Remarkable times by Levone

VIEWS: 118 PAGES: 20

									Remarkable times.
February 21, 2003
ACCORDING to the 2001 Census, 99.6 per cent of people in the Eden Valley are
white.
Had post office fraudster Lithoke Bothelanyele known this statistic, he may well have
chosen somewhere else to commit his £12,000 crime spree.
Even at the height of the tourist season you’ll be hard-pressed to find a black man
from the Congo in Armathwaite, Lazonby or Cumwhinton. In freezing mid-January,
Bothelanyele’s capture was a formality.
It is hard not to feel sorry for him, though. Bothelanyele, an unemployed asylum
seeker based in London, was trying to raise funds for his sick father in Africa. Had he
only gone a few miles down the frog and toad to Newham or Brent, where whites are
now in the minority for the first time, he might have done better.
Indeed, had he claimed to have been a Jedi he probably would have escaped the 16-
month jail sentence handed down to him by a judge at Carlisle Crown Court this week
on conscientious grounds.
According to the Census, there are 1,132 Jedi in Cumbria – making the creed
followed by Star Wars characters Yoda and Luke Skywalker the second most popular
religion in the county.
These are truly remarkable times in which we live.


Freedom of speech.
March 14, 2003
ONE of Prime Minister Blair’s favourite ripostes to people protesting about next
week’s war against Iraq is that at least they live in a country in which they are allowed
to protest.
It is a good point – although Mr Blair must sometimes cast an envious glance at
Baghdad, where outspoken dissidents like Clare Short, George Michael and those
slow-clapping women on Tonight with Trevor McDonald would have “disappeared”
long ago.
In Keswick this week, animal rights activists gathered to protest about the sale of
“ships cats”, the novelty fireside ornaments which have proved so popular with
people who like cats but can’t be bothered to feed them.
What has rattled the activists’ cage is that these “cats” are in fact made from rabbit
fur. In their defence, the manufacturers claim the fur is a byproduct of the meat
industry – which is possibly more unsettling than if they’d admitted the rabbits were
being skinned alive.
In any case, things are looking up for Cumbrian animals if the only thing activists can
find to protest about on their behalf are “ships cats”. As an outrage, they’re hardly in
the same league as Korean dog-burgers.
The problem with being allowed to protest, it seems, is that some people doth protest
too much. The activists should chill out, perhaps by stroking a “ships cat” and making
purring noises. It is said to be very therapeutic.
War: Cumbria speaks
March 21, 2003
THE Iraq crisis has split the nation this week. Week Ending has pounded the streets of
Cumbria to find out YOUR reactions to Gulf War II.

MYRTLE PYLE, 58, council executive, Carlisle: “War against Iraq will cause
suffering to untold millions – including my own. Imagine the cost of filling my Rolls
Royce with petrol should conflict send oil prices soaring! Imagine the cost of flying to
Antigua twice a year should air fares hit the roof! Which is why, to deal with every
eventuality, I shall be awarding myself a further £30,000 per annum, on top of my
existing £426,000 salary. Yes, this will put a further 40 per cent on your council tax
bill – but as we in the council like to say: if you want the best, you have to pay for the
best.”

ALBERT APPLECHEEKS, 86, golfer, Thursby: “Well one thing’s for certain: if
Saddam Hussein went into exile in Cumbria he would not be welcome at my golf
club. Moustaches have been banned in the members’ lounge since 1927, along with
long-haired drop-outs, members of the Labour Party, and wives. People may say this
is out of step with modern thinking – and they would be right. But we have always
valued etiquette over basic human rights, and we’re not going to change now!”

JOCELYN SPLIFF, 19, student, Stanwix: “As soon as it became clear that war was
about to be declared on Iraq, we in the Sociology department organised a demo.
Unfortunately, it coincided with a demo by the Philosophy department, and an
argument ensued about the legal and moral basis of each department’s demos.
Fighting broke out in the canteen, during which the Media Studies department
launched a lightning raid and stole all the chips. Peace was only restored when
someone pointed out that Neighbours was about to begin on telly.”

DOUG SATCHEL, 26, animal activist, Keswick: “It is obscene that the news
agenda is dominated by the Iraq crisis when all across Cumbria there are shops selling
pillows filled with duck feathers. Every pillow means one bald duck, and in this
windswept county that is nothing more than a criminal act of cruelty.”

MARJORIE RYCE-PUDDINGE, 42, restaurateur, Cockermouth: “Saddam
dined with us shortly after the first Gulf War, and my husband Graeme and I found
him to be absolutely charming. Genocide is all very well, but good table manners are
such a rarity these days. And although he did shoot one of the waiters for spilling
soup over his trilby, he paid his bill in cash and left a very generous tip for the
cleaning staff.”

DAVE BIRTWISTLE, 46, former TV personality, Wigton : “It takes me back,
  because I was reading the news bulletin on Border TV the day they began
  bombing Baghdad in1991. It was pretty nerve-wracking because I only had 90
  seconds before Blind Date and I had to fit in the birthdays and the speedway
  results. Afterwards the producer came up to me and said: ‘Nice one, Brian – now
  get back in the cupboard with the other presenters.’ To me, that was a triumph, as
  he had never spoken to me before – nor has he since.”
Be prepared.
March 28, 2003
FROM their bunker in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein and his doubles have spent much of
the current Gulf War issuing dire threats of retribution against the accursed infidel
invaders.
The threat of an impending Scud missile attack on Whitehaven must have been lost in
translation, however. Geoff Hoon would surely have mentioned it otherwise.
Michael Moon, who owns a bookshop in the town, is taking no chances. As reported
this week, Mr Moon has stockpiled more than 200 tins of food and several hundred
gallons of water in his home in case the balloon goes up.
“It is better to be prepared,” he said. “It is bombs today, maybe Ricin tomorrow or
Anthrax the next.”
Or we must assume that is what he said – he has recently taken to wearing a gas mask
purchased in case of chemical attack.
In Whitehaven, meanwhile, residents have a more pressing concern than the wrath of
Saddam: scouring supermarkets in search of any scraps that Mr Moon could not fit in
his trolley.
War is hell, to be sure, but it would be unfortunate if humanitarian food aid bound for
Iraq had to be diverted to west Cumbria instead.
Shortages of food and water are rare in Britain these days. In fact, they only ever
occur when people go on misguided panic-buying sprees. The last time it happened
was at the turn of the century when thousands of otherwise rational people hid in their
cellars surrounded by baked beans and Highland Spring, only to emerge on January 2
to discover the world had not ended.
Like them, we can only assume that Mr Moon has been reading too many thrillers.
Were he to browse his own reference section, he would be relieved to discover that
the distance between Baghdad and Whitehaven is in excess of 3,000 miles, while the
range of a Scud missile is about 200.
But perhaps his shop is now so full of stockpiled food and water that he can no longer
reach the shelves.



