Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Column, May 20, 2008

BARRISTERS say that you should never ask a question in court you don’t already know the answer to.
Government consultations work in a similar way, only then they never ask a question they haven’t already decided the answer to.
So when they say: “We’re considering closing down your local post office, and we’re now consulting you to see what you think of that”, what they actually mean is: “We’re closing down your post office and you can blether all you like, it’s going, tough cheddar, you can write in to complain if you want but it’s a waste of a stamp, and you’re going to be hard pushed to find somewhere to buy one of those soon.”
Let me give you one small example of just how mad this policy of slash and burn of local post offices is.
They claim that you will be within three miles of a post office, but as the Daily Post revealed, that’s actually quite likely to be nearer six miles. But that’s only applies to when you want to go to a post office yourself. In some situations you will have to travel much, much further.
In my work I get a lot of parcels sent to me recorded delivery. Now, at the moment, if I’m not in, the postperson drops them off at the village post office for collection later, which involved me walking all of 200 yards, on foot, no car involved, no pollution.
I say ‘involved’ because that’s what used to happen. The post office closed today. So now, although the nearest post office is about three miles away, because of the way the post office arranges its deliveries, these packages will go back to a post office 13 miles away.
So though you might be three, or six miles from your nearest post office, that might not be the one you have to go to in order to pick something up.
So now, to pick up parcels, it’s a 26-mile round trip, probably once a week. That is going to mean my car pumping a quarter of a ton of CO2 into the atmosphere because of the closure of my local post office. And that is just me, there will be thousands more like me, all having to make unnecessary journeys because our post office has shut.
I know the economic arguments and how much the post office network costs and so on. But just as village schools provide some of the social glue which holds a community together, so does the local post office. It’s closure might make sense to those who count beans, but then they rarely have an appreciation of anything the delivers value to a community rather than profit.
And I’m disinclined to listen to arguments about the unreasonable cost of running the post offices from a government that has squandered billions on an illegal war in Iraq and found billions in a ham-fisted attempt to bribe voters in wake of the mess that was made abolishing the 10p tax rate.
The thing that we all know is that the closure of the post offices will have its most devastating effect in rural constituencies where Labour does not traditionally fare well. They figure that their urban voters will not be affected by the change and so they can weather the fall-out from it. Once again they have shown themselves to be the party of the city-dweller.
So that’s what you get when you’re consulted – a deaf ear, a blind eye and a closed notice on your post office.

IT was, perhaps, inevitable that Cardiff City were going to lose in the FA Cup final with Portsmouth.
Not because they were in any way the inferior team, as we saw on Saturday, they pften played the better football.
No, it’s just there is is just so much good fortune a country can expect and Wales has had more than its fair share this year.
Winning the Six Nations – which would do us for the whole year most of the time, Joe Calzaghe beating everyone in the world, Duffy topping the charts and so on.
No, if Cardiff had won where would it have ended?
Bangor University causing a bit of an upset on the Thames when their scratch team of rowers from the rugby 3rd XV beat Oxford and Cambridge in the boat race?
A donkey off Ffrith beach winning the Grand National? (Even if it didn’t win it would do better than the knacker’s yard candidates usually backed by your truly)
The fearless bridge divers of Betws-y-Coed taking an unexpected gold for synchronised belly-flopping at the Beijing Games?
All of a sudden the planets would align, the Holy Grail would be discovered in a cave in Wales, carried aloft by the risen King Arthur.
Just think of the increase in traffic down the A55, sometimes it’s wise to hide your light under a bushel. Hard luck Cardiff, but it was for the best.

A PINK hotel might not be to everyone’s taste, but a shabby one is even worse.
What would Mostyn Estates rather the Oasis in Llandudno look like? They’re not happy that owners Ann and David Blanchard touched up its pillars a shade of pink and it now looks like it will be back to a less in-your-face shade.
At this stage I should say that decisions on the appropriateness of colour are not my preserve. Like the majority of the male population should I ever mistakenly pick up a pain colour chart – looking for the TV guide or somesuch other important document – I would see lots of little blocks of colour which I could not choose between.
Whereas Mrs Banks sees all the hues of the rainbow arrayed before her.
But it’s the principle of telling people what they can and cannot do when they are actually doing no-one any harm.
Yes, a vibrant pink might not make your heart skip with joy, but it does no harm, so lets allow a little individuality into our lives shall we? Lets not resort to the red tape simply because someone does something every so slightly different from the rest of us.
Of course, they’ll say where will it end, if the Oasis is allowed vibrant pink what shade will the others choose?
Can I refer you to Tenby, whose houses and hotels are decked out like a maypole and whose reputation, and visitor figures, don’t seem to have suffered too much as a result.

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