The Green Fields Of England?

Dear Editor,

As the ban on smoking in enclosed public areas in England approaches, I would like to take issue with the Self-Righteous Brigade who see all smokers as potential suicide bombers.

My argument is simple:

If these people have the right to a smoke-free atmoshpere, why do I (as a non-driver) not have similar rights as a pedestrian? The two car families on their “school runs” in their 4-Wheel Drive vehicles are polluting my atmosphere on a daily basis, but this seems to be totally acceptable (come to think of it, anything that includes keeping the children happy seems to be totally acceptable, aside from teaching them good manners and respect, but that’ll have to wait for another day).

I’ll bypass going into depth about the apparently insignificant issue of major job losses due to pub’s closing down (30% of pubs in Scotland have had to shed staff since the ban was introduced).

However, I find it hard to accept that on the 91st anniversary of the Battle Of The Somme, England has chosen to eradicate a freedom which has been enjoyed by millions for hundreds of years; especially 17 year old Willie MacBride who might just have needed that fag before having his brains blown out in the name of democracy and freedom all those years ago.

Shame on you Mr Blair and your cohorts……

Yours,

S.P Alford

The End Is Nigh

The end is nigh. The “Buy” button in the Apple App store has now been replaced by a “Get” button. Now, call me a pedantic and miserable old git if you will, but am I the only person around here who does not recognise the American slang which continues to encroach upon the English language? Can I get a ……….I’ve just got my paycheck ……… Christ, it drives me feckin nuts! Just off to the Prom now to fiddle with the faucets – and don’t think that won’t be next…..

Character Building In Paris

I’ve gotta keep this brief as my French hosts (Ha!) at the hotel We Hate The English will not let me connect to their Wi-Fi. So much for the old entante cordiale then!

It’s been a character building kind of day so far.

The Spitfire I flew over in took just 45 minutes to get to Paris. Followed by another 30 waiting to land and yet another 20 to reach the terminal from the distant field it landed in somewhere near Belgium. Hint: never fly Air Frog.

The question is now, whether to risk waiting 30 more minutes waiting for a glass of frothy water by the name of Kronenpiss, or to accept defeat and stay in to clean the hotel room? Christ I’ll be glad to be shot of this place come sunrise.

Watch this space for more merry tales from Gay Paree. I’m off to sink a carafe or two of Vino Rouge…….

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Yippee, it’s time for the Games!

Oh, how I’m looking forward to the forthcoming “Commercial Games”. I guess the good old BBC will soon start the build up coverage, and then my life will be complete. I’m especially looking forward to watching that nice Tom what’s he called and the other young competitors who feel obliged to put a question mark at the end of each sentence.

I was really impressed with the young whipper snappers who, when interviewed on the goggle box, said they were going to be the next Bradley Wiggins, or Wiggers as he’s known to us cyclists and train spotters. It’s nice to see young folk having such realistic expectations these days, don’t you think? Far better than wanting to make a career out of Britain’s Got Jack Shit, or Big Waster.

God forbid they might just wake up one day and realise that a job sweeping the streets would be beyond their intellectual capacity; or was that “capacity?”.

Signed

Old Fart

If I can do it – so can you – FAQ

I’ve noticed that since I ditched the tobacco and started vaping (after 35 years of 20/40 cigs a day), I’m asked a lot of questions on vaping on a more or less daily basis.¬†

If you have arrived at this page, it could be that I’ve given you a card or leaflet to try and explain in depth exactly what it’s all about. I decided to do this as I was lucky enough to get off on the right foot when I switched from tobacco to vapour; many, however were not so lucky and did not make the transition for a number of reasons. I cannot stress enough the simple fact that if you are going to make the switch, you need to do so with the correct information to hand, or there is every likelihood that you will simply go back to tobacco due to sheer frustration at not being able to make it work for you. So, without further ado, here in very basic terms is what you need to know¬†BEFORE¬†you try and ditch the tobacco based upon the 5 most frequently asked questions I receive:
Q: Do you get the same “throat hit” as with cigarettes?
A: Yes, you can get an even better “hit” with e-cigs as the vapour created by the electronic cigarette comes from a liquid (known as e-liquid, or e-juice) which is heated up in the Atomiser (in the middle of the e-cig) at the same time as you inhale on it. As you can choose the amount of nicotine, you get to choose how “strong” your experience is. Eventually you may choose to “vape” without any nicotine, as you can still get a strong “throat hit” without it, although you will not get the beneficial effects of nicotine if you choose to dispense with it. Don’t believe all that you are told; nicotine is not all bad for you ‚Äì but as you already know, it is addictive ‚Äì just like the caffeine in your tea, coffee and Coca Cola and energy drinks ‚Äì but no more harmful than those when used responsibly.
Q: How do e-cigs work?
A: Quite simply most e-cigs will comprise of 3 separate parts: the rechargeable battery which powers the atomiser attached to it, which in turn heats up the liquid which you inhale through a cartridge. However, if you are new to vaping, you will certainly find it easier to purchase a starter kit which is much easier to use before getting really involved with mixing you your own liquids and buying specialised atomisers etc.
This is where many people I know have gone wrong, as they have purchased an expensive kit which requires a good deal of application, and a lot of people simply find it easier to reach for a cigarette or make themselves a roll-up. 
If you want to make the transition easily, you would be well advised to purchase a starter kit. After you have got used to vaping in this easy way, you could then move on to a more advanced method, which could include making up your own flavours and adding exactly the amount of nicotine (or not) as you like.
Q: What creates the smoke/vapour?
A: The vapour (which looks and feels exactly like smoke but has little or no smell and does not linger in the air) is produced by turning propylene glycol- or a glycerin-based liquid solution into an aerosol mist, similar to the way a nebulizer or humidifier vaporises solutions for inhalation. You will find propylene glycol in asthma inhalers and it is also used on film sets to produce “fake smoke). It is widely accepted as a harmless food additive (E1520) throughout the European Union.
Q: Can I buy them in shops?
A: Some shops will sell pre-filled e-cigs, but to get the best value you should shop online as they are always cheaper due to the lower overheads involved.
Q: Can I get them on prescription in the UK as part of Nicotine Replacement Therapy?
A: Sadly, the e-cig in it’s current form has not been taken seriously as an aid to giving up smoking as yet in the UK. But you can take it from someone who’s life has been transformed:-
IT WORKED FOR ME AND IT COULD WORK FOR YOU IF YOU TAKE THE TIME TO DO IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME!

