The Plastic Hippo

The sad death of Frank Thornton at the grand old age of 92 serves as a reminder that terrible comedy is less excruciating when executed with impeccable timing and genuine acting talent. Unfortunately, as we have witnessed this week, experience of folding towels at Selfridges is not necessarily the best preparation for those fortunate enough to be elevated to the position of Chancellor of the Exchequer.

George Osborne delivered his fourth budget on the same day the Lords finished off another piece of his “Omni-shambles” third budget. His bizarre idea that employment rights should be given up in exchange for some dodgy shares in dodgy companies went the same way as the pasty tax, the granny tax, the caravan tax and any semblance of fiscal savvy or, indeed, any evidence of competence. Osborne`s fourth contribution to financial ruin contained very little of anything new and stuck to the same script…

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Commotion on the Common

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It has been a while since I blogged about anything, I suppose my recent operation sapped some of my humour and maybe stopped me seeing the funny side of things for a while but a meeting I attended last night seemed to kickstart the systems again.

I was wearing my “Friends of ” hat and the hot topic for the night was the proposed plans to tip the balance of Brownhills Common back towards Heathland. This proactive management of the land was specified by Natural England when making the Common a SSSI.

Heathland is a disappearing environment and as we now have a better understanding of how nature works and the fundamental interconnectedness of all things that provide us with a functioning planet. It is widely recognised that humans have seriously messed up the planet and that this really cannot go on. This wasn’t something decided in Walsall by a pen pusher looking to make a quick profit to the detriment of the locality, this was decided at the Rio summit. The overall impression gained from this worldwide gathering of people who really know their shit was that as a species we not only needed to stop messing things up but to try and put some things back to the way they were and maybe apologise to the other residents of the planet that we were affecting.

Following from the second world war, a programme of tree planting was put into action. These trees needed to have rapid growth for a relatively fast turn over brought about by a desperate shortage of timber. Rather than a native species, the tree of choice were Conifers. No regard or consideration was given native species or the effect on the biodiversity of our countryside, this was about a means to an end, a quick fix and purely for financial reasons. As a result the Heathland of Brownhills was turned over to plantation.

It takes very specific conditions for heathland to prevail and healthy heathland actually contributes to the containment of carbon emissions, which in turn reduces the effects of climate change. This is generally considered the greatest danger to life on the planet. Currently less than 20% of the country’s heathland remains and the fact that Brownhills Common was granted SSSI status reflects the genuine importance of the site for the benefit of the environment. Brownhills has a chance of saving the world and that isn’t something that is mentioned every day. SSSI status provides a number of benefits, the most important is the protection of the site from other uses, building, mining, mineral extraction. SSSI status ensures the area will be there for future generations to enjoy and at a push that future generations will there to enjoy it.

The loss of some of the plantations and their resultant return to their original state isn’t going down well with the people who enjoy the location as it is, there were a number of people at the meeting who have a lifetime of watching this foreign ecology evolve. I have spent far too much time with Swampy look a likes and wouldn’t have figured anyone there as an environmental protester, so this is obviously an emotive subject. One lady enjoys watching the trees change with the seasons another gentleman commented in the local press that they look lovely covered in snow and I must agree with both of them.

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Now there has been a lot of trust lost in the meat business of late but for a local Butcher making the headlines by wanting to see the Deer on Brownhills Common seems does come across a tad strange, I understand that the Travelling community tether Horses about the locality and yet he displayed a juxtaposition to Traveller presence in a most derogatory manner. Fortunately he left early to a more important engagement at Rushall Olympic.

The truth is Deer are pretty ambivalent to Conifers. Conifers sap nutrients from the ground and the needles provide ground cover preventing the growth of any tasty treats. They are ideally camouflaged to bed down in grass and heather, the provision of a heathland corridor between Hednesford and Sutton Park would no doubt increase the predominance of Deer as a herding animal they do like to roam the plains.

The over riding impression I got from the meeting was the intransigent attitude and the total unwillingness to listen to the rationale, the facts or the presentation. There was a loud cry for a public meeting which in all probability would become a public lynching. We got so much wrong in the 20th Century, this is about putting something right. I think the people of the area need to keep an open mind and consider the facts before buying the rope.

Without doubt one of my favourite Hippo posts. Without a real alternative to the ConDems it is going to take real public dissent to make a difference. The “like” button isn’t going to cure this one

The Plastic Hippo

Any attempt to parody the profound words attributed to Pastor Martin Niemoller is at best in poor taste and could be considered as sacrilegious. Anyway, here goes…

First they came for the forests, and I didn`t speak out because I wasn`t a tree.

Then they came for the badgers, and I didn`t speak out because I wasn`t a badger.

Then they came for the deer and I didn`t speak out because I wasn`t a dirty great big stag with sharp pointy antlers.

Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak for me because they were all too busy signing bloody pointless petitions, every single one of which will be completely ignored.

Don`t get me wrong; I like forests and I like badgers and I like deer. I would also like the nation of my birth which is, after all, the seventh richest economy on the…

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