More about cuckoos, Archie Harrison, Farage still policy-free, saving the planet and the beauty of Cornwall

12 May 2019

Last week, I mentioned cuckoos which we all know are, sadly, becoming much rarer (the last one we heard was in the Wye valley two years ago) but did you know there are about 150 species in the cuckoo family worldwide and about two thirds of these build their own nests and bring up their own young?

The first big disappointment this week was that Archie, the new royal baby, wasn’t black but one can’t have everything in life so it was lovely to see Harry’s obvious delight, bouncing up and down on his toes as he talked to the press in what appeared to be the stables of his cottage (no cottage is complete without stables).

The second was that we’ve had our first begging letter for a vote in the European elections, from Nigel Farage and it really does contain no policies at all.

The good news is that Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, has offered his salary as an MEP, if he’s elected, to charities helping child victims of sexual grooming and they’ve all turned his offer down because they don’t want to accept tainted money.

I’ve always wondered why there aren’t duty-free shops in the arrivals areas of airports (the only airport I’ve seen where you actually can buy hooch on arrival is Sydney airport, but they don’t tell you about this till you get there, when you’re already loaded with bottles that have just racked up 13,000 airmiles). How much aviation fuel is wasted flying all that heavy (and highly inflammable) alcohol bought in the departure lounge, and how much does this increase the speed of the climate crisis and the life prospects of our grandchildren? ‘Wired’ magazine has calculated that, if American Airlines flights just stopped carrying peanuts, they could save $800,000 a year in fuel – now compare that with all the bottles on all the flights all over the world.

Black plastic food trays and containers can’t be recycled because plastic is sorted by lasers that can’t deal with black. Why isn’t black plastic just banned?

But who cares? Everybody’s going to be dead in 50 years if we don’t ban all plastics

Centrica, the owner of British Gas, whose share price has hit rock bottom and is likely to reduce its dividend, has had a terrible few years so it, naturally, awarded its chief executive Iain Conn (great name!) a bonus of £776,000 last year. I wonder if its staff pension scheme is fully-funded?

Why isn’t the remuneration (salaries, bonuses, perks, dividends and their own pension scheme contributions) of directors, and all dividends to the shareholders, of companies with pension scheme shortfalls restricted to subsistence level until the company has fully funded the pension scheme? Who’s more important, a handful of wealthy directors or the shareholders with spare money to invest in the company or the thousands of staff who actually do the work but won’t get the pensions they’ve been saving for?

(The difference between millions and billions is easy often misunderestimated (well, it was good enough for George W Bush) but is easy to explain:  if you save £1 every second, it’ll take you just over 11½ days to save £1m.  If you carry on saving £1 every second, it’ll take almost 32 years to reach £1bn.)

We’re in Cornwall as I speak, on the Helford estuary, I’m looking out from a wheelchair-accessible holiday cottage – without stables – over the sunshine-flecked water on the edge of a wood of magically contorted oaks straight out of a fairy-story book (not Trump’s ‘The Art of the Deal’ but a proper fairy story, possibly illustrated by Arthur Rackham), watching great tits take food into a nesting hole, and wondering why I’m not out with the others.

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