoms!

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

World's Worst Food

In our busy world, sometimes we find ourselves skimping on food or taking the easy option. Instead of a full wholesome meal just a sandwich; a gnaw of the pork pie living at the back of the fridge; maybe a quick salad, with instant cous-cous if you can brave the packet's image of Ainsley Harriot and his mad bulging eyes.

Some food though, marketed on the ticket of convenience or speed of preparation, is just too awful to bear; 'Frankenfood', produced from bubbling chemicals in sweaty industrial cauldrons. Opinions vary as to the worst but turkey twizzlers, microwavable snack products and chicken nuggets come to mind. Or perhaps Asda's Smart Price Chilli Con Carne, a dish so lacking in taste or form that it deserves a special mention.

But pictured below we have the undisputed champion, the king of disgusting foods. I give you (drum-roll) ... the bizarre Jimmy Dean Pancake and Sausage on a Stick, with Chocolate Chips. If anyone can beat that for sheer jaw-dropping repugnance I'd be interested to hear. Wasn't there a Jimmy Dean who died horribly of something?