June 25 2001

Put up or shut up

Back in May my putative employers, Haven FM, received a letter from my old adversary Cllr Brian Hall.

This was in reply to Haven FM's request for his support for their bid for the Pembrokeshire radio licence.

Cllr Hall wrote: "I also read in today's Mercury that you have recruited [Old Grumpy] to present a weekly talk show. I have to tell you that my solicitors are pursuing a claim for defamation against [Old Grumpy] and his former employers following a reference to me in an article by [Old Grumpy] On this basis alone, I could not support your application."

This seemed all rather strange to Old Grumpy because the last I heard from his solicitors was almost a year ago, in August 2000 (see Nov 27 2000 and January 2 2001).

His failure to pursue this alleged defamation through the courts has come as a disappointment, because I was rather looking forward to finding out how the bombast Cllr Hall displays in the council chamber would transfer to the witness box.

Naturally, I have been keeping a close eye on Cllr Hall's affairs in the meantime in the hope that I could turn up some information that might be useful should he eventually decide to put his money where his mouth is, and sue.

For instance, last year, while inspecting his expence sheets during the annual audit, I came across a series of strange, coded entries which read "Fire authority, Carmarthen. PD-HW-C-HW-PD. 90, and another series reading "Fire Authority, Carmarthen. PD-C-PD. 60.

I settled down that night with two bottles of Chilean Merlot and 40 Embassy filters to try to unravel what all this meant.

It took me only a couple of hours to work out that PD was Pembroke Dock, HW-Haverfordwest and C - Carmarthen.

But I still haven't fathomed why anybody would want to make a thirty mile detour.

The only explanation I can come up with is that private detective Hall was varying his route for security reasons.


The spinners

Even if Brian Hall manages to nip my broadcasting career in the bud, there are other opportunities on offer, such as the vacancy left by Mr Hague's sudden departure.

It seems that Michael Portillo is the favourite, on the basis that he has more hair than the other candidates.

I would warn Mr Portillo not to run away with the idea that he has the Tory leadership in the bag.

Milford's well known barber Frank Todaro tells me that I have the thickest head of hair he has ever seen, though that may only be by way of a justification for charging me six quid to cut it.

Just in case I get the call from Conservative Central Office, I have been practising the art of spin which, as you know involves telling lies without actually lying.

The other day I was showing some visitors round my garden and when we came to the strawberries ( what a magnificent crop) one of my friends noticed two plants at the end of the row which were not covered by the bird netting.

"The blackbirds eat those" I told her, choosing my words carefully and pointing at the two exposed plants.

"How sweet of you" she said, "to find a way to cater for the wildlife."

Now, I hadn't told a lie. The blackbirds do strip the fruit off these two plants just as soon as it ripens.

And it just seemed too complicated to explain that the reason the two plants were unprotected was that I had made a mistake when measuring the length of the row, and came home from the garden centre with five metres of netting instead of six.

A classic example of the genre was produced by the County Council's King of Spin, Dai Thomas, after I had complained to him that a large advert for senior citizens' bus tokens, which had appeared two weeks running in the Western Telegraph, had not been placed in the Mercury ( we needed the money).

Back came a letter carefully explaining that the council had a limited advertising budget and they couldn't afford to "duplicate" public notices.

I knew this was rubbish because I had already acquired copies of the Tenby Observer and the County Echo in both of which the self same advert had appeared.

I couldn't accuse Mr Thomas of lying, of course, because, as he said, he hadn't duplicated the ads, he had triplicated them.


The answer lies in the soil


Speaking of the garden, I am pleased to report that the liberal application of farmyard manure during the spring seems to have done the trick.

In addition to the strawberries we are enjoying unlimited supplies of new potatoes, broad beans, courgettes, lettuce and tomatoes.

But it is the onions that are really impressive.

This morning, just out of interest, I put the tape measure round one of the finer specimens, and found it had a girth of nearly 17 inches, which, I calculate, means its diameter is the best part of six inches, the size of a saucer.

My gardening book says that onions don't really start to swell until the longest day is past, so goodness know how big they will be by mid-August when they finish growing.

A photo is promised in due course, provided I can find someone to lend me a camera with a wide-angled lens.


Poor old George W Bush has made himself unpopular with Europe's liberal elite, by refusing to ratify the Kyoto Accord on climate change.

Never mind that during the Clinton presidency, the US Senate voted 95-0 against the accord, so, even if Al Gore was president, he wouldn't be able to ratify it either.

And, never mind that our own Royal Society has said, in a report published last year, that to halt the accumulation of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere would require 60% reduction in output and that the 10% envisaged by Kyoto wouldn't even scratch the surface of the problem - if, indeed, it exists.

The truth is that there may be a general scientific consensus about green house warming, but consensus and truth are not the same thing.

There are also several powerful critics who say that the 0.6% warming experienced in the past 100 years is the result of natural climate fluctuations, particularly the output of the sun.

That the climate changes independently of human consumption of fossil fuels is not in dispute, witness the great Ice Ages, the mediaeval warm period, and the mini ice ages of the 16th and 17th centuries, when the Thames regularly froze.

But, say the Greens, even if absolute proof of carbon dioxide-induced global warming is not available the "precautionary principle" demands we curb the production of greenhouse gases, just in case.

It is strange how environmentalists demand absolute proof of the safety of those those things of which they disapprove, like GM crops and waste incinerators, but are happy to adopt a less rigorous standard for their own pet projects like the global warming hypothesis.

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