“If you had access to a car like this, would you take it back right away?�

One of the reports on Watchdog tonight made several national news bulletins, the story of Pink Meet & Greet, an airport valet parking service.

Now I have to say, that my opinions of what valet parking attendants could get up to were partly formed by the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off where Ferris borrows his friends father’s prized 1961 Ferrari and leaves it at a car park in central Chicago. He tips the attendants and asks them to take special care of the car, and then as Ferris and his friends are walking out of one door, the prized Ferrari goes out the other. You next see the car in the scene pictured above, going in slow-motion above the camera to the title music of Star Wars, and at regular points until they collect the Ferrari from the car park, you see the two attendants having a fantastic time driving around the city.

You’d think that this wouldn’t be the case, but to be frank, this is pretty well what the meet and greet company reported on tonight seemed to be doing with the cars they were being given. Although the company carefully quoted the distance to and from the compound – 32 miles, that gave plenty of opportunity to try out the cars – and in other cases the cars didn’t make it the 16 miles to the compound anyway.

One woman returned to find £4000 worth of damage to her £30,000 Audi, along with a bag of cannabis in the ash tray, and a CD in the glove-box. The company said the damage had been caused when the driver slipped on ice – however when Sussex Police came after her for failing to stop after an accident it transpired that the accident had been more serious. Another customer thought his car had been safely locked away in a secure compound. When he returned, he was contacted by Sussex Trading Standards, who told him that his car had been left parked on an industrial estate all week.

The programme left a car with the company, and fitted it with a tracker, that monitored the speed and location of the car when it was left for a week. During the week it was left parked on the roadside, and round the back of a local supermarket, and broke the speed limit eight times during the week, on two occasions doing over 100mph.

Following on from the report, a viewer contacted the programme with details of problems with another of the meet and greet companies, where his Mercedes had been used for a wedding whilst he was away – the company had left confetti under some of the mats…

So, to quote Ferris – “If you had access to a car like this, would you take it back right away?â€? – it seems that with some of the drivers at this meet and greet firm in particular, the answer is probably the same as Ferris…

Bueller originally uploaded by wayoutwest.

Dear Gordon Brown…

Dear Gordon Brown,

Can I ask, that in future, before you make any pronouncements such as your recent comments about obliging migrants to carry out community work before being granted British Citizenship, you check with me that my wife is not in bed with the flu, or in some other position where she will be able to watch BBC News 24. Unfortunately, since in this situation you failed to check with me, this has resulted in my wife being so incensed by not only your initial statement, but the subsequent coverage in the media that she has so far posted a reaction to her blog, and a similar comment to the BBC comment board. This in turn has resulted in two calls from BBC researchers, and a request that despite her flu, she would come and be interviewed at a nearby studio!

Unfortunately, as you are no doubt aware, your comments have led to another of the countries periodic immigration debates, one which highlights the general confusion amongst the UK population about the differences between immigrants, EU migrant workers and asylum seekers, and the general ignorance of the rules and regulations under which each group operates. As I am sure you are aware your current proposal will have no effect on the groups that most people seem concerned about.

The main group of current concern are the EU migrant workers, especially from the recent admissions in Eastern Europe. As I am sure you are aware, most of these are coming into the UK under the same rules that allow our citizens to move freely across Europe, and are primarily here for economic reasons. As the various pronouncements over learning English, having ceremonies and now volunteer work are for those seeking citizenship, these announcements will have no effect on those workers coming across EU borders to work, as with their EU passports they are free to move around anyway. It is probably also worth considering that with the massive influx of people from Poland quadrupling Church attendances already, without being required to participate in the community, unlike the steady decline in Church attendance amongst British citizens, that these migrant workers are perhaps demonstrating some of the community spirit that you are wanting.

You are also I am sure aware, that contrary to popular belief, legal immigrants to the UK are not allowed to claim benefits, indeed the Immigration and Nationality Directorate already requires significant financial paperwork with an application in order to prove that both the immigrant, and their UK sponsor is financially able to support themselves without recourse to state funds. Access to state services, even the NHS is strictly guarded, with now even non-resident UK citizens denied access to the NHS if they have lived outside the UK for too long a period, in an effort to stamp out abuse from UK citizens who take advantage of the lower cost of living abroad, but return to the UK to use the NHS. The only exception to this of course are asylum seekers, who as you are well aware are not allowed to work, even if they are able to, due to Government policy, instead resulting in the group being a drain on the public purse, when many of them wish to contribute to society. Finally there are of course those who are here illegally. Since of course your government has no idea who they are, or how many of them there are, then this proposal won’t affect them either.

Unfortunately, the plan to require immigrants to do voluntary work, whist seeming a splendid policy idea – address the lack of British volunteering by plugging the gap with immigrants – does seem somewhat flawed.