 

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……but could it just be possible that those rail bosses were told not to accept their bonuses, and give it back to the network for "safety" work just to show them in a better light after the recent fair hikes?

The Glass House Government

Dear Editor,

It is with a heavy sense of irony that I hear in the news recently the plans of David Cameron to “crack down on benefit cheats”. Surely this is a case of those in glass houses throwing stones. Wasn’t it just a short time ago that his own colleagues were in fact cheating their own benefits to the tune of millions of pounds? Wasn’t it also just a short time ago that his banker friends were receiving billions of pounds in bonuses while sending the country into recession? And isn’t it just typical of a Tory government to start picking on the less well off to clear their own dirty debts?

I rest my case.

Yours,

S.P Alford

Black Friday

In response to

Exeter police patrols increased for ‘Black Friday’

Every year I cringe when the Echo blazes a headline about “Black Friday”.

What has it come to in this country when citizens battle one another on the street because they have been released from their jobs for a few weeks? Visitors to this country would be forgiven for thinking that this is some kind of sick April Fools joke! Sadly this is not the case, but an all pervading sickness is overwhelmingly evident in white working class British society today.

Isn’t it time that we as a nation took time out to address just what it is that makes the proletariat behave in this fashion at which, in most other Christian countries is a time of peace and goodwill?

I for one will be spending the run up to Xmas in the relative safety of foreign climes, and if anyone out there wants a good session without feeling the need to kick the living daylights out of someone, I’d recommend you do the same.

S.P Alford

Legalised Mugging At Exeter Airport

Dear Editor,

I am writing today in the hope that you may make fellow readers aware of the perils involved with bringing the so called “recommended limit” goods from EU countries into Exeter Airport, especially if you are a frequent flyer.

I realise that UK Border Control do a valuable and often difficult job. However, on my arrival into Exeter Airport on Tuesday, I was subjected to a humiliating 90 minute detention and subsequent interview which resulted in the confiscation of 3kg of hand rolling tobacco. The reason given for this was that they did not believe the goods to be for my own use. It is my personal opinion that the officers on duty simply wanted a “result”, and whatever I said to them would have made no difference whatsoever to the outcome. The fact that I travel frequently in and out of Exeter Airport on business – proof of which I could have provided given the chance – was no doubt a major factor in why I was singled out for investigation.

We are told by HMRC that “You are particularly likely to be asked questions if you have more than 3kg of tobacco”. I was well aware of this, so was careful to ensure that I did not go over this limit. Also, even given the fact that I am a heavy smoker, 60 packets would have lasted me for quite some time, so I had no need to exceed this amount.

During my detention the officer constantly made notes on an extremely small notepad and in ineligible writing before asking me to sign to say that what he had written was what I had said. Being unable to read what appeared to me to be some form of shorthand, I declined as he could have written anything. When I asked why the tape recorder above my head was not turned on, he told me that it was because this was “not a criminal investigation”. When I asked if I could have a legible statement of what was written, he simply said that I could not have his notebook.

On my release I asked for, and was given a leaflet on how I might appeal against this act of theft against me. However, on reading through the information, I immediately noticed that if my appeal were not successful, I could be liable for upwards of £1,500 in court costs. Given that the tobacco cost less than £300, I am now faced with a difficult decision. Do I stand up for my rights and fight this in what might me a very expensive court case, or leave it and let them think that they were right all along?

Surely something should be done about what amounts to legalised mugging of citizens by the state.

Yours sincerely,

S.P Alford
Exeter

You Do NOT Gov

How unique of Golden Brown to introduce the YouGov initiative.

