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For animal owners it’s a nightmare

Bucks Free Press:

4:44pm Friday 24th October 2014

November the 5th approaches and with it the thousands of firework parties held across the land to celebrate a failed plot to blow up the mother of parliaments over four hundred years ago.

A six-month ban for such a savage act?

Bucks Free Press:

5:17pm Monday 20th October 2014

The recent events in the Rugby League match between St Helens and Wigan raise very important issues about when the police should get involved when trouble kicks off in sporting events. Because Lance Hohaia, the victim, has declined to prosecute it may well be that a piece of sickening violence witnessed by thousands will not be the subject of criminal charges.

Let’s hope both teams flourish apart

Bucks Free Press:

11:24am Tuesday 14th October 2014

When Wycombe District Council vetoed Steve Hayes’ plans to create a stadium/sports complex in Wycombe to accommodate both of the teams he then owned – Wycombe Wanderers and Wasps, I suppose it was inevitable that the ground share arrangement between the clubs would be less secure. When the teams became separately owned the decree absolute became even more likely, given that Adams Park could not accommodate the crowds that Wasps could attract.

School bus chaos needs sorting out

Bucks Free Press:

12:24pm Friday 3rd October 2014

Back in July the head teacher of John Hampden School, Stephen Noakes, told this newspaper that he would be very surprised if Bucks County Council’s plans to make radical changes to the delivery of the school transport service in the Wycombe area went ahead. He and the heads of neighbouring schools went so far as to describe the plans as ‘farcical and dangerous’, whilst expressing astonishment that the changes had been scheduled without any consultation with the affected institutions or parents. Cllr Mike Appleyard (the Cabinet Member for Education) met with the heads several times as a result of their concern and whilst affirming that Phase One of the planned changes would still go ahead in September, there would be further consultation about subsequent changes being made to save £5M from the county council budget.

Dr Who legend's war of words

Bucks Free Press:

12:03pm Friday 3rd October 2014

Back in July 1995, I wrote a letter to the Bucks Free Press, my local newspaper. I haven’t a clue what the subject was but it must have been something about which I felt quite strongly at the time, as I have never troubled any newspaper’s readers’ page since.

Wonder what my grandpa would say on the vote

Bucks Free Press:

10:16am Tuesday 23rd September 2014

My maternal grandfather was born and raised in Glasgow. His genial and affectionate personality was a major influence in my early years, as he skipped around aged 80 in his slippers, bamboozling this five year old with his nimble-footed football skills. He had had a trial for Chelsea, but given that footballers’ incomes over a hundred years ago bore no comparison with today’s massive salaries, he opted for the safer life of being a printer in Fleet Street.

We need to crowbar common sense back into our lives

Bucks Free Press:

1:08pm Tuesday 16th September 2014

A community minded bunch of citizens in Normanton, Derbyshire got together some years ago to pick up litter in the streets of their town, in the perceived absence of any significant desire to do so by their local authority. The latter, perhaps feeling a little embarrassed, offered them some litter picking implements to assist them in their public spirited endeavours. Now they have been told that they are not allowed to use them after all, until they have been trained in the arcane art of operating what are basically long handled tongs. The great God Health and Safety has decreed that should one of the human pickers injure themselves while using the tongs there could be legal ramifications. Once again the combination of ludicrous regulations and ambulance-chasing lawyers is sufficient to paralyse an endeavour that common sense (remember that?) would decree to be fairly basic and hardly worthy of provoking forensic scrutiny to eliminate the 0.00001% chance of injury. As one of the worthy citizens pointed out, when told that the paralysis was caused by the fact that the council concerned had supplied the litter picker-uppers, the council also supplied all the population with wheelie bins everyone operates on a weekly basis without any training at all. Surely there are more likely to be injuries dragging a bulky and laden bin down to the end of the drives, roads and lanes of Derbyshire than walking along with a pair of four foot tweezers?

My window on the world from 45 floors up

Bucks Free Press:

2:25pm Monday 8th September 2014

IHAVE never been good with heights. I share with many the (mercifully resistible) urge to end the feeling of terror and anxiety by leaping into the void when I am near cliff edges and high buildings. Strangely, I can deal with aeroplanes without problems. For some reason I can’t quite fathom, sitting in a window seat 30,000 feet over the Atlantic doesn’t induce the same visceral terror as, say, I experienced on a visit to Durham Cathedral years ago when a clergyman friend played a joke on me.

No hedge fund, say council – but we could be on the verge of an accident

Bucks Free Press:

3:14pm Monday 1st September 2014

Ihave lived in my current home outside Wycombe for just under three decades and every year someone in a tractor has come along at some point in the summer to cut back the verges and hedges that overhang some of our country roads, many of which are already narrow lanes with passing places.

Technology has been a boon for certain areas of my life – but not all

Bucks Free Press:

4:23pm Tuesday 26th August 2014

I am, like many males, a fan of gadgets and find it difficult to resist any new piece of kit that I can convince myself might make my life easier or more enjoyable.

Short, snappy news items that leave us feeling short-changed

Bucks Free Press:

12:06pm Tuesday 19th August 2014

As a sports fan, I am a regular listener as I drive to BBC Radio 5 live, which is also a rolling news station. I have recently begun to see a pattern emerging in the way that interviews are conducted.

Couples need money much more than a showpiece wedding

Bucks Free Press:

12:08pm Tuesday 12th August 2014

I’m not one for regrets, and high up among the many things I don’t regret is not having a big slap-up wedding. My wife agrees. Thirty-two years ago we spent no time agonising over the decision to just go and get married and tell people afterwards.

The winds of change are blowing germs all over our hands

Bucks Free Press:

11:36am Tuesday 5th August 2014

It used to be the cheaper wines that had screw-top bottles and wine snobs would make assumptions about the content of the bottle were they to be offered one. Now, presumably, the efficacy of the screw top has improved and they are no longer considered inferior. It appears that the days of corked wine (in the bad sense of that word) are soon to be over. It is estimated that up to ten per cent of bottles with traditional corks have wine within them adversely affected by oxidisation caused by the cork.

These days there are rather a lot of things to be grumpy about

Bucks Free Press:

4:29pm Monday 28th July 2014

Is it just because I am a grumpy old(ish) man that the number of things that drive me bonkers is increasing day by day?

Twitter delight turns to dismay at hands of spoiler troll

Bucks Free Press: Colin Baker

5:10pm Monday 21st July 2014

Iknow that no one ever promised me a rose garden, but after years of encountering a variety of examples of the mindless gratuitous behaviour of that strange minority who enjoy seeing the shoulders of others slump, I still cannot begin to comprehend them.

Yet another ill-thought-out scheme from the council

Bucks Free Press:

4:36pm Monday 14th July 2014

It may be that future editions of dictionaries will contain extra definitions of the words ‘consultation’ and ‘wide’. Judging from Bucks County Council’s recent attempt to save money on school transport, ‘consultation’ seems to mean you ask the bloke at the desk to your right what he thinks; if you then turn to the one on your left, then you are consulting ‘widely’. No need to bother anyone else. Why slow the process down?

It is absurd to expect anyone to remember one day, four decades ago

Bucks Free Press:

10:30am Tuesday 8th July 2014

Rolf Harris has been found guilty of a series of sexual assaults. I suspect more people are shocked by this than were by the revelations about Jimmy Savile. We all viewed Rolf as an endearing national treasure. We now know otherwise. I became involved briefly in Rolf Harris’ trial when I was seen on the television news in a clip that was shown to support the contention of the prosecution that Rolf was lying when he said he hadn’t been in Cambridge, where one of the assaults was alleged to have happened, in 1975. The clip showed that he was there (albeit in 1978), participating in the ITV programme ‘Star Games’ on Jesus Green. I was in his team it seems. Until I saw that clip, I had no memory of having been in Cambridge when I did that show either. Nor indeed did I remember that Rolf was in it with me.

Don't believe all you read - the kids (from Gallifrey) are all right

Bucks Free Press: Colin Baker

3:38pm Friday 27th June 2014

You would think after years in the acting profession I would have learned to box clever with the press. But I haven’t. I was at a media event recently and asked what I thought about the arrival of Peter Capaldi in the Tardis.

If memory serves, my autobiography won’t be very long

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

12:29pm Monday 23rd June 2014

I have been asked on many occasions when I will be producing my autobiography. This may surprise those of you who share my feeling that the numbers of those who have earned the right to expect others to care about the minutiae of their lives is considerably less than the number of those who write them.

The torment of addiction is not for us to judge

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

1:38pm Monday 16th June 2014

Listening to Victoria Derbyshire on Radio 5 Live in 2011, I heard a lady called Rachel talking about her problem with alcoholism. I had always been aware that for thousands of people this is a medical condition and not simply a deliberate act by thoughtless and selfish people. But, listening to Rachel, an anaesthetist (who had for obvious reasons lost her job), underlined that even more. The hopelessness and desperation of this intelligent and tormented woman was such that I can remember exactly where I was when I listened to her slowly peeling away the layers of her addiction and misery.

Injustice in Sudan is latest example of a religion being hijacked by zealots

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

3:12pm Monday 9th June 2014

There are millions of bright, educated, good people worldwide who fervently believe completely different things, worship completely different gods and follow the rules of completely different religions. Some of these religions have followers who interpret the rules that are written in their sacred books or have been decreed by their prophets in a variety of ways. The majority are tolerant of others who believe different things. But all belief systems have their extremists and zealots who choose to interpret texts written in millennia past in ways that are intolerant, absolutist and reflect a belief in a vindictive and vengeful deity rather than a loving and forgiving one.

Reaching for the stars with a real, modern-day hero

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

3:18pm Monday 2nd June 2014

As a result of playing the Doctor three decades ago, occasionally opportunities are offered to me that others might rightly envy.

The man running Premier League should be bright and sensitive

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

11:13am Wednesday 28th May 2014

It is not just as a father of daughters, as a lover of sport or as a passionate believer in justice that I am disappointed by the reaction of the Premier League to the content of the emails written by Richard Scudamore. I am struggling to think of any other comparable position that would not be deemed untenable within that industry or organisation after the tone and content of Scudamore’s utterances.

There is no place in our society for gratuitous offence

Bucks Free Press: Colin Baker

11:52am Monday 19th May 2014

There is a line to be drawn between being able to write or say whatever you like in a free society and the other extreme.

Making a sound argument fro Jamaica Inn actors

Bucks Free Press: Colin Baker

5:27pm Thursday 15th May 2014

I missed the television broadcast of Jamaica Inn but, after the media furore about the sound and inaudibility of the actors, my professional curiosity was piqued.

How planning ahead became a passport to chaos and expense

Bucks Free Press: Colin Baker

2:28pm Tuesday 6th May 2014

I travel a fair amount and my passport was due to run out next month so I sent off my passport after my last trip abroad with a four-week window before travelling to Antwerp last weekend.

Arts festival will show off the breadth of talent in Wycombe

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

4:26pm Tuesday 22nd April 2014

This week the annual Wycombe Arts Festival kicks off its 50th anniversary programme in St Andrew’s Church, in Hatters Lane, with the talented young wind performers from Wycombe Music Centre presenting an evening of chamber music.

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.



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