Firstly, as a number of these voluntary roles will be working with children and other vulnerable groups this would require a CRB check – I assume that you are also willing to fund the significant extra complexity of ensuring that checks of international convictions are properly organised – something the Home Office seems to have had trouble with of late

Secondly, whilst the idea of getting immigrants to do volunteer work may seem like a good idea, surely the real problem that your government needs to address is that not enough British citizens are volunteering in the first place. Surely you should be looking at addressing the real issues within UK communities, rather than making misleading announcements that in fact will only affect the relatively small group of those seeking British Citizenship, rather than the groups of migrants that most people seem to be concerned about.

Thankfully it seems that the BBC has relented, and just asked for her to record an interview over the phone. However, my initial point still stands, please check with me in future before you launch another announcement such as this, to ensure that my wife is suitably distracted. Of course, if you could possibly manage to come up with a coherent well thought out set of policies rather than the endless succession of sound-bites that you and you colleagues of all political persuasions seem to produce, that would be even better.

An Island Parish Draws to a Close

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Tonight we had the last part of An Island Parish which finished with Rev Guy Scott being licensed as Rector of the Isles of Scilly by the Bishop of St Germans – a service that in fact only took place a month or so ago, in fact after the series had started.

It’s certainly been an interesting series, and perhaps as I alluded to in my previous posting on the series a bit of an eye opener as to the workings of Church politics, and also the heart searching that both clergy and their families go through over where they are called to go. I have to say that I don’t think my question over quite at what point the film crew, as opposed to his parish in Mullion knew about the move has particularly been answered, although I’m well aware that I probably have more of an interest than the casual viewer. Having said that, after the obviously difficult times for Guy and his family shown in the earlier part of the series, his the people of Mullion were shown giving him a sterling send off in the programme last week, and a goodly number of them made the trip to Scilly for his licensing.

In terms of things that weren’t said on the programme, tonight’s episode produced another – the totally unacknowledged Bishop! Thanks to the relevant Diocesan Newsletter and the wonders of Google I was able to look up that the unidentified Bishop was the Rt Rev Roy Screech, who is the Suffragan Bishop of St Germans – although it looks like since there is only one Suffragan (as compared to the three we have in the Oxford Diocese) he is referred to much of the time as Bishop Bill’s deputy. I suspect the reason for it not being mentioned is that Bishop Bill has been the only Bishop mentioned in the series so far, so it was probably regarded as being confusing – but anyway, it would have been nice to know who the person taking the service actually was!

The programme showed a number of the traditional parts of the licensing service, including the ceremonial getting of the key, followed by the point where the new Rector really gets the keys, and also when the new Rector goes and rings the Church bell. They also showed some of the various welcomes from the various visiting dignitaries. It also finished with some reflections on the new rector from Bishop Bill as a nice epilogue for the programme.

Looking around the internet, there is a lot more about the programme now. When it started, the BBC and Tiger Aspect still had Seaside Parish pages, and there wasn’t much on any of the Scilly sites, and just a small item on the Diocesan site. Somewhat embarrassingly for someone who lives near Reading and has never been to Scilly, my previous posting has been coming out pretty high up, if not top in most of the relevant Google searches, and picking up quite a few hits. The majority of the time it has coming above some of the more official pages about the programme and the relevant parishes!

There is a nice posting reporting on the licensing service with a couple of pictures over at the Isles of Scilly Photos site, there is also a nice introduction from Bishop Bill on the Diocesan site.

There has also been a bit of controversy about the programme on the ScillyNews site with the local Methodist church. Although Rev David Easton, the Methodist Minister appears briefly a couple of times, a number of the island Methodists – a larger Church in terms of membership – haven’t been happy that the support that their Church offered during the vacancy hasn’t really been acknowledged. Although Rev Donald and Rev Margaret Marr, the couple appointed as house for duty priests during the vacancy featured quite prominently, the contribution of Rev David in taking services wasn’t mentioned (although I seem to recall that you do see him taking a funeral earlier in the series). Again I suspect this is down to the same reasons as the Bishop of St Germans doesn’t get a mention – trying to keep it simple, and only have a limited number of characters being covered. It is worth highlighting though that the introduction from Bishop Bill makes the Methodist contribution clear, even if it is not clear in the programme.

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the programme, and it has certainly been an entertaining introduction to life on Scilly – and has produced some interesting comments from people outside the Church such as this reviewer who described the programme as a cross between Castaway and Pop Idol… I’m certainly looking forward to finding out how Rev Guy settles in to his new role when the series returns next year. Hopefully a month in things are going well for him and his family, and they are all getting used to their new life on the islands.

Five Years On, The Same Problem

After the Potters Bar Rail Crash, all rail maintenance was brought in house to Network Rail because of apparent poor maintenance by the outside contractors – and yet five years on, and the interim report into the Cumbria Crash again blames poorly maintained points, with again the same catalogue of missing parts causing the points to fail, and yet Network Rail had already said that there were no outstanding problems with the points recorded in their system, and that the track was checked on schedule. It just beggars belief that after the Potters Bar Rail Crash anybody working on track maintenance could think it is acceptable to either fail to properly check the track, or leave fundamental faults with the equipment on a high-speed line.