You know, the bit where you can go on the Number Ten website and set up a petition to right an injustice and so forth. Of course the fact is that we do not “Gov”, or govern as it should be said. No, Tesco and all the major corporations govern us, so please don’t waste your time setting up or signing a petition, as it won’t do you any good at all. If you really want to make a difference then go out and shoot the offending politician or whoever has rocked your boat because this is the only way you’re going to make any f*cker listen to you.

God bless you Tony Martin and Peter Harvey for having the balls to actually DO something about your situation!

Why Don’t Kids Go To School Anymore?

A series of bleats about modern society begins today in true Grumpy Old Men fashion with the question:
Why don’t kids go to school anymore?
These days they all seem to be attending a Technical College or suchlike.
None of the kids I see outta my window look like technical geniuses to me.
No hang on, I’m wrong; the little bastards which shattered my front window must have had training – like as not by the SAS…….

Stagecoach Attitude

Dear Editor,

Having been a past correspondent to the Echo on the issue of Stagecoach buses, their drivers and the appalling service they provide for the citizens and visitors to Exeter, I have come up with an idea which they might like to consider.

I note from your letters column, and more so through comments left on thisisexeter.co.uk, that many bus users have concerns regarding the manner in which they are treated by certain drivers. Now, please don’t get me wrong here, because many of their drivers are of a well mannered and easy going disposition, which cannot be easy given some of the things they have to put up with. However, there are a percentage of drivers who can be sullen, ill mannered and downright abusive, and it is because of them that I am making my proposal to introduce clearly visible identification badges, which could be attached to the top of the ticket vending machines.

Prior to Stagecoach securing the monopoly from Devon General in 1995, all drivers had to be clearly identified by easily visible badges, and I’m sure that the aforementioned salt of the earth type driver would not have a problem with this being reintroduced. I’m sure that Stagecoach drivers do indeed carry identification, but I have to say that if this is the case then I for one have not seen any evidence.

When travelling on their buses we are (quite rightly) reminded that Stagecoach will not tolerate abuse of any kind to their staff, and that they will seek to prosecute such offenders. However, this should surely work both ways don’t you think? I have in the past week witnessed abusive behaviour from drivers, especially toward those who travel using concessionary passes. I have it on good authority that it is common knowledge within the Stagecoach organisation that many employees, especially drivers, consider such pass holders to be to blame for high fares and overcrowding. This view is confirmed by comments left on your website by drivers, although I have no way of telling whether they are actual employees or not. I have also heard slang names given to these people, but this is no place for profanity so I’ll pass on that one.

Of course it would be somewhat abusive of me to suggest that had these people tried harder at school then they might not have to be ferrying pensioners and the like around to pay the bills, so perhaps I deserve such treatment. I do not however, find it amusing to see the elderly and those who are least able to defend themselves bullied by drivers with a chip on their shoulder.

So, what about it Stagecoach? The next time I see a little old lady falling around the bus because the driver has lurched away from the bus stop before she has had time to find a seat, will I be able to ring you up and report him using his badge number? Okay, I hear you say, we don’t need such identification because all you have to do is ring us up and tell us which route and timetabled service you were travelling on. Well, that isn’t going to work either is it because I have yet to find a service which runs to time during peak periods, and as all regular bus travellers know there are often no buses for up to an hour and then three come at the same time!

To the drivers who accept their job for what it is, and make it a pleasure travelling with them, I say thank you. To the others who’s dubious people skills have been highlighted above, I say if you don’t like the job, don’t do it. To Stagecoach, I can only say either get your house in order or at least let the travelling public do it for you.

Yours sincerely.

S.P Alford

Some Pigs Are More Equal Than Other Pigs

Dear Editor,

I am a Crediton based website designer, and am appalled by the blatant waste of almost £10k on what one could barely call a fully featured website (Echo, Angela Browning Pig Feature)

Also, there is no mention on her site of who designed it, but in the place where you would expect to see such information there is a statement which reads “Funded from Parliamentary allowances”.

I think I’d be on a safe bet to conclude that she did not use the services of a designer in her own constituency, and that whoever did the work is probably living it up in Barbados by now!

Another pig with her nose in the trough, but I doubt the Kirton faithful will vote her out come judgement day as they just love to doff their caps to the local squire down our way.

Yours,

S.P Alford

Political Correctness In The Forest

In reply to your news item, Residents’ Anger At Outdoor Sex Venue, Superintendent Richard Baker states that this is a “complex issue”. I’d lay odds that it wouldn’t be half so complex if heterosexual folk were involved. This is simply another case of the authorities not being prepared to face up to issues which might leave them open to prosecution themselves for discrimination against the minorities. But of course this is what we have come to expect in the strange and politically correct world of New Labour.

Sincerely,

S.P Alford

Fat Cat Office Wallers

In reply to council leaders statement to consult local people on the size of next years council tax bill:

Dear E&E,

Brian Greenslade and his underworked/overpaid pen pushing office wallers will no doubt charge what they believe they can get away with come February 19th, irrespective of who they do or don’t consult with.

No doubt all the old chestnuts will come out, especially regarding subsidised bus travel and how the nasty pensioners and disabled people are bleeding the younger and able bodied people dry.

Perhaps if they were to spend less money on ridiculous things such as policing the smoking ban, and those who might accidentally drop a cigarette butt in the street we could save enough to cover the Stagecoach bill.

