Thursday, 24 May 2012


We have just come back from a short city break in Naples. So what struck me strongest about Naples?  Well the complete lack of any 'Health & Safety' for a start. Everyone charges about on scooters without, horror, helmets on, weaving through the traffic and, where necessary, mounting the pavement. No driver seems to bother with seat belts, everyone smokes, the streets are littered with rubbish and the buildings covered with graffitti, the police, especially the Carbineri, are extremley smart and well turned out (in sharp contrast to our slobs) and everyone seems very relaxed and happy.

Taking all the above into account I thought I ought to look up the average life expectancy of these Neopolitans when I got home as, obviously, they must all die very young and you know what- they don't !!  Italians actually live longer than us - the average Italian can expect to live for 79.86 years.  Why do they live so long? Probably because they aren't stressed out trying to avoid death by living theire lives according to the set of rules devised by such fatuous public bodies as The Food Policy Unit in Defra. This employs 70 entirely surplus to requirements Civil Servants whose role in life seems to be to warn us to eat less meat.  The Italians in contrast eat what they like, smoke what they like and drive how they like and live longer.  There is surely a lesson here for George Osborne as he seeks ways of cutting public expenditure and re invigorating the economy -and that is make a bonfire of all the 'nanny knows best'  departments and 'units' in the public sector - the savings in money would be large and you know what - we would probably all live longer and, even if we didn't, we would certainly enjoy life more. 


Monday, 14 May 2012

Save Our Forests 2 - Forest Research - A blast

Don't get me wrong I am strongly in favour of the Government reducing public expenditure -for instance is it really necessary for the taxpayer to fork out some £56 million a year on buying crap art for Government offices and hospitals - answer no -obviously -but we are still doing it.  Now to pay for all this dubious art cuts have to be made somewhere and where better than in an obscure department of which 'no one knows anything' and which does not have a vociferous screaming shouting BBC/Guardian reading lobby behind it - namely something called Forest Research.

Forest Research?  - Never heard of it - Get rid of it - Another F***ing QUANGO - Bollocks to it - There are no votes in F***ing trees - and so on - etc. -such -I imagine -are the typical comments which reverberate around the rarefied corridors of DEFRA and the Treasury.  So Forest Research is having it's budget cut by 25% - which - hurrah - will allow for continued spending on crap art for Government offices.  But actually perhaps the idiot Spelman - who is the joke minister in charge of DEFRA - and her colleagues ought - for once - to try and take a longer view of the well being of this country than just the next twelve months.

The primary task of Government should not be buying art of questionable ability but should  be defending the people of this country against enemies both physical and biological.  The physical side of defence is taken care of the by the armed forces - or what's left of them - while the biological defences - against human and plant diseases -is carried out by a variety of government funded institutions one of which is Forest Research.

Ok -I am biased - I love trees- hell I plant trees - oak trees which I will never ever live long enough to enjoy seeing in their prime two hundred years hence but which give me enormous pleasure to watch grow and - you know what - I would seriously like these trees to be allowed to reach maturity therebye providing numerous benefits to wildlife, the landscape and the eco system  and - eventually - being felled and making my great great grandson a tidy sum before being made into some marvellous piece of furniture.  That's the dream. The trouble is that dream may just turn into a nightmare - not just for me - but for all those who plant and nurture their oak and for all those who enjoy the sight of national tree in it's prime. I refer to an obscure disease called Acute Oak Decline of AOD.

Now I know memories are short and I am quite sure the idiot Spelman has no recollection of the catastrophe which hit the English Landscape called Dutch Elm disease ( I am not sure if Osborne or 'Our Dave' were even born then - but if they were I suspect they were still on 'early learning Lego).   Dutch Elm disease only occurred because of the gross incompetence of her department in the 60's.  Now her parsimonious treatment of Forest Research threaten another iconic tree - actually not just 'another iconic tree' but THE iconic tree- the English Oak.         

I won't bore you with the the details of this disease (look it up on the Internet). Nor is AOD the only threat to our unique Bio diversity.  In the West of the UK tens of thousand of acres of Larch trees have been felled because of a disease called Phytophthora Ramorum - imported into this country on Camellias brought in from SW China via Holland or -to give you another example - what about a particularly nasty pest called the Processionay Moth imported - once again - you've guessed it - from nurseries in Holland on semi mature fastigiata Oaks and now likely to become endemic in the sE of England - Oh - and in passing I must mention Red Band Needle which attacks pine trees- imported - weirdly -by our very own Forestry Commission who purchased a large number of Corsican Pine plants from abroad.

Yes we do love Free Trade and I am a firm believer in it but why DEFRA thinks Free Trade - and being a member of the EU - means we have to accept diseased plants from money grabbing nurseries in Holland which import much of their stock from China beats me.

Still no doubt La Spellman will take much consolation in her declining years that while the principal cause of AOD getting out of control and devastating the English Oak trees was her decision to cut Forest Research's budget by 25% at least by doing so it meant that her deaprtment could have a lot of not so pretty pictures hanging on the walls of their offices .