Thursday, 29 November 2012

Twelve months of giving. Give me strength...

It's Movember. And no, that isn't a spelling error. Movember is a registered charity, dedicated to raising awareness of male cancers (testicular and the like). Participants are expected to start the month of November clean shaven, and then spend the entire month growing and grooming a moustache. No beards or goatees allowed! The 'Mo' (for that is the correct nomenclature of the putative moustache grower) collects sponsorship money from willing donors, all of which helps to support research into testicular and prostate cancer. And a very worthy cause it is, too.

But perhaps November shouldn't be the only month to be renamed in support of a charity. Another eleven months are going begging, just gagging for a suitable group to adopt them. Now, let me see...

Jamuary - when the Women's Institute encourages the making and selling of preserves as a means of fundraising.

Phlebruary - the month for giving blood.

Marchpain - in aid of depressed dyslexics who are apt to confuse marzipan with diazepam.

Aperil - dress as a monkey to raise cash for animal charities.

Maybe - a time when the terminally indecisive think about charitable giving. Or perhaps not.

Jooon! - in aid of those damaged by excessive watching of sitcoms starring Terry Scott.

Julycanthropy - to support people who think they might be werewolves.

Smorgast - providing cold snacks for those poor unfortunates that live nowhere near an Ikea store.

Syruptember - wearing a badly made bright red wig (with a chin strap) to highlight the plight of those who cannot afford a decent hairpiece.

Socktober - reuniting socks separated at birth with their siblings.

Distemper - funding the whitewashing of dogs. For some reason best known to the organisers of the charity concerned.

Perhaps I should mention that there is a premium rate phoneline for those affected by this blog post. Oh, and a translation service for our American cousins who haven't the faintest idea who Terry Scott is. Or what a Syrup might be.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

It's beginning to look a lot like...rubbish

Today's good news: the breakfast room is finished. The hundred and five year old cupboard doors have been dipped, stripped, undercoated and glossed. The rotten old skirting boards have been chucked out and replaced with shiny new ones. And the walls have been plastered, sized and papered to within an inch of their lives. Needless to say, Mrs H (chief paster of wallpaper) is quite pleased with Mr H (paper-hanger-in-chief). Tomorrow the pictures go back up, then that's the lot for this year. We wind down (or possibly up) towards Christmas.

Those of you who have (sort of) followed this blog for a while will have noticed the less than subtle changes that have overcome it as time has rolled on. The first Director General of the BBC, Lord Reith, famously stated that the purpose of the organization was to educate, inform and entertain. Whilst not seeking to make any kind of comparison between a part time council employee cum morris dancer and the First Baron Reith, I started blogging around four years ago in the (I now realise) mistaken belief that I could, perhaps, aspire to some of those lofty Reithian precepts. How dare I presume attempt to educate you, my dear, but admittedly very small, audience! You, who, I am sure, already knew the recipe for recreating Roman fish sauce. You, who have probably written more poems in emulation of Sir John Betjeman than I have had hot dinners. You, who have been made far sicker than I by far worse repasts than a tub of jellied eels.

But at least, at the outset, the blog had a sense of purpose. Over the intervening months and years, I have to say, sadly, that this sense of purpose has fallen away, to be replaced by what I can only describe as stream of consciousness drivel. It is the equivalent of an inebriated tramp, weighed down by supermarket shopping bags filled with old newspapers, muttering softly to himself as he shuffles along a poorly lit alleyway in a corner of a sink estate in south east London. In the rain. And I'm not going to do it any more. Well, not much.

 Perhaps, now I have some extra time on my hands, I should find something useful to do. Like learning Anglo Saxon. Or drinking wine. Or perhaps doing both together. Perhaps I could finish my partially completed sitcom, 'Pardon my Jaguar', or even 'Postman Pat's Bloody Day', a post-apocalyptic (geddit?) view of a Royal Mail employee in Cumbria...


