South Yorkshire police cut costs

I hear on Radio 4 this morning that South Yorkshire police plan to cut costs by getting rid of bobbies on the beat. There will, instead, be Community Support Officers providing the public face of policing. (Those are the rather nervous ones in yellow jackets that you sometimes see near London parks. They always travel about in pairs, like gloves, or earrings.)

We hardly ever see any police officers in Fitton, so a switch to PCSOs probably wouldn’t make much difference.

But you do wonder about the general principle of providing approximations instead of the real thing. It’s a bit like eating a biscuit with all the fat and sugar taken out  –  a bright idea that ends up making everyone feel vaguely cheated.

I can’t help feeling that the Royal Mail will go the same way. One day we’ll be asked to pay £5.50 for a small envelope to travel to Birmingham some time next winter and we’ll think, is this a real postal service? Or just a surreal fantasy?

We’re all in this together

The recession makes us think differently. Tesco announces it’s going to create 20,000 new jobs, and we all say, ‘Oh, what a lovely company!’ Yet not so long ago the residents of Fitton were clamouring to sign a petition against a vast new Tesco near the bypass, and everyone you met was muttering about big conglomerates ruining the face of the British high street.

Then there’s a new airport opening in Southend which will put 20,000 people directly under a flight path. No one’s shouting, ‘Stop Airport Expansion!’ They’re just excited about Stacey Solomon opening the terminal and 500 new jobs.

The recession is also making us behave differently. There was a time when people in Fitton boasted about kitchen extensions or holidays to Malaga, or even highlights from Hair. Now there’s a steady but ostentatious stream going in and out of the charity shops.

If you live in a small community, you have to preserve the impression that we’re all in this together. Fitton’s one Porsche owner seems to be driving at considerable speed these days. I always wonder, as he shoots past in a blur of silver, whether he’d rather we didn’t remember quite how wealthy he is.

Legal aid to
George Clooney

Considerable unease this week when Annie Laurence stopped me outside the dry cleaner’s. She said, ‘I read your blog.’ This was good news. You need a lively flow of traffic.

Then she said, ‘Why are you writing it?’

I said, ‘I should have thought that was obvious. It’s a community resource.’

Annie smiled. She has, as you know, very white and even teeth. She said, ‘Really? I thought you just liked being rude about people.’

Since that rather abrasive encounter, I have been re-reading recent posts and wondering whether any of my opinions might possibly have caused offence.

(This is the problem with society today. We are so busy pussyfooting around other people’s sensibilities that we never say exactly what we think.)

But like Steve Hilton, the PM’s former right-hand man, I am an ideas person.

Startling insights on subjects as diverse as legal aid, George Clooney’s sexuality, the Russian presidential elections, vandalism to Fitton’s only bus stop and the launch of knickers designed by Mary Portas all rush into my head with the frequency of nit alerts at St Jude’s.

I share them with you because I believe that open discussion is vital to a healthy democracy.

I cannot see how any of this could possibly be classed as ‘rude’.

Cold comfort

There’s a dreadful cold whipping round Fitton at the moment. I called in to see Urmila at the chemist’s to ask what she recommends. She was very patient. We spent a good ten minutes discussing aspirin, paracetamol, decongestants, cough syrups, nose sprays, antihistamines, Lemsip, Night Nurse, Day Nurse, Strepsils, Vicks, and expectorants. (We may even have touched on essential oils.)

By this point, there was quite a queue building up behind me. Urmila said kindly, ‘Of course, the symptoms will ease by themselves. Just rest, and drink plenty of fluids.’

I said, ‘Rest!’ with what I’d intended to be a hollow laugh, but which came out as more of an explosive cough.

I think Urmila had completely forgotten that I’m the mother of a five-year-old.

I said, ‘What about  – ‘

Urmila said, ‘Some people find hot fruit squash very soothing. With a teaspoon of honey.’

I said, ‘Which – ‘

Urmila said, ‘Lemon,’ very firmly. She was quite sure, I think, from our detailed discussions, that this was the best course of action.

But I also think, in restrospect, that she might have been feeling slightly under the weather herself, because when I looked back as I left the shop she had her head in her hands and everyone was crowding round to comfort her.

Pain in the neck

I read in the Guardian newspaper that whiplash claims have doubled. 

I suspect what’s happening is that our roads are so crowded that cars can’t help running into the back of each other.

Although it’s also true that applying bright red lipstick in the driver’s mirror while negotiating the pelican crossing outside the Mind shop (and you know who you are) isn’t exactly helping.