Nary a grumble.
April 4, 2003
PRINCE Charles can’t keep away from Cumbria at the moment. In fact, it’s
downright creepy the way he has suddenly started hanging round the place. Just what
the hell does he want?
When he turns up in Barrow a week today it will be his second visit to the county in a
month and his third in a year. Compare this to his mother, who opened Calder Hall
nuclear power station in 1956, left 10 minutes later, and has been back to the region
maybe twice in 47 years.
Charles first turned up, unannounced, at a Lakeland B&B following the foot and
mouth crisis. Fine. Yet no sooner had the landlady changed the sheets than he was
back, this time demanding a tour of the region.
Fine again. But Royal tours aren’t like coach tours from Manchester. You can’t just
abandon the future king in a car park in Derwentwater for six hours, or dump him in a
Keswick chip shop if it rains.
The Royals are very demanding. They require photo-opportunities, drinking local beer
and sampling mint cake. They take up a lot of valuable time.
Yet Cumbrians do it with nary a grumble – and perhaps that explains why Charles
keeps coming back. Maybe we can offer the kind of love and affection that a middle-
aged heir just can’t get at home.
Charles’s trip north next week is, he claims, to visit Community Action Furness and
Age Concern in Barrow, which, for a man in such demand, is a pretty limp excuse to
get out of the house.
It might be better if he just came clean and moved here. It’s obvious he would be far
happier running a remote hill farm than he would being king. And we’d all take turns
to look after him.



The invaluable Junket Jack.
April 11, 2003
IT would be a shame if Gulf War II was the last we saw of Iraqi information minister
Mohammed Saeed al-Sahaf.
His rantings have provided welcome comic relief from the parade of po-faced US
generals who drone incessantly yet say nothing of any interest.
This week al-Sahaf proclaimed: “Baghdad is secure. A small American force made an
incursion, but they were surrounded and defeated and totally slaughtered. The soldiers
and President Saddam Hussein gave them a lesson which history will not forget.”
Even as he spoke, over his left shoulder American tanks could clearly be seen driving
through the front door of Saddam’s Presidential palace as startled Iraqi soldiers in
their Y-fronts ran for their lives.
But if al-Sahaf is unavailable then there is always Copeland MP Jack Cunningham.
When it comes to delusions of grandeur, “Junket Jack” has few equals.
He got the nickname because of his flamboyant style and love of foreign beanos when
he was Labour’s cabinet “enforcer” – a post he resigned with breathtaking humility,
10 minutes before he was pushed.
“Whilst I shall be leaving the cabinet sooner than expected,” he wrote in his
resignation letter to Tony Blair back in October 1999, “I am sure this is the correct
decision.”
Three years in the political wilderness have clearly not diminished his humble opinion
of his own importance.
 “The Prime Minister thought my resignation was a mistake,” he recalled this week.
“He tried to persuade me at the time of the last election to go back into the cabinet but
I said no.”
He was speaking amid speculation that he was about to be offered a dramatic
comeback as Leader of the House. Indeed Dr Cunningham admitted he would find it
hard to refuse if he was asked to take on the post vacated by Robin Cook.
So, by giving the job to John Reid, the PM was obviously trying to spare Dr
Cunningham the trouble of having to make such an agonising decision.
Or so he will have undoubtedly convinced himself by now.
Poles apart.
May 23, 2003
Carlisle Mayor Alan Toole is to visit to Slupsk later this year.
Slupsk is one of Carlisle’s twin towns. You didn’t know? On a map of Eastern
Europe, it can be found just to the left of Kaliningrad and slightly above Koscierzyna.
What happens there is anyone’s guess, although Mayor Toole and five of his top
council execs will find out when they jet there on a beano to celebrate the 15th
anniversary of the twinning agreement.
Yes, 15 years Carlisle has been twinned with Slupsk – although a fat lot it has meant
to ordinary people both here and there. Have you ever been invited to sample Slupsk
hospitality? Have you ever taken a Slupsker for a slap-up curry followed by dancing
at Mood?
The twinning exercise seems pretty pointless if it is restricted only to freeloading
council executives and the occasional youth exchange. It would be far better if, once a
year, all council tax payers received a free air ticket enabling them to fly to Slupsk
and make new friends.
Or Flensburg for that matter. That is another of Carlisle’s twin towns. On a map of
Germany, you’ll find it between Gluckstadt and Brunsbuttelkoog. It is rumoured to be
very pleasant at this time of year – although you’ll have to become a council exec to
find out.



The all-terrain pushchair menace
July 4, 2003
ANY Lakeland enthusiast who has spent Bank Holiday Weekend stuck behind a
caravan will dread the release of a new book, All-Terrain Pushchair Walks: North
Lakeland, which is published this week.
At least with a caravan up ahead there was a slim chance of getting maybe half an
hour’s walking in before it was time to pack up and go home again.
Now, having finally shaken off Maureen and Jim from Cleethorpes in their two-berth
“Eezee-Travla”, there is the added nightmare of encountering Jolyon and Clarissa
from Jesmond clogging up the pathways with Jack and Chloe in their all-terrain
pushchair.
What is an all-terrain pushchair? According to the book’s author Ruth Irons, it is a
three-wheeler with pneumatic tyres and an extended aluminium wheelbase designed
for off-road use.
“Traditional prams and pushchairs were not designed to negotiate rough surfaces, so
parents were obliged to go for short strolls on pavements,” explains Ruth –
conveniently forgetting that the reason for this is that babies are not supposed to go
up mountains in the first place!
“We wanted to introduce our children to the great outdoors as soon as possible,”
argues Ruth’s husband Richard (who you just know has got a beard).
Then stick them in your rucksack if you really must, but for heaven’s sake leave the
pushchair at home!
There is a growing school of thought that checkpoints should be installed on all the
major routes in and out of the Lake District, if not to prevent undesirables like Ruth
and Richard Irons then to charge them extortionate entry fees in a bid to put them off
from coming.
But alas it is too late. The Lake District is already overflowing with caravanners and
campers. Its roads are gridlocked, its fields despoiled with tents. All-terrain
pushchairs? Why not? The more the merrier.
In fact why not go the whole hog and put a huge retractable roof over the entire
national park from Cockermouth to Keswick, just in case it rains and makes visitors’
egg sandwiches go soggy?
Wordsworth is to blame for this shameful state of affairs. If it wasn’t for his soppy
poem about daffodils, then no-one would know about the Lakes except a select few
who appreciate its rugged beauty, its splendid isolation, and its challenges.
Instead, one of the world’s great beauty spots has become a playground for idiots, the
type of people who require wooden signposts to direct them to mountains and lakes,
the type who climb Helvellyn in gym shoes or ring Keswick Mountain Rescue
because they are late for a dinner engagement.
It is high time our local MPs intervened on our behalf. Imagine the influence that
could be brought to bear by Lord Bragg – a man so steeped in Lakeland lore that his
hair now resembles a relief map of Scafell Pike.
Instead they will all be wasting valuable time debating the future of fox hunting,
while the rest of us stew in traffic jams behind caravanners or sidestep all-terrain
pushchairs on Striding Edge.
Next Bank Holiday, we should all pray for rain.