Monday, 12 November 2012

From Bumhole to Banana in seven paragraphs

Today I've been picking over the carcase of this old blog of mine. And I've found any number of metaphorical bones, bleaching in the sun, that are the remains of blog posts started but never finished. Things that seemed A Good Idea At The Time. This is one of them...

A few years ago someone coined the word 'NIMBY'. The term is generally used in a critical way to denote those people who oppose the building of houses, industrial units, airports, etc. in their area, and means 'Not In My Back Yard'. And there certainly seems to be a fair amount of nimbyism around at the moment. Like it or not, the UK government has signed up to us producing x per cent of 'green' energy by the year two thousand and something. And so, rather like Arthur Dent's Bypass in the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy, the infrastructure for renewables has Got To Be Built, and it's Going To Be Built. So, we're looking at wind turbines, some of which are around 400 feet tall, and additional pylons to carry all that lovely green energy. But every time a new wind farm is announced, or set of pylons planned, a Pressure Group springs into action.

Pressure groups are curious animals. In the UK they generally consist of what used to be called 'the middle classes'; doctors, solicitors and the like, who live in picturesque villages or pleasant, leafy suburbs. And they are ever ready to spring into action when notification is received that a wind farm or power station is scheduled to be built in their particular back yard. So, they form their committees, hire halls for meetings, and spend just about all of their spare time getting up petitions, badgering Councils and chatting to the media about the terrible injustice of whatever it is that is planned for Sleepy Leafyville. And the One Thing that pressure groups will always point out is that this particular development is in The Wrong Place.

The Wrong Place. Let's have a look at this for a moment in the context of wind turbines. Wind turbines produce electricity, but to do so, they need something called wind. Large numbers of pressure group people live in the country, where winds blow freely over hills and through valleys. So on the face of it, windy country places would seem to be quite good places for wind turbines. Oh, and I should perhaps mention that these same pressure group people live in houses that are connected, as far as one can ascertain, to the National Grid, which supplies them with electricity, and they are quite happy to avail themselves of its use. Could it be that, when they tell us the proposed development is in the wrong place, they are really saying that it should be built near poor people? After all, most poor people live in council houses, don't they? With old cars and mattresses in the front garden? And the fact that they spend most of their spare time in the betting shop or pub means that they are unlikely to be bothered if a bunch of wind turbines are parked close to their Sink Estate?

Sorry. I think I'm getting a bit cynical in my old age. But pressure groups do seem to be a bit po-faced, don't they? I think they need to try and appeal to those difficult-to-reach individuals by being a bit creative. They could start with a snazzy acronym. Let's suppose you live in Petersfield and you want to prevent the incursion of wind turbines: hey presto! Petersfield Residents Against Turbines (PRATs). Or maybe you're part of a group of mums in the West Midlands who are trying to prevent the building of a new generating plant:  Birmingham United Mothers Heavily Opposed to Local Electricity Substation (BUMHOLES).

Some pressure groups manage to turn themselves into charities, the better to raise funds in order to fight their particular battle. And it seems that, in order to summon up a bit of cash from the general public, supporters are expected to undergo ever more difficult ordeals in the name of charity. Whatever happened to 'excuse me, I'm collecting for BUMHOLES. Can you give me some money, please?' Now it's 'hiya, I'm being tasered by my local police force to raise money for BUMHOLES. Will you give me a tenner to get zapped?' How would you respond to the latter? Would you say 'no, that's a terrible idea!' or 'your story has touched my heart. I'll give you twenty quid...but only if I can watch'.

So. If the government decides to build a giant set of wind chimes overlooking your conservatory, don't despair. Set up your own little pressure group, give it a catchy cognomen, have bits of yourself tattooed to fill the fighting fund, and tell anyone who will listen that it's in the wrong place. And when they accuse you of being a NIMBY, laugh in their face and tell them you belong to the BANANA bunch - Build Absolutely Nothing Anywhere Near Anyone.