Incidentally, could he perhaps tell us which local authorities say that they are getting a good deal from central government? I’m waiting with baited breath for his undoubtedly hasty response.

Sincerely,

S.P Alford

Keeping Up A Tradition In Crediton

WESTCOUNTRY smokers and their supporters turned out in their thousands across the region yesterday for the traditional Boxing Day Toke.

The Smoking Act 2007 banned smoking in public places, but the habit shows no sign of dying out and plenty of people took the opportunity to enjoy the crisp festive air in glorious sunshine; not that they were given a choice of course, as smoking indoors now is pretty much impossible.

In Crediton, near Exeter, hundreds of supporters of the Mid Devon Toke turned out in the crisp morning air to line the pavements to appease their craving. They brought the town to a standstill as they filled the streets with their roll-ups and tailor mades, the smokers enjoying the customary drink before they were forced outside by the landlords and landladies, who will surely soon regret not doing more to stop the ban as their businesses collapse beneath them. That'll teach them, don't you think?

There were no reports of clashes with anti-smoke protesters, aside from one small incident outside the Ship Inn which left an elderly woman from Black Dog Village with ash on her shoes, which was soon defused by whipper in/roadsweeper Tony Pike. However, there was universal condemnation of the ban, which has affected not just those taking part, but passive smokers as well. Those who could previously enjoy a smoke courtesy of their nearest miscreant now have to buy their own cigarettes, and quite rightly too, in my opinion.

Meanwhile in the Houses Of Parliament, those responsible for the ban continued to smoke as always, because it is of course one rule for them, and another completely for us. Don't you just love the democracy and freedoms we enjoy in this green and pleasant land?

Note: Written over 4 years ago, but still worth a laugh, no?

Use It Or Lose It!

Dear Editor,

As someone who has more than a passing interest in the fortunes of UK publicans, I would like to speak on their behalf concerning the fact that duty on alcohol will rise by 8 per cent on Monday December 1st.

On hearing the Pre Budget Report, I thought that the government might have thrown a lifeline to hard pushed licensees by reducing VAT by 2.5%, but of course this is largely offset by the aforementioned increase in duty. According to reports published in the wake of this increase, a local pub will close every day for the next two years as a result of tax hikes hidden in Gordon Brown’s recession rescue package.

Of course one could argue that perhaps if the pub industry had done more to protest against the smoking ban then the smokers would not have left the pubs in their droves as many have done. Then the pubs could at least have absorbed these tax rises. I have in the past found it difficult to sympathise with publicans for this exact reason. It is a fact that cheap supermarket beer, and the fact that nobody wants to stand in the freezing cold to smoke make a very strong case for deserting your local pub.

However, with recession looming, and January the worst month of the year for the licensed trade, we will surely see even more traditional pubs closing, especially those who do not enjoy the freedom to buy their stock from the cheapest supplier as a result of being tied to their leasing company.

As I see it, in a few years time the only places that will remain open are likely to be the large, faceless pub chains such as J.D Wetherspoon, who have the ability to buy and sell their stock in bulk. Of course there will always be a place in the market for such establishments, but for many drinkers, myself included, they are nothing more than glorified coffee houses.

I would therefore urge your readers to consider these points when choosing where to spend their hard earned cash during the festive season and beyond. If you want to keep the UK pub tradition alive, it’s a case of “use it or lose it”.

Yours sincerely,

S.P Alford

Bus service lets Exeter down

Dear Editor,

Being a “frequent flyer” to and from Exeter International Airport, I have become increasingly ashamed of the poor bus service afforded to visitors new to the City of Exeter, and would like to voice my concerns through your Points Of View page.

On leaving the arrivals hall at Exeter Airport, visitors who wish to travel into the city centre, or onward for connections to Exeter St Davids train station can easily spot the bus stop for this service. However, despite the rather grandiose sign which advertises a “shuttle/transfer” service (which in itself can easily be interpreted as a dedicated and complimentary service), this service is a complete embarrassment to the City. Aside from anything else, the bus stop itself is situated in an area where no vehicles except the emergency services can access, due to security restrictions.

On my return from Paris yesterday, I noticed a lot of people waiting for the bus into Exeter, and many were voicing disappointment with the frequency of the service (typically every hour). The bus timetables are extremely confusing, and the only “regular” weekday service is the 56A, which in fact is just another country service to and from Exmouth. This service bizarrely also services the entire Met Office workforce who like to travel by bus and so help the environment! Not that I have every seen anyone board at the Met Office on this strange and frankly unnecessary detour. Sundays are catered for by the 379 Sidmouth and Honiton service, which again run every hour (if you are lucky).

One might have assumed that in line with other cities such as Bristol, the “shuttle service” might run every 20 minutes and provide passengers with somewhere to put their luggage; not so in Exeter. The bus we all eventually boarded yesterday arrived 30 minutes late due to a road closure, and was already quite full. The only place for passengers to put their luggage, was a on the floor, but of course the floor space was already taken up with passengers, so it was very uncomfortable for all concerned.