Handouts.
July 4, 2003
CALLIE Rogers, the 16-year-old Co-op worker from Cockermouth who this week
won £1.9m on the Lottery, has already been besieged by begging letters from people
eager to share her wealth…

Dear Callie
At the 1975 Appleby Horse Fair, Gypsy Rose Lee predicted that I would marry a girl
from Cumbria. Having read about your good fortune, I now realise that she did not
mean my current wife Maureen to whom I have been unhappily married since 1976. I
have therefore initiated divorce proceedings and will be at St Chad’s Church at 2pm
tomorrow afternoon (with buffet reception at the Fox and Ferret afterwards). If this is
inconvenient could you please send me £1m by return to cover catering expenses.
Doug Crank, Penrith

Dear Miss Rogers
Recently we sent you a letter informing you that your account was 2p overdrawn and
that you were to be charged £50 for administration charges. We also warned you that
a County Court judgement would ensue if you did not clear your deficit within 24
hours. Following a review of your financial position, the bank is delighted to inform
you that we are now able to offer you Platinum Account status, with unlimited
overdraft facilities. Thank you for your continued valued custom.
Mrs J Beaky, manager

Dear Callie
Last Tuesday I was kidnapped by a Colombian drug cartel, who are demanding a
ransom of £1.9m for my release. As I don’t have that sort of money, any chance you
could help me out? Please make the cheque payable to myself and I’ll pass it on to my
captors as soon as it clears.
The Medellin, c/o Eric Spearmint, Dalston

Dear Callie
If it hadn’t been for you I would have won far more than £10 for four numbers on last
week’s Lotto. Please refund what is rightfully mine. A cool million ought to do it.
Mrs Potts, Melmerby

Dear Callie
Since losing the use of my legs and being forced to live on the streets after being
robbed of my life savings, losing my job and my house, being wrongly imprisoned
and having my wheelchair stolen, I have been desperately saving up to send my blind
and deaf son Ronnie for a holiday of a lifetime to Oasis. If you could possibly send
me £1.2m (cheques or postal orders, no cash please), then his dream would be one
step nearer.
Jackie, Carlisle

Dear Callie
Six months ago while shopping at the Co-op in Cockermouth, my plastic carrier bag
split open and a tin of baked beans landed painfully on my toe. As the bag was packed
by you, I have now decided to sue you for £10m compensation for loss of earnings
and post traumatic stress disorder. However, if you send me a cheque for £1m then I
am quite happy to hear no more about it.
Mr T Freeloader, Cleator Moor

Dear Callie
How about going into business together? I have no skills, qualifications, or even a
desire to work – but with your wedge I’m sure we can be the Posh and Becks of
Cumbria!
Nosher Thompson, Silloth

The Pirelli Prowler
August 15, 2003
A TRIBUNAL in Carlisle this week heard how a Pirelli employee called John
Dickson was fired after it was discovered he was cleaning windows while on the sick
with an alleged case of angina.
The news that it was Mr Dickson’s own workmates who squealed to management
must have brought a wry smile to Pirelli’s hard-pressed personnel department.
It is, after all, barely six months since the same workforce were complaining
vociferously about the activities of the so-called “Pirelli Prowler” – a private gumshoe
hired by the Dalston Road tyre firm to investigate alleged malingerers and film them
with a video camera.
The trouble started last year when an employee with a bad back was sacked after the
Prowler filmed him jacking up a car and lifting heavy objects.
Then all hell broke loose when he was caught filming through a window of another
employee’s house, culminating in a 200-strong vote of no confidence in the
management.
It was argued at the time – and with some justification – that while no-one can
condone malingering, it is one thing to be caught jacking up cars and quite another to
open the curtains and find the Pirelli Prowler hanging onto the drainpipe in the hope
of catching you doing backflips in your bedroom.
Now it seems there has been a change of heart. Shortly after workmates shopped Mr
Dickson, the Prowler videoed him climbing up ladders and cleaning windows. Shortly
after that, he was handed his cards.
We can only deduce from this that Mr Dickson must have been a deeply unpopular
man. Perhaps he refused to make the tea, or hogged the digestive biscuits. Maybe his
workmates were jealous of the sandwiches his wife put in his bait box.
Whatever the reason, his sacking has wide-reaching implications – not least the fact
that the workforce can no longer complain about the Pirelli Prowler.
By justifying his existence, they have unwittingly given him free rein to poke his
video camera through any window or letterbox he chooses.
Pretty soon, everybody at Pirelli will be paranoid. People who are genuinely off sick
will be forced to sit totally still 24 hours a day in case they are filmed in the act of
making a cup of tea and sacked for swinging the lead.
Even workers on a legitimate day off will start imagining shadowy figures lurking in
the bushes when they mow the lawn or gloss the windowframes.
Video is one of the wonders of the age, but it is also a curse. After all, were it not for
video Jeremy Beadle’s career would have stalled after Game For A Laugh and we
would have been spared Lisa Riley.
There is something deeply sinister about video surveillance, however. Everything we
do these days is filmed, recorded and logged by CCTV cameras.
Indeed the only public place where cameras have yet to be installed is in toilet
cubicles, although Pirelli employees in the habit of sneaking off for a crafty fag and a
read of the Sun should beware – the Pirelli Prowler can limbo dance.


