VIEWS: 118 PAGES: 20 POSTED ON: 3/9/2010
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.
Pages to are hidden for
"Remarkable times"Please download to view full document