When common sense goes missing

Bucks Free Press: If only the tree had hit our shed

11:01am Tuesday 15th April 2014

While sorting through the half a small tree’s worth of marketing bumf that cascades into our letter box every week, my wife spotted something in a catalogue she actually liked. So I suppose that means this deluge of advertising does work, although the hit rate must surely be insufficient to justify such profligate use of our dwindling resources. Anyway… She phoned the successful advertiser to order said desirable goods. Details were taken, including our address, whereupon the voice indicated that we were already on their database. This should have been an advantage, she fondly imagined, but that thought was soon dispelled when she was asked if she was the account holder. It appears that the last order was made by me some years previously.

Kate O’Mara was a trouper to the last

Bucks Free Press: If only the tree had hit our shed

1:34pm Tuesday 8th April 2014

It was with great sadness that I learned this week of the death of Kate O’Mara.

A terrible indictment of our society

Bucks Free Press: If only the tree had hit our shed

6:48pm Tuesday 1st April 2014

There was a programme on Channel 5 this week that highlights an unlooked-for result of our national terror of being accused of being a paedophile.

Customer feedback is becoming a bother

Bucks Free Press: If only the tree had hit our shed

5:35pm Monday 24th March 2014

When I was a lad my mother would give me a shopping list to drop off at the grocery shop on my way to school and then later in the day, if it was a small list, she would pop in and collect it. If it was the weekly shop, he would deliver it. This was of course a long time ago. Readers of my own age will not be as surprised as younger readers to learn that our bread and milk was delivered then daily by horse and cart. For that reason, I suppose, I still associate that lovely sweet smell of horse’s breath with freshly baked bread.

Flight 370 highlights the air safety policy

Bucks Free Press: If only the tree had hit our shed

12:09pm Tuesday 18th March 2014

I wrote last week about the frustration of border controls and security checks when travelling by air. My gripe was mainly with the under-manning of these processes at many airports at a time when air travel seems to be growing, rather than any suggestion that rigorous safety procedures are not necessary. It must be done; but it could be done better.

Can’t airport checks be done any quicker?

Bucks Free Press: If only the tree had hit our shed

11:57am Monday 10th March 2014

I have been travelling a lot recently and am amazed at the stoicism of the majority of us sheep who allow ourselves to be herded and corralled to the extent that currently seems necessary to ensure our individual and national safety.

‘Cyber trolls’ are cowardly bullies

Bucks Free Press: If only the tree had hit our shed

2:37pm Monday 3rd March 2014

Charlotte Dawson, an Australian TV star, has been found dead at the age of 47. Her death has been linked to internet bullying. She was an anti-bullying activist who had been targeted online by what are called ‘cyber trolls’ a label that makes them sound more interesting than they actually are.

If only the tree had hit our shed

Bucks Free Press: If only the tree had hit our shed

4:14pm Monday 24th February 2014

I’ve just been away from home for five days and returned to find an 80 foot conifer in our garden, that has dominated the local skyline for the last four or so decades, is now a horizontal rather than vertical adornment.

Planet's Power has come to fore

Bucks Free Press: Casting aside the wayward genius is just not cricket

3:54pm Friday 14th February 2014

If the human race needs a wake-up call, then it is regularly being delivered to us in many areas of the world.

Casting aside the wayward genius is just not cricket

Bucks Free Press: Casting aside the wayward genius is just not cricket

1:22pm Tuesday 11th February 2014

The very public sacking of cricketer Kevin Pietersen this week, the similar departure of football manager Michael Laudrup from Swansea and the rather odd, yo-yo pseudo-departure of Leeds manager Brian McDermott all raise interesting issues about attitude to success and failure in sport, and, indeed, all areas of life, these days.

Performing arts gives you that quiet confidence

Bucks Free Press: Performing arts gives you that quiet confidence

3:21pm Friday 31st January 2014

Last week I attended the opening of the Jackie Palmer Stage School’s new premises in Bridge Street in High Wycombe. There were several reasons I enjoyed the evening.