The streets of Faliraki
August 22, 2003
THERE are only two thoroughfares in Faliraki. One is called Bar Street, the other
Club Street. There were plans to extend the resort by building Kebab Crescent and
Vomit Avenue, but recent events have put these on hold.
Even so, it is clear by the names of the streets that anyone who goes to Faliraki is not
there to appreciate ancient Hellenic culture – which makes the attitude of the local
cops somewhat baffling.
Earlier this week, a Cumbrian tour guide was locked up for taking her party on a pub
crawl. Helen Sharkey, from Penrith, had barely been released when her cell was
occupied by a teenage girl from Somerset who exposed her boobs.
“I did not intend to go nude,” explained Jemma-Ann Gunning. “It was just that my
bikini top fell off.”
Despite this mishap, Jemma-Ann – who was celebrating after being voted “Miss
Bottom 2003” – was sentenced to eight months in jail.
The Greek police say they are cracking down because drunken, sex-crazed British
holidaymakers are turning Faliraki into the Sodom and Gomorrah of the tourist
industry.
But one has to ask what exactly they expected when the all-night bars and nightclubs
started going up on Bar Street and Club Street all those years ago. SAGA bus trips?
Middle-aged ladies from the Home Counties learning to paint watercolours?
“You have to learn to respect the morals of other people, and especially of the country
that hosts you,” Rhodes’ chief prosecutor George Economou told topless Jemma-Ann
this week.
She might have argued that it is hard to respect Greek morals when they involve
taking British holidaymakers’ beer money with one hand, and beating them over the
head with the other.
If they were really serious about cleaning up Faliraki, they would shut down all the
bars and deport anyone who looks like a lobster in a football shirt.
One possible explanation for their over-zealous behaviour is that the Greeks are
hoping to divert attention away from the cock-up they are making of preparing to host
next year’s Olympics.
The showpiece stadium is, by all accounts, in a state of readiness slightly less than
that of the Acropolis, while Athens’ toxic smog could force athletes to run the 100m
wearing oxygen cylinders on their backs.
Whatever the reason, it would serve them right if our drunken holidaymakers turned
their backs on Faliraki and went somewhere else.
It’s happened before: resorts like Bodrum, Malia and San Antonio were the venues of
choice before the authorities got shirty. Now they are virtually deserted and the locals
are all unemployed.
Who needs foreign resorts anyway? If global warming means Cumbria is assured of
red hot summers every year, this breakdown in Anglo-Greek relations could be the
opportunity Silloth has been waiting for.
It’s got sea, sand, and a strip buzzing with pubs and chip shops – what else could the
18-30 brigade ask for? All it needs is a couple of high-rise hotels and Easyjet to
launch £12 flights into Carlisle airport and the prosperity of the county is assured.


The right to roam.
August 29, 2003
AMID the usual depressing headlines about bombings, murders, paedophiles on the
loose, and Carlisle United losing, there was one snippet of good news this week – the
latest release from custody of nude rambler Steve Gough.
This summer, Cumbrians have come to regard Mr Gough very much as one their own.
The respect is probably mutual, as Cumbria was one of the only places on his much-
interrupted trudge from Land’s End to John O’Groats where he was not banged up in
a prison cell.
Indeed, so welcome was he, that he was able to spend a quiet night camping in a field
behind Tesco’s before attempting to hitch a lift north at Junction 44 of the M6.
Mr Gough’s latest sojourn behind bars was in Inverness after a complaint from a
woman motorist – one of 10 similar arrests on a journey which began in July and
which has come to resemble a game of snakes and ladders.
He hopes to continue the remaining distance north from Selkirk unmolested - but
with the easily-outraged Scots on the lookout there is little chance of that.
By the time he gets to John O’Groats, it will be so late in the year there will be a very
real danger of his getting painful frostbite.
Why Cumbrians should be so relaxed about nude ramblers roaming the fells is a
matter for debate.
It is not that Mr Gough is easy on the eye; with his scrawny limbs and straggly ginger
beard he resembles a particularly disturbing nightmare involving former Foreign
Secretary Robin Cook.
Perhaps the reason is that whatever his naturist beliefs, at least Mr Gough takes his
litter home with him.
This basic courtesy is something which seems to elude 99 per cent of visitors.
Big Mac cartons, fag packets and tightly-knotted plastic bags containing spoiled
nappies have become familiar summer sights in lay-bys, hedgerows, fields and rivers.
The campsite at Talkin Tarn has been shut indefinitely after it was repeatedly left
looking like a landfill site, while any car driver in the Lakes must slalom around
discarded Sunny Delight bottles thrown out of the vehicle ahead.
Yet those responsible for such anti-social behaviour are, presumably, the very same
people who take such offence when a rambler hoves into view in his birthday suit,
minding his own business and very much at one with his surroundings.
Instead of arresting Steve Gough, he should be celebrated for his achievements, his
doggedness and above all his environmental-friendliness wherever he roams.
In fact the tourist authorities in Cumbria should erect a 100ft bronze statue to him on
the Junction 44 flyover, in the style of the Angel of the North in Gateshead.
If nothing else, it may serve to remind visitors to the region that if a man wearing only
a rucksack and a pair of boots can find room for his own litter, then the same
shouldn’t be difficult for a family of 16 in a caravan.