As if it were not bad enough to be waiting for 90 minutes for a bus that was overcrowded, the bus also had it’s heating system turned on, on what was already a very warm day! This has happened quite a lot on Stagecoach services recently, but the bus drivers simply say that they can’t do anything about it, as it’s a problem beyond their control. Maybe this is where Stagecoach are losing money, rather than their lame claims of losing it because of “concessionary fares”, but I digress….

If Exeter wants to impress it’s visitors, and Exeter Airport continues to press for expansion, perhaps the council should step in and offer visitors a service commensurate with the historic and cultural delights that they continually seek to promote.

Yours sincerely,

S.P Alford

Fascist State

On taking on the job, hapless Prime Minister Gordon Brown stated “All decisions that we make will have to be built from an understanding of grassroots opinion. People will be more engaged in decision making” (Quoted from a BBC interview broadcast on Sunday 24th June 2007).

It seems to me that now more than at any other time the British people are simply told what to do, and put up with it. I just hope that the students present take heed of his wise words. From what I see of much of todays youth, they are far more interested in getting on Big Brother or The X Factor than worrying about how their freedoms are being gradually eroded through what is fast becoming a fascist regime.

I blame this primarily on the fact that many (but not all) of todays youth have nevered wanted for much. Having left full-time education in 1978, a year before the dreaded Thatcher took office, I soon learned to take more than a passing interest in politics. I can remember the days when myself and many others of the same age (and younger) were taking direct action against the dreaded Poll Tax by standing up for (and singing about) what we believed in. Of course, there were always those who sought fame amongst us, but thankfully the songs myself and others were singing in the pubs and clubs up and down the country was highly unlikely to impress the likes of Pete Waterman and Simon Cowell.

To this end, I propose that what Britain needs today is a musical revolution, as in the words of a not so famous punk icon, “governments alone can’t cause such distress without the people who let them get away with it”. At risk of upsetting many of your younger readers, no I’m not suggesting that watered down junk such as Coldplay suddenly start wearing bondage trousers, but rather that the youth of today get off their lazy backsides and start writing lyrics that actually mean something.

S.P Alford

Stagecoach Lies Again

Stagecoach say that free travel for pensioners is costing them money (Letters 11th July 2008). This is patently untrue, and I challenge stagecoach supremo’s Anne Gloag and Brian Souter to prove it to be the case. As pensioners will be aware, Stagecoach charges single fares for all “free” fares provided to those entitled to free travel; return fares, which are often not much more than a single are not permitted.

I know from your letters column that I am not the only one in Exeter who feels that the service they provide (much of which is of course funded by Council Tax payers by way of subsidy on their “unprofitable” routes) is absolutely shocking and overpriced. So, stand up Stagecoach and give us the facts about how much money you are losing as a result of the free travel scheme. Maybe when the truth is revealed many Stagecoach drivers will stop treating those using a free travel pass as lepers and second class citizens, as is sadly often the case at the moment.

Stagecoach Robbery

In response to Matthew Stead’s letter of 1st May 2008, it’s all very well to say Matthew, but when you’re stuck on the outskirts of Exeter without a driving license, there really isn’t much choice in the matter.

Stagecoach have been robbing the citizens of Exeter for years, and will continue to do so for as long as they have the monopoly.

Brian Souter and Ann Gloag will be well kept in gold bathtaps for some time to come, as will the government endorsed Private Finance Initiative firms who just about run this country anyway thanks to the New Tory party. If you need a full explanation of how this came to be, just read George Orwell’s Animal Farm, which just about sums it up.

Life Is Cheap

Dear Editor,

So, Jakub Tomczak has been given two life sentences after being convicted of rape and causing grievous bodily harm with intent to his 48-year-old victim in an Exeter street. The Echo reported that Judge Graham Cottle imposed a life sentence for each count and ordered that Tomczak, 24, should serve a minimum term of nine years.

Yet another typical case of British justice, or injustice, when a life sentence comes down to a paltry four and a half years. I’d be willing to bet that if a Brit were convicted on these charges in Tomczak’s native Poland he’d not be as fortunate. Come to that, if the defendent in this case were British he’d probably be looking at a minimum of 20 years, but I guess I’m not allowed to voice that opinion in polite circles or British newspapers.

Yours disgustedly,

S.P Alford

Lib Dem denying BNP basic rights

In a so called “free” society, we are constantly censored and oppressed by those who claim to be liberal, and free thinking.

In the words of Voltaire, “I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

It’s a pity the politically correct brigade don’t wake up and smell the coffee. What we need in this country today is less of the politically correct, and a good dose of common sense.

Or is calling sense common likely to offend anyone with Sense as a surname? This would not suprise me.

From my own point of view, I can only echo the views of so many of your readers, in that I may not agree with the politics of the far right, but they are the only political party prepared to stand up and say what I believe a large percentage of the population are thinking.

Beware Brown and Cameron. If a protest vote turns into an election result for the BNP, you’ve only got yourselves to blame.

Bigot my arse!

Sir,

I feel bound to reply to the scathing attack on my character by Suzi Rollason, “Do not be so quick to judge students”, Points of view, January 16th.

She says that she was “appalled to read my bigotted and sweeping comments”.

