Monday 15 March 2010

Happy holidays

15st 6lb, 4.8 units. Today we drove from south Cheshire to north Norfolk for a little holiday. With the benefit of 20:20 hindsight, we should probably have gone somewhere warm and sunny, if we absolutely had to go anywhere at all. What I can tell you with even greater confidence is that, if you absolutely insist on driving to north Norfolk, south Cheshire is NOT the place to start. Particularly with the aid of a sat nav that reckons the best possible route is to follow a notoriously slow A-road to Stoke-on-Trent in order to crawl along the M6 through Birmingham, then cut across country so that you can negotiate the centre of Peterborough in the rush hour.

When we finally got to our destination a large and unattractive van from Norfolk Country Soups was occupying the obvious parking space outside the cottage where we were staying, allowing me to obtain some fresh air and exercise during the multiple journeys required to unload all The Baby’s impedimenta. As I did so I studied the van and became increasingly sceptical about the eating quality of its contents. It was on about my seventh trip that I finally grasped that it was advertising Norfolk Country Soaps.

Our hostess seemed unusually anxious that our late arrival had prevented us from sitting down to supper in the hotel next door at the appointed time of 6.30. I could not help thinking that there was no great cause for concern, what with it being a Monday evening, off season, and the hotel having built a substantial extension to its dining room since I was last in town. But this proved to have been a very farsighted investment, as the place was packed. And not with the usual elderly locals, either. There were several tables filled with groups of burly blokes who looked like they might moonlight as nightclub bouncers in their spare time. These, I was told, were the workers from the huge wind farm that is being constructed offshore and will provide enough electricity to power an incredible [sic] 220,000 homes. For an hour or two, on the one day of the year when the wind is blowing at the right strength, from the right direction, all the turbines are actually in working order and a ship’s anchor has not sliced through the cable bringing the power to shore.

I am, you might say, a bit of a sceptic on the value of wind farms, whether onshore or off.

They are the 2010 equivalent of all those ugly conifer forests that were planted across the English and Scottish uplands last century, with the aid of generous tax breaks, to ensure that we would always be able to meet the country’s insatiable demand for pit props.

What is for sure is that there is an awful lot of money being made from this particular scam right now, and that we as taxpayers and energy consumers are ultimately picking up the bill. Not only for burly men to enjoy fine food in Norfolk hotels, but also for their accommodation. I met a man with a house to rent who had quoted double the going rate to a wind farm company as a try-on, and found it accepted without question. Lucky old him. Just send me the bill as usual, will you, Darling?

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