Lowry was lousy.
Sept 5, 2003
CURATORS at the Castlegate House Gallery in Cockermouth are chuffed to bits that
they have landed a major exhibition of paintings by the famous LS Lowry.
It is bound to be well attended, as Lowry’s bleak industrial landscapes have, over the
last 80-or-so years, turned him into the “People’s Painter” – just as Diana was the
“People’s Princess” and custard creams are the “People’s Biscuit”.
But maybe it is because Lowry is so loved by the “People” that so many of them
overlook the fundamental flaw in his painting technique: namely that he was not very
good.
Indeed, there are more sophisticated representations of human beings and factory
buildings scrawled on bus shelters and Blu-Tacked to the walls of preschool nurseries.
Matchstalk men and matchstalk cats and dogs indeed! When 70s singing duo Brian
and Michael sang of Lowry waiting with his paintbrush at the Pearly Gates, they
neglected to point out that he was giggling his head off at the time.
Still, culture is in the eye of the beholder. In Carlisle recently, there was a very well-
received exhibition of Roman artefacts dug up from a site near the castle walls.
The fact the site was clearly an ancient municipal tip did not matter a jot. Visitors
went crazy about what was, to all intents and purposes, Roman rag and bone.
Let’s hope that when they dig up the council tip at Bousteads Grassing in 2,000 years’
time, future archaeologists will be just as excited by old fridges, bits of Formica and
half-decayed burger cartons as we have been by old leather shoes and fragments of
metal.
Doing their bit.
September 14, 2003
ANY report called “Spatial Implications of Climate Change for the North West” is
unlikely to make for good bedtime reading – which is just as well, because its
conclusions are the stuff of nightmares.
The report, compiled by boffins at Manchester University, claims that this year’s
sizzling summer is the shape of things to come, with average temperatures in Cumbria
topping 93F thanks to global warming.
But before you rush out to book your Faliraki-style beach holiday at Sellafield, the
bad news is that your designer thong and flipflops will be of far more use in
December and January than June.
The researchers suggest that rampaging winter floods will mean most of us eating
Christmas lunch up to our necks in water.
Their solution to this imminent catastrophe is, inevitably, reducing greenhouse gas
emissions by selling the car, boycotting jet aeroplanes and using smokeless peat
brickettes.
They forget that for many of us, accustomed to the creature comforts of the modern
age, returning to life circa 1478 is simply not a viable proposition. After all, how can
parents be expected to do the school run in a horse and cart?
Fortunately, Hollywood superstars are leading the way and doing their bit to save the
planet on our behalf. It was revealed this week that Leonardo DiCaprio, Kirsten Dunst
and, touchingly, one of the blokes who played a hobbit in Lord of the Rings, have paid
for vast new forests to be planted in Mexico.
What with them, Sting, Bono and now Chris Martin from Coldplay taking up cudgels,
there seems no way that the environment can lose.
But eco-salvation is not always as simple as that.
In Cumbria, for example, a cleaner environment has led to a stinking row down on the
ancient Lowther estate between the current Earl of Lonsdale and his son the Right
Hon James.
The 38-year-old Right Hon wants to erect 27 400ft-high wind turbines on the
picturesque hills near Whinash. The 80-year-old Earl is apoplectic at the notion.
At first glance it seems like the classic confrontation between the stubborn, ozone-
destroying older generation and the green, eco-friendly new.
In Orton and Tebay, however, residents are wondering whether the Right Hon’s
motives for ruining their view are based on clean power or the handy £150,000 per
annum rent his Estate stands to make from the windmill developers.
Ah, well! Perhaps it would be easier to simply resign ourselves to the inevitable.
Life didn’t seem too bad in Kevin Costner’s apocalyptic movie Waterworld, in which
the polar ice caps melted, continents were swallowed up, but humans survived in
friendly floating communities where Fame Academy was but a distant memory.
(Interestingly the movie also predicted people developing gills and webbed feet – a
sight which is not uncommon in certain Carlisle pubs on a Friday night.)
In any case, a separate report this week claims the planet will be destroyed by a
meteor at 10pm on May 19, 2031 – so maybe our problems will be solved before they
truly begin.
Hanging around.
Sept 26, 2003
TIMES are hard for David Blaine. But it is harder still to feel pity for the self-
promoting American illusionist.
After enduring yet another week of egg-throwing, breast-baring, and burger-baiting,
one of his infuriated management team was heard to exclaim: “Hey, what da hell is
this? A public hanging?”
Well, er, yes – that’s precisely what it is. And if Blaine is upset at his treatment then
he has clearly failed to do his homework, because it is nothing compared to London of
old.
Up the road from Tower Bridge at Tyburn, more than 1,200 people were hanged
between 1702 and 1793, watched by jeering crowds in excess of 10,000 every time.
And in a city full of horse manure and rotting carcasses, eggs were the last thing to be
thrown.
Blaine, by contrast, has had an audience consisting of Paul McCartney, a hot dog
vendor and a handful of quizzical drunks. Perhaps this is the real source of his
frustration – although a man who spends most of his time asleep in a Perspex box
hardly makes for a riveting spectacle.
Blaine’s advisors should learn a trick or two from the event managers of 300 years
ago and have him tarred and feathered and his head put on a spike. It should prove no
hardship for a man who recently spent a week encased in a block of ice.
As it stands – or dangles – it is hard to see where else in Britain the illusionist would
find a sympathetic audience.
Up here they still talk about the events of August 1746 when the Duke of
Cumberland, having put down the Jacobite rebellion, had 15 of the conspirators
hanged in Carlisle and Brampton –ensuring that the pickled heads of 10 other
ringleaders were first sent up from London as pre-match entertainment.
And they call David Blaine a showman! After the Duke’s tour-de-force, the sight of a
pasty-faced American suspended above Bitts Park would barely raise an eyebrow.


Timberland and Xerox.
October 3, 2003
THIS weekend dozens of christenings will take place in churches across Cumbria. But
of all those babies dunked in the font, how many will be christened Timberland?
Hopefully none, because this is not America. In 2000, according to US social security
records, five unfortunate children were named specifically after the popular outdoor
leisure boot.
“His daddy insisted upon it because Timberlands were the pride of his wardrobe,”
explained one proud mother. “The alternative was Reebok.”
To the British, this may seem incredible – yet it is symptomatic of a growing trend
among American parents to name their children after brand names.
The records show that in 2000, 49 children were named Canon, followed by 11
Bentleys, five Jaguars and a Xerox.
Names, of course, drift in and out of fashion like flared trousers and Tony Blackburn,
but in this country parents have always managed to curb such excesses.
For every Romeo, Kylie, Shania, and Lamarr christened this weekend, there will be a
hundred reassuring Jacks, Chloes, Toms and Emilys. It is simply not the British way
to burden our children with flamboyant names – which is why everybody born in the
austere post-war years was named either Dennis or Irene.
Of course there are those who would argue that giving a child an unusual name makes
it stand out from the herd. In Wigton naming a boy Melvyn could well have
condemned him to a life of bullying – yet Mr and Mrs Bragg took the chance and
their son repaid them by becoming a member of the House of Lords.


The Midas Touch.
October 17, 2003
CARLISLE man Jim Boyle is better known as Jazza among his pals at Denton Holme
Conservative Club. But there are surely more appropriate names.
This week, Jazza revealed how, during a recent beano to Hamilton races in Scotland,
he won £500 with two just £10 bets. Nice one, you might think. Good to read of a
punter getting one over on the bookies.
Except Jazza’s stake money came out of a £120,000 windfall he and his buddies in a
Lotto syndicate scooped earlier this month.
And if that utter spawniness wasn’t enough, Jazza also recalled how he and six of the
syndicate went straight from picking up their cheque to the nearest pub – where they
won £300 on a horse called Lotto.
The Lottery catchphrase used to be “It Could Be You”. That should now surely be
changed to: “Sorry, In Fact It’s Jazza Boyle”.
But it is easy to be mean-spirited about people who have the Midas touch. Especially
when the majority of us are chronically unlucky.
Take the two American women who came all the way to Carlisle for a sightseeing trip
last week, only to end up trapped for 30 minutes in a lift at Irishgate Bridge. If it had
been Jazza Boyle, he would have been trapped with Britney Spears for four days.