Firstly, if Ms Rollason wants to see “appalling” in all its glory, she might want to consider leaving the safety of her desk and take a holiday in Kenya or Zimbabwe. So let’s get things in perspective before we start shall we Suzi?

Secondly, I would take issue with anyone who calls me a “bigot”. The common translation of this much abused adjective is that of a “prejudiced person who is intolerant of opinions, lifestyles, or identities differing from his or her own”. In point of fact, a more accurate description would be that of “someone who refuses to accept the possibility that their particular opinions are the outcomes of flawed logic”, but I digress.

As far as I am aware, the only thing which I have been intolerant of recently is bad and innacurate letter writing, but to Ms Rollason’s mind that probably now makes me a mysoginist to boot!

I know all about tolerance and Exeter University students, having lived until recently in the St David’s area for around 20 years. I tolerated their all night parties. I tolerated their urinating outside my house. I tolerated them vandalising my garden (especially as daddy apologised and gave me a fat cheque), and I tolerated them defacating in a pint glass (what a jolly wheeze!) in plain view of my bedroom window. So Suzi, don’t tell me about lack of tolerance, and as you can see, yes I have met these “extremely talented and hard-working young people”, although just how talented you need to be to wait tables and wash pots must be open to question.

I will admit to generalisation or “sweeping comments”, but I can only speak as I find, so what else am I expected to do?

Much of the points made in her letter refer to how hard working Exeter University students are, and (if you read between the lines), how downright lazy local residents (known as “townies” to the Uni elite) are. I would suggest that Ms Rollason is skating on thin ice here, and perhaps an apology to hardworking Exonians (and our Polish cousins) may be in order. If you look through my letter, you’ll see that at no time did I accuse Exeter University students of being lazy or workshy, so I’m a bit bemused as to exactly what point she is trying to make.

Finally, are Select Hospitality aware that Ms Rollason is issuing statements to the press on their behalf? I have a mind to contact Sandy Jarrett, Head of Marketing and Communications at Select Hospitality to find out. Perhaps there might be a position for our budding writer in this department – or, in the words of Fagin, “I think I’d better think it out again”!

Yours,

S.P Alford
on behalf of
S.P Alford (sole trader)

Objection to plan will have no effect

Sorry John Mulberry, but I have to concur that your objection to the plan for a block of student flats in Well Street, St James, will get you nowhere, A district ruined in the name of money, Echo, January 7.

The university rules this city and has done for a long while. Why do you suppose that local people cannot afford housing? Simple: the la-di-da, well-to-do uni crowd bump the rents up each year, as they can afford to pay through the nose.

The same goes for their parents who bump up the property prices by buying student homes for Tarquin and his luvvy mates. Good luck with your campaign against this anyway.

S P Alford

Exeter

Smokers Illegally Targetted On Railway Property.

Dear Sir,

I am writing with some concern, having recently witnessed a member of the public being fined for dropping a cigarette end on the pavement directly outside Exeter St Davids railway station. I was under the impression that this area was privately owned, and my subsequent investigation confirmed that this was indeed the case.

It would appear that the “smoking police” employed by Exeter City Council are being somewhat overzealous in their quest to boost the council coffers. To this end, I think it only fair that members of the public are made aware that any fine imposed on railway property should be safely ignored. Furthermore, those who have unwittingly paid such fines need to be aware that the council are acting unlawfully, and I would urge them to press for a full refund and apology.

It is my opinion that the council should be held responsible, in the same way in which the television broadcasters were recently brought to book, for wrongly charging viewers on premium rate telephone numbers.

Clarification of this matter from council chiefs would I’m sure be welcomed by smokers, and I urge them to respond through your columns at the earliest convenience.

Kind regards,

S.P Alford

Note: This letter was not published in the Express & Echo, no doubt down to the official denotice on any pro-smoking malarkey by HM Govt.

Lies, Damned Lies and Statistics

Sir,

I am writing an open letter today in an attempt to seek clarification from someone on the effects of the July 1st smoking ban on pub profits.

On September 7th, the UK’s largest pub chain, JD Wetherspoon, who’s flagship pub, The Imperial is of course a local landmark in Exeter, issued a statement which read “JD Wetherspoon has delivered record results as the UK√¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢s smoking ban failed to dent profits” (Source: CatererSearch).

Just 2 months later, on November 7th, it issued a statement which stated that “it remained cautious over trading after the introduction of the smoking ban in England dented sales” (Source: Reading Evening Post).

I am naturally a little bemused by this, and would like some kind of explanation from Wetherspoon supremo, and local resident, Tim Martin as to what all this means exactly.

Would it be cynical of me to say that the first statement was written for the shareholders, while the second one is a matter of public record?

On another note, now that the winter weather is finally with us, and the social lepers who choose to smoke are herded on to the street, or designated “dying area”, I wonder how local publicans are faring. To request their comments through the E&E would be a trifle unfair, as few publicans will admit to having an empty pub, but perhaps there are those who will give us an honest answer?

I await the replies from them and Mr Martin with interest.

Yours,

S.P Alford

Note: This letter was not published in the Express & Echo, no doubt down to the official denotice on any pro-smoking malarkey by HM Govt.

