Saturday, 30 April 2011

Royal Wedding: The Climax

It was described by joyous crowds of a few old women as the most memorable nationwide community event since VE Day. In Cornwall, at several half-hearted street celebrations people wore stupid patriotic costume and spoke to neighbours they'd never much liked, as the Duchy commemorated the century's greatest occasion: yesterday's royal wedding.

During the glorious pageantry of the service at Westminster Abbey, Cornwall's streets were deserted as thousands of people tuned in to view the snooker finals. The handful who watched the royal ceremony admired Kate's white dress, her swain's boyish grin, and Prince Charles' lusty singing of the national anthem as he mumbled "Long live our noble Queen." It was also noticed that as Wills and Kate recited their wedding vows, the panning cameras politely avoided Charles and Camilla.

Bride and groom sealed their love with kisses on Buckingham Palace's balcony, and left their reception in Prince Charles' Aston Martin. The car was decked out with red, white and blue ribbons, balloons tied to the back, and a rear number plate which read "JU5T WED", all thanks to the crazy antics of best man Prince Harry. Well, at least there were no swastikas this time!

Across the nation, as people realised the interminable fuss was finally over, grateful partying began. In Cornwall, the Duchy Sausage Company's celebration bangers produced in William's honour were dutifully eaten by revellers, despite being twice the price of ordinary snorkers. Even in run-down areas pubs held wedding-themed events, and putting aside fears of unemployment and homelessness several Cornish drinkers gamely toasted the royal couple.

At well-to-do St Mawes meanwhile, more than six people gathered at the Yacht Club where they meet each week. Commodore 'Bunnie' Tuffington-Smythe said: "These events help bring the wider community together and break down social barriers, but it's a temporary phenomenon thank God. Now, trebles all round!"

In the snug of the Dog and Spanner at Camborne, mother-of-five Tracey Island slurred weepily: "Didn't William look handsome? But if only Diana had been there." Her friend Dawn Syndrome was too drunk to comment sensibly but indicated that on most days she'd have been pissed by mid-afternoon anyway.

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Camborne Trevithick Day

Don't miss this year's Trevithick Day at Camborne; down in Cornwall's dark depths the streets come alive! It's a great day out: a grand procession of traction engines and vintage vehicles, street entertainment, a market, parades of dancing, together with the odd quiet half. Trevithick Day's a real celebration of the Camborne area's industrial heritage.

Richard Trevithick was born in nearby Illogan, where his father ran a tin mine, in 1771. As a youngster he became fascinated by the engineering side of the mines. During his career, Trevithick pioneered the introduction of high-pressure steam engines to the mining process, and vastly improved the means of pumping unwanted water from the lower reaches of the mine shafts.

Trevithick’s mind was never still. His ideas ranged from a self-powered road vehicle, and a steam railway engine, to schemes for wreck salvage. He also looked at land reclamation, mechanical refrigeration, agricultural machinery, even tunnelling under the Thames.

But as much as anything, we remember Trevithick through his Puffing Devil engine. On Christmas Eve in 1801 he made a short journey up Camborne Hill with his hissing, clanking machine, carrying a group of friends. The Puffing Devil was one of the world's first passenger-carrying road-going vehicles. The episode gave rise to the Cornish song titled (you've guessed it) 'Going Up Camborne Hill'; today, a replica Devil can often be seen in steam during the festivities.

This year, Trevithick Day's on Saturday 30 April; the fun begins during mid-morning. Enjoy!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

Falmouth Packet: Royal Gaffe

Many thanks to my local Cornish 'newspaper', the Falmouth Packet, for the typo on the left.

I've never liked the Packet, which has a tendency to run thoughtless headlines in the style of 'Lucky Man Sees Friends Die'. Its scruffy journalese repeatedly aims at hype and sensationalism but the problem is, the Packet's based in a rural location where not a great deal happens. Worse, it has the nasty habit of reporting bad news in a Victorian manner, creating
doleful, ghoulish melodramas from events deserving sensitivity.

Of the royal family, Sophie strikes me as a bit 'better' than most. At least she has a job. Such carelessness by the Packet, and at this special time for the royals too ...

Doubtless there'll be an apology printed, but how will it be phrased? "We meant Prince Phillip", probably.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Royal Wedding "Quite Good"

Recently we learned W an' K’s honeymoon will last just two weeks, so that Prince William can return to his Royal Air Force duties. The break, rumoured to be in either Kenya, the Seychelles or the Scilly Isles, will be rather shorter than his parents' honeymoon which continued for three months. About as long as their marriage.

The Prince currently co-pilots a search-and-rescue helicopter with the RAF's No.22 Squadron, based on the island of Anglesey. He qualified last September and will serve with the unit until 2013, unless it's axed. Up until the wedding he'll continue to work, as he's only allowed limited time off under his duty rota.

