Anyone who has been to Worcester lately will know, to their detriment, that there is maintenance being done on Holt Fleet bridge at present. So could someone please explain to me why the two traffic lights, one at either end of the bridge, require to be ‘manned’. When I say manned, I mean overseen by a rather unintelligent and bored looking chap watching the queuing vehicles, wearing a hard hat. A hard hat when he is nowhere near the building site? For what purpose exactly? Perhaps it is in case the traffic light falls on his head? Maybe a plane passing overhead might inadvertently drop a wheel or a peanut from the sky? No, we all know the real reason? It is yet another example of health and safety taken to a ridiculous level. The man is employed by building firm, hard hat compulsory, despite him being in no danger whatsoever, these are rules, black and white. Except, of course, if he wishes to wear a turban instead like one of his colleagues. But that is another issue entirely.
While on the subject of mysteries, could anyone enlighten me about the road sign at the entrance to the Birmingham hospital. It reads: ‘No entry, except for access.’ Why else would anyone want to enter if not for access? Access to what? Perhaps I would like to enter, do a little dance in the middle of the road again, and then leave without actually accessing the hospital? At least it is written in English, unlike some of the other signs around that district. Oops, there goes my xenophobic streak again.
I have very little interest in football and even less understanding of the game. However, it seems that the thuggish image it portrays has yet reached another highlight. I open the paper to see Wayne Crooney (names changed to protect the ..etc) has recently punched someone in the face, only to be allowed to play in a match the next day, unpunished. Even more of a dismay, one of the players on the apposing side has recently shot someone with an air rifle. The fact that the team is owned by a Mafia don has either gone unnoticed by the press or they are too afraid to make the connection. What next? The prevalent use of flick-knives for all premiership strikers to be sanctioned by the FA? Perhaps the goalie should be armed with an AK47? Is it any wonder that there is so much violence on the streets? As said, I have little knowledge of the game but did hear a rather amusing joke on the subject, possibly made by a rugby fan: When Ashley Cole shot that student with an air rifle, Didier Drodber rolled around on the ground pretending to be injured. I guess to some this may be funny although somewhat lost on me!
I couldn’t rant this month without a mention of that good old dictator, Colonel Mu-ammar Gadaffi. Possibly, by the time this goes to print, he may be no longer with us, in fact by the time I finish this sentence he could well have been terminated! He makes speeches saying: “my people love me….!” Ahem, and which people are these exactly? The ones he has ordered his army to shoot at per chance. The ones who are fleeing the country? The ones who are rioting to depose him after 40 years of oppression? And to think that after the carnage of the Lockerbie aircraft bombings we, the UK, has since been doing business with this maniac? My online blog carries the heading that “the lunatics have taken over the asylum..!”. I usually proffer this line somewhat tongue-in-cheek but this man really is one lunatic too many. Maybe we should send one of our football players to sort him out!
Having written this column for just over two years now, it would be remiss of me not to mention the annual battle of rugby that our nation has with the French this time of year, the result being 2 wins to one in our favour during that time. Shame I wasn’t in France this year on that winning occasion to wind up my neighbours once more. It is normally the only day of the year when the St Georges flag flies at chez nous and, dammit, I missed it!
Talking of rugby, the flags are still flying half mast in that home of the game, Christchurch, New Zealand. Having visited the city some years ago, with another trip planned this autumn, it was shocking to see footage of buildings and the cathedral falling to the ground. Thankfully, the few friends I have over there are all OK, but it certainly has rocked the country emotionally as well as physically. My heart goes out to those with friends and relatives caught up in the disaster. It is still our intention to go there in September, albeit the rugby games we were going to watch may be rescheduled elsewhere.
I was in France briefly this month to sort of some business. While checking on the sheep, I discovered that our head count has increased by one. A wandering minstrel of a ram has taken up residence amongst our flock, but from whenst he came I have no idea as there are no other sheep around us for miles. I considered keeping him but then, as I listened, I heard the very faint sound of a guillotine being sharpened in the village. Seemingly the death penalty is still in force for sheep rustling in France, especially if you are English, and particularly if your nation has just beaten the home nation at their national sport. So, in by best French, I declared the beast to the local Marie in some sort of bizarre French amnesty. The poor chap was quite confused as I attempted to describe to the creature in a combination of pigeon-French and sign language. “Un grand mouton monsieur” said I, waving my arms, “avec les grand ballons..!” I think he considered phoning me a doctor!
Someone the other day described my rantings as a bit “Clarksonesque”, another of those new adjectives that never found its way in Samuel Johnson’s original Oxford dictionary. I am not sure if this was a compliment or an insult but I was hasty to point out the difference between the great J Clarkson and myself. He is a foot taller than me for one thing. He is also infinitely more wealthy, witty and famous. On the other hand, I do have a little more chance of avoiding slander and libel cases than he does. For instance, if I was to say that all Mexicans are lazy good-for-nothing so-and-so’s with droopy moustaches or what ever accusation he made on Top Gear, I would be far less lightly to be taken to task by the Mexican government for mentioning it in R&DN. I will not, of course, make those accusations at all. I met a Mexican once, he was a nice chap. Or was he Brazilian? Definitely from one of those peasant filled South American bandit countries anyway.
But herein hangs a point. TV and radio gets scrutinised by all and sundry and the BBC is forced to adhere to something near the truth. Whereas the press…well don’t get me started. How can they continually get away with printing blatant lies and half-truths just to sell newspapers, with no recompense whatsoever? I actually have adopted the attitude of believing the opposite of whatever I read in daily print to be the truth. With the exception of this quality magazine, obviously.
Anyway, I digress. This week, on a trip back from London, I encountered my first four pound sandwich. That’s a heavy meal, I hear you say. But no, this was not in weight but in money. Yes, the meagre sandwich has finally reached the four quid threshold. So it was, and this is where I feel I can name and shame, unlike the great JC, that I pulled into a service station called Welcome Break. Is it any wonder I was ‘Welcome’ when they charge prices like that? And ‘broke’ I surely would be if I visited them too frequently. So let’s make a quick analysis here. Two slices of bread – 10p, a slice of dry cooked chicken – 5p, some lettuce and mayo – 2p. Total cost less than 20p? And packaging, you say? Well I don’t want the packaging thanks, I can’t eat that. Or maybe it tastes as good as the product inside? What I found really preposterous was that the company who makes said sandwich has the slogan “Good Honest Food!” What the..? Where is the honesty in charging four quid for a sarnie? How honest is making 2000% profit in this day an age? Yes it had travelled all the way from Cornwall. Bully for it. It could have travelled by first class rail with its own private carriage complete with hand-maidens and en-suite butter-bath and still been cheaper! It is nothing short of an outrage. When cigarettes reached the one pound per pack threshold, I gave them up. Should I now consider giving up sandwiches too? Or at the very least I should revert to rolling my own.