Bouncing the Pigs

Dear Editor,

I am writing in response to your story “CONCERN AT SMOKING BAN AFFECT DOOR STAFF” (Echo 20th August). Regular readers will be aware that this is not the first time I have sought to voice my opinion on this undemocratic and ridiculously unworkable law, and to this end I will continue to fight to oppose the ban.

This latest installment from Marcel Choules will come as no surprise to most smokers. Indeed, the main consensus among smokers wherever I go, is that smoking will simply be outlawed full stop before long. Anyone who frequents a public house will be well aware that a fair percentage of what is being smoked was not originally bought in this country. Therefore the government are naturally not earning as much tax on it, as it has alread been paid in the country of origin and distributed by the arrestingly named “tobacco barons”. But I digress…

Mr Choules (sorry, Councillor Choules) states “One or two smokers get very aggressive and stroppy when I ask them to move away from the doorway or when they are asked not to take drinks outside with them at pubs”.

Well, I’m sorry Mr Choules sir, but without condoning unruly behaviour in any way, if someone treats me like a pig for exercising my right to smoke, then I’m quite likely to adopt the manners of said animal. I’m sure you’ll argue that you are only doing your job, but the underlying message in this report was that you are simply another fervent anti-smoker, who will happily see others humiliated and scorned to further your own personal agenda.

Landlord Paul Andrew hits the nail on the head in pointing out that ostracising smokers further would be “over-riding Government legislation”.

This is the point that the whingers of the anti-smoking brigade should wake up to; you’ve got your law, now give us all a break and keep your own counsel for a change. Because if you don’t, I might just have to blow some more of my horrible smokey bacon views in your pious faces.

Yours angrily…

Unbelievable!

In reply to Echo Letter as follows:

WHY DOESN’T BEDSIT DAD GET MORTGAGE?

Regarding the story Family of four cram into bedsit as city’s housing crisis grows, Echo, July 12, it drives me mad to see the Echo publicising their case.In this instance the father works, they have two children and a dog!

Has anyone suggested he should get a mortgage like the rest of us?

It’s very simple, if you want to live in a larger house get a mortgage and buy one, I had to. I have one child, one cat and a girlfriend and pay a mortgage, just like most people I know.

So someone needs to tell the father to sort his own life out and stop moaning to the newspapers.

Adam Norton

Haven Road, Exeter

(by email)

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Sir,

I cannot believe your views on this!

Are you aware that to even consider buying a basic property in Exeter fit for a small family would entail a mortgage of around £150,000? This means that you need to earn around £50k per year to satisfy most mortgage providers, never mind the deposit. The average wage in Exeter for most people is very probably less than half this figure, so I can only assume that you are either in an extremely well paid job, or bought your property before prices went through the roof. I imagine that you are the sort of person who wishes Maggie Thatcher was still in Downing Street.

Perhaps you ought to think more carefully before spouting your mouth off about those less fortunate than yourself.

Sincerely,

S.P Alford

A Letter To The Editor

Dear Editor,

As was to be expected, there has been much written in recent weeks concerning the recently imposed ban on smoking in public places, and I would like to take the opportunity through your excellent, unbiased and campaigning newspaper, to say how much my life, and the the lives of my friends and family have changed since it’s overdue inception.

Firstly, I no longer need to worry about dying of cancer, and have naturally cancelled my monthly donation to Cancer Research, as it is quite plainly no longer required. Hooray! I will live to be 100 years old and will receive my birthday card from King Billy, or maybe even King Harold (ooh, doesn’t he look like his father, bless him)! Who’d have even considered such a thing before this excellent act of parliament came into force?

Also, I no longer need to put up with secondhand smoke when I visit my local pub. Come to think of it, I no longer have to put up with anyone, as there is nobody left in the pub. Those with whom I would once hold a lively debate on politics, religion or royal paternity are now to be found out in the street, pulling on those awful cancer sticks and forming a bond with fellow addicts. What a relief!

As with all new laws however, there have of course been unforeseen drawbacks. My sister Lillian, who is sadly also addicted to the dreaded weed, now has to smoke at home, rather than in the pub or in her workplace, and this has resulted in her children developing rather nasty coughs. Her youngest, Tarquin is now the proud owner of a shiny new Ventolin inhaler for his newly acquired asthma condition, but the doctor says that he’ll probably grow out of it when he’s old enough to go to the pub.

I should also mention the small matter of my teenage neice, Beyonce, who left her drink on the bar on Saturday night to go outside to indulge her tobacco craving, only to return and find it tasting of the “date-rape drug”, Rohypnol. But I supposed she was asking for it really – just another junkie loser who should have known better (sorry Lillian, but you know my views on this).

And then of course there is young Saskia, my Polish penfriend who came to Britain to seek a better life, but has now sadly returned to her homeland as there is no longer a job for her in the Nags Head. Apparently the management foresee them having to shed up to 35% of staff soon due to poor takings. Some have even suggested that the pub will close and become a hostel for workers from Eastern Europe, but if poor Saskia is anything to go by, they’d better be getting that University degree before setting sail for Blighty.