Peanuts and other snacks.
November 21, 2003
We must thank God that Carlisle Council has seen sense and allowed the Denton
Holme swingers club to reopen after three months enforced closure over planning
permission.
Here at least consenting grown-ups can forget about the kids for a while with the
wives and husbands of like-minded friends and neighbours.
Since it opened earlier this year, the Wild Velvet Club has been a wild success story,
pulling in customers from as far afield as Newcastle and Edinburgh.
Among its many attractions are screens showing wall-to-wall porn, a large bed for
orgy-style gatherings, and a vending machine selling dry-roasted peanuts and other
snacks.
There is even reputed to be an ashtray large enough to hold 156 separate sets of car
keys.
Closing down the club was always going to be a dangerous move. By denying
swingers a legitimate venue, the authorities risked driving them underground, like
cock-fighters and bare-knuckle boxers.
Unsupervised, they could run riot – and with the Christmas party season looming on
the horizons the consequences for the rest of us could be horrendous.
Lonely ride.
November 28. 2003
SO where were you when wonderboy Wilko slotted the drop-goal that secured
England’s Rugby World Cup win?
Not on a Carlisle City Council park and ride bus, if latest figures are to be believed. In
fact, the chances are you wouldn’t be on a park and ride bus even if the alternative
was crawling to shops over broken glass.
In the last four weeks, a dismal 397 people have used the shuttle service between
Kingmoor Park and Lowther Street – and 263 of them have been the driver. Last
Friday, only two people used the service all day.
Is it any surprise, then, that an astonishing 50 per cent of Carlisle bus drivers quit
during their first year behind the wheel? The union officials who released the figures
this week may claim it’s because of low pay, but surely the reason is extreme
loneliness. Nobody enjoys working in a job where they don’t feel wanted.
What the council and the bus companies fail to take into account is man’s instinctive
hatred of his fellow man – especially in the run-up to the season of goodwill.
Public transport, by its very definition, involves enforced close proximity to someone
you ordinarily wouldn’t give the time of day. Usually someone who has eaten Scampi
Nik-Naks in the last 24 hours.
Given the choice between a cramped and sweaty park and ride bus journey in the
company of 50 complete strangers, or queueing for the Lanes multi-storey for two
hours with the air-con full blast and Dido on the CD…well, there simply is no choice.
The problem is that society has become conditioned to luxury. When so many people
have affordable motor cars, the bus is as convenient and comfortable as the horse and
cart.



Why aliens like Cumbria.
January 9, 2004
IT’S no surprise that the Mars probes that landed on the Red Planet over Christmas
have so far failed to detect alien life forms. If reports are to be believed this week, all
the Martians have been in West Cumbria.
Stunned earthling Daley Rogers, 23, was returning home from Workington when he
spotted an object in the sky which “seemed to drop something which was white and
bright and exploded”.
From this description, it seems likely that what Daley saw was in fact a seagull – but
other sightings are harder to explain.
At least six other people reported strange UFOs in the area over the festive period.
These included an orange ball, a flying light, and a “triangular-shaped craft” going
over the Stainburn bypass.
According to local UFO expert Sharon Larkin, aliens like Cumbria because of the
volume of water in the county’s lakes, the peace and tranquility of the area and the
nuclear activity at Sellafield.
In this respect they are very much like Mancunians, although thankfully intergalactic
space ships are far easier to overtake on winding country roads than caravans.
Venusians in particular have been regular visitors to Hadrian’s Wall – although its
recent closure by the tourist authorities after 2000 years meant this Christmas they
were forced to divert their ships to Alpha Centauri instead.
Barry Shrimpton’s Fokkker
January 16, 2004

IT seems every other avert on TV at the moment is for Easy PC, Lord of the Rings,
The Carry-On Collection or some other magazine partwork, yours to collect in 196
weekly issues and cherish for ever.
You may mock. You may even call it tat for saddos. But you do so at your peril.
Last year these mags had a retail sales value of almost £130 million. Somebody out
there is clearly buying them.
Indeed the big question being asked in pubs, clubs and offices across Cumbria is not
“Which gym have you joined?” or “Can I scrounge a fag, please, I’ve given up?”, but
“Which partwork are you collecting?”
Here at the Week Ending office, Mrs Shrimpton the cleaner is collecting them all. She
has no interest in the magazines, you understand, but she likes to give the free gifts as
presents to her family.
Videos, model cars, Charles Dickens novels and beautifully crafted, hand-painted
figurines of Gandalf the White – she’s got them all.
Currently she’s building the Red Baron’s Fokker DR1 Tri-plane, which she plans to
give to her son Barry when it’s complete. So far, it consists of a supporting strut and a
propeller blade – but in 2034 Barry will have a 62nd birthday present that will make
him the envy of the estate.
With all these freebies, Mrs Shrimpton’s biggest concern is having enough room on
her mantelpiece for her commemorative Lady Diana plates. But that’s should be a
problem to gladden Mr Blair’s heart.
The mines, steelworks and shipyards may have gone, but it’s clear that Britain still
leads the world when it comes to manufacturing charming ornaments to cherish for
ever.


