Saturday, 3 December 2011


I used to go for walks. Now I have a daily stumble. More particularly I stumble from bench to bench in our lovely riverside park where the water is fringed by magnificent giant willows. I can sit for hours drinking in their beauty.

The Council has recently spent many thousands of pounds installing CCTV cameras along the main path in the park overlooking the benches to spot people breaking the law.

The new cameras disclosed an alarming state of affairs.

People have been sitting on a bench next to the children’s playground.

Not only sitting either. Congregating and drinking and taking drugs, like as not. The Council faced with this alarming situation acted immediately.

It has removed the bench.

Benches remain in less accessible areas of the park offering unlimited access for furtive congregation and orgies unlimited. But the bench where my crippled caravanserai rested has been taken away.

I am unable to explore the dank caves of the civic mind, and admittedly removing the benches is an effective means of preventing people from sitting on them. We could wipe out burglary in a trice by getting rid of our possessions and there would be no rape if women were banned from public places. Dig up the roads and immediately end drunken driving and other lesser motoring offences.

Fenland March is not alone. A reader Chris Sheridan writes: “This is a collection of letters sent to a newspaper local to me after it had asked for examples of stupidity:


The traffic light on the corner buzzes when the lights turn red and it is safe to cross the road. I was crossing with an intellectually challenged friend of mine.

She asked if I knew what the buzzer was for.

I explained that it signals blind people when the light is red.

Appalled, she responded, 'What on earth are blind people doing driving?'

She is a Local County Council employee in Harrow, Middlesex. (And she's NOT blonde).


I live in a semi-rural area. We recently had a new neighbour call the Highways Department to request the removal of the 'DEER CROSSING' sign from our road.

The reason: 'Too many deer are being hit by cars on this stretch of road! I don't think this is a good place for them to be crossing anymore.'

If the civic mind is difficult to explore, how much more are the cavernous depths of the Government’s mind?

There are, they tell us, a million unemployed youngsters. There are also 75,000 new jobs but all have been taken by immigrants. There is a massive debt hanging over us. Most of it incurred by unnecessary wars. According to the Government-funded Riots, Communities and Victims’ Panel, last summer’s riots were our fault. Our conspicuous consumption infected the young rioters. The Panel missed out the bit most of us accept. If you want something, you get a job to pay for it. Not only does the Government encourage teenage reluctance to behave in a civilised manner by making discipline rather than ill discipline illegal; not only does it pay them more in benefit than they would get from a job. It has just announced a five per cent increase in benefits.

Collapse of the Euro, capitalism creaking, riots all over the world, a broken society, costly Olympic Games and a national outcry over an off the cuff joke by Jeremy Clarkson who was just doing what the BBC pays him £1 million to make. Collapse of the £30 million trial of eight police officers on charges of perverting the course of justice because the evidence has been destroyed. Victory for Muslim extremists in Tunisia and Egypt, the inevitable result of the Arab Spring, and expensive unnecessary wars

Could it be we are living through the collapse of Western Civilisation and the renaissance of the Moors? Either that or on the verge on the German Empire?


It may read like the work of Thomas the Tank Engine author Wilbert Awdry but a bureaucratic banana skin has been dropped before the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways which helped influence the writer’s work.

Alongside the railways’ quaint little Victorian coaches is number 122, built in a matching style a decade ago as more and more passengers flocked to the twin railways, which carried a record-breaking 300,000 visitors into Snowdonia National Park this year.

Official accessibility regulations apply to British railway coaches built after 1999 – but a wheelchair-friendly toilet simply wouldn’t fit inside the tiny narrow-gauge coaches that ply between Porthmadog and Blaenau Ffestiniog.

So the UK Government granted a special order in 2003 exempting “Vehicle Number 122” from the regulations. However, that order is now among 200 railway regulations which may be thrown onto the Coalition Government’s bonfire of “red tape”.

If the Ffestiniog order goes up in flames, coach 122 may no longer be able to carry passengers unless the Government makes alternative arrangements.

The Government’s “Red Tape Challenge” is examining more than 21,000 statutory rules and regulations, aiming to reduce the burdens on businesses and society. Introducing the rail Red Tape Challenge this month, the Department for Transport (DfT) said: “The presumption is that regulations will go, unless it can be justified why a regulation should be kept.”

A DfT spokesman said the Ffestiniog order and others were on the Red Tape Challenge website for the public and stakeholders to comment on, as part of the process of identifying regulations considered to be of benefit to passengers.

Paul Lewin, general manager of the Ffestiniog and Welsh Highland Railways, said the rail accessibility rules – designed for main line trains such as the Virgin Pendolino – should never have applied to Britain’s heritage railways, which let visitors experience steam-age travel.

The Heritage Railway Association had campaigned for Britain’s preserved railways to be covered separately.

“We were aiming for a block exemption so that people didn’t have to put a wheelchair toilet in a carriage dating back 150 years, which would be crazy,” said Mr Lewin. “You can’t physically fit a wheelchair toilet pack from a Virgin Pendolino into a narrow-gauge train, because it’s wider than the coaches.”

His railways have their own ways of catering for disabled visitors. There are ramps for wheelchairs to board trains and guards shout out station names, because tannoy announcements or electronic displays would spoil the interior ambience.

The 2003 exemption order, signed by then transport minister Tony McNulty, lists the ways coach 122 doesn’t comply with the rules, including:

* No audible device to warn when doors are unlocked

* No public address system

* No wheelchair space

* Door handles too stiff

Getting that exemption was so complicated that managers stopped building new coaches at their Porthmadog workshops and have since imported second-hand ones – which are exempt from the rulings – from Romania.

Reader Ken Ashton writes:

You'll like this...

One of my students, a Nigerian, has written to my daughter at the Zoo, requesting...

Free tickets for family

Free flights from Nigeria

Free accommodation

Help with visa application

T-shirts in various sizes

Finance to finish his course

As my Mum used to say, if you don't ask, you don't get.

Except in this case he won't get.

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