Why spend so much money on a wedding?

12:55pm Tuesday 28th January 2014

I am staggered at the amount of money that people appear to be prepared (or obliged) to spend on weddings these days. I struggle to believe that this is the best possible use of tens of thousands of pounds at a time when a young couple are starting out on their lives together, when the housing market is so terrifyingly expensive, when jobs are no longer ‘for life’ and when the economic climate remains unpredictable at best and dire at worst.

We should never miss the chance to say thank you

4:47pm Friday 17th January 2014

I was much taken by the recent news story of the young man called Jonny Benjamin who had intended to end his life on Waterloo Bridge six years ago this week, but was talked out of it by a passing stranger.

Wycombe needs a permanent local radio station

3:03pm Friday 10th January 2014

Hats off to Chris Phillips and his intrepid team of volunteers for successfully providing Wycombe with a broadcast radio station for four weeks over Christmas.

Public services should resolve to communicate

1:00pm Friday 3rd January 2014

The events of the last couple of weeks have thrown up what seems to be a perennial but avoidable problem yet again.

Another precious family Christmas

4:17pm Thursday 2nd January 2014

My wife has had a lifetime to get used to the fact that her birthday falls on Christmas Day.

My first panto was a learning curve - this one is my 33rd

10:40am Friday 20th December 2013

I feel lucky this year because Basingstoke, where I am panto-ing, is altogether more Christmas-friendly for me than past years, and I will be home early enough to join in the Christmas Eve festivities that have apparently evolved due to the enthusiasm of my daughters during years of enforced absence. In fact, the schedule this year is the friendliest I have had for years, as the evening shows are all at 6pm. Clearly, Basingstoke folk are not keen on being out late, any more than I am.

Mocking halo of paint is reminder of council inaction

4:27pm Monday 16th December 2013

Over a year ago, my daughter’s car had its exhaust assembly summarily detached when the edge of the tarmac lane at the end of which we live had had subsided sufficiently to make the crown of the road meet the underside of her car. Other cars subsequently came to similar grief. Bucks County Council was informed on several occasions. Months passed. We who live here now all know about the danger and keep to one side or the other of the hazard, although undoubtedly strangers with low slung cars must also have come to grief. Imagine our joy, then, a few weeks ago when white paint – that harbinger of impending roadworks – encircled the now heavily scraped surface that has resulted from regular contact of sump with tarmac. Even more reassuringly, a yellow highways sign was attached to posts at each end of the lane warning residents of its closure on a specific day last month, when repairs would be effected. We eagerly awaited, prepared to endure temporary inconvenience for the expected improvement.

How come fewer rugby players argue with the ref

11:26am Monday 9th December 2013

It’s perhaps hard to believe that an expression that once carried implications that everyone understood to be true and could relate to should now be virtually meaningless.

Spare a thought for the Sixth Doctor: legendary role was a career highlight

9:20am Saturday 23rd November 2013

FIFTY years ago this weekend the first episode of Doctor Who was broadcast. You may have noticed that there has been a certain amount of broadcast time and column inches devoted to that over the last few weeks.

Collection workers at the sharp end have my support

5:18pm Friday 22nd November 2013

After writing about the new waste and recycling arrangement twice recently, it was not my intention to revisit the subject. However, the letter in last week’s paper [BFP, November 8] from ‘Chiltern and Wycombe District Council’s Joint Waste Team’ publicly inviting me to spend a day with the collection team misses my point so completely that I must respond.

Recycling quiz: Why is shredded paper not ‘paper’?

12:03pm Tuesday 12th November 2013

Our new set of assorted receptacles that do not replace but add to my existing black refuse bin have finally arrived.

Why does it take nine men to clear our bins?

4:36pm Friday 1st November 2013

IT would seem that my pessimistic prediction of how the new refuse collection would roll out this week was accurate.