Arctic winter.
January 30, 2004
AT this time of the year it is always a joy to watch people in the south of England
attempting to deal with the one millimetre of snow they classify as arctic blizzard
conditions.
Last year, a light frost in Essex left 10,000 commuters stranded on the M11 motorway
for four days as they awaited rescue from the county’s single gritter. This week’s
much-vaunted cold snap could see City fund managers trapped in their BMWs until
March.
Anyone would think we lived in the United Arab Emirates rather than the United
Kingdom, where winter weather is an annual occurrence. But the panic is
understandable nevertheless.
With time to kill before this week’s vote on top-up fees and the release of the Hutton
Report – not to mention the new series of I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here – the
southern media have latched onto the conditions like a pack of wolves.
For what seems like weeks now, no newspaper or TV bulletin worth its salt has been
without tips on how to beat the Big Freeze.
Favourite among these is, “Don’t travel unless it’s absolutely necessary”, recently
upgraded to “If you must travel, take a warm coat”, possibly due to the lessons of the
M11 ordeal where drivers shivered in pinstripe suits.
In deference to modern technology, the advice now includes a further caveat: “Take a
mobile phone – and for God’s sake and the sake of your children DON’T FORGET
THE CHARGER!”
(In light of recent legislation it is surprising that some busybody has yet to add “and
make sure you have a hands-free kit in your car”, but this is surely only a matter of
time.)
One can only marvel at the Inuits of the North Pole, who cheerfully exist in genuinely
gruelling arctic conditions for most of the year. Perhaps their success has something
to do with the fact that they have over 200 words for “snow” but none for “Nokia”.
Here in Cumbria, where shepherds regularly walk 20 miles through waist-deep snow
just to get to the pub, cold snaps and blizzards are regular occurrences. Even in the
middle of sweltering July, you can almost always be guaranteed a sudden white-out at
Shap.
And long may it continue. Like the Inuits we have come to scoff at 10ft snow drifts
and digging granny out of her bungalow every year. It shapes our very character.
Mind you, how long will it continue? What with global warming, some experts
predict that by 2050 the climate will have changed so much that there will be palm
trees and beach bars in Keswick.
A more realistic concern is that the proliferation of wind turbines on our fells will
have become so dense by 2050 that they will literally blow the snow down the M6,
causing chaos south of Birmingham.
While this is good news for the year-round tourist trade, it would be a shame if we in
Cumbria could no longer gloat over the softies in the slippery south.



Stupid tax.
February 13, 2004
CYNICS have described the £1 it costs to enter the UK Lotto as Britain’s “stupid
tax”. But at least you are still five times more likely to bag the jackpot than if you
enter tonight’s inaugural EuroLottery.
With astronomical odds of 75,000,000-1 , there is more chance of finding intelligent
life on Mars. To compound matters, today is unlucky Friday 13th.
This will not stop millions of dimbos from Cumbria to Catalunia from racing down to
the newsagent to invest their hard-earned loot, though. Their motto is “If you don’t
buy a ticket, you won’t win the lottery”, which is why, at £1.50 a pop, the only
people who really get rich are the organisers in Paris.
The truly stupid thing is that people believe winning a few million will solve all their
problems, in the same way that a consolidation loan from Ocean Finance will erase
their debt.
All the evidence points to the fact that having loads of money is great for a couple of
days, but then human nature kicks in with a vengeance.
Only this week 20-year-old Michael Carroll of Norfolk admitted a series of drug
offences which he blamed squarely on the misery he has endured since winning £10
million in 2002. The court heard his marriage had collapsed and he had received death
threats.
Our own Callie Rogers soon discovered that a few million in the bank brought the
pondlife scuttling from under their stones. Her ex-boyfriend is still desperately trying
to sell his sordid kiss-and-tell story, despite being turned down by every media outlet
in the western world. (He was last seen meeting representatives of The Communist
Worker in Beijing).
One can only imagine the hell that awaits the first winner of the EuroLottery, who
stands to win in excess of £60 million. We can only hope that it’s a Spaniard.
The irony is there are far easier and cheaper ways of making money. Compensation,
for example. Ever since an American woman was awarded £1 million after scalding
herself on a cup of McDonald’s coffee, litigation has gone through the roof.
McDonald’s cups now have a warning in large letters that coffee is hot and should not
be spilled, and they are not the only organisation who are taking no chances.
In Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, the local council this week banned hanging baskets in
case one falls off a lamp-post and brains a pedestrian. The odds of that happening are
greater than winning the EuroLottery, but the pay-out would be substantial.
In Cumbria, a popular scam is securing several months’ gardening leave while on full
pay. Take County Council chief executive Louis Victory, who since last year has been
raking in £10,000 a month for raking his vegetable patch.
You won’t see him buying a EuroLottery ticket tonight, that’s for sure; he doesn’t
need the money. Indeed the only thing which could possibly sour his gardening leave
is if a hanging basket falls on his head.



