Editor’s Comment: January 2019
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In his first editor’s comment of 2019, Mike Lowe discusses problem gambling, questionable food trends and whether we need a ‘proper Gloucestershire airport’
If anyone should know about the flexibility of truthfulness it is a former Chancellor of the Exchequer, so we should pay attention to Benjamin Disraeli’s famous statement that “There are three types of lies – lies, damn lies, and statistics”. This is never more evident than when statistics are used to ‘prove’ a case or cause, and in our Nanny State that usually means trying to stop us doing something that we enjoy.
And so we are told, poker-faced, that there are 31,000 “problem gamblers” in the UK aged 11-15 years old and that a further 45,000 young people are reported to be “at risk” of problem gambling. These figures, concocted by the Gambling Commission, are now being used to support a call to ban all children from all pubs because of the proximity of one-armed bandits. You might think it a bit of a leap from a snotty-nosed teenager sticking a pound into a fruit machine to a Draconian measure that will prevent families eating out together, but that’s the way of the Hi-Vis World these days.
Now I don’t know about you, but I really don’t think that sitting in the drizzle in the back of a Morris Minor with a bottle of lemonade and a bag of crisps (as we did) prepared me half as well for adulthood as sitting down at a pub grub table with a knife and fork while being taught proper manners (as kids today do). Nor did dropping part of my pocket money into the penny-pusher on the pier turn me into Lord Lucan (and we didn’t have a Nanny anyway).
I suppose it’s all about parenting. If you’re the sort who lets their feral offspring run riot around the Happy Eater, hurling chicken nuggets at passing punters and squirting ketchup up the walls, before giving them a few quid to feed the fruit machine just to keep them quiet, then don’t be surprised if little Darren starts raiding your purse when he’s 14 to do battle with the bookies or go cock-fighting in Cricklade. And don’t be surprised if those who would see children banned from pubs cite you as evidence in their posh newspaper columns.
It says a lot about the mainstream hospitality business that the big food trends for 2019 have been announced by a marketing consultant, rather than a panel of chefs. Coming delights apparently include lichen, calamansi juice and dulse. This requires me to fire up Wikipedia to work out just what we might be on our coming menus. Lichen is easy – it’s the green stuff that grows on rocks and trees (and in the recesses of your double glazed windows). Calamansi is “an economically important citrus hybrid predominantly cultivated in the Philippines”. (Like avocado, just spiffing for the air miles.) Dulse is a red seaweed that is “a well-known snack food in Iceland”. (That’s the Iceland where fermented shark and sour ram’s testicles are delicacies.)
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Quite who decides these things is beyond me. Is there an enterprising lichen farmer out there who suddenly realised that by scraping green crap off trees and rocks he could con a gullible public into making him a millionaire? Who sidled up to a big-name chef and said: “Hey, mate, never mind that boring old parsley you’re serving with your mushroom risotto. Bung a bit of this lichen on instead.”
Diners beware. These things shall come to the pass.
If I could have one thing, just one thing, in 2019, it would be a proper Gloucestershire airport. An international airport at that. No more trekking south to the inaccessible, unreliable, mercenary Bristol Airport. (It’s only 30 miles from my house in the south Cotswolds, yet the miserable journey has taken me over two hours in the past.) No more working out whether or not Birmingham might be a better option before giving up and setting off for Heathrow as usual.
Just imagine it. Rocking up at Staverton (or Kemble, I don’t mind) and jetting off to Europe or the USA inside the hour. Smiling security, cider behind the bar, affordable parking – we could even call it Cotswold International to attract the hundreds of thousands of foreign tourists who head to these parts every year.
I’ve given up on local bus services; the railway from Tetbury to Cirencester will never be restored; our constantly closed motorways are a daily gamble. Surely we could get air travel right?
Want to hear more of Mike’s musings? Follow him on Twitter @cotslifeeditor