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To Hell in a handcart

Sometimes, whichever human grouping(s) one belongs to – viz. any or all of oldies, kids, insomniacs, men, women, intellectuals, sports nuts, academics, disabled, naturalists, the military, impoverished, gamblers, billionaires, glamour models, musicians, entrepreneurs, social workers, doctors or nurses – it is possible to come across things in modern life that cause one to shake one’s head in disbelief, wonder or laughter (and indeed possibly all three).

Let me give you three examples from my life in the last 24 hours:

THE GATWICK DRONES SHUTDOWN AND ITS AFTERMATH

In the rather mundane circles in which I move these days – and I’m sure this must also apply to millions of homes up and down the country and indeed every public place and hostelry in the land where people gather and socialise – there have been innumerable conversations conducted on every conceivable aspect of the Gatwick drones attack from who has done it and why, to the quality of the advance planning for such an eventuality (if any) and, of course, what to do going forward.

Yesterday, at my annual pre-Christmas cocktail party for a select thirty people at Ingolby Manor – key fortifiers dressed lobster salad and champagne – at one stage what I imagine was a stereotypical brains trust took place on the subject, with every conceivable theory and solution being aired. To be honest I found it rather stimulating and afterwards the collected assembled moved smoothly on to other things.

Sometime later I awoke just after midnight and came to my computer and for accompaniment tuned to Radio Five Live and what I believe was the final hour of the Stephen Nolan Show on which two regular female contributors were holding forth on (yes, you’ve guessed it) the self-same topic.

Without seeking to criticise any of the participants unduly what followed was what I suspect a discourse uncannily similar to the one I had hosted earlier and probably also all others that have been taking place over the last 72 hours – the only difference being that this one was being broadcast to the nation.

One of the ladies concerned began extemporising on the “Why, oh why …?” theme:

“What I want to know is why [during the what is it – decade or so? – since drones first came on the scene] nobody had thought through the implications and addressed the security issues that we’re being confronted with now …”

On the face of it, a fair point (anyone of us might think).

But then I ruminated further. Hindsight, or being wise after the event, is by definition a wonderful thing.

I should estimate that either or both the ladies pontificating earlier this evening have been gracing me and millions of other regular or occasional Radio Five listeners with their views on every subject under the sun for the best part of a decade.

And, the irony is, in all that time I’ve never once heard either of them raise the issue of drone security.

As the conversation progressed on, the other in the pair shared with us with her ‘light bulb moment’ solution: what was plainly required was the immediate reintroduction of hundreds of thousands of ‘community policemen’ patrolling the streets, just like they used to in the good old days before Austerity kicked in.

Her theory was that, if you returned said army of bobbies pounding the beat, they’d soon have their ear to the ground and then – as night follows day – this miscreant drone-flyer would have been identified within minutes.

Great idea, Madam.

I suppose we can leave someone else in the Government – or whichever is the relevant authority – to find the money to recruit, train, clothe, equip and maintain this army of a ‘hundred thousand plus community policemen’. And also work out what to do in the minimum two to three years that it would take to do it.

But that’s parlour game armchair punditry for you. The only distinguishing feature of last night’s Radio Five Live conversation between these two ladies was that it was being broadcast to the nation.

THE PLIGHT OF HIGH STREET STORES

There has been much reporting – and analysis – lately of the apparent problems of UK high street shops and departmental store chains, some of which is attributed to the fierce, in comparison ‘low-cost, warehouse and delivery’ type (often online), competition.

There’s much airtime being devoted to coverage of official profit warnings, boarded up derelict city shopping centres, the potential social and cultural impact thereof and, of course, the possible range of workable solutions.

The issues are often being characterised as the high street shopping experience (a 20th Century invention and convention) struggling to keep up with human progress and basically come to terms with its 21st equivalent.

I don’t know about that but, following my Christmas shopping experience yesterday in West London – the borough of Richmond to be precise, an area of the metropolis that (as a lifelong ‘north of the river’ man) I have rarely been to, let alone frequented – I can give the following confidential advice to my fellow shareholders in the House of Fraser group:

Sell now.

Yesterday morning, on our way to lunch in Reading, I visited the Richmond House of Fraser store in the cause of accompanying The Boss whilst she chose my Christmas presents for her at the Clinique unit in the ground floor cosmetics department.

Or tried to.

We arrived at the unit to find one other lady shopper sitting forlornly at a counter. The Boss then spent between five and ten minutes going around the displays and window-shopping lipsticks, blushers and the like.

At no point did any assistant, Clinique-branded or otherwise, come to attend to us.

Sometime later, The Boss approached an assistant from another unit and inquired after the whereabouts of her Clinique equivalent(s) or indeed anyone who could assist.

The answer came back that there was nobody on the Clinique unit yesterday.

No wonder high street stores generally are in trouble. It’s got so bad that some of them (and their employees) have literally given up. You’d think that during the run-up to Christmas they’d pack their shops with Christmas-related musak, decorations, bargains … and sales staff.

Not so, it seems.

About Gerald Ingolby

Formerly a consumer journalist on radio and television, in 2002 Gerald published a thriller novel featuring a campaigning editor who was wrongly accused and jailed for fraud. He now runs a website devoted to consumer news. More Posts