Tax dodger.
February 27, 2004
IT’S not often one agrees with John Prescott, but when it comes to council-tax
dodging pensioner Elizabeth Winkfield, old Two Jags has got it dead right.
“You have to face up to your responsibilities, Elizabeth,’ Prescott told her on national
TV this week, after she threatened to withhold £98 of her £747 tax bill in protest at an
18 per cent rise this year.
It is to be hoped that should she fail to face up to her responsibilities, Prescott is
personally on hand to throw her behind bars.
Much has been made of the fact that Miss Winkfield is 83 years old and 4ft 10ins.
Indeed her age and height appears to be the main thrust of her argument as to why she
shouldn’t pay up like everybody else.
Would she get the same attention if she was a 25-year-old, 6ft bricklayer called Kev?
Unlikely. She certainly wouldn’t have publicist Max Clifford on hand to sell her story
to the Daily Mail for £10,000, as we discovered this week.
Nobody likes paying their council tax bill – but those of us who do are getting heartily
sick of these “rebel” pensioners who pop up every year with the inevitability of
lumbago.
The sad thing is, most of them are unwitting puppets of sinister organisations like the
Pensioners’ Action Group (PAG) and Cumbria’s own Carlisle and Borders Against
Council Tax (CABACT), run by rest-home militants desperate to escape the daily
routine of callisthenics and group singing round the piano.
They are shepherded on buses thinking they are off to the seaside for the day, only to
arrive in London five hours later and told they must march on Downing Street.
One solution is to let members of PAG and CABACT refuse to pay their council tax –
but then refuse to empty their bins every week and rescind their free bus passes and
library cards.
Now that would really give them something to complain about.
Daniel’s Big Day
March 12, 2004
LAST Saturday was a very big day for little Daniel Blenkinsopp when, aged six
months, he became Cumbria’s first “named” baby in a special ceremony.
For Daniel, parents Ian and Fiona, and everybody at the North Lakes Hotel in Penrith
it was an occasion to remember. Yet even as they tucked into their champers and
naming cake, one or two older guests must have reflected on how times have changed
since they baptised their offspring.
“Naming”, for those of you who are not up yet to speed with the 21st century, is like
christening, but for non-religious people.
The ceremony is conducted by a fully-trained “celebrant” – like a vicar, but without
the dog-collar, sandals and sermonising – and, rather than dunking the baby in a font
and making holy vows, the parents simply promise to look after and care for the child.
In the absence of God, there are no godparents. Instead there are “supporting adults”,
who promise to supplement the child’s future care – and, in Ian and Fiona’s case,
double up as best man and maid of honour for their wedding later that same afternoon.
If all this makes you wail and gnash your teeth at what has become of this once God-
fearing nation, then have a cup of tea and calm down. The reality is you’re already old
hat.
Last Sunday a miserable seven per cent of the British population attended church.
That works out at an average of about 10 people per congregation.
Of those, it’s a fair bet that a third were only there in order to justify getting their baby
christened, another third were attending a christening in order to justify getting
blasted at the all-day reception, and the rest had turned up by mistake thinking
Jonathan Edwards and the Songs Of Praise team were in town.
The lure of Sunday shopping and Sky Sports is such that church leaders are now
seriously considering moving Sunday church services to the middle of the week – but
to what effect?
Nobody seems interested in church any more, especially not the younger generation,
upon whom its future depends. Heat magazine is the new Bible, text messaging has
replaced long-winded sermons, and Peter Andre is God.
By the time little Daniel Blenkinsopp grows up, there is a very good chance that all
the churches will have been sold to discount shoe shops, and vicars will be forced
onto pay-per-view minority cable channels with the likes of Cheggers and Linda
Barker.
That’s why we should be glad of naming ceremonies, celebrants, and supporting
adults. We should be glad that in Cumbria alone there are already more than 100
licensed hotels, pubs and clubs where such events can take place.
It may seem outlandish, it may seem sad that the old traditions are dying out – but the
alternative is a society in which parents would rather sit and scoff Pringles in front of
the telly than celebrate the birth of their child.
Here endeth the lesson? You better believe it!
Antique junk.
April 16, 2004
WERE you among the hundreds of people who attended the Antiques Roadshow
when it came to Haltwhistle yesterday?
If so, let’s hope you weren’t too disappointed when that priceless family heirloom
turned out to be a 1960s garden ornament worth substantially less than the bus fare it
cost getting it there.
One of the great joys of the Antiques Roadshow is watching the eager, rapacious
faces of the punters turn to ashes when the bow-tied expert politely informs them that
their item is car boot junk.
“That’s marvellous!” they lie, as all hopes of paying off the mortgage and living a life
of luxury in Spain disappear before their very eyes.
“I’m delighted with that,” they bluster, their desolate expressions betraying the fact
that that vindictive old cow Great Aunt Maude was lying through her teeth when she
bequeathed the item in her will.
Of course there has been the occasional headline-making discovery: in 1986, a couple
from Barnstaple found that an oil painting they both despised was worth £100,000;
three years later in Northampton, a revolting owl teapot was priced at a staggering
£40,000.
But if the programme has proved anything over the last 25 years, it is that in 99 per
cent of British attics the most valuable commodity is the lagging around the water
tank.


The F-Word.
May 14
GORDON Ramsay’s f-word blitzkrieg at the Glass House restaurant in Ambleside
appears to have done the trick, with news that diners are flooding back to the ailing
eatery in their droves.
The Michelin-starred chef, you will recall, was called in to turn the restaurant’s
fortunes around as part of his new Channel 4 TV series Ramsay’s Kitchen
Nightmares.
Although Ramsay’s solution to any kitchen nightmare appears to consist almost
exclusively of swearing at the staff, Glass House owner Neil Farrell reports this week
that takings are up since his visit.
Not only that, but Mr Farrell has also has attracted a stalker who keeps calling to
compliment him on his “beautiful blue eyes”.
Such is the power of television. In the first programme of the series, set in a bistro in
Silsden, West Yorkshire, Ramsay was driven apoplectic by the incompetence of head
chef Tim Gray.
Despite being unable to cook an omelette, slack-jawed Tim, 21, harboured ambitions
of being a celebrity chef himself. Remote to begin with, his chances of success
seemed even more distant after he floored Ramsay with a rancid scallop.
Yet since the show was screened earlier this month, it has been revealed that Tim is
now in line to appear as a contestant in the fifth series of Big Brother.
“We think he’s great,” a representative of Channel 4 has reportedly said, which just
goes to show why so many Islamic people hate everything the West stands for.
If previous contestants of this dire programme are anything to go by, it is only a
matter of time before Tim releases a cookbook, an autobiography and an album of
love songs.
When a total no-hoper like this can find themselves catapulted into the lower reaches
of celebrity, is it any wonder asylum seekers flock to this country in the hope of
making their fortune?
Apart from telling all and sundry that they are @!&*ing useless, Gordon Ramsey’s
chief weapon in resurrecting restaurants like the Glass House is to immediately dumb
down the menu.
This is an eminently sensible policy. Oak-soaked fricassee of oyster served with a
timbale of seared Angolan vegetables is all very well in one of Ramsay’s upmarket
London restaurants, but in places like Silsden and Ambleside the punters prefer grub
that does not require translation.
At the Glass House, for example, head chef Richard Collins’s piece de resistance was
pomegranate risotto. Ramsay’s verdict on this concoction, like everything else he ever
says, is unprintable in a family newspaper – but on this occasion, it was wholly
accurate.
It is worrying, therefore, that owner Neil Farrell this week insisted that “we’re
definitely going to put it back on the menu”.
Pomegranate risotto is always going to come a poor second to Cumberland sausage
and chips in the affection of hungry visitors to the Lakes. Just because he has a female
admirer, Mr Farrell should not forget the parlous state his business was in before
Gordon Ramsay pitched up.



The first men in space.
May 21, 2004
THESE days there are so many visits to Cumbria by space aliens it is easy to forget
that the county was once the hub of mankind’s own attempts to conquer space.
An exhibition running at the Lakes College until the end of the month catalogues
those heady days during the 1950s and 1960s when Cumbria competed with the USA
and the Soviet Union to win the so-called Space Race.
At our peak we developed Blue Streak, a top-secret missile which was intended to
jettison satellites skyward from Spadeadam experimental establishment near
Brampton.
Sadly, problems with the elastic band breaking meant that the project was shelved.
But this is not to say Cumbria lacked ambition. Older readers will vividly recall men
from the Ministry entering local pubs and social clubs and asking if anyone fancied
volunteering to become an astronaut.
In remote Bewcastle, they still speak fondly of local shepherd Ernie Finch and his son
Terry who, in April 1959, were plucked from a leek club meeting to become
Cumbria’s first men in space.
The following month they were fired in the general direction of the Moon and were
never seen again – although in 1965 there were unconfirmed sightings of Terry in
Wigton, sparking rumours that the pair had invented the whole story to avoid paying
outstanding annual subs.

								
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