William's invited the entire squadron to the wedding. His boss, Squadron Leader Iain Wright, was surprised by the invitation but reportedly has said he expects the occasion to be "quite good." Meanwhile, residents of Anglesey have been warned to stay ashore on Friday week, and a planned ferry-boat wedding party on the Menai Straits has been cancelled.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Royal Wedding Tat-Watch

With excitment across Britain reaching fever pitch at the thought of an additional public holiday, sales linked with the coming royal wedding have boosted the economy by £1 trillion. The retail power of W an' K has resuscitated UK business and lifted the mood of the entire nation. 29 April could be the biggest souvenir pay-day the country's seen since much-loved Prince Charles married his beautiful Diana in 1981. Throughout the land shops are awash with ­memorabilia, from traditional mugs, plates and tea towels to even more useless items: iPhone covers, lavatory seats, garden gnomes.

Here's some of the junk available to mark the big day:

Absurdly expensive:

  • Prince William bubbly, £24.99, Tesco. Created by Champagne house Alexander Bonnet, which registered the name Prince William shortly after his birth.
  • Twinings Royal Wedding ­Commemorative Blend, miserably small packet, £14.99, Waitrose
  • Royal Wedding Union Jack Chocolate Bar, £14.95.
  • Charbonnel et Walker Catherine and William ­crown-shaped chocolates, £35.00, John Lewis
  • Rowse Royal Wedding Honey, £13.69, Waitrose
  • Royal wedding teapot, £29.50, Marks & Spencer
  • Kate and William cushion, £30.00,

Prole stuff (but still pricey):

  • 'Will loves Kate' Union Jack white mug, £3, Lidl
  • William and Kate tea towels, £4.00 each, Asda
  • Royal Worcester mug (second), £5.99, from the Lidl Britain range
  • Melamine cup and saucer set, £3.50, Asda
  • Two engraved perspex champagne flutes, £3.99, Aldi
  • William and Kate plate, £5.00, Co-op
  • Commemorative coin, £9.99,
  • Kate and William masks, £2.99 each,
Much of this tat will end up in sales or at your local pound shop, of course; by autumn, car-boots will be peddling little else. The cushion might come in handy if your thing's face-sitting, but make sure you have it the right way round.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Easter: Chocolate Heaven

I have mixed views on Easter.

I resent any intrusion of religion into my daily life, even temporarily. I see the church - at least, the christian church in this country - as an idiosyncrasy in a broadly secular society. When we fill in forms asking for personal details, we scrawl 'C of E' in the appropriate box and move on. We visit churches when we go to weddings and funerals, but really these are parties. If the church is given airtime to 'speak out' on issues that don't concern it or about which it knows nothing, we shout at the television. At Easter though, briefly the church looms large, ever keen to disturb our pleasures and happiness; on Good Friday, the pubs shut early.

But at least we can comfort ourselves with chocolate eggs. I have a great fondness for the Easter egg. Maybe it's a childhood hangover thing. The satisfying snap as the first piece of shell is broken off; picking through the sweeties inside (to make this bit interesting, they have to be different); the careful wrapping of the remaining shell in its foil, as we save a little piece for later.

So on Easter Sunday I'm looking forward to receiving loads of eggs, touch wood. Not that touching wood did much for Jesus, if you like to believe it.

Friday, 8 April 2011

Elliot Morley: Game Over

At last he's caved in. Ex-Labour minister Elliot Morley has finally admitted dishonestly claiming more than £30,000 in parliamentary expenses, the largest sum of any former MP. In court yesterday he pleaded guilty to making excessive claims for mortgage costs between 2004 and 2007, and trousering cash for another loan that had actually been paid off.

Morley stepped down as an MP at the last election. In his attempt to avoid being tried under the ordinary criminal process, he fought all the way to the Supreme Court. Happily these squirmings failed, and yesterday at Southwark Crown Court his barrister said Morley accepted a jail sentence was now likely. "We know it's not a question of if, but how long," he said, while urging the judge to consider the former MP's "lifetime of public service." But how long had this blatant, calculated deceit been going on? And are these admissions a complete picture?

Pending his sentencing, Morley's been released on bail. He left the court head bowed, without speaking to journalists; no more airy promises to explain "genuine mistakes" and "oversights". For many months he'd maintained he hadn't realised his mortgage had been paid off, and so had continued to claim an allowance against it. For most of us, paying off the mortgage is a red-letter day and the public has found it rather difficult to comprehend his explanation.

Yesterday, Morley pleaded guilty to two charges of false accounting. He admitted to receiving £15,200 more than he was entitled to in inflated mortgage claims, and of submitting £16,800 in phantom mortgage claims after he'd redeemed the existing loan on a property near Scunthorpe. He wrongly filled out a total of forty forms relating to mortgage payments.

The Parliamentary expenses system exists to assist the public's representatives in performing their duties. But Morley used it to line his own pockets with just over £30,000 - more than an average household's annual income. As environment minister between 2003 and 2007, he's the most senior politician to plead guilty to fraud since the expenses scandal broke in 2009. He'll be sentenced next month.

Bye bye, Mr Morley. Enjoy your new second home.