Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Column, March 7, 2006

WHEN did we get so wimpy about the weather?
We live in a temperate country, one that is hardly Mediterranean, but then again, we’re a long, long way from the Arctic circle too.
One of the joys of living here is that we can watch the passage of the seasons, each differing markedly from its predecessor. Not for us the hot and wet, or hot and dry fluctuations of those from southern climes.
No, here, most of the time it is warm-ish, or cold-ish and it changes like, well, the wind, thus giving us a ready topic for polite conversation which goes thus (delete as appropriate):
"Hot/Cold enough for you?"
"They say it’s going to rain/snow/sleet/be a heatwave tomorrow."
"I blame global warming/the government/that John Ketley character."
Other nations share their innermost thoughts and personal demons with each other, we share the weather.
You would have thought then that, as a nation so obsessed with it, we might have a bit of a grown-up attitude towards it and when it’s a bit too hot or cold for us we’d take the long view, knowing that a couple of minutes/hours/days/weeks/months down the line it would all be so different.
But oh no, we’ve become weather wimps and I blame the media. Well I blame Sian Lloyd and her ilk and I blame us in the media from following them down the primrose path of meteorological nonsense.
I think it all stems from the night they failed to warn us - or rather southern England - that it was going to be a bit blowy - or rather it was going to be struck by a hurricane.
Sevenoaks in Kent became Oneoak overnight and you would think civilisation had ended the way they moaned about the lack of warnings. What exactly they woul;d have done with a warning I’m not sure, do they think they could have stopped it?
Anyhow, after that weathermen started hedging their bets a bit, embellishing the weather to make it sound a bit worse than it was.
But they were quite clever about it, so rather than being specific they use woolly nonsense phrases that sound like they’re telling you what the weather’s going to do, but really mean nothing at all.
Such as a classic last week in which a weatherwoman earnestly informed us that the snow would be ‘digging in’ for a couple of days. Just how in the name of Jack Frost does snow ‘dig’ into anything.
It’s little floaty crystals of water, it falls and it sticks or it melts. That’s it. It doesn’t dig.
Then we had the performance by one of the former Fleet Street papers that regularly puts the heeby-jeebies up its elderly matron readership by telling them asylum seekers are going to eat their pet poodles and sell them into sex-slavery, the matrons that is, not the poodles.
This time the bogey-man was not a bloke from Poland who’s come over here to work as a plumber - and who can blame them - come one come all I say, bring on the Krakow Plumbers’ Brigade, it might loosen the chokehold that the latterday pirates of the British plumbing industry have on our sumps.
No, this time this paper’s scare story was about a ‘Beast of a Storm’ that was headed for the UK. That’s right, not just a storm, a ‘beast’ of a storm. It had hit New York and now you could almost hear it growl as it headed across the Atlantic towards us.
You see, the problem is though, they can do scare stories about asylum seekers and no-one knows how much fabricated rubbish they are because no-one checks to see whether asylum seekers actually have all come over here to live a life of crime.
But if you do a scare story about the weather, then people can actually see if it’s true.
So the ‘Beast of a Storm’ turned out to be a bit of sleet and a couple of parky nights when you might have shoved an extra log on the fire.
You might think they had learned their lesson after that, but no, no, a mere two weeks later after the ‘Beast’ announced it presence with more if a whimper than a roar, they were at it again.
This time it was plummeting temperatures (and notice they always plummet, when they’re not soaring of course) that occupied their minds and they warned that at minus 15 it was going to be the coldest night since Biblical times. Alright, I might have made up the Biblical bit, but it was something like that. We were all going to freeze to death in our beds and so best say our goodbyes.
And, you know, it was a bit chilly, but then it warmed up. No harm done, move along, nothing to see here.
I remember winters when snow lay on the ground for weeks and a snowman became permanent resident.
Now a two-inch dusting is greeted by delirious headlines normally reserved for declarations of war and Royal deaths.
My Taid crawled to the outside world when Staylittle was snowed in, and then it lay as high as the tops of the telegraph poles. What would Fleet Street make of weather like that now? No doubt it would be eight-page snow chaos pull-outs and Taid would have been hailed for his pluck (always hailed and who uses the word pluck except for journalists struggling for another word for brave?)
And there’s a cruel irony to schools closing every time a single snowflake dares to drop on the Met Office roof. Because surely this is the one time all those Chelsea tractors used by mums to deliver their precious offspring to the school gates can come into their own. But no, school’s out for winter.
But if you’re shivering as your central heating burns your own personal hole in the ozone layer, comfort yourself with the thought that Spring is officially two weeks away and not long after that summer beckons.
But you know what will happen then don’t you - heatwave, phew what a scorcher and no doubt the Sun will be ‘digging in for days'. Just one more thing to moan about.

IT was inevitable that a burgher, I said burgher, from Gwyneed was going to set me straight about my views on the Asda planning permission and Coun Michael Sol own has been on to give his, forthright, view.
Here he is:
"Dear Mr Banks,
I read with interest your tub-thumping diatribe against Wal-Mart ASDA in the Daily Post today. I have no objection to you or anyone who wishes to bring to the notice of the general public the dubious practices of various international companies.
I do have a problem however when responsible journalists, such as yourself, try and 'sex up' the matter by placing the blame of a planning decision on the local authority without either doing the proper research or relaying the fact that it was a more complicated than 'keep ASDA out'.
I'm aware that some journalists adhere to the maxim 'dont let facts get in the way of a good story' -
Some facts:- This was not a new plannig application for a supermarket, planning permission was given in 1999 to Safeways, (the planning applcation on 20th February was for an REVISED application - construction of Supermarket...)
Safeways kept the planning consents alive, was sold to Morrison who subsiquently sold the whole scheme, consents and all to ASDA. (Planning consent is a land issue not an owner issue)
The Planning Committe had a difficult choice, which it took 2 hours to deliberate before voting 12 to 5 to pass the revised application.
The choice was either throw out the revised application, thus facing the almost inevitable appeal, going in front of the Assembly Planning Inspector and against ASDA with the principle of a supermarket already accepted since 1999.
Or pass the application with a number of strict conditions on the type of sale of goods etc.
Should ASDA appeal against some of these conditions, we would have a much stronger case to put in front of the Inspector as the conditions would have the backing of the Local Authority and be based on local and national precedents.
In the end the Councillors have to work inside the 'planning box', stray outside this arena and especially with big organisations one ends up trying to defend weak or unsound planning decisions in front of an Inspector, who knows that if he doesn’t stick to the 'planning script', will have a judicial review slapped on him by the likes of ASDA.
This planning application, like a complicated equation, had many variables, the shopkeepers, town council (by the way only 6 out of 15 of them voted - the rest stayed away! - too much heat in the kitchen!) , the general public and many more interested parties.
I believe that we arrived at an acceptable compromise, considering the circumstances.
As the local member on Cyngor Gwynedd Council where this development will take place, I went to the meeting arranged by the Chamber of Trade to listen to the arguments, to the Pwllheli Town Council (of which I am also a member) to listen to the debate, I also spoke to a great many people and asked their opinion of the proposed development. After deliberation, taking part in the 2 hour debate I (as the local member) proposed and voted for this revised plan. I have neither heard, read or been told of anything since the Planning Committee that would persuade me that we have made a wrong decision.
Michael Sol Owen
(Cllr Pwllheli North Ward)"

1 comment:

Banksy said...

His words, not mine.

'Responsible' is not something that would ever darken my cv.

Blatherskite more like.