Oxhill News

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South Warwickshire, England.

The Oxhill News

June 2007

This months News



Smoking in Public Places

It is eight years since I sold the farm, unable, due to my ill health, to continue with the rigours of agricultural life.

This Bank Holiday weekend however I returned to the full joys of rural pollution as I glanced out of the window thinking,  "oh someone has lit a bonfire."

Now that was a figment of my imagination if ever there was.  Green Lane was to undergo a makeover as the wind picked up.  Not for us the joy of burning wood smoke, instead we were to experience the unadulterated impact of rural pollution in the form of an agricultural pea souper.

The end of the Lane was lost to us, Birch Bark was disappearing before my eyes, as I turned on the lights on my tractor mower to try to finish cutting the lawns . The visibility was the least of our problems, as gardening was now out of the question.  Our friends had to be phoned to cancel the barbecue and inside the bungalow frantic efforts were being made to close the windows as quickly as possible because it was filling up with foul smelling smoke from, what we now realised, was a burning muck heap of substantial proportions.

Our clothes had begun to stink, the curtains and carpets smell and need cleaning and washing, hanging on the line, had to be redone. Worst of all for me the machine which keeps me breathing when I fall asleep seemed to concentrate the smoke and blow it into my lungs.  Numerous households in the Lane were affected in similar ways.

The farmer apologised, He had tried to put out the fire which had been started by vandals or spontaneous combustion, unusual at this time of year.  The Police didn't want to know, but of course if you chalk hopscotch lines on the pavement they will be there in force.  The Fire Brigade were equally disinterested, unless it was life threatening, it wasn't; if the wind hadn't changed it might have been, and my life at that.

The 24 hr service for the Department of the Environment Agency?  Don't make me laugh, it is a recorded message giving the number of their local offices, which in any event are only open in normal office working hours and yes, this was the Bank Holiday. Budding terrorists please note, environmental disasters are best instigated on Bank Holidays or weekends.

Four days later the fire still burned merrily, emitting clouds of noxious smoke, when, to their credit, on the Tuesday, Stratford Council stepped into gear.  Thanks to them the Fire Brigade, who remember cannot do anything unless the problem is life threatening, recollected, when prompted by the Local Authority Environmental Health officer, that they now have a duty to protect the environment.  With lights flashing they set to with a will and spend a couple of hours squirting water at the problem.

Progress reports begin to come thick and fast and Stratford's Environmental Health Officer can only be commended for the helpful efficiency with which he addressed the assault on our nasal epithelia. Then came the bad news, depending of course on which way the wind was blowing, it would take the Fire Brigade three days to put out this type of fire and they haven't got the manpower or time availability.

So once again we have the incongruity of Government appointed gestapo acting as smoking police, prepared to fine you for enjoying a sly fag in any publicly accessible enclosed space.  Refuse collectors spying for an opportunity to fine you for placing a dustbin out on the wrong day or with the wrong item of refuse inside.  Litter wardens now wander city streets, who will dig deep into your pockets if you pick up someone else's litter and have the temerity to put it in a public bin, if by chance it is commercial litter ie a used envelope or a letter on official headed notepaper.  To hell with keeping the country tidy WE are concerned with a nobler issue, WE are saving the environment.

So what happens when the whole Bank Holiday weekend is wrecked with half the village obliterated by foul smelling burning waste from agricultural industry?  Absolutely nothing, because the jobsworths who wrote the legislation have not thought of something so complicated happening in their bailiwick.  Anyway it wouldn't raise any revenue for this government to throw into the melting pot of wasted causes.

Oh excuse me Mr Hedley you dropped that supermarket receipt when you pulled your handkerchief out of your pocket.  You do realise sir that this is a very serious offence, WE are trying to save the environment, that will be a 50, on the spot fine sir. Would you like to pay by cash, debit or credit card sir?  No we don't take cheques, its the paper you see sir and the impact it has on the rainforests, American Express? That will do nicely. Have a nice day.

Alan T Hedley

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Last modified: May 28, 2007