What's Next for Wycombe

3:27pm Friday 25th October 2013

It appears that Next want to build a large store in Cressex. They have presumably decided on this location because of the comparative ease of delivery and customer access that might not be available anywhere in the town centre.

We've been driven to our cars by public transport

5:28pm Friday 25th October 2013

I am travelling to Newcastle this weekend.

Considering our hospital, the ‘crap town’ title...

4:12pm Friday 11th October 2013

You never like to learn that your local town has been deemed sufficiently dire by others as to rate it in the top ten of what they have chosen to call the UK ‘crap towns’ list. But a recently published book has done just that. High Wycombe is apparently better than Nuneaton but worse than Stoke-on-Trent. I have been to Stoke and would venture to challenge our ranking in that particular case! But it’s all a matter of opinion, of course, and apparently based on interviews and questionnaires that would seem to have been conducted on a less than scientific basis. The list is headed by London because of its apparent image as a take all/give nothing back city.

Where were all these scallops hiding?

4:27pm Monday 7th October 2013

My brother always used to talk about the first time he saw a banana, just after the end of ‘the war’ as my generation still calls it. We should probably start referring to that conflict more specifically soon as there have been countless others since 1945.

There are times when the face can’t be obscured

12:36pm Monday 30th September 2013

Several times I have started to write about the wearing of the niqab and then decided not to stir up a potential hornet’s nest.

My questions on HS2, councils and 46ins waist sizes

5:22pm Friday 20th September 2013

There are many questions that need answers. Some bigger than others. So big that it is easier not to spend time trying to pick your way through the brain strain of processing them. Questions like whether the universe is finite or infinite. Either option perplexes even Stephen Hawking, so what chance do I have?

Who’ll repair the damage caused by recycling trucks?

12:00am Monday 16th September 2013

IT takes a brief interruption of services to remind us sometimes how dependant we on so many things that we might otherwise take for granted. At Baker Towers, we had no water for only a few hours last week because of a burst main and that temporary deprivation served as a powerful reminder of the level of our dependency on essential services.

Computerisation was to help us – not the monoliths

11:19am Monday 9th September 2013

When the computer sidled into our homes, we were all assured that our lives would get easier.

A rare win over parking fined - and now over to HS2

4:55pm Monday 2nd September 2013

Bitter experience teaches most of us that it is very rare that officialdom ever reverses a decision that affects us adversely, whether or not logic dictates that they should.

If you can't say something nice...

3:03pm Friday 23rd August 2013

I have been asked to appear in several celebrity versions of popular game shows recently, in the wake presumably of my three weeks in ‘I’m a Celebrity…’ at the end of last year.

Dog owners need to be more vigilant

2:00pm Friday 16th August 2013

There was a rather wonderful and fascinating programme on television this week about dogs and their relationship with us. We were shown dogs that have saved the lives of humans in a huge variety of ways, from seeking help after accidents to demonstrating the ability to sniff out cancerous cells.

Why are British courtesies found only in strangers?

11:31am Monday 5th August 2013

This week one of my daughters was driving up Amersham Hill when her car ground to a halt. Scores of cars passed her as she stood beside the car with its hazard lights flashing. I was out of the country but she phoned home for help and while she and her sister and her sister’s boyfriend were struggling to solve the problem, one driver stopped and spent some considerable time helping her sort the problem out. He was Swiss and was in England for two weeks only, but despite being a stranger in a strange land, as a motor engineer, he felt unable to pass by a damsel in distress. A true ‘Good Samaritan’ tale.

We really did have the best of times

1:15pm Friday 26th July 2013

This spell of weather reminds me of what I fondly believe were the summers of my childhood. Endless days of sun and blue skies, when I disappeared for hours on my bike with my brother and friends. We cycled to places miles away from Rochdale where I lived, just for the heck of it. We even cycled the 40 or 50 miles to Blackpool, spent the day there and then cycled home.

Badgers’ cull is nation’s top issue

1:32pm Friday 19th July 2013

The e-petition on the Government’s website that has attracted the largest number of votes ever is the one urging the Government to think again about the proposed badger cull as a means of controlling the spread of TB.

