Barking mad, just because we like a bit of greenery?

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People hugging trees – especially ones which are inhabited by ferocious hairy caterpillars – might seem a daft thing to do. Especially when we are told that the creepy crawlies can cause ‘itchy or painful skin rashes’ and that the moth which emerges from them is ‘a risk to human health’ and can also give people sore throats, eye problems and breathing difficulties.

Being a bit of a bit of a tree hugger myself, though, I totally understand the motives behind former Senator Nigel Quérée’s attempt to save two trees in the People’s Park, regardless of the influx of oak precessionary moth caterpillars.

For a number of years I lived in one of the UK’s so-called ‘new towns’ on the outskirts of the London metropolis. Apart from the fact that most of the buildings are constructed from concrete, one of the changes I found most difficult to tolerate, especially at first, was the complete absence of any trees.

Presumably the 1960s planners who had been so careful to introduce avant garde architectural principles had decided that plant life was unnecessary (and would probably be vandalised).

I learned to value the trees that were confined to the local park and, like many of us, I hate to see a living part of our planet that has taken many years to grow be destroyed in half an hour by a chain saw.

We are told that these Very Hungry Caterpillars (and yes, I also know the words of the children’s book off by heart) have come to the Island from eastern Europe, probably hitching a ride on the back of a vehicle. I’m not sure how they deal with these predators in foreign parts, but it is certainly providing a bit of a problem for both the Environment Department and the folks at Transport and Technical Services.

It is a credit to our community, however, that people still care enough about trees to give them a cuddle now and then.

La Coupe building: From the sea it looks even worse

ANOTHER daft notion that caught my eye last week was the palatial residence taking shape on the cliff top overlooking La Coupe.

I noticed the new building site several months ago, while following the beautiful coastline walk from St Catherine’s to Rozel. It is one of my favourites and a lesser-known route which I often have all to myself.

At the time, when I spotted the monstrosity rising out of the trees, I did wonder who the dickens had managed to obtain planning permission to erect a structure of such gigantic proportions on one of the Island’s most remote headlands.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I had the chance to look at it more closely, while paddling around the coast in a kayak. It is quite amazing how the vista changes from the other side of the shoreline – and how artefacts can expand to twice their normal proportions.

Despite the protestations of the owner and the architect that ‘it is unfair to judge the property half-way through construction’, I’m afraid that half-way through is more than enough time for me to voice a judgment.

This thing is an eyesore. Not only that, but it sets a precedent for others to come along and do exactly the same thing – buy a cottage, knock it down and replace it with a mansion.

Full marks to environmentalist and National Trust president Mike Stentiford for bringing it to the attention of the wider public.

Watch where the money goes

A THIRD stupidity reported last week relates to States spending.

Apparently, the Island’s Comptroller and Auditor General, Chris Swinson, has been looking at the government’s books and has found them wanting.

Mr Swinson has produced a report on the management of public finances which shows not only that the States financial planners look no further than the end of the next financial year, but also that the system enables departments to ‘obscure their cost profiles’ – so that they ask for money for one thing and spend it on something else.

For anyone interested in the world of business, a five-year plan is not unusual; some companies even have ten-year plans. Business planners would regard a one-year plan as totally inadequate, in today’s world. As Mr Swinson points out, many of the decisions taken by the States Treasury will affect us many years from now.

As for the ‘cooking of the books’, the Jersey Chamber of Commerce have been saying for several years that they believe there should be a proper investigation into how States spending is managed.

It now appears that they were right to question this, despite protestations over the last couple of years by senior politicians that all the savings that could be made have been made.

Anecdotally, we have probably all heard horror stories about States money being allocated to some departments and then being spent on fripperies like fancy furniture and flat-screen televisions. Some departments apparently pay well over the odds for goods and services because no one checks whether things could be done more cheaply.

What senior politicians have been claiming does not seem to tally with people working at the lower end of the States chain on a day-to-day basis.

Mr Swinson has been in post for some time now. I really do hope that this latest report hits the target it is intended for and that the powers that be start to put thought into action. Otherwise he will have been wasting his breath.

Here’s a quacker of a recipe for keeping fit …

A READER asked me last week what to do with bread which they might normally feed to the ducks and geese at Queen’s Valley.

Here’s an old family recipe for bread pudding:

• Take about half a pound of stale bread.

• Soak in water until soggy, strain and squeeze as dry as possible and mash out any lumps.

• Mix with four ounces of dried fruit, two ounces of sugar and two ounces of butter, and add a pinch of mixed spice, an egg, and enough milk to make a dropping consistency.

• Bake for an hour in medium oven and leave to cool. Sprinkle with sugar.

It will give you loads of energy to run around the reservoir twice as quickly as usual.

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