WALKING through the security zone at Palma airport en route for London was a bizarre experience. All around me were groups of young women wearing white face masks, presumably to ward off swine flu. What seemed particularly pointless about the whole exercise was that they kept pulling down the masks to chat to one another when presumably the airborne disease would have easily been able to seep in, just at that moment of weakness. I listened to the accents and ascertained that they were Swedish.

Why indeed would the Swedes be so assiduous about flu hygiene when the huge bulk of other tourists seemed absolutely impervious to the risks? Interestingly, catching up with a business friend in Mayfair I learned that more than one hundred thousand pounds worth of business had been lost to him when a bunch of Swedish businessmen cancelled a contract with his company for fear of catching the illness whilst staying in London.

They told him that to a country the size of Sweden, 100'000 potential cases in the UK, seemed massive and they'd rather not put themselves at risk.
By contrast, talking to a medical specialist in Palma, I discovered that there were a fair number of cases in Majorca but that there was no crisis and all had so far made a full recovery.

The media in the UK has been on overdrive about swine flu and this has had less effect on the British population-now immune to such sensationalism maybe-and more on those living overseas. If recent reports are to be believed swine flu hysteria in Britain has enabled thousands of unscrupulous-or canny, depending on your view point- employees to phone in sick when in fact they are enjoying a week's extra holiday.

The NHS only requires people to telephone its hotline to receive medication and there is no medical check or need for a doctor's certificate. Workers are therefore laughing all the way to Blackpool pier. None of us should be complacent about swine flu, but a healthy dose of common sense and an ability to get things in proportion is surely called for?


NOW I don't know many anglers but it seems that the sudden death of Benson, the 29 kilo carp that lurked in the waters of a Cambridge lake, has caused an outpouring of grief around the country.

Those men of the fishing rod were so entranced by their fishy female icon that they'd haul her out of the water just for a quick photo snap and throw her back in again. Life for Benson can't have been that much fin, sorry fun, being treated so shoddily by these overgrown school boys. Now conspiracy theories abound within the fishing fraternity about exactly how poor Benson died. Was she poisoned? Did she really just reel, sorry there I go again, keel over or was there skulduggery at play? We shall never know because Benson has swum off to that great lake in the sky. I hope at last she'll have a rest. She was clearly out of her depth on our pesky planet.


THERE are some politicians who really do seem to wear a self destruct button valiantly on their sleeves such as Labour cross-to-bear, John Prescott, for example. No matter how bad things get, he'll just blunder on, making a complete fool of himself until he hasn't the tiniest jot of self respect left and has completely humiliated his own party.

So, on the subjects of carps, we must spare a thought for the greatest carping politician of them all, Harriet Harman, who this week seems to have moved the feminine cause back about two hundred light years.

Whenever this privileged woman begins to savage men in favour of her sisters, it all goes horribly wrong and there's a distinct whiff of burning martyrs in the air.

She uses methods that are devious, ridiculous and actually insulting to women in her inflamed desire to prove her sisters' worth. Of course there is still injustice as regards equal pay in the workplace but no end of social engineering, bullying and censorship of the brothers is going to make it right.


ARE we surprised that social networking websites are seeing scores of teenagers and twenty somethings turning their backs on them in droves?
Once the preserve of the yoof market, social sites are now being used primarily by those over 35 and the number is rising. The embarrassment for teenagers of seeing their parents cramming their aged bodies into tight jeans used to be bad enough but crowding their social networking sites has now proved the tipping point.

The line between youth and oldie brands is far less defined these days and there is nothing unusual about a forty year old mother wearing Converse sneakers as much as her ten year old son. Armani and Ralph Lauren cater for the cool youth market at the same time as trying to woo the fathers with grown up, sophisticated ranges.

Probably it was the hope of social networking sites that the different age groups, like small tribes, would keep to themselves and not be too bothered about sharing the black hole of the internet but it's simply not the case.

It appears that Twitter will soon be the retreat for old fogey twitterers and Facebook for the thirty plus brigade to swap cake recipes, family images and news of old school chums.

Where is there left for our disillusioned youth to hide and how will they manage to communicate with one another in the future? One can only hope that letter writing or Morse Code might come back in vogue.


GOOD for Cambridgeshire Constabulary for inaugurating a retirement scheme for its police dogs. These hard working canines spend about eight years sniffing out drugs and explosives, warding off gangs, assisting at violent demonstrations and helping to catch criminals and then retire, but with what? Now, any pooches about to retire will be guaranteed good veterinary care, food and homes for the rest of their short lives.

I hope other constabularies take a leaf out of Cambridgeshire's books and give police dogs something to wag their tails about.


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