They must not build HS2

5:06pm Friday 12th July 2013

At first I thought that HS2 sounded reasonably viable, until the cost was brought into the equation. And I don’t just mean the financial cost, which is already rocketing before a meadow has been desecrated. I mean the real cost.

Time to sit still for the time traveller

3:21pm Monday 8th July 2013

Those of you who followed the saga last week of my ailing car and its repeated failure to be towed back to Wycombe until the fourth patrolman of the apocalypse eventually turned up to undertake the task will perhaps be diverted to learn that those worthy gentlemen’s diagnoses were as lacking as their preparedness to tow. I could have driven the car home myself, it appears, and saved them all a lot of energy sucking air through their teeth, as the hideous knocking noise that prompted my calling for their services emanated not from the engine, as I and they had thought, but from the air conditioning unit. My mechanic was barely troubled for an hour before sending my quiet car humming through the lanes of Buckinghamshire again. Phew and ho hum!

Communication breakdown

12:00am Monday 1st July 2013

I have been a member of the same car breakdown association since I was 18 and that’s a long time.

My frightening drive on the M25

12:00am Monday 24th June 2013

All drivers have had experience of being tailgated by a lorry.

Yet another fascinating year for the Time Lord

1:32pm Friday 21st June 2013

This is already and will continue to be quite a year for Doctor Who?

My sarnie gave me a bellyfull of trouble

12:29pm Friday 7th June 2013

I received another lesson in how to travel painlessly this week.

I survived the nine-hour flight on a banana...

12:00am Monday 3rd June 2013

I have just spent two weeks in the USA. On my outward journey, the entertainment system was down and we got credit notes offering $150 off our next flight if, given the nonexistent leg room, we ever used that airline again.

Anti-gay marriage arguments are not convincing

4:47pm Friday 24th May 2013

I wish I could understand the people who are so adamant that gay men or women should not be allowed to formalise and celebrate their commitment and love for each other by getting married. The bill being considered at the moment specifically protects those religions that have objections to the notion of same sex marriage so that they cannot be compelled to act contrary to their agreed beliefs. Only religions that are willing to marry same sex couples will be doing so.

When cash was the coolest way to buy

12:58pm Tuesday 21st May 2013

Do those of you over a certain age ever hanker for the days before plastic debit, credit, reward and store cards dominated all our retail and financial activities?

Get strict with the abuse of our health system

12:48pm Monday 13th May 2013

It was initially encouraging to hear in the Queen’s Speech that the government are planning to do something about ‘Health Tourism’. I say ‘initially’ because a little research revealed that successive governments have made similar promises dating back to the days of Brown and Blair.

A black shoe on one foot – blue on the other

2:08pm Friday 3rd May 2013

I wore a pair of odd shoes to a concert this week. I discovered when I returned home that I had spent an entire evening with friends and colleagues wearing one blue and one black shoe. None of them had commented. Too polite, perhaps? Probably not. At least one of them would have derived enormous pleasure in drawing attention to my fatal foot folly, had he noticed. It is more likely that, just as I had no idea what footwear they were sporting, they had similarly failed to deem it necessary to check mine out.

The stresses of today’s air travel

2:02pm Friday 19th April 2013

Having returned from another trip to Australia and New Zealand with my fellow Doctor Who actors, I have had time to reflect on the business of world travel in the 21st century. I don’t suppose there are many people who relish the process of ‘getting there’, even when the journey is short. I dare say that those who travel to holiday destinations with the prospect of relaxed days by aquamarine seas, sipping cocktails and dining in a warm breeze under the stars are more disposed to endure with equanimity the stresses of air travel than those of us who travel at the behest of our employers and have to sing for our less exotic suppers in places of employment rather than leisure.

Actual – and imagined felony

6:30pm Monday 15th April 2013

I am currently in Australia with other former Doctors Who celebrating the programme’s 50th anniversary with the time lord’s many fans down under.

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