However, all in all I think that the ban has been a resounding success, and I’d like to congratulate the British Governmenton their efforts to encourage smokers to quit. After all, they must be losing a fortune in revenue. I can’t remember the last time I was queueing in my local newsagent for my monthly “Naturist Trainspotting” magazine and found anyone buying cigarettes or tobacco. I have however seen several cigarette packets recently which apparently warn against the dangers of smoking, including one which I later found out meant that smoking might affect a man’s ability to father children!

I can’t tell you what fun I had “Googling” for that translation on the Internet. Anyone now requiring the translation for “sperm” in any language from Polish to Portuguese should contact me forthwith, as I’d be more than happy to assist. If I’m unavailable for any reason, just ask a Customs officer at any U.K port, as they’ll probably know.

This just leaves me to raise a toast to a healthier, more prosperous England, and of course to Freedom & Democracy For All in this green and pleasant smoke-free land.

Yours,

S.P Alford Esq

Gordon Brown – Man Of The People?

Dear Editor,

I notice that incoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown states, “All decisions that we make will have to be built from an understanding of grassroots opinion. People will be more engaged in decision making,” (Quoted from a BBC interview broadcast on Sunday 24th June).

Does this mean that, had Mr Brown fulfilled his lofty ambition of becoming PM a year earlier, the general public would have been consulted over the forthcoming ban on smoking in public places, as would have been the case in a true democracy?

I think we all know the answer to that one don’t we?

And of course we could also dream of what might have happened with the situation in Iraq had Mr Brown got the top job 10 years ago………but I digress.

On a more optimistic note, I would like to recommend Echo readers who are similarly opposed to the smoking ban to voice their opinions and opposition at www.freedom2smoke.org.uk, a non-profit making website which has recently been launched to fight for the rights of smokers. Unlike the government, who have spent hundreds of thousands of pounds on promoting their pro-ban website at www.smokefreeengland.co.uk, this website has a budget of exactly zero. In fact the tax revenue earned by the government for this website’s hosting and domain registration fees is actually going toward publicising the very website to which they are opposed – now that’s what I call irony!

Sincerely,

S.P Alford

New Labour – Old Tory

Dear Editor,

I would like to add my support to the plight of Mr Leaman, who’s treatment at the hands of Exeter City Council is indeed appalling (Letters, May 3rd).

However, your correspondent, Mr Holwill says “Socialism is about levelling up, not levelling down”.

Has he not realised yet, that after 10 years of “New Labour” rule, socialism plays no part in this government’s manifesto? Indeed, I would go so far as to say that Tony Blair is probably considered by many Tory voters as Margaret Thatcher’s greatest acheivement. I’ve no doubt that many Tories are secretly hoping that Labour will stay in power, as the thin line between Tory and Labour was blurred beyond recognition as soon as they started selling off the family silver to the PFI!

But politics aside, good luck to Mr Leaman. As a fellow resident of Burnthouse Lane, I wish him every success in fighting the council to a fair and just conclusion.

S.P Alford
142 Burnthouse Lane
EXETER
EX2 6NB

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This was a reply/comment on the original letter:
Printed in Express & Echo – 3rd May 2007 as shown below:

Dear Editor,

Readers may be wondering how Exeter man David Leaman is getting on.Mr Leaman, you might remember, is the pensioner threatened with eviction from his Shakespeare Road home – not for wrecking council property, not for nuisance or threatening his neighbours but for losing his mother.

Mr Leaman was his mother’s sole carer in the last 14 years of her life but he never complained.

That generation never does. He knew his duty and he did it.

And when his mother passed away, someone so close would have needed a ton of sympathy to ease the gut-wrenching pain and sense of emptiness. Did he get that from his landlords?

The problem is the Philistines on Exeter City Council see a house not as a home filled with the memories of a happy family life but as real estate.

Even as the embers were dying at his mother’s funeral service at the crematorium, the city council was plotting to steal Mr Leaman’s home away. A more callous act is hard to imagine.

While his mother lived, the Leamans could have taken advantage of the right to buy scheme. They could have applied for joint tenancy. They didn’t do that.

I guess they believed they were dealing with fair-minded people, a Labour-run council which wouldn’t play politics with people’s lives but had the interests of people with limited means at hearts.

Not so. The city council is exploiting a technicality which allows them to tear Mr Leaman away from the home he loves. How can the council justify this? The current spin is downsizing – not very socialist, is it?

Socialism is about levelling up, not levelling down.

Are councillors willing to downsize their ample homes to provide a home for a homeless family? No answer?

Frankly, the idea of a Labour council scuttling around Exeter handing eviction notices to its own tenants is quite obscene.

Is Mr Leaman responsible for Britain’s open door policy, the growing army of single mums or the student population swallowing much of Exeter’s affordable housing?

Then there’s the city council’s own mishandling of its housing stock. It incentivises need and need is what it gets.

So is Mr Leaman the bad guy here? Who among us would give up our home for a homeless family? This is what is being demanded of Mr Leaman.

Playing musical chairs is no way to solve our housing problems. We need politicians who can see beyond the horizon.

Mr G R Holwill

Stoke